The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

49
DOGMATISM IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE

PROFESSOR CURTIS'S BOOK unintentionally indicates why scientists do not, as a rule, go in for writing on the larger bearings of science for human life. The developed sciences are precisely those that, like physics, chemistry, and biology, deal with the simpler aspects of the world; and as it requires the major part of a man's intellectual energy to master his own special field, the cautious scientist realizes that he cannot give to the larger and more complicated problems of human life as a whole the same thorough and conscientious work which he devotes to the relatively simpler technical problems that are his specialty. Under the circumstances, two types venture to deal with science as a whole. On the one hand there are a few philosophers like Santayana who are profoundly conscious of the limitation's of their knowledge, but realize that life is an adventure with uncertainties which cannot be halted until certain scientific knowledge is available. On the other hand there are a larger number who, though they may exercise scientific caution in their own field, have no hesitation in swallowing quite uncritically that which they gather at second hand to be the teaching of science as a whole. It is one of the ironies of fate that men are never so certain about the things which they have investigated for themselves as about the things which they have accepted on the authority of others. In the process of retailing

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Published in The New Republic, Vol. 32, p. 255 ( November 1, 1922), as a review of W. G. Curtis, Science and Human Affairs.

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