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Science can it create order out of chaos?

Never in ALL history has man acquired so much knowledge.
And yet, we see few solutions to the awesome problems of humanity.
This article explains how science could lead man to the source capable of solving our social dilemmas — and why it hasn't.


ONE WORD adequately describes our generation: CONFUSION. We face increasing crime, the drug explosion, moral decay. Our social world seems out of control. On the world scene, missiles, hydrogen bombs, other deadly weapons stand ready to annihilate all human life. Pollution threatens the health and life of humanity.

Even more frightening is the observation that our world is increasingly running amuck concurrently with the increase in scientific knowledge.

Many look to science — hoping it can apply its method to social problems. Hoping it can discover the solutions to our perplexing problems.

"Why cannot this SAME generation which produced the scientific explosion," they ask, "also employ its method to pioneer sane human social relations?"


Can Science Save Us?

Many believe we can use the method of science to arrive at the answers — or at least to point us to the place where we can find the answers to the big questions facing us in this eighth decade of the twentieth century.

Can science provide the key that will unlock the solutions to the problems of delinquency, of unhappy marriages, of mental illness, of crime, of financial worry — of all the big world and personal problems that plague our society?

At present this possibility looks bleak. Man, seemingly, cannot cut his way through the dilemma he faces to discover sound, workable solutions.

"It is obvious that something has gone wrong during the past few decades," admitted the editors of the book, Science Looks at Itself. "Increased control over nature is not providing safety and peace of mind, economic prosperity is not making people healthier or happier, technological innovations create problems of their own" (page xii).

Why this jumble and turmoil in our social world? Why the paradox between stunning accomplishments in the physical world and the chaos in the social world?

The answer is clear when we examine the method by which answers are sought.

In our relations with the physical world, scientists have developed a method of attack — a scientific method — which searches for valid conclusions based on LAW. In the social world, no such unified attack on social problems has been developed. Here we are at the mercy of unfounded opinion, arbitrary authority, or ignorant dogma.


Can the Scientific Method Be Used?

Many social scientists reject the idea that the scientific method can be applied to the human social dilemma. The very idea of law or absolute truth in the social sphere causes many educators and sociologists to recoil in horror.

Sociologist Robert M. Maclver, when speaking of teaching the humanities, exhibits the typical appalling fright of dogma — evidencing fear that any set of social rules could thrust us into another dark age of superstition.

He says, "No one shall teach as though he' had the whole truth or the final formula about anything." Of social scientists, Maclver said, "they must strive forever toward the goal of final certitude that is FOREVER DENIED to them" (Politics and Society, Essays of Robert M. Maclver, edited by David Spitz, New York, Atherton Press, 1969, pp. 6, 16).

The result of such thinking? No lasting, practical solutions to any problems.

Crime is increasing. But experts do not know how to curb it. Our youth are on a drug and sex binge. Social workers often do not know how to make responsible citizens out of them. Nations go to war to settle difficulties. No one seems to know how to bring the world peace.

Personal debt is increasing. Few seem to find their way out of financial worry. On national levels, the economic picture is bleak. But economists do not know how to solve continuing inflation.

We increase in technological control of nature — manipulating the very building blocks of our eco-system. Yet, humanity is threatened with possible extinction by man-made pollution.

And so it goes — in every field of endeavor.


Truth and Politics

In one of the most important fields of human conduct — government — it has been said that truth and politics do not mix well.

In an article "Truth and Politics," by Hannah Arendt, of the University of Chicago, it was said: "Truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one, as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues. Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools not only of the politician's or the demagogue's but also of the statesman's trade" (Political Theory and Social Change, David Spitz, Editor, Atherton Press, New York, 1967, p. 3).

This same author then came to the astounding conclusion — which others have also reached — that by lying we can safeguard the approach to truth. With this kind of reasoning, it is no wonder that every idea, thought, concept, program is suspect.

