Man and the multitude; George Wald discussion, part two
It was a combination. Systematic combination to fight these two groups and it took concerted political action and which scientists and others banded together to beat back those groups. I mean beat back through. Having referenda on fluorides and new clinics. This is a fascinating story but illustrates the kind of dialogue I mean. OK let's move on to the issue of automobile safety. It's clear that here we may think that for health reasons a lot of the monitoring on the speed of autos. But it's apparent also that the dialogue has to go on because more than just health values are involved in that decision. And this dialogue obviously is still going on. On the issue of cigarettes I think the same question comes up in which the evidence is good but it's not as horrible roaming as it is in the Florida wide issue. As the evidence gets better they'll be more raw political pressure leading to
change in the area of reducing the disparity of care. I have to be involved in that in terms of mental health and I am ashamed that my field is greater or disparity. Here in terms of social stratification and almost any other part of medicine wasn't intended to be that way but it developed them and I went decade to try to alter that which I see a responsibility of scientists. In conjunction with governmental agencies and groups to move towards this change. I know this doesn't answer the question but it gives an illustration of faith in democracy in the absence of the Supreme Court. It sounded to me a little bit like Professor Walt skipping from Vassar Ashby was stating there's the mental goals are subordinate to the physical goals. In other words that we first have to satisfy the physical desires and then we can worry a little bit more about the mental life. I hope that's not too great a distortion but it seems to me that
at the present stage of our technology that perhaps we have approached it with a blow on society or are approaching it all over the world the stage at which we we can fulfill our physical needs and can concentrate a little bit more effort on the mental and just exactly what they are. And I'm not sure of that. What Professor Ashby said or at least it didn't satisfy me completely. As as a guide towards towards what our goal should be now I. Can so far as the Greek philosophers placed a great deal of emphasis. If I remember correctly on on on the superiority of the mental activities over the physical activity and it seems to me that over a very long. Over a very long run man might choose to subordinate his physical activities in order to concentrate more time and more effort on the mental activities
like specially asked me to comment on that. He would borrow a very large extent of what you said the derivation of names. Clearly and accurately from basic Darwinian events is not as far as I know completely ISTEP dished. There's plenty of room for various opinions in the matter. I can only say that as far as I know. A lot of the well known. Instincts and so on are clearly traceable back to. To the. To the primitive necessities of biological life provided one appreciates that one can go quite from the most elementary urgent need for water should we say to all sorts of subtleties of. Ways of thinking that are clearly related to the world around us although it's not easy to give a clear description. One obvious example is the
play of children for instance. To them of course it all emotion is just fun. But of course as soon as you begin to ask which species. In which species do the young play you begin to discover that they are the learning species and the display of ritual of the young. The kittens playing with nice for instance. It obviously as much a part of their biological existence as as any other part of it it is an essential part of their contact with their environment and it's the way that they survive as a species. The tendency in that is the herd instinct the tendency of animals of types either to cluster into groups for mutual self-defense or to scatter the recent book by Konrad Lorenz on immigration deals very clearly with the opposite tendency where he describes particular the fishes. That scatter. So as to cover the ground better. There are a host of hints in this way which suggest that there is
continuity. But I would like to say that it is fully fully established So there's still room for plenty of. Personal opinion or variations on it. If you had a question. Yeah I was thinking about the idea of democracy or of our forces playing there are a kind of an idea of pluralism or determining somehow with the grace of science or of determining somehow the course of our continuing history. Indeed it will continue and that's the horrible thing about historical inevitability because it will continue and so of course it's inevitable and we look at retrospect it couldn't have happened in any other way. History cannot be right or wrong it's simply here. And with this in mind I think about from a Governor Brown of California statement. After he lost the election he said it was probably mostly politically motivated but I think not altogether untrue that the people of this country do not at the present time
want integration. They don't want and I think certain evidence that you can find southern states would further point up this this conclusion from Governor Brown. They do not want it now. We can't see it. I mean if we were going to say this is going to run because after all it has happened it is happening. And from all indications it will continue to happen for some time. And if it has happened then it is history. It is inevitable. I'd like to say a word if I may about this concept of inevitability I think that. It's all in retrospect of course science is a very new thing. One one can make statements of inevitability. Only with any confidence only about very very broad developments indeed. When I say that I believe that elsewhere in the universe man like
