Science in Christian Perspective
On The Humanism of Science
RAYMOND J. SEEGER
4507 Wetherill Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20816
From: JASA 36 (March
Given at colleges and universities under the NSF-Junded Sigma Xi Bicentennial Lecture Program (1974-1977) on "Science and Society," and at the Sept. 1982 meeting of the Washington-Baltimore Section of ASA.
This paper addresses the following questions: What is humanism? What is humanistic science? What is science? What are the underlying assumptions of science? Its fruitful by-products? Its limitations? It also delves into some philosophical interpretations and religious implications of science, and briefly addresses the conflicts between science and theology. The scientific outlook is addressed.
John Donne, the poetic Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral (London), wrote in his Devotions (1624), "No man is an island entire of itself." We live in one world; we all live in the same world. There isn't an old world and a new world, a white world and a black world, a man's world and a woman's world, a starry world above and a moral world within, a natural world and a supernatural world, an objective world and an existential world, a world of science and a world of humanities, a world of sense and reason and a world of faith. We all live in one world, the same world.
Our experience, too, is one: we the subject, the world the object. Years ago when I was teaching a physics course, on "Our Physical Heritage" for non-science students, I invited a professor of history to lecture on the reciprocal influences of history and science. "What," he began, "is history?" "History," he proclaimed, "is the study of man and his environment! " I made a note of this; although I had studied history all my life, no one had ever bothered to define it for me. Later I asked a professor of philosophy to discuss philosophical implications of science. "What is philosophy?" he asked rhetorically. "The study of man and his environment!" he explained. For the moment I was nonplussed. The next year, however, I introduced the course with a query, "What is physics?" "The study of man and his environment!" I joyfully announced. 1, too, had realized that we are all studying the same thing, namely, the universe with man at its focus-but different aspects of it.
The English Augustan poet Alexander Pope argued in his Essay on Man (1737), "The proper study of mankind is man" -usually understood to advocate a separation of man from his environment. This poem, however, which deals primarily with the justification of God's ways to man, connotes a quite different discrimination as shown in its preceding line: "Know then thyself, presume not God to scan."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American transcendentalist essayist, also invoked the Delphic oracle in his famous Phi Beta Kappa address (1837) on "The American Scholar," "The ancient precept, 'Know thyself,' and the modern precept, 'Study nature,' become at last one maxim." Man is thus part and partner in his changing environment-what might properly be called human ecology. The Greeks never separated man from his environment. They looked at nature and discovered it to be real, interesting and comprehensible. Greece itself contained both scientific Ionia and humanistic Attica in continuous communication. (The word interesting, by the way, comes from the Latin inter esse, meaning "to be among," viz., man and his environment. One cannot conceive of a person without an environment.)
Nevertheless, we are wont to view our experience in differently colored lights, whether we look at a planet, a plant or a person. We can distinguish three primary cultural colors. There is sky blue signifying our aesthetic enjoyment--how brief the beauty of the moon!" Grass green symbolizes the nourishment of scientific relatedness-how "the moon may draw the sea!" Earth red represents technological use-how "He appointed the moon for certain seasons!" Possibly a fourth light! an invisible aura-within the red, beyond the violet-that intimates mystically the unity of the universe! This many colored rainbow shines upon our everyday life. We need its integrated light to ensure the integrity of our personal experience.
Victor Cousin, the French eclectic philosopher, sounded a tocsin in his 1818 Sorbonne lectures: 'Wart pour I'art" ("Art for art's sake"). Some modern scientists would counter with the slogan, "Science for the sake of science." More basic, I believe, is, "Art and science together for man!" We must comprehend them. I am personally dissatisfied with the academic compartmentalization of ideas resulting so often from an administrative departmentalization of fields of interest.
Like the pilgrim (1678) of the English non-conformist preacher John Bunyan we are eager to set out on a quest or ultimate truths. But like Alighieri Dante, the Italian philosophic poet, "Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood where the right way was lost" (c. 1307). It was the Roman epic poet Vergil who guided him through Hell, where he accosted the Greek empirically oriented philosopher Aristotle as "the master of those who know." Aristotle, indeed, had begun his metaphysics: "All men by their very nature feel the urge to know"-owing to an innate curiosity about their awful environment. Wondering lonians sought eternal answers to their perennial questions: where am I? who am I? what will I be? This perpetual quest is a unique human activity. In his pursuit of it man has become enchanted with his mysterious universe; he zealously searches for a unifying pattern by a universal Designer-not a crazy quilt of his own making. I do not fathom a recent pronouncement of Harvey Cox, that apparently godless Harvard theologian: "Life is not an unfathomable mystery.... We know there is no ordered universe awaiting the discovery of it by man.... The universe is a human invention." Who would be so egotistical as to believe the universe to be man-made?
