The distinguished cast of contributors to this volume surveys the principal critical issues of science's present and impending impact on man and on the world he shares with other living things. The occasion for this sharing of concerns was a symposium jointly sponsored by Boston College and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and although the contributors have since had the opportunity to revise their statements for the permanent dignity of print, the original verve and bite of the spoken remarks can still be heard by the reader.
The book is organized into three sections, reflecting the organization of the symposium. The first of these examines “Science and the Problems of Society.” Speaking as a scientist and university administrator, J. Tuzo Wilson urgently calls to question the structure, the unsteady direction, and the inertias of both science and the universities. Speaking as a practicing lawyer, Victor J. Yannacone, jr. details stratagems by which scientists, as “expert witnesses,” can act as advocates for Earth herself. By initiating litigation and lobbying for legislation.
Paul Parks, who administers the Boston Model Cities Program, speaks in direct and human terms of an urban society on which modern technology, for all its pervasive power, has had minimal beneficial impact. Donald F. Hornig, now president of Brown University and formerly science advisor to the White House, warns that we cannot afford to have our capability at basic research “dismantled and disorganized and that is what is happening right now.”
The second part, “The Scientist and Society,” opens with Franklin A. Long's discussion of the proper role of scientists outside their special fields—as equal members of the larger society. John Platt graphically depicts the exponential growths that have characterized changes in transport, communication, energy supply, and disease control and extrapolates the future. Nobel Laureate George Wald, with his sure and true dramatic sense, places man's earth-management crisis into a perspective that is cosmic and universal. The priorities of basic research need a different kind of justification for each decade of rapid social and scientific change. Victor F. Weisskopf provides such for the 1970s. Lewis Mumford is concerned with the demoralizing and dehumanizing tendencies of science and the historical factors that gave them impetus.
The final part is entitled “Confrontation.” Robert F. Drinan, S.J., who is now a congressman, bluntly charges scientists to reexamine their moral commitment to humanity, in particular to the two-thirds of the world's population who constitute the “third world.” Senator Edmund S. Muskie calls forth scientists and the general public alike to enlist their services in defending the integrity of the environment. Philip H. Abelson, editor of Science, and Erwin D. Canham, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, each respond to Drinan's and Muskie's statements.
Spirited discussions appear after each of the parts, in which the contributors respond to questions and comments put to them by their auditors, ranging from Isaac Asimov to anonymous.