creatures that is contemplative creatures with a technology have developed the chances that they in any way resemble men as we know him. That they're not alone in the same species but even in the same genus the same family perhaps the same phylum experience biologist would classify them. The chances of getting anything like white man is infinitesimal. Infinitesimal. What one is doing in the course of evolution is compounding. So now a series of small steps. Each accompanied by a probability. There is a well known principle in evolution called Delos law that
says that there is no retracing there is no actual retracing of an evolutionary path. So for example we have mammals that fly like birds but there's no way of getting a mammal that's going to fly back to being a bird. It becomes a bat. We have mammals that have gone back into the sea and swim and live their lives very close to fishes like Opus's and whales but they're not fishes. And there's no way of ever getting there. And the only thing that makes these passages in evolution is irreversible is the probability of retracing a given pathway of having traced that pathway so that inevitability can't be applied it at that level.
May I say while I'm up with that. When we talk of choosing modes of behavior goals aspirations one is talking of course. Second Level of things beyond those things that he's described as automatic and so much a part of our nature that they need not need hardly concern as their one will have a variety of opinions are always in these opinions will be in conflict and something has to be hammered out within each group within each society within each nation and then take the basic affirmation a categorical imperative. But natural selection will be operating on it. That is no society will be able to tolerate along the choice
of those affirmations. And I say that but what I'm saying is completely secular because none of this is in position to predict with any confidence. We have to judge these things in retrospect. What is fittest is what has survived. I just want to throw in a small point about this question of ether if there is life elsewhere. Seems to me that it is very likely there is another way of of arguing the suggestion of probability in fact is quite high that you would find something not grossly unlike human beings from the point of view that if it's the same sort of environment the pressure will in a bit of the squeeze the form into the same way. For instance if there are photons about and if it pays the organisms to use the photons for invitation for information sooner or later will have an AI and if stereoscopic
vision holds if there are more than one dimension they'll develop two eyes the stereoscopic vision. If they move it will pay them to put the eyes in front and so one goes on step by step by step gradually forming. You find that four legs are more stable than the best of all these two sets of four legs because then you can keep absolutely stable without any trouble. It's definitely more efficient and two sets of three. You have four legs then you get really smart and you do it purely by regulation in the unstable position. With two for every one of these in any in the world that's just got gravity and a few other things roughly like this. All these points will gradually come forward so that even if they started off using something often of beryllium or something as they were or so they can know what those chemical that would work differently. As long as it has something like a planetary shape and gravity and a few of the most primitive conditions there will gradually be squeezed into
something like the human form and again on this question of. Instinct and so on. If the universe isn't all the world isn't so different. If it doesn't make for us the age old saying Unity is strength which means better for five of them to get together and work as a team rather than work in isolation. You will start to get. Teams tribes the animals the flocks and so on developing so that from this point of view there is something to be said that whatever happens it must look very much like us. There's only one other point that I would like to mention here and that is it seems to me that if there are going to be others. And the timing of evolution is highly close to ours. If there are only a tenth of 1 percent faster than us they'll be a million years ahead of us or a million years behind so the idea that that we shall we shall put up a
flying saucer within a hundred years should we say a flying saucer landing on here this would be an extremely close coincidence. So it seems to me that if there are other forms of life in the universe and I'm right on if I was betting on it it seems to me that some will be. Several many millions of years behind us some quite possibly will be many millions of years ahead of us and not a million years means on this sort of technological rate of advance. I can't imagine. Getting back to what his first wife. Had difficulty in seeing the difference between you and I sure that's the difficulty I think. I wonder why you feel it necessary to make a difference between science and technology do you think there's a pejorative connotation that can be wrong with technology with production and then
I just want to forestall I want to. There is a positive reason and a negative please. The negative reason is I want to forestall distort science is responsible for having atom bombs I don't like atom bombs let's stop science. You fit that. You fit that so what let's stop developing scientific knowledge because it's getting too dangerous. I'm saying if we only keep these things sorted out. Then we can continue to accept the principle that knowledge is always preferable to ignorance. That's a negative thing. The positive thing is equally important. It's that when you come to technology. Recognize that it's for use. It's for human use and. One I think needs to operate regularly and consistently with the principle of a humanistic technology with no
