Role of the Scientists

So much in Edward Speyer’s article, “Scientists in A Bureaucratic Age” [DISSENT, Summer 1957] is merely implied, so many half-truths are only half voiced, that it is difficult to know where to start taking issue.

Take, for instance, his paragraph about the prostitution of science. Enlightened thought on prostitution has it that it is primarily a social disease. One can hardly blame the scientists as a group if they are engaging in the same sin as other intellectuals. In fact, if scientists actually are prostituting themselves as a group, Mr. Speyer should not be surprised. After all, he finds science an “often narrow and restricting way of looking at the world.” Many others, with a presumably broader view of the world, are doing the same. There are the advertising copy writers, the intellectuals working for the slicks, the PhD economists in market research. I wonder who is doing more damage to society.

All this, of course, is no excuse. But when one puts it in the proper perspective of the society in which it functions, it may become a reason. There remains, however, the question of the extent to which the accusation is true.

I am a physicist; I know about physicists only. We like to think of ourselves as the poets of science, “dedicated” in a more genuine sense than the poets of Madison Avenue. We are also the most vulnerable, for it is the physici...

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