WHAT CAN BIOLOGISTS
S. E. Luria
What is the relation of biology to social concerns, aside from work that is primarily medical? We hear from all sides that biology, and in fact all pure science, has become irrelevant, neglecting its obligation to pursue goals of physical betterment of man. We all know the fallacy of this viewpoint. We know that all science can find applications in appropriate times and circumstances. Even the most esoteric studies on bacterial gene action and on DNA and RNA synthesis have suddenly become central to the cancer problem. For example, viruses cause cancers, and scientists are searching within human cells for genetic material that may resemble cancer-producing viruses.
One could give many similar examples in defense of pure research; but that is not the point I wish to make. I do not disagree with the demand that scientists concern themselves with the consequences of their work. On the contrary, I firmly believe that such concern is very important. But I also believe that an intense guilt feeling about the "irrelevance" of one's work is counterproductive both to good research and to relevant research.____________________