Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Philosophers on Science (4 of 4): Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell is a name that popped up frequently in this class, so I thought I would give his take on science for my last post. Unlike my previous posts, Russell’s views on science are about what scientific progress entails rather than how it should be conducted. Russell had different ideas about what effects different fields of science would have. Specifically, he spoke of the physical sciences, biological sciences, and anthropological sciences.
Russell thought that the biological sciences had a very small impact, but that they could deal a great amount of damage. At the time of his writing, the only major change he noted was that Gregor Mendel’s studies revolutionized agriculture. However, he thought that if genetic studies advanced too far people would probably be able to choose what they want their offspring to be like, but other than this he gave no speculation about dangers of biology.
For the anthropological sciences, the only thing Russell thought had a big impact was medicine. He thought that the progress of medicine was definitely a good thing, as it has increased the general health of the public. The only thing he thought could be problematic was birth control. He thought that it could throw off the balance of the population if used for the wrong reasons, but this was the only danger he wrote about.
Industrialization was mainly what Russell was concerned about with the physical sciences. He thought that it would be problematic for foreign relations between countries, as it would cause competition for resources. In addition to this, history has proven that in a war, the country with the better technology will have a distinct advantage. Since this is the case, industrialization can give a country more military prowess than they had before. Russell thought that having more power would mean that countries would be more inclined to assert their power over other countries and that industrialization would ultimately lead to more brutal wars for control. This was the main danger that he thought would come from industrialization.
By Nicholas Moore: Section 9, group 1
For a more detailed account of his thoughts on scientific progress, the essay I found is at https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/russell2.htm