I pity modern Macbeths who regard life as "a tale told by
an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I pity
modern dramatists-the Czech Karl Capek who would try to
solve human problems with dehumanized robots
the Swiss Friedrich Dilrrenmatt who would have
physicists seek security in an insane asylum
modern novelists: the English George Orwell (Eric Blair) with
madmen seemingly united in a meaningless brotherhood
the English Aldous Huxley seeking solace in his
caricature of scientists as cringing creatures crawling blind to escape his so-called
Brave New World (1932),
a Buddhist drug addict to painless nihilism.
In his perpetual quest for knowledge, on the contrary, has found some comfort in science's liberation from cultural bondage of some of his attitudes and thoughts. We shall focus our attention on this humanistic science.
Confusion is rampant with respect to humanism in general and the humanities in particular. One speaks thoughtlessly literary humanists, scientific humanists, Christian humanists, et al. The term humanities, in turn, varies from college college (in their catalogues); it is actually defined in the report (1964) of the U.S. Commission of Humanities, "The humanities are the study of that which is human.... The body is usually taken to include the study history, the arts, religion, and philosophy." No Jacques Maritain, the French religious philosopher, whom one can accuse of being partial to natural science, advoca in the Terry lectures (1943) on "Education at the Crossroads, "Physics should be taught and revered as a liberal art of first rank, like poetry." We are liable to forget that one of nine muses was Urania (astronomy). The Roman states Cassiodorus' seven liberal arts comprised the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, geometry, music (then largely applied mathematics). What happened over the ages? Nevertheless, the liberal arts. in principle, have always been for free men, to set men free; free to drink hemlock or to die on a cross for the general welfare. In historical perspective we can see the omnipresent role of science in the spread of humanism.
What is humanism? We might seek its origin in the Greek philosopher Socrates' ethical concerns in the golden age of antiquity or in the Renaissance's emphasis upon the dignity of an individual. It is amazing how often a representative humanist is popularly selected to be a non-scientist. My own preference would be a person like the Italian genius Leonardo da Vinci who doodled with art alongside his engineering notes and with engineering alongside the ones on art. Another versatile person was the Italian natural philosopher Galileo Galilei. In later life he reminisced about his youthful dream of becoming an artist (the American art critic Erwin Panofsky concluded that he probably would have been successful in this capacity). In the tradition of his family (his father was a composer) he himself played several musical instruments. He boasted, when young, of knowing by heart the entire Orlando Furioso (1516) by the Italian poet Lodovico Ariosto. His own writings in the vernacular were an expression of his overwhelming desire to impress his own convictions on the common reader of his day. That led to his celebrated social controversy with the ruling Church; the people understood him.
The popular formulation of humanism is credited to the Roman dramatist Publius Terentius Afer; in his comedy Heauton Timoramenos (168 B.C., The Self-Tormentor) a retired farmer justifies his own interest in the activities of a neighbor's son by the remark, "I am a man: I consider nothing of man alien to me." There are, however, different levels of human interest, from the star light of idealistic youth to the earth dung of realistic babes. The intelligent (Latin inter legere-to choose between) person chooses between possible courses of action; he discriminates rather than behaving promiscuously at random. The Greeks, for example, chose the potential excellence of the individual; for them humanism meant man at his best.
Our perpetual quest: where am I? who am I? what will I be?
There is, moreover, understandably widespread popular confusion between these two technical terms, science and technology. They can be regarded actually as the extremes of a whole spectrum; scientific understanding per se and technological utilizing per se. The former leads to intellectual abstractions, the latter to social (including moral) applications. One cannot fix any artificial line of demarcation; that would shift with dominant interest from time to time. The picture is further complicated by their continuous interactions. For example, the amusing electric phenomena of the early nineteenth century gave rise to the engulfing electrical age at its close, while the contemporary powerful steam engine led inevitably to the fascinating field of thermophysics.Different Types of Revolutions
It is helpful to distinguish three different types of revolutions in this cultural mel6e. First of all, there have been a number of technological revolutions, all of which have been concerned primarily with sources of energy and power. (As someone remarked, "The greatest invention in the nineteenth century was the invention of invention.") One begins naturally with man's use of mechanical energy, the energy of the wind and of the wave, with manpower and with horsepower. Then came his employment of electrical energy, which was succeeded by chemical energy, and now by so-called atomic energy (nuclear energy). As each new form of energy has come into prominence, new social (and moral) problems have been encountered.
