Why Be a Scientist?
This was the question to be answered in an essay competition for young, aspiring scientists. The British magazine, “New Scientist,” September 6, 1979, published the winning essay, by 15-year-old Gabrielle Horne of Blackheath, London.
“AS I see it, science today, for all its headlong onrush, lacks an inner sense of direction.” She sees this lack as demanding a new kind of scientist: “Scientists can no longer continue along the road of ‘scientific progress’ without relating—imaginatively and vividly—to the effects the negative aspects of their work are having on our planet. We need a new breed of scientist/philosopher.” She then lists some of the negative aspects.
“Man, drunk on science, has become the bull in the china shop of nature.” By burning fossil fuels, man has increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which could build up heat and a “greenhouse effect” that could ultimately render the earth uninhabitable.
“Western man has behaved collectively like a drunken sailor. Worse—we have in effect said that so long as we can ride our motor cars today we don’t care if our children and grandchildren starve, or freeze to death, or blow themselves up with nuclear reactors tomorrow!”
By the use of certain insecticides, poisons accumulate in worms, which birds eat and they perish in the hundreds of thousands. “Another example,” she says, “of our blindness to the cause-and-effect relationship has followed the deforestation of tropical areas for agriculture: this process also produced conditions favourable to the tsetse fly, which as a result proliferated and spread epidemics of sleeping sickness.”
The listing of such examples could continue ad nauseam. Man’s calloused indifference to the environment is made more destructive than ever because of the tools placed in his hands by science, even to the point of wiping out man himself. She illustrates effectively this danger:
“It could be said that, by gaining the incredible power that science has placed in our hands, we inevitably sow the seeds of our own destruction; that any species dominating the Earth to the extent that it endangers the survival of its co-inhabitants is bound to self-destruct, therein lying nature’s safety valve. Just as a cancer destroys itself in killing its host, so man endangers himself through despoilation of the very resources he himself needs in order to survive.”
She feels the urgency of a new approach that will give moral direction to science, and feels that involvement in this endeavor is a strong incentive to be a scientist. Here’s how she expresses it:
“It is to meet this ominous aspect of the future that a new brand of scientist must evolve. A specialist who does not confine himself to pure science, but who is aware that above all science needs moral direction. To become a scientist now is to take up the direst moral challenge mankind has ever faced.”
Gabrielle Horne’s awareness of danger from amoral science is commendable. It is shared by multitudes. But history shows that the perception of distant dangers has far less to do with the course of human events than present expediencies. As long as the threat is to a future generation, the present one will be more influenced by whatever affects it. Actually, this generation is already adversely affected by pollution, but until the damages are more obviously catastrophic, this truth will be conveniently obscured by the love of money and the mania for fleshly comforts.
Nearly 19 centuries ago the Bible foretold not only the present polluting of the earth but also pollution’s end. It will come, not from “scientist/philosophers” or other men, but from God himself. He is the one foretold “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Rev. 11:18.