The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science

By Peter Medawar | Go to book overview

7
Science and the sanctity of life

I do not intend to deny that the advance of science may sometimes have consequences that endanger, if not life itself, then the quality of life or our self-respect as human beings (for it is in this wider sense that I think 'sanctity' should be construed). Nor shall I waste time by defending science as a whole or scientists generally against a charge of inner or essential malevolence. The Wicked Scientist is not to be taken seriously: Dr Strangelove, Dr Moreau, Dr Moriarty, Dr Mabuse, Dr Frankenstein (an honorary degree, this) and the rest of them are puppets of Gothic fiction. Scientists, on the whole, are amiable and well-meaning creatures. There must be very few wicked scientists. There are, however, plenty of wicked philosophers, wicked priests and wicked politicians.

One of the gravest charges ever made against science is that biology has now put it into our power to corrupt both the body and the mind of man. By scientific means (the charge runs) we can now breed different kinds and different races -- different 'makes', almost -- of human beings, degrading some, making aristocrats of others, adapting others still to special purposes: treating them in fact like dogs, for this is how we have treated dogs. Or again: science now makes it possible to dominate and control the thought of human beings -- to improve them, perhaps, if that should be our purpose, but more often to enslave or to corrupt with evil teaching.

But these things have always been possible. At any time in the past five thousand years it would have been within our power to embark on a programme of selecting and culling human beings

-72-

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The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword - The Phenomenon of Medawar v
  • Contents xiii
  • Introduction xiv
  • 1 - The Phenomenon of man 1
  • 2 - Hypothesis and imagination 12
  • 3 - Is the scientific paper a fraud? 33
  • 4 - The Act of Creation 40
  • 5 - Darwin's illness 52
  • 6 - Two conceptions of science 59
  • 7 - Science and the sanctity of life 72
  • 8 - J.B.S. 86
  • 9 - Lucky Jim 94
  • 10 - On 'the effecting of all things possible' 104
  • 11 - Further comments on psychoanalysis 120
  • 12 - The strange case of the spotted mice 132
  • 13 - Unnatural science 144
  • 14 - Florey story 162
  • 15 - In defence of doctors 170
  • 16 - Expectation and prediction 182
  • 17 - Scientific fraud 196
  • 18 - Son of stroke*** 203
  • 19 - The question of the existence of God 207
  • 20 - On living a bit longer 212
  • Notes 218
  • Sources 228
  • Index 231
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