Strictly scientific revolutions, on the contrary, have revolved about central ideas. For example, in the time of Galileo one might have properly inquired, "How does a stone fall?" "Let us consult Aristotle," would volunteer a classical scholar. "Why not Thomas Aquinas?" would urge a Christian thinker. Galileo, however, would probably ask, "Why not observe it directly as it falls?" Such a suggestion that one might obtain some answers directly from nature itself was truly revolutionary. In the nineteenth century some speculators were emboldened to seek answers to all man's questions in this manner (but not 1). Today there are some who claim that man can obtain such answers solely by the method of the physical sciences (but not I). Even though we may be able pragmatically to describe behavior sufficiently for everyday use, we cannot necessarily explain it to our complete satisfaction; for example, the origin of matter and life, of mind and spirit. With each scientific revolution there are disclosed new intellectual problems of a decidedly personal concern because of their philosophical and religious implications.
Raymond J. Seeger received a B.A. (Physics) from Rutgers University, Ph.D. (theoretical physics) from Yale University, and an honorary D.Sc. from Kent State University and from the University of Dubuque. He retired from the National Science Foundation where he held various positions. His primary research interests have been in the foundations of quantum mechanics, the electric breakdown of solids, and shockwave phenomena. The humanistic aspects of the development and understanding of physics together with its literary and social interrelations, its philosophical and religious implications, have always been a personal concern.
Public Understanding of Science
Evidently a primary democratic need today is understanding of science by the public. We shall not be concerned here with reasons for the widespread current misunderstanding; to what extent it may be due to the spreading habit of technical jargon in all fields of human endeavor, to what extent it is a consequence of ever vacillating fashions of professional educationalists. Mommy consoles Johnny, "You are having trouble with the new mathematics? Don't worry; Mommy had trouble with the old mathematics. And look how she turned out!" (When Johnny did, he really became worried.) One time when I passed out problems to my sophomore Physics students, one of them exclaimed, "Do you expect me to do these? Who do you think I am? Einstein?" I looked at him quizzically and replied, "No! Einstein wouldn't be taking this course the fourth time." A Congressman once illustrated the scientific method as follows: Pluck the legs off a grasshopper, one by one. In each case tell the grasshopper then to hop; he will do so until all the legs have been removed. "Proving," said the Congressman, "by the scientific method that when a grasshopper has lost all its legs it has lost also its sense of hearing!" Our modern culture is permeated with such everyday misunderstandings of science.
Evidently the public needs to improve its understanding of natural phenomena, and, even more, the very understanding of that understanding, viz., the development of scientific thinking, including its interactions with politics and economics, with sociology and ethics, its philosophical and religious implications. Science, I am convinced, can and must be taught humanistically. After all, scientists are people, human beings. They are not the youthful (21) Mary Godwin Shelley's Frankenstein creating fantastic monsters; they are not the fanciful creatures lurking in the horror nightmares of science fiction writers. On the other hand, one is well aware that even the so-called humanities are not necessarily taught humanistically.What Is Science?
The scientist as citizen cannot be neutral.
The contrary, we are emphasizing that the "what" of science
dependent on "how" this is reached, which is meaning
except in terms of "who" does it. This point of view can be
illustrated with four essential elements that are inherent in
any accepted scientific method.
First of all, I-and you (the scientific method is necessarily communal)-experience something, with nature as a source (possibly indirect). (One should preferably study nature-not science. Note that mathematics per se is excluded in this definition.) Out of our intellectual curiosity we frame questions, selected, but not necessarily answerable at the time. In religious studies, for example, typical questions were the following: Why cannot an omnipotent God make a triangular circle? How many angels can be placed on the point of a
needle? In mathematics, why can't I try to square a circle if I wish to do so? Which is larger JI or - I? In physics, what is the color of that beautiful atom? Where is the elusive electron inside it? Selective questions allow for even fewer possible answers, obtained sometimes by penetrating insight, at other times through mystifying intuition. What is truly embarrassing is to have irrelevant questions reveal relevant answers, to
find impertinent questions lead to pertinent relations. One, experience, to be sure, depends upon the questioner "who."
