Page images
PDF
EPUB

ever, not on the basis that things are going well but that they are going poorly.

A number of wise and perceptive men have recently recommended to you that imperfections in our Federal scientific apparatus may be corrected by major reorganization for science. Major surgery is often a clear remedy for our troubles. But as we examine symptoms of the malady-or maladies-besetting science affairs and undertake a diagnosis, I would suggest we should consider reorganization but one alternative remedy. Otherwise, we can be enchanted into a game of switching organizational boxes without asking, "What are we organizing for?"

Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Wenk, rather than saying things are going poorly, I would say that they could be improved.

Again I would like to say that we have analyzed this from a standpoint of in a sense saying, do we stay where we are or do we go all the way from there to the centralization of all of our activities. We have thrown in some other ideas in between which can be studied. This shows that we have no preconceived conceptions about what needs to be done.

But I would doubt that at this stage of the game we would say that we are doing things so well that we should keep everything the way it is.

Dr. WENK. Mr. Chairman, I share that view with you completely. To restate my own characterization of the problem : Science and technology yet met our aspirations in relation to social goals and in relation to a characteristic of American science, that we are always trying to do a little better. And I believe this is what I sense in your report and a point of view I would like to share with you.

Mr. DADDARIO. I would add, Dr. Wenk, that there are great changes already taking place in many of our laboratories, as illustrated by Dr. Seaborg this morning in his testimony. This would give an indication that these changes are taking place so that they must be considered in any review of the way in which our science resources are not only being handled, but how they will affect all of us in the time ahead.

Dr. WENK. Í concur completely.

Mr. Chairman, your committee opened its hearings with testimony from Dr. Lee DuBridge, the President's Science Adviser.

I have read his prepared statement and find myself in substantial agreement with the main thrust of his arguments that accumulating knowledge and understanding has a critically important role in a complex society, that a vigorous basic research enterprise deserves steady support, and that science should be afforded the greatest possible freedom in order to flourish. Put in other terms, our Nation must be farsighted enough to recognize that investing in basic research and graduate education at a level in proportion to the needs has paid off handsomely in the long run.

On this foundation laid by Dr. DuBridge, I should like to turn to technology, its role in our society, and what I would like to suggest are some of the problems associated with it. Six of these are especially worrisome:

(1) A frustrating inability to apply science and technology to the more urgent social problems of our time;

(2) An increasing cleavage between the two cultures : science and the humanities;

(3) Difficulties of imbedding science and technology in public decisionmaking by the Federal Government, and by State and local governments, and the inadequacies of machinery to develop the factual background to foster wise political choice;

(4) The prevailing absence of long-range views, that has already entrapped us in sins of the past and portend even more pitfalls for the future;

(5) Often primitive processes to sort out priorities; and (6) A lack of progress in public understanding of science and of the role of knowledge and of discovery in society. When thinking people gather, conversations frequently turn to this nagging, paradox: Because of the promise of science and technology, our Nation, along with all mankind, has within its grasp a life free from hunger and famine; from poverty and despair; from disability and disease; and from tyranny of one man over another.

Our agricultural productivity has been increased so that one farmer, who 50 years ago fed himself and three of his compatriots, today feeds 27. We have learned many secrets of the genetic code, and how to transplant some living organs. We have tamed the genie of peacetime nuclear power. Our living standards, products of our technological age, are fabulously high. Science and technology have vastly accelerated and strengthened man's capabilities to bend understanding of the natural world to his desires.

In contrast, we are faced with increasing problems of urban conflict, airport congestion, and inadequate housing; chemical, acoustical, and esthetic pollution of our environment; a loss of privacy! a world population outstripping its food supply; a growing disparity in economic vitality between the developed and the development nations; and a continuing rash of wars generated by political instability associated with economic handicaps.

It seems to me clear that we have not channeled our technological skills successfully to serve the purposes of humanity.

With the launching of Apollo 11, and with its magnificent success, we have demonstrated an engineering achievement that transcends in sheer complexity and daring engineering advances of all time. There is no doubt about our ability to construct complex mechanisms and make them work—when the requirements are spelled out in technical terms. But how about when requirements are spelled out in social terms? Have we failed to match our technological prowess in weapons development, nuclear energy, and space with wisdom to meet our incandescent social needs?

Here, science is in trouble because society itself is troubled. We are troubled because we are dissatisfied with our progress toward social goals which is slower than that toward material goals that science and technology have in the past helped to satisfy.

To extend our inquiry further, we should ask ourselves about the extent of the relationship between our technological age and social unrest. Could it be that some of the underlying causes may have their roots in scientific and technical developments that have occurred faster than man and his institutions could absorb them, or could evolve in a technological age?

[blocks in formation]

Let me give you some examples:

First, science and technology have given man weapons of such mass destruction potential that the threat of global catastrophe is still a deep-seated concern of every nation and every citzen;

Second, medical science and public health measures have sharply reduced the death rate, and as a consequence population outraces world food supplies and concentrates in outmoded urban centers;

Third, technology has shrunk the world by instant global communication and ever faster transportation so that events anywhere can have an almost immediate effect everywhere. In a technological, if not a political sense, we are close to having one world, and with that, an exposure to a sharply increased flood of problems for each of us to be concerned about. We are becoming a world community instead of a village;

Fourth, while technology has given man the tools to control his environment, it has also given him the power to degrade his environment—the land, the atmosphere, and the oceans inadvertently and often irreversibly. Our urban centers in particular become less livable, less attractive, less humane;

Fifth, technology has provided in the computer an unprecedented capability to deal with information. It may supplement or replace man in many of his labors. But more information may not be better information. And, it is just possible that with the information implosion we have both increased the noise level and reduced the capability for decisionmaking; and

Sixth, technology has become a key tool in the exercise of political power and in the acquisition of wealth. The few who control these tools thus may appear to some to have a disproportionate influence on the lives of the individual.