embarrassment discarding. And there will be differences of opinion about this. That's all part of the Democratic mill. But having no embarrassment at least about making judgments do this don't do that. And I'm thinking a perfectly simple direct situations there's one before us right now that you can read about in any daily paper particularly a New York newspaper involving. Should we or should we not go ahead with the supersonic transport. And the point is some people say. Of course you don't want to stop progress do you it goes faster it's bigger of course we're going to have it and take that sound like sonic boom that comes along with it like a man you know it's progress. In fact take almost anything that comes along like a man if it's technological progress so-called. And I'm saying no. For my part I can live without those supersonic
transports not rather live without them than have to put up with the berm. So that's the way it is with all kinds of things that face us. And all one is asking is a judgment. Don't be embarrassed to say no said new technological developments that seem anti humanistic but. Neither should one ever get into the predicament of asking for a moratorium on science because it's becoming too dangerous. Through its breeding of technology to different things. What if someone says that the development of a supersonic transport would lead to something else to a greater knowledge in another realm that might be a useful thing what would you do. Then there is this is a poor and well one but there are other analogies. Well I first of all it is true that certain aspects of technology and science as well as science
breeding technology no question about that but they're very frequently exaggerated. My good friends in the radar project and so on you know. Quite consistent in saying that developments in the technological direction and the new technologies in fact went along with an almost complete stoppage of physics until one could begin to do the physics again. Now these are arguable points but their contribution to. The supersonic transport isn't going to bring any new science. Not that can't be done some other way. But in any case there are times when we come to this options. There are rather rare but sometimes very critical situations in which the pursuit
of knowledge. Begins to run head on into what we regard as human rights desirable procedures and one of those that is very much in the public province right now there's a very passionate dialog going on that involves both politicians scientists and physicians involving the necessity to establish guidelines for human experimentation. A perfectly clear that human experimentation which is a pursuit of knowledge nevertheless is in a province in which one feels it necessary to exercise. Safeguards limitations. And there was this big experiment that I'm sure Professor Hines knows about and I don't I think it was called West Cork. The business of putting metal foil out into the stratosphere.
Well it was a tampering with the environment of the whole world and people quite properly got quite excited about it and said That's pursuit of knowledge but tampering with our environment and this needs much more careful consideration. So there are these situations even in science. Yes. This leads to a rather vague feeling that I had just arrived when you introduced a huge distinction between science and technology and creation is the creation vs. production last night. I know I did sort of suspect that you introduced this distinction where you said negatively as a non-scientist if I may say so defensively. If that is so that you have a way of dealing with the question about the atomic bomb more and the scientists responsibility for it it seems to me that the definitions that you provided and and announces that you've just given us
present the scientists with a different kind of obligation. I'm not going to hold the scientists responsible for the decision to drop the atomic bomb. But it seems to me that if the scientists define science in this very discreet manner says this is science science is knowing and distinguish it from technology. But he thereby undertakes an obligation to maintain that distinction and not merely to identify for example those areas that you've just spoken of where we have to make decisions about science but to actually be concerned with the structures by which our society answers those questions. If the scientists is going to say this question this is technology and this is a question that is outside the realm of science then he's going to have to be sure of that distinction. It seems to me he's going to be sure that there is a way of dealing with those questions and that they're not that they're those decisions are not made in a vacuum I think. Will the decisions about the use of technology in warfare which seem to me I don't hold the scientists responsible for them. I don't know whether to hold a politician responsible for them or the technologist. I don't know
where the responsibility lies but somewhere the responsibility ought to lie for the creation and involvement in the structures which make the decisions. For example I've been told that one of the most reliable and important navigational devices which are bombing planes or using a North Vietnam is a weapon is the weather satellite. And I think so because of the photographs which the satellite takes which supposedly are supposed to be to enable us to predict the weather or to have some understanding of the weather. I've been used as navigational aids I know how much this kind of decision made it seems to me the scientist needs to be sure that these kinds of decisions have a structure for their for their making which which accounts for the distinctions which were drawn between science and technology. This is a funny place to raise this problem because this is the place where Eugene Ravenna which many years ago established the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and still publishes it.