Secondly, I-and you-review these findings somehow, with imagination as inspiration-in the sense of the English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, i.e., definitely not imaginary or fanciful, like a mermaid. An old lady once accosted the English romantic painter Joseph M. W. Turner, "I've never seen a sunset look like that!" He replied, "Don't you wish you could?" The French Fauvist Georges Rouault was asked how be was able to portray so brilliantly the glistening white birches of spring. "By observing the snowclad fields of winter" was the reply. As the English natural philosopher Isaac Newton sat under an old apple tree, an apple fell on his head. "What a lucky day!" he probably mused, "Suppose it had been the moon!" What a revolutionary comparison, a moonlike apple and an applelike moon! This was the first time man conceived of a physical universe, where the gravity of the earth acts on both moons and apples. Up to that time, man had actually inhabited a universe with the celestial heaven perfect and unchanging while in the terrestrial region below it there was a perfect mess ever changing. What a comprehensive imagination-made possible by the intellectual and emotional freedom of a scientist "who."
The third element is your ability-and mine-to deduce something else, with reason as a guide. We insist upon logical consistency with respect to man's mind. In this connection we note the role of mathematics that may insure sufficiency, but not necessity. Suppose, for example, the price x of an apple is given by the equation x' = 25. Is 50 the correct answer? No! there are two answers; the one we choose is determined by the marketplace. Mathematics, you see, may tell us about all possible worlds that fit our stipulations. The actual world, however, can be determined only by some experiential boundary condition.
The fourth element is that very criterion: I-and you check our conclusions, with nature as a re-source. Our speculations must be bound by our experience. You may recall the antics that the Greek giant Antaeus exhibited when he was strangled mid-air by that work-force of the Greek gods, Heracles. The unforgettable trick was to keep Antaeus' feet from touching his mother earth where his strength would always be nourished upon contact. To me this is a parable of science-not to mention art and religion: one's vital strength is continually renewed as long as there is direct contact with experience-otherwise one merely goes through antics, regardless of how clever or complex.
The sequence of these four elements is not significant, being dependent largely upon the skill of the explorer. The success is a consequence mainly of the properties of the materials themselves. The whole process, however, is cumulative-not so much like the smooth ascent of a pyramid as the rough climbing of a mountain with its unexpected ups and downs, going arounds, and occasional lost direction amid engulfing fog.
In this concise review of what I call the scientific method (in preference to various incomplete statements which are often popularly dubbed scientific methods) we have ignored certain important tacit assumptions. The most familiar one is the seeming experiential unity of nature. Nowadays we have become accustomed to the apparent uniformity of matter whether it exists on the earth or on the moon, whether on the planet Mars or on evolving stars. More significant is the assumption of human comprehensibility. The German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein is said to have remarked that the one fact about the universe incomprehensible to him is its evident comprehensibility by man. Recently we have become more and more aware of the importance of a third requirement, viz. social acceptability. This assumption takes two prominent forms, viz., special professional dominances and the general cultural matrix.
Max Planck, the German theoretical physicist, who conceived the quantum theory, notes in his posthumous (1948) Scientific Autobiography: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." In this connection one recalls the first presentation of the conservation of energy to professional scientists. When James Prescott joule, the English experimental physicist, presented a paper at the 1847 Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the chairman of the session insisted that the Manchester brewer's son be brief, and allowed no
There will always be apparent conflicts between incomplete and imperfect science and incomplete and imperfect theology.
This retarding social behavior is even more widespread
with respect to the current cultural matrix. If there had been
a Vatican Digest in 1616, it would undoubtedly have presented Galileo's dilemma with respect to the Ptolemy-Copernicus issue in the form of a do-it-yourself analysis. Which is
true: the hypothesis of the Alexandrian Claudius Ptolemy that
all planets revolve about the earth, or that of the Polish
Nicolaus Copernicus with the earth itself joining the planets
all moving about the sun? What factors are critical in making
such. a decision? First of all, I suppose, is the requirement of
agreement with observational data. In this case both hypotheses could be regarded as
satisfactory, although the data themselves were wanting in precision (the Ptolemaic theory
however, had been useful for more than 1400 years). The
Copernican theory, to be sure, was more mathematically
elegant than the Ptolemaic in the disuse of any large epicycles
(there were still 34 circles in the Copernican theory in
contrast with more than 80 in the Ptolemaic). Ptolemy's view,
however, was enshrined in Dante's Divine Comedy, an
epitome of the culture of the day, whereas Copernicus'
radical conception would have to be regarded as philosophically wanting. What about usually reliable common sense?
Francis Bacon believed that any "fool" could see the sun
moving across the sky. On the basis of these considerations
one would reasonably favor overall the Ptolemaic hypothesis.
