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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 5, No. 1 March 26, 1942

Scientists Cannot Avoid Politics

Scientists Cannot Avoid Politics

Science is a part of human history, and scientific development is conditioned by social development," said Professor H. Levy in a talk to 150 Science students at the Cambridge Congress. "Science at different periods is a reflection of the history of human processes. It represents a steady development of information, experience and application. Ideas develop with experience, and practice is transformed by ideas. This interaction of theory and practice is vital to Science.

"The problems confronting the scientist are those of his own day, not problems in the realms of abstract thought. The focus of interest of scientific men differ at different periods. In the seventeenth century scientists were busy only in a few small fields, but a hundred years later the distribution and field of scientific energy had changed.

"Just as the scientist gets his problems out of society, so the way he tackles them depends on his education. The placing of statements, laws, etc., into rigid logical categories—all false or all true—is stultifying to science. The 'All False school say that nature is hopelessly fickle and everything is indeterminable. This anarchistic outlook has developed during the social stress of the last 15 to 20 years. It leads, to mysticism. Denying that there are scientific laws of society, it results in a reactionary social outlook of hopelessness.

"The 'All True' school, which was dominant until about 20 years ago, develops a very mechanical outlook and regards people as machines. Hence the view of the factory-workers in the nineteenth century as just part of machinery.

"We must put the two views together and ask ourselves in what circumstances any statement is false or true."

The Scientist cannot keep aloof from politics, but must play his part as a citizen. This was the feeling-of the Science Commission, which found that the present system of production based on private profit, does, not make full use of scientific knowledge for the health and happiness of the community. It protested against the recent lowerin[unclear: gs] of teaching standards and the condensation and distortion of courses, which lead to the production of half-trained scientists. Amongst its practical proposals for the reform of teaching was that more emphasis should be laid on the history and philosophy of science.

—From "Student News."