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SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE AUSTIN THE’ ARE THOSE, I hope there always will be, who would argue that science is end enough in itselfthat it is a discipline akin to mathematics that helps build an orderly habit of mind. We have already seen why this is so. But for the empiricists, there are other reasons, not why we should foster the study of science but why we must. The first of these reasons can be summed up in one chilling word: survival. There seems no need to go further in that direction, because there is a more promising direction open to us, the direction of progress. The Victorians thought that progress was something of an M. K. Hage automatic function of the universe. They saw evolution as a one-way thoroughfare to perfection. It is a small wonder they weren’t haunted by the spirits of departed dinosaurs. But, then, they were probably too anthropocentric to consider that if natural selection does function, it certainly doesn’t play favorites. Those Victorians thought that progress was automatic. But we have learned that we have to work for it and that half the work is in defining progress, in deciding just which way we want to go. Science is apparently our best tool for use in improving our physical environment. And it even has some value in appraising our way of life, although hi that use, science must seemingly be tempered with ethical discretion. It seems, though, that if we are to have a highly developed civilization, we must have science also. If our level of civilization need not be so high, then we can do without science. But we should have to do with occasional famine, continual disease, and grinding poverty for most families. It is perfectly allowable to say that one prefers a slave-state with an intellectual bloom like that in classical Greece. Even to ask for that would be to risk slavery for oneself. But today, knowing what we do, how could the very rashest aristocrat, or romanticist, either, want a state in. which the great majority were ill-fed, cold, and huddled in diseased masses. That is a high price to pay for personal glory or for a few handcraft skills. THIS VERY DAY more than half I the inhabitants of the world live at a bare subsistence level or below. At least a quarter are victims of preventable disease. And in the better half of the world, most of the peoples are obsessed with fear of the future. Is the increase of science capable of solving these problems of want in one half of fear in the other? What could science do for the world? The development of machinery and energy resources increases year by year the quantity of goods of every kind, including food, that can be produced per man-hour spent. In America, this increase in personal productivity amounts to about three percent a year. That is, over a 30-year period, a single person can make twice as much goods in the same time. Or, as we have compromised, he can make somewhat more and yet work fewer hours. The quantity of manufactured goods each person could enjoy must also increase, as it has. The increase has been qualitative. We have most of the genuinely useful things our parents hadplus new devices for improving transportation and communication, for saving time, and for safeguarding health and treating disease. Our children will have more of these devices than we can dream of. It is true that scientific civili zation has grave weaknesses. It clearly aggravates war, although it does not cause war. It also frees hardened laborers who have no idea what to do with their leisure. Never mind that. We can solve the secondary problems in time. Meanwhile, science will continue to help give men food, wealth, health, and, the power to control our physical surroundings. The ability, once given, becomes the permanent property of mankind. The ability of one man to do the work of ten, the increase of his health and his life span, the widening of his experience, are positive things, here and now, and to come. The troubles they may bring are shadows which skill and goodwill may overcome. So let us apply science to give us what it will and at the same time let us equip ourselves to overcome the troubles that come with these gifts. WE SHALL TRY to overcome these troubles by trying to understand our world and by helping our children understand better than we have. By understanding science they will come to know what it can give and what it threatens. By understanding themselves and other men, they will come to realize the problems that have to be overcome. They will learn that science may not be able to solve the problems of human conduct, although it may well help. But the only desirable civilization is one in which men understand their world and have good desires toward it .This is our task, to give the young, while there is time, an understanding of our world, a knowledge of what is good and of what must be sacrificed to it. How to define the Scientific Attitude is a bit of a problem in itself. Certainly its first essential ingredient is an abiding curiosity in the way things are, and why. Children have that, of course, as the divine right of childhood.. The sublime curiosity of a child making his acquaintance with the wide, wonderful world about him is a magnet with a strong pull toward our goal. But the other half of Scientific Attitude is the habit of staying with a point until we find the answer. Curiosity unsatisfied can lead to baffling frustration; but the formation of habits of investigating and perseverance in the pursuit of answers is the best educational achievement you can ask for your child. For one thing, it is an antidote to the charming but immature daydreaming common to many school-age children maybe to yours? With all its charm, daydreaming is a luxury they must cast offlest they become a generation of little Walter Mittys. This imaginative way of seeing things as they ought to be, for their own convenience and gratification, is just the opposite of the viewpoint of science in seeing things as they are and not necessarily as they ought to. be. And yet, these unrelated opposites may grow into a constructive relation. Before we look forward to this end, though, let’s look backward at the origins of scienceas far back as early Egyptian history, at least. They developed science in order to keep peace among themselves \(and now look where science has rose over its banks and washed away their field markers. Reestablishing them was the source of endless quarrels. So these ancient forbears of Nasser developed their geographic system of establishing and protecting their property rights. The scientific method thus identifies itself as an approach to problem solving. PROBLEMS MAY BE personal as well as national or international. When the child’s curiosity becomes an active quest for the way things are related. to him individually, he has the basis for his problem. When his daydreams are crystallized into objectives that might become realities, he has a problem from another source. If his essays into science have taught him first that all things are interrelated and most of them may be interrelated with his well-being, and second that there are ways to seek out most answers, then the scientific approach to problem-solving is at work. And steady and regular training in these habits can serve him almost as automatically as his opposite thumbwhich is supposed to be one of man’s greatest physical advantages. Louis Agassiz