Such was the consensus of intellectual opinion in Galileo's
day. Science is evidently culture-bound; hence the increasingly important new field, the sociology of science.
By-Products of the Scientific Method
Several fruitful by-products of the scientific method are
noteworthy. First of all, there are the observed facts. Despite
the German historian Leopold von Ranke's dictum to let facts
speak for themselves, they don't! It is rather the scientist who
selects, questions, observes, describes, and infers with respect
to what, where, when, how, and how much (measures always
approximate). These observed facts, in short, reveal man's
fingerprints, like the soil that clings to a plucked root.
Science, moreover, is never merely a loose-leaf notebook of recorded facts; it at least has them classified. But the scientist again plays the chief role; he himself identifies associates, idealizes, and conceives. He transforms precepts into concepts, both empirical and theoretical. For example, it is truly amazing that there was not even a thermoscope to detect temperature changes until the advent of Galileo. Up to that time a thing was regarded as having either heat or cold. It was Galileo who viewed these two conditions as being different states on a single scale-thus leading to the invention of a thermometer.
Even more significant is the first theoretical concept ever formulated by man. The story is a familiar one. Hieron 11, king of Syracuse (ard century B.C.) ordered his goldsmith to make a new crown out of the royal gold. He was, however, suspicious of the goldsmith; he wondered if the gold was in the completed crown or under the goldsmith's gown. He called upon his chief scientist Archimedes (the first great mathematical physicist) for advice. Archimedes' celebrated bath in this connection was not an uneventful occasion. In his life of Marcellus, the first-century Greek biographer Plutarch notes that this action was community inspired every now and then. In his Roman bath Archimedes was certainly not striving to be the best bathed Syracusan. He was anxiously waiting for the ordeal to be over. Meanwhile he paddled playfully in the water and suddenly noted that just as much water would overflow as he himself became immersed. Rushing out down the street, he shouted, "Eureka!" ("I have found it!"). The townspeople were amazed-not because he was naked (Greek runners always ran naked), but because there was no race. Out of this simple experience Archimedes formulated the first theoretical concept in the history of mankind, viz., specific gravity, which relates two important factors, the weight of a body and that of an equal volume of water. The concept is just as valid and useful today as when it was proposed more than 2000 years ago.
In addition to observed facts and related factors, there is a third important by-product, namely, a factitious theory. (The word theory itself comes from the same Greek root as theatre; it signifies a view.) The scientist attempts finally to relate all his findings in a single view, to comprehend all the facts and factors. A scientist is thus a creative artist and science a human artifact, To change the metaphor, he is like an involved coach with a game plan-not a neutral referee judging the legality of each play. Max Born, the German theoretical physicist, concludes the Appendix of his Wayneflete Lectures (1949) on Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance with his conviction that "faith, imagination, and intuition are decisive factors in the progress of science as in any other human activity." Science in the making is adventure-some (one can always expect the unexpected), wonderful], and joy-full.The Progress of Science
What are the chief factors that determine the progress of science? Why does it flourish here and now, but not there and then? Why, for example, in colonial England and France, but not in colonial Spain? What are the essential developmental conditions? We would all like to optimize them. We mention just two important factors.
The progress of science depends in the first place on the definability of phenomena, which, in turn, is a function of their complexity and of the inevitable involvement of the observer. (Pure objectivity does not exist, although the object aspect may be distinguishable.) The second major factor is the reproducibility of the phenomena, which is dependent upon the multiplicity and interrelatedness of their constituents, e.g., the proverbial unpredictability of weather is a notable illustration. The rapid development of the physical sciences in comparison with that of the life sciences and of the social sciences is due largely to their relative simplicity-more so than to the interest of private investigators or to the funds available from social agencies (usually in proportion to the practicability expectation).