It is thus not surprising that some of our scholars and many of our younger citizens have conferred on science and technology the quality of a dehumanizing devil and then pursued this devil theory to the extreme. They would argue that not only have science and technology failed us in social crises, science and technology are actually at the root of the crisis. And they would claim we have mistakenly substituted technical progress for social values.

This antagonism between the scientist and the nonscientist is not new. In 1959 the British scientist and author, C. P. Snow, diagnosed one of our social ills as a fatal split between two cultures—between science and humanities, and between science and politics. At the time he articulated this atomistic quality of the world in which we live, I found myself in strong disagreement.

But now, I am not sure.

I am convinced that the ethics of science and the spirit of man are basically in harmony—and that the wonders of this technological age can be successfully employed for positive social purposes.

It is my belief, therefore, that science and society are not intrinsically headed in different directions. But I would also contend that they have not been mutually reinforcing because we have lacked links of human communication and we have lacked institutions to bind the two cultures.

My question, therefore, is not whether science and technology may aid suciety meet its goals—the question is How.?"

Throughout history, technology has been a vital force in the advance of culture and civilization. Initially, technology was based on pragmatic experience; then empiricism; now in science. Ancient earthen dams and aqueducts made possible the early practice of agriculture; Roman roads opened a barbaric continent; improved ship technology and navigation of the Renaissance fostered worldwide exploration and trade. All of these engineering achievements enabled man to master his environment a little better.

Our early statesmen-Jefferson, Madison, Franklin-recognized that science was compatible with society and with democratic government. In their vision, they saw science and technology expanding the dimensions of freedom by providing new options for each individual-widening choices as to where he could live or travel, at what he would work, the extent to which he could become educated and enjoy the fruits of his labors and of others. While they recognized knowledge was an instrument for improvement of man, I doubt that they realized science and technology would release men from the labor of the soil and later from the factory—to permit ours to become the first society in history with a sizable fraction of its adult work force at school or engaged in the educational enterprise-and a sizable fraction of everyone's time devoted to recreation-while maintaining the highest standard of living on earth.

I personally cannot accept the notion that science is inimical to society. But I am alarmed at the divisive forces that could spell a long-agonizing interval of frustration for both sides.

What about remedies? First, let me warn that I see no swift solution, because this problem has been in the making for 25 years, and finding the solution may take as long.

Where is the starting point!

Scientific research and development are sponsored and supported largely by the Federal Government because it has been the principal customer. The Federal Government, therefore, has determined the scale and mode of research and how to apply discoveries. Applications have primarily been generated in relation to defense, atomic energy, and space.

Confronted with a new set of social problems, we collectively agree that they require Government attention, albeit State and local as well as Federal attention, and private involvement. Unlike military, nuclear, and space questions, issues such as prevention or control of crime, improved urban transportation, management of the environment, and improved housing must be settled in the highly visible public arena, by consensus.

The Federal Government thus occupies a vital position where serving collective needs and aspirations of our society converge with developing the potential tools for their satisfaction.

It is thus no wonder that a concerned scientific community seeking solutions to problems of our society, assumed that the vanguard of political and economic policies would be naturally evoked if only basic research were adequately supported by the Federal Government. Many went so far as to quantify the needed rate of support.

The nonscientific community, which comprises by far the greater fraction of our population, was unconvinced. As the stimulus of the 1957 Soviet space shot evaporated, so, evidently, did congressional support of research. Now we have a level-funding syndrome.

Part of the reason may lie in a growing, emotionally charged hostility toward science and technology. Part of the explanation may lie in the failure to increase public understanding of the dynamics of science at the same time and in phase with increases in its potential for contributing to our national welfare. Part of the explanation may lie in the desire of the scientific community to isolate science from politics, that created a breakdown in congressional understanding of science's values and purposes.

I might say, parenthetically, Mr. Chairman, that this committee has been conspicuous in its efforts to facilitate communications between scientists and policymakers, and in its legislative initiatives to aid understanding of science.

There may be another explanation for the cleavage.

If science and technology are to bear fruit, there must be a harmonious linkage between the knowledge producers and the knowledge consumers, a coupling between the opportunities offered by science and the needs of those who would provide the capital, build the institutions, and serve as entrepreneurs to apply science. Within the Federal Government, this interaction has operated most effectively in the case of the Department of Defense. Defense requirements can be clearly and often quantitatively expressed. Alternatives can be relatively easily evaluated. DOD also has the direct capability and authority to sponsor research on and development of solutions to meet its own requirements. It communicates vertically and horizontally in a single, albeit technical, language.

This is not so in the civilian area. The knowledge consumers in this case are largely outside of the Federal Government and exist in great variety as well as number. They differ and frequently compete in their interests. The translation of knowledge to action must go through many institutional pipelines, modulated by considerations of law, finance, and politics.

If we regard the science-technology apparatus in terms of engineering principles, it is driven by two concurrent forces—the pressure of new discovery and the suction of human need. The focus of attention on nourishment for basic research is necessary for progress, but it is not sufficient.

Forces for expansion of research must be external as well as internal. As to those external forces, we have no problem in recognizing our needs—they are abundantly manifest. The problem is in coupling those needs to the wellsprings of science and technology. And here the two forces must be alined, and complementary. Thus, the challenge for policy planning in the Government is to focus on imperfect articulation between knowledge generators and knowledge users, to identify and where possible dissolve inadvertent impediments to the smooth application of scientific discovery, and to project all the steps of effective political process.

With regard to the first two of the problems listed earlier—the imperfect application of science to social needs and the festering conflict between science and the humanities—I believe that we must take all possible steps to recognize that our society is so complex and multi

« PreviousContinue »