and his two-months test of a would-be Agassiz story disciple may well exemplify the point. The story of this Swiss scientist who became one of Harvard’s most distinguished teachers. and widely quoted in a school-reader series a generation ago, tells how he gave the ambitious young man a gallon jar of bones and left him to his own devices to find what he could about them. Fortunately, the lad was scientist enough to begin sorting the bones and to discover them to be fish bones. The jaws quickly gave him the cue that they were from a variety of fishes .Within two months he had succeeded in reconstructing all the skeletons and had earned a master’s acceptance of him as an understudy. The obvious moral is that most of the experiences of life are to some COTULLA We no longer imprison men for debts, but maybe we should return to it as a humanitarian alternative to the perpetual punishment of the safety-responsibility law. Why not let a man take a couple of years in jail and get his troubles behind him? Perhaps people who live in cities with public transportation don’t realize what it means to be perpetually without a driver’s license in a country town. No way to get to work without constantly imposing on neighbors. No taxi in town to rush your child to the hospital in an emergency. Maybe .no telephone’to call help. Take a case from actual experience. Say his name is Enrique Gonzales. His age is 26. He has a wife and three children. His par-i ents are permanently hospitalized, and he has a big share of the responsibility’ for two younger sisters. With a jalopy Enrique, his wife, the sisters and a cousin can go cotton-picking and bring back enough money to pay off the car, pay the grocery bill and have some money left for food and clothes for winter. When Enrique buys the car, the lender sells him insurance, a policy on Magnanimous Insurance Co. which Enrique can barely read and not even lawyers can interpret with certainty. One thing was certain, though. Enrique had the expensive collision coverage but not liability coverage, and he didn’t know the difference. At least he didn’t until he sent his cousin to the station to fill up the car and the cousin had an accident. CTRANGELY ENOUGH, Mag nanimous Insurance Co. had the insurance coverage on the other side. Magnanimous paid off about $700 property damage to the other party and, considering that the fault was chargeable against them, sued Enrique and his cousin for the $700. Now Enrique and his cousin people as confusing and baffling as a jar of assorted fish bones which they don’t even know how to begin to assort. Not all the jars of bones match out in real life, thoughand the student has to be prepared for this dead-ehd research before he has captured the real scientific attitude. Scientists, of course, do much more than wear Van Dyke beards and white coats and testify to the relative merits of tooth powders on TV screens. They even do more than develop thermonuclear weapons that could Put our globe out of business. These dedicated ‘researchers are quick to say that they spend most of their time finding out what cannot be done with the materials of our earth than what can be done. That is, most of their results are negative; they have to turn up a thousand duds before finding the one thing that will work. Therein lies a lesson that has to be learned sooner or laterin science classes or in life. NOT THAT WE’RE advocating courses in disillusionment! But we do contend that science teaches an exceedingly important concept if it helps the child learn early that the value of failure is that it is a stepping-stone to success. So treated, error becomes one of the better parts of wisdom. Better than the spider taught Robert Bruce, it drives home the lesson that perseverance is a better long-run companion than luck. Our children need an antidote for the unreal worlds of movies and were destitute and would have been called “judgment proof” in other days. But Magnanimous would not be deterred from taking judgment. Magnanimous felt that “these people” might not have bread on their table, but they’ll have an old car sitting in front of their shack. Even if no payments were ever made on the judgment, Magnanimous wanted to do a public service in getting such people off the highways. Enrique sent his driver’s license and car plates to the safety-responsibility office and put his car on blocks. More than a year passed while Enrique struggled to feed and clothe his family. The insurance company had thought right. These people do have to have cars that they cannot really afford, old jalopies though they be. But is it mass hysteria that drives these people to sacrifice food and clothing for an old car? Or is it that the very chance to eat depends on traveling miles for work? Is it that without the old car transportation to the fields is sometimes impossible, other times undependable, often very costly? How much easier it would be for Enrique to spend a couple of years in jail! his pride would not permit him to choose it, but if he served a jail term for, the debt, the county would feed him and state welfare would feed his children. He would not be left with the worry of supporting his family and shackled in trying to do it. The safety responsibility law told Enrique he would never own a car and never drive a car again though he were to live to be a hundred. Not unless he settled with Magnanimous Insurance Co. He was absolutely at the mercy of his judgment creditor. Now in this case the insurance company did show mercy. Enrique got a job in a service station at $35 a week. He is rated a good worker, though he cannot go out on calls or deliver serviced cars Herblock in The Washington Post “What I. Really Want Is a Few Jars of Instant Science” TV, wherein ideas are perhaps too neatlyepackagedwhere success is on the side of sweetness and light and the villain is punished in the final reel or just before the commercial. With widening horizons, our children need to develop courageous faith in ultimate group success the achievements of class, school, community, city, state, nation, and ultimately of many nations in accord. The stories of persons working in science can help. For every scientist with the serendipity of an Edison, there are a hundred who never reach a single final answer to a problem. But if their failures speed the way to success of a team or group, they also have served. \(M. K. Hage is principal of Mathews Elementary School, Auswithout a driver’s license. The insurance company agreed to let him off for one half the judgment payable $10 per month. Enrique has started these payments but has been three months trying to get enough money to buy liability insurance to file with the $5 fee at the Safety-Responsibility office to get his driver’s license back. \(Even though Enrique has a spotless traffic recordnever a ticket or accident in ten years of driving except his cousin’s, accident, Enrique will have to pay more for his insurance than the ordinary driver who may have had a few tickets or accidents. Insurance companies will not sell him a policy except through the IF ENRIQUE DEFAULTS in pay ments during the next three years, and the company reports him, a highway patrolman will pick up his driver’s license and Enrique won’t get it back until he has paid the judgment fully in cash. Yes, Enrique will stay off the road until he is insured. But how many thousands are on the road with only the insurance coverage which the finance company requires?