The progress of science is civilly LTD. There are definite limitations to any man's dream that the scientific method will achieve success at all times and places under all conditions. Blaise Pascal, the French philosophical physicist, noted in his fragmentary Pensges that man is seemingly suspended between the infinite and infinitesimal. Today man is floundering between ignorance of the very large (e.g., nebulae receding with almost the speed of light away from us) and ignorance of the very small (e.g., the German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle with respect to precise knowledge simultaneously of the position and speed for an elementary particle). A fog shrouds our scientific venture as it moves forward. Complete liberation seems more and more doubtful as we find ourselves bound not only by our mental processes, but also by our man-made instruments. As an expanding ball of light spreads its illumination, at the same time it reveals proportionately more the immensity of the surrounding darkness. This phenomenon has become increasingly evident in the well-developed physical sciences; one wonders how long it will take the life sciences, basking currently in the glow of success through utilizing fruits of the physical sciences, to reach a similar apparent impasse.Philosophical Limitations
Let us now touch lightly upon some philosophical limitations-at least from my own point of view. There are four primary scientific approaches to the basic problem of man and his environment, viz., the avenue of the physical sciences, that of the biological sciences, that of psychology, and that of the social sciences. Each of these avenues is attendant with certain common questions: Pilate's, "What is truth?" Maebeth's, "Is this a dagger?" Hamlet's, "To be or not to be!" The attempt to answer these three questions on truth, reality, and value is the philosophy of science. Physics, for instance, presupposes some metaphysics-not that metaphysics is essentially a part of physics, but rather it is part of the scaffolding used in building the physics edifice. In the twentieth century, accordingly, science has become more philosophical and philosophy, in turn, more science based.
Civilization has not been built by agnostics and sceptics, but by men of faith.
What is true? This formulation of the first question, more akin to Hebraic verbal action than to the Greek nominal abstraction of Pilate, is typical of a behavioral approach. (The legal demand to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" belongs to the "theater of the absurd." Who would claim to know all the truth?) In science, accordingly, one is content to insist only that a statement be true to observation and logic, and to hope that it may lead to a greater comprehension of the known and possibly to the unification of science itself. A scientist never pretends to know everything; on the other hand, he cannot deny knowing something. An illustration or two may serve to clarify how scientific thinking has influenced philosophical ideas.
Imagine a trailer with two newlywed students inside. As she lights a candle in the very middle of the trailer, she muses, "Have you ever had physics?" Chagrined by the very thought-particularly on his honeymoon-he grunts, "Yes." She then asks, "When I light this candle, will the light reach the forward end first, or the rear?" His countenance beams; he knows the answer, "It reaches both at the same time." You and I, however, standing outside, see that the trailer is moving. Obviously, the light will reach the approaching rear end before it gets to the receding front end. Which answer is correct? Both! The theory of restricted relativity is based on the experimental fact that the speed of light is the same for all observers, independent of any relative motion of the observed and the observer. If we are not positive about the simultaneity of such phenomena, how can we be certain about basic concepts like space and time? Our notion of these, indeed, has had to be revised. The essence of relativity, indeed, is not that phenomena may be relative to the observer; rather, that some (e.g., the speed of light) are invariant to all observers. It is unfortunate, therefore, that a popularizer like Joseph Fletcher, the Cambridge (MA) secular theologian, has made relativity per se the corner stone of his so-called new morality with respect to old situation ethics. What is requisite for relative mores are ethical invariances-what used to be called absolutes.
Another familiar misunderstanding seems to be inherent in the popular notion of atomic energy. (cf. Jacob Bronowski's comment (1973). "We should never have turned mass into energy.") By the end of the nineteenth century it had become customary to regard the world as containing electromagnetic radiation (light, x-rays, et al.) coexistent with material things. But how does radiation differ essentially from matter? Both have energy (E) and momentum. In addition, however, matter has mass (M); does radiation have mass also? Albert Einstein concluded from basic physical laws that radiation, as well as matter, has mass given by the universal formula E - Mc', where c is the speed of light. Its misinterpretation consists in thinking of mass transforming into energy, or vice versa. Actually neither is true. Mass is always conserved, and so is energy. The difficulty, I believe, stems from our shorthand way of speaking. We characteristically associate inert matter with its characteristic property mass and penetrating radiation with its dominant characteristic energy. Hence when matter is transformed into radiation, we carelessly think of their associated characteristics as being transformed.
Ever since the Ionian philosophers, the nature of matter itself has intrigued thinking man. Immanuel Kant, the German transcendental philosopher, first pointed out the paradox lurking in matter; one cannot conceive of its infinite division or of its limited divisibility (cf. the Greek radical concept of an atom). There was a time when the story of the universe could presumably be written with an alphabet of 92 letters, which could be formed with a single p, e, n (proton, electron, neutron). Then a number of new elementary particles were discovered: the positron, neutron, meson, and so on. Each year the situation became more and more puzzling as the number of so-called elementary particles increased to more than 200. In view of their approximate similarity of mass and electric charge, Werner Heisenberg proposed the possibility of these particles being merely different states of a single dynamical system-like the various energy levels of a single atom.
