audio excerpts from
The Ascent of Man
It's said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That's false -- tragically false.
Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. _This_ is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were poured the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance.
When people believe that they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known. We always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know _although_ we are fallible.
Knowledge is not a looseleaf notebook of facts. Above all, it is a responsibility for the integrity of what we are . . . above all, what we are as ethical creatures. You can't possibly maintain that if you let other people run the world for you while you yourself continue to live out of a ragbag of morals that come from past beliefs.
What did Sir Thomas More die of? He died because his king thought of him as a wielder of power. And what More wanted to be . . . what every strong intellect wants to be, is a guardian of integrity.
There is an age-old conflict between intellectual leadership and civil authority. How old, how bitter, cam home to me when I came up from Jericho and saw the road that Jesus took and saw the first glimpse of Jerusalem on the skyline as he saw it, going to his certain death. Because Jesus was then the intellectual and moral leader of his people. But he was facing an establishment for which religion was simply an arm of government.
There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is that the end justifies the means. That pushbutton philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit . . . the assertion of dogma that closes the mind and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts -- obedient ghosts or tortured ghosts.
And that's a crisis of choice that leaders have to face over and over again. History is here, it's now. History is people acting and living their past in the present. The intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one has made the ascent of man.
excerpts from Jacob Bronowski's _The Ascent of Man_