PAULING, SZENT-GYORGYI, VITAMIN C AND ME
bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu
Tue May 7 20:15:55 EST 1996
Mr. Kuslich's suggestion that science can somehow be cleansed of
human values and thus be made more pure is a misunderstanding of
what science is and does.
Science is a human endeavor. As such it manifests all of the frailties
and foibles of any deeply human undertaking. It cannot be politically
'cleansed' of value: Further, why would you want to?
Science, as practiced, should be ethical. It should aspire to revere
its creators, not dimish them. Bronowski and Pauling wrote eloquently
on these points. Pauling always suggested that the goal of science was
clearly to diminish human suffering. That is why he was awarded a
Nobel Prize in Peace; for helping to orchestrate the Test Ban Treaty;
it is also notable that he was blacklisted, and almost indicted for
treason for that very same cause.
Science is political. But it should not be guided solely by a political
agenda: That is why it has (for the last couple of hundred years) been
done mostly at Universities, where tenure (an archaic, but important
system for guarding unpopular ideas) has been guaranteed.
Tenure is not perfect, witness the case of Paul Simmelweiss,
who died a pauper in the streets of Vienna for having the
audacity to suggest that surgeons should wash themselves
between autopsy and entering the operating theatre.
No, tenure is not perfect, but it is better than nothing....
We are now, in the process, in this country, of doing away with all
that! Humanistic science, tenure, Universities (as sanctuaries for
learning) are all being destroyed.
Won't you who are criticizing the blind alleys into which science
inevitably goes admit your own imperfection: So that you can help
to save a tradition of inquiry which, although imperfect, used to
be credible, ethical and respectable. That was my goal in writing
this essay: To acknowledge that we have lost something if we do
not clearly respect the humility of our own enterprise of discovery.
And perhaps the most important sense of humility we have lost
is the recognition that Pauling and Szent-Gyorgyi (and Bronowski)
were GIANTS! And now, we stand deeply impoverished by their
loss and wonder whether life has any meaning at all, or shall
we just all toss it in, and let a bunch of robots, without
a political agenda, proceed on their own path toward discovery.
A path which clearly does not lead to a world which combines
'Science and Human Values', the title of one of Bronowski's books,
but leads to knowledge of, by and for a world of robots. Such a vision
feels to me more out of the tradition of Asimov or Bradbury, than
that of Pauling, Szent-Gyorgyi or Bronowski. Though all five of
these authors manifest some kind of genius, the latter three were clearly
of this earth. The former two spent a good deal of their time
on what I think was a lesser planet, one of their own creation.
Dima Klenchin (klenchin at macc.wisc.edu) wrote:
: In article <Pine.A220.127.116.110505082737.8841A-100000 at itsa.ucsf.edu>,
: Bert Gold <bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu> wrote:
: >My hope in writing this is that our children will not suffer
: >because of the lack of wisdom of their leaders in
: >making decision about what to and what not to study.
: Judging by the number of newsgroups crossposted, Bert Gold fully qualifies
: as spammer...
: :-)) Just kidding
: Seriously: Dr. Gold has obviously very strong opinion on the subject. The
: Q: is it really confirmed by research, or the current state of affair
: is simply that kilogram amounts of ascorbic acid don't hurt (apparently)?
: - Dima
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