And scientists are very deeply concerned with these problems. But there they don't have ultimate power nor should they. There's a point at which they they have an expertise. One hopes that there that they may even have a little bit more than average intelligence. Beyond that it's hard to go on all these issues. Thank heavens it was not scientists who made the decision actually to drop the bomb on the contrary there was a last delegation that came and begged that it not be dropped but that instead it be demonstrated to the Japanese. And what a different world we'd be living in if no Adam Bomb had yet been dropped on it so that the president had not said you know these are matters of very deep concern but not necessarily control.
And the fearful thing is that these instruments of warfare and begin to pile up an insane degree and they become so much military hardware. I think all of us need to be concerned citizens who makes those decisions. We are one of the most threatening situations that one who might pursue it just for a second. And this relates to something that Professor Sampson referred to in his opening remarks. You indicate that there was a concern on the part of the scientific community that the first atomic bomb not be dropped and that the decision was not made by scientists and that there was indeed a delegation requesting that the bomb not be got but even the scientists who pointed out that an atomic bomb could be made and the context within which that was done was the fear
that the Germans would surely be doing this. And the thought since that was turned out later they were a very strange thing. But in any case that that was that was that was the kind of thinking you know if it was a matter of concern to the scientific community to express for the community to express itself in this decision. And I certainly agree that it was. And again I don't mean to be placing the responsibility the sole responsibility on the same shoulders but we might very well ask the question why as a delegation of scientists the most effective structure by which to influence that decision. Now one point two is Professor Sampson spoke about scientific collective as in the state he spoke about regulation and associations. Is there a structural way in which science can participate in these kind of decisions or him or is there not
perhaps a reason they are of course beginning to do so. The president does know the scientific advisor has a whole committee at the Wasi had he had such a group at that time he would certainly have called upon for an official kind of opinion on this. Again however if there's a very delicate distinction between the questions when asked the scientists question one does not. For example Kennedy had a science advisory committee. He very carefully did not ask whether we should have a go at the moon and he didn't dance. I asked them because you know what the answer would be. They rather volunteered their opinion. Even though he had no voice that he regarded it not as a scientific question. You can have scientists with us to the decision
- Man and the multitude
- George Wald discussion, part two
- Producing Organization
- University of Illinois
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the second of two parts, presents a discussion of a George Wald lecture. Speakers include Ross Ashby; Heinz von Foerster; Melvin Sabshin; and David Pines, all of the University of Illinois.
- Other Description
- A lecture series commemorating the centennial of the University of Illinois.
- Media type
Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
Speaker: Wald, George, 1906-1997
Speaker: Ashby, W. Ross (William Ross), 1903-1972
Speaker: Von Foerster, Heinz, 1911-2002
Speaker: Sabshin, Melvin, 1925-2011
Speaker: Pines, David, 1924-
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-41-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Man and the multitude; George Wald discussion, part two,” 1967-10-03, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 24, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rb6w2b19.
- MLA: “Man and the multitude; George Wald discussion, part two.” 1967-10-03. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 24, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rb6w2b19>.
- APA: Man and the multitude; George Wald discussion, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rb6w2b19