The common man knows politicians, statesmen, world leaders often do not mean what they say. We live in a world of lies, mistrust, hopeless contradictions, social despair.

We are told that cigarettes are strongly suspected of contributing to cancer, but magazines print colorful cigarette advertisements. We are told chemicals in food can harm the body, but processors put them in foods, nevertheless.

We are told "Thou shalt not kill." But a military strategist says it is necessary to kill 40 million of the enemy.

Ordinary people do not know what to believe. The experts have no solution. Nations go from crisis to crisis. Experts disagree on what is the best — the right — course to take in economics, in social issues, in defense, in politics, in health.

What has been the result? An old anonymous sage once said, "When the masters all fall out, what are the students to think?"

Everyone has decided to "do his own thing." In fact the disagreeing authorities have counseled that we should make our own decisions in these matters.


Are We On Our Own?

This idea — that our own opinions are "truth" for us — is diametrically opposed to the scientific method. In fact, science thought it could dispel the idea of unproved, individual opinion being counted as "truth." Yet, instead of dispelling opinion, the method has sat by helplessly as personal opinion has advanced in the social sciences.

This "individual can come to truth for-himself" idea has been voiced by many, including the late philosopher Paul Tillich. He counseled that "the individual has in himself, essentially, the responsibility to form his own convictions and act accordingly."

But is this scientific? Is this really the truth?

Are humans really capable of making judgments as to what is right or wrong? Is majority opinion capable of deciding what is moral or immoral? Is it really scientific for a small group of men to decide on personal opinion what is pornography and whether it should or should not be legalized?

Is this NOT pre-scientific-age, opinionated dogmatism?

Today, we are supposedly free to make moral decisions as never before. But is this good? Rarely will two people agree on what is moral or immoral. Are we then to discover truth by counting opinions? Is this the ultimate in scientific approach?

Today, man stands confused in an age of science. Why have sociologists failed to provide the important answers in life? Why have the experts — with access to more facts than ever before — fallen out so violently? Why must man submit to the mercy of opinion in an age that prides itself on scientific exactitude and search for truth?

The reason is clear.

Today's problems demand VALUE judgments. "Our problems may be economic, social, scientific, political, but at their core they demand of us moral decisions — decisions of right and wrong" (Morality in America, J. Robert Moskin, Random House, 1966, p. xiii).

But no one seems capable of providing knowledge of what is right or wrong.


Death of Moral Guidelines

As senior editor of Look magazine, J. Robert Moskin wrote: "We in America" — and this is true of other Western nations — "live in a society without a supreme moral authority to rule our conduct" (Morality in America, p. 15).

But who is to say what is right or wrong? Who is to say that this or that is to be the absolute moral conduct?

Quoting existentialist philosopher Hannah Arendt: "Whether we like it or not, we have long ceased to live in a world in which the faith in the Judaeo-Christian myth of creation is secure enough to constitute a basis and source of authority for actual laws. . . .

"Our new difficulty is that we start from a fundamental distrust of everything merely given, a distrust of all laws and prescriptions, moral or social, that are deduced from a given comprehensive, universal whole" (Henry S. Kariel, In Search of Authority, Twentieth Century Political Thought, New York, Glencoe, 1964, p. 246).

On the other hand, science meekly apologizes by saying that it cannot serve as or provide us with such a source of authority for moral decisions.

"Science only provides a car and a chauffeur for us," says sociologist George Lundberg. "It does not directly, as science, tell us where to drive. The car and the chauffeur will take us into the ditch, over the precipice, against a stone wall, or into the highlands of age-long aspirations with equal efficiency" (Can Science Save Us?, p. 38).

In fact, when social scientists come upon moral questions they ABANDON the scientific method and resort to philosophy.

Philosopher Mortimer Adler calls the search for moral truth "ought-knowledge" — that is the knowledge of what we ought to do in a given situation. For example, should we spray our crops? Commit adultery? Go to war? Borrow money with interest? This is different from the "know-how" knowledge supplied by science and the scientific method.