The second philosophical question is concerned with the reality of scientific theory. One would certainly prefer a behavioral approach here, too; largely because of the linguistic confusion inherent in the multiple usage of the word real. (The American experimental physicist Percy Williams Bridgman refused even to use the word real.) For example, how does realism in art differ from that in philosophy? or existence in religion from that in mathematics? Scientists, therefore, are wont to content themselves with a pragmatic use of the term. The gravitational force field, for instance, is generally accepted as real because of its usefulness as a concept. May there not be other logics? Some kind of Aristotelian potential reality, where a Newtonian material force and a Maxwellian force field may be regarded as different manifestations of the same reality? Reality appears as a tantalizing multi-faced creature facing many different points of view. Remember the confusion that arose in physics itself as to the basicity of particles and waves, both of which were unwarranted extrapolated speculations with respect to experiential phenomena.The Question of Value
The question of value presents an immediacy of practical concern. Here, too, a behavioral approach is desirable; for scientists do behave like human beings. Noting their failures they make value judgements-in terms not always of scientific goals, but rather of pragmatic successes. They have generally been successful when they themselves have been truth-full and hope-full, as well as cooperative, regardless of color or creed, class or country. In so doing man has found himself to be a partner in a creative coordination like snowflakes that crystallize out of chaotic vapor motion. Out of the complexity emerges order, out of uncertainty an apparent sense of direction. Not that a scientist ever attains ultimate truth-or even strives for it. Great scientists like the English natural philosophers Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday have been sincerely humble.
Materialists put their faith in that environment, atheistic humanists in man, theistic humanists in God.
Extrinsic values, however, are of greater concern nowadays than these intrinsic ones. For example, is science possibly evil? Some years ago I was invited to participate in a symposium on "Poetry and Science" sponsored by the American Society of Aesthetics. Another speaker was a poet-in-residence at a well-known college, the third was a philosopher at a major university. The poet began by addressing me, "I do not know you. I have nothing against you personally. Science, however, is essentially evil!" I was dumbfounded by this novel introduction to an academic discussion. I had to lay aside my notes, which argued that science, dealing with the whole universe, is probably more imaginative than poetry, restricted narrowly to man's own feelings. I was forced, however, to tackle the problem at hand. "Take a knife," I said, "Is it good or bad?" in the hands of a benevolent physician it can cut out a bad appendix; in the hands of a predatory man it can stab a good heart. The knife itself is neither good nor bad, but it can be used by its holder for either good or bad. Science, to be sure, in times of war helps to produce longer spears, sharper swords, and bigger bombs, but that same science can enable the partially blind to see better, the partially deaf to hear more, the very lame to get about from place to place. Science of itself is neither good nor bad; it is neutral. It can, however, be used by technological man for good or for bad. The heart of the war problem, for instance, has been, is now, and ever will be the heart of man himself.
Scientists, however, are people; their personality has many aspects. As citizens, for example, they cannot remain morally neutral. Recently I had occasion to note the Greeks whom Dante had assigned to the first circle of Hell; among the chatting throng was the mathematician Euclid, the astronomer Ptolemy, and the physician Galen. I was surprised, moreover; to find the famous adventurer, wise Ulysses, being tormented in the eighth circle for his abandonment of his old father Laertes, of his faithful wife Penelope, and of his infant son discreet Telemachus; he was pictured by the English poet Alfred Tennyson as still setting out in his last years "to follow knowledge like a sinking star." Each individual, scientist or not, must personally solve his own social problems. He may appear vacillating like Albert Einstein who, as a nationalist, recommended the making of an atomic bomb (potentially for war), and later, as a pacifist, deplored its actual use. Each one of us has to decide for himself; and no one knows just what he will do under stringent circumstances. Each scientist, however, should strive to tell just what he truly knows and the limitation of that very knowledge, beyond which he must act on faith. It is impossible to quarantine a scientist from the contagious ills of society.Religious Implications of Science
Intimately related to philosophical beliefs are religious implications of science. Man, of course, is intellectually curious about his spatial environment and is awfully inspired by its challenging mystery. His personal concerns, however, are more apt to be confined to earth, which moves like a life boat in space with man himself seemingly the captain, without chart or compass. In addition to speculative philosophical issues, there is also Everyman's question (cf. the popular 15th-century morality Dutch play Everyman): "Alas, whereto may I trust?" There is a vital need for every man's commitment to some overwhelming pattern for his everyday living.
