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BOOK REVIEWS The Dreams ofReason—Science and Utopias. By René Dubos. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961. Pp. xii -\- 167. lllus. $5.00. Francis Bacon, whose quadricentenary is being celebrated this year, developed among his many contributions to thought the concept ofa utopia brought about by the achievements ofscience. In his New Atlantis he envisaged an ideal society administered by men ofscience whose goal was to endow human life with new discoveries and powers and whose motivation was not to be the "pleasure ofthe mind, or for contention, or for superiority to others, or for profit or fame, or power, or for any of these inferior things; but for the benefit and the use oflife. . . ." René Dubos, a scientist of a stature comparable to those whom Bacon would have wished to people his utopia, believes our modern world to be the realization of the Baconian dream, andin TheDreams ofReason—Science and Utopiashe dissects ourmilieuto determine whether thebenefits to humanity havefulfilled thehopes ofBacon. The book is based on the George B. Pegram Lectures which he delivered at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and it is this institution which, according to Dr. Dubos, exemplifies in a microcosm Bacon's ideal ofa scientific society. In developing this theme, the author briefly reviews the history ofthe Baconian ideas andtraces their influence onthe writings ofKarl Marx, who said, "Hitherto, philosophers have sought to understand the world. Henceforth they must seek to change it." In this light he points out that, unlike the utopias ofSir Thomas More and Plato andthose which have been conceived after Bacon, only the Neu> Atlantis envisaged scientists in the role of the rulers ofthe ideal society. The question he raises, however, is whether the modern achievement of Bacon's utopia hasactually created an ideal state and whether their new role ofleadership has been ofbenefit to the scientists themselves as individuals and to the social group ofwhich theyare a part. Dr. Dubos' answers to these questions areequivocal, and many of them are in the form of penetrating new questions for which the reader must find his own answers. Dr. Dubos finds at the outset that it is "difficult to dissociate science from the rest of human experience," and he is acutely sensitive to the ethical problems that have derived from the social implication of scientific development. He speaks of the enormous toll exacted from mankind in return for the advantages gained from the industrial revolution, and ofcomparable injurious side-effects from other apparently beneficial changes. Thus, in the chapter on "Medical Utopias" there are many instances ofsignificant progress; but these have not only failed to achieve a Utopian world free from illness, they have even resulted in the creation ofnew disease problems by reason oftheir own success. 256 Book Reviews Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Winter 1962 Because "the very character of human existence is now molded by the products of scientific technology," society in general is acutely conscious ofthe scientist and his role in the affairs ofthe world. This public awareness ofthe scientist and his own reaction to the vasdy expanded stage he occupies form the last two chapters ofthis provocative book. Their titles, "The Dehumanization ofthe Scientists," and "The Humanness of Science, are as contradictory as their contents. In the former, Dr. Dubos weighs the motivations of the scientist and wonders whether the thirst for knowledge may not often be "a kind ofintellectual lust rather than a love of truth." He further touches upon the scientist's inner conflicts which arise from the choice between scientific pursuits for their own sake and applied science gearedto "useful" results. Since the modernworldtends to valuemore highly and, therefore, more readily provides financial support for the latter, the scientist has become more pragmatically oriented and has removed himself further and further from philosophical and intellectual involvement. He has created his ownjargon and has isolated himselfwithhis narrow coterie offellow specialists; and, with a certain arrogance, he has become alooffrom the general society ofsavants ofwhich his intellectual ancestors formed an integral part. In the words ofMiguel de Unamuno and Ortega y Gasset quoted in the book, the modern scientist has become "thoroughly dehumanized." And yet, according to Dr. Dubos, this state, too, must be transitory. The problems...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 256-257
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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