Book Review

by LeComte Du Nouy

From the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 1 (May 1949): 2

"The Road to Reason" represents the matured expression of an eminent biophysicist who has had a prodigious scientific experience. Born and educated in France, LeComte du Nouy obtained the degrees of LL.B., Ph.B., Sc.B., Ph.D., and Sc.D. He was an associate member of the Rockefeller Institute, Head for ten years of the Bio-Physics division of the Pasteur Institute, and the author of some 200 published papers before his untimely death in 1947.

Far from establishing in him a scientific positivism, which he abhored, or an unlimited confidence in the human intelligence to solve all mysteries, the author's total experience raised in his mind serious questions regarding the validity of some generally accepted theories, reasonings and concepts. LcComte du Nouy states that in the last fifteen years, "...our self-confidence has been somewhat shaken. Everything seems more complicated than we had first thought. We have become more prudent, - less affirmative.

While embracing evolution the author frankly discusses the "fragile basis" of the structure, the ignorance of cause, the improbability of a single protein molecule ever having been formed by chance - not to mention life and progressive evolution. He points out that even such "explanations" as exist can be not more than mathematical formulations which only tend to the illusion of understanding.

LeComte du Nouy ascribes no moral character to science. He refers to the bankruptcy of the "Goddess of Reason" and adds, "We can not ask science to raise the moral level of humanity. The present state of the world is. proof enough of that."

For all these problems the author postulates a directive force, "an 'anti-chance' which it is easier to call God." In "Human Destiny", written seven years later LeComte du Nouy is more convinced that the inability of chance "inevitably leads to the idea of God."

The book makes most interesting and stimulating reading both from the standpoint of the material presented and the author's vital, lucid style.

Reviewed by Harold J.Ockenga.