Whereas science is neutral, scientists themselves are people who have to couple their scientific experience and religious experience. They, too, may behave like the prophet Elijah who heard a still small voice, or like the patriarch job who discerned an act of God in a whirlwind. Religious men of science have subscribed to many different personal beliefs. There have been Anglicans like Clerk Maxwell and Isaac Newton; Congregationalists like Josiah Willard Gibbs and Robert Andrews Millikan; Friends like John Dalton and Arthur Stanley Eddington; Lutherans like Werner Heisenberg, Hermann von Helmholtz, and Max Planck; Presbyterians like Arthur Holly Compton; Sandemanians, like Michael Faraday; Roman Catholics like Galileo Galilei, Albertus Magnus, Gregor Mendel, Blaise Pascal, and Louis Pasteur; Unitarians like Benjamin Franklin; et al-to mention only a few about whose lives I am somewhat familiar. (An interesting study would be the reciprocal influence of science and of religion.)
One wonders why there is a widespread notion that there are divisive conflicts between science and religion. In the 18th-century controversy was certainly focused on the physical sciences; in the 19th-century it was centered in the biological and earth sciences; in the 20th-century it is apparent in psychology and the social sciences. On college campuses it still lurks often beneath a veneer of academic sophistications. The laboratory is frequently too narrow to permit a look out upon the whole universe; the chapel door (usually closed) may be too narrow to let even God enter. The average person, I suppose, does not have any problem of science and religion. Here is a scientist: he has had genuine scientific experiences, he believes these experiences to be true, he hopes truth is single. If there is any apparent conflict between science and religion, he chooses science that he knows. Here is a man of religion: he has had genuine religious experiences, he believes these experiences to be true, he hopes truth is single. If there is any apparent conflict between religion and science, he rejects science that he does not understand. In both cases it is not a matter of science and religion, but rather of science or religion.
There is naturally a desire by some for simply a theoretical world of science alone or for simply a theoretical world of religion alone; occasionally one finds an individual trying to straddle the two worlds despite a wide gulf between them. In my own judgement, however, conflicts between science and religion are always inevitable. Although each field deals with a particular aspect of our one world, each is continually imperfect and incomplete; their overlap, therefore, is necessarily full of inconsistencies and lacunae. One would, nevertheless, hope that the conflicts of a person at age sixty would not be the same as those of the same person at age sixteen; over the years there should have been both scientific and spiritual growth.
We began our discourse with the concept of one world. As we now look back, we can discern three essentially different scientific outlooks: first, every man looks out on the world of phenomena as a whole; second, a scientist's outlook covers selected phenomena; third, an individual's outlook beyond phenomena per se. Does science, however, ever visualize a " real" world of nature? At times scientists have emphatically shouted, "Yes!" But physicists nowadays are inclined to be cautious; they are more apt to point to a possible disclosure without insisting on a logical proof. To illustrate, consider the continual doubling of the number of sides of a regular polygon. One can visualize a circle emerging as the doubling increases without end, but one cannot actually reach it. Likewise in the case of the infinite series 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + . . . one expects the ultimate sum to be 2, although it will not ever be attained. (A limit is never reached unless included in the series.) In a similar manner, I believe, science in its successive approximations discloses the "real" world of nature; it points to it symbolically.
Everyone has to make his own choice with respect to the philosophical and religious implications he discerns personally in the world of phenomena. There are three primary attitudes. First of all, there are those who boastfully claim they do not know; they are called agnostics (or ignoramuses). (One wonders how they themselves know that they don't know.) Their closed minds, however, do not allow entrance into the storehouse of knowledge. Then there is a group of persons who modestly admit they do not know, but ... These are skeptics who see the door ajar but hesitate to enter; their mind is open, but empty. Still others, admit that they do Dot know, but boldly enter and find out more and more. These are men of faith; their open mind steadily approaches answers to the perennial questions: where am I? who am I? what will I be? Civilization, including science, has not been built by agnostics and skeptics, but by men of faith.
People differ, however, as to what they put their faith in. Some have been thrilled by the gay flowers about them by day and by the bright stars above them at night. They put their faith in the material environment to provide answers to the basic questions; they may be called materialists. Others, however, have been entrapped in floods or earthquakes, in hurricanes or dust storms. They fear to put their trust in impersonal matter. on the other hand, they have been entranced by man's music and painting, by his writings and buildings. They put their faith in man; they are atheistic humanists. Still others have seen man's inhumanity to man, in his city slums about and in atomic bombs above. They are compelled to look up for salvation to some higher power, which for wont of a better name they call God; they are theistic humanists. Religion then becomes the binding together of the plane of man and his environment and God. One cannot prove that any of these attitudes is true or false. I myself have one life to live; I am a theistic humanist. I believe in the divine rights of man.