Russell – The Future of Science

In this article, Russell likens the progress of science to the inventions of Daedalus and the inherent selfishness of mankind as Icarus. As the myth goes, Icarus flies too close to the sun, has his wings melted and falls to his death. He predicts a similar fate for humankind if they are given the technology to fly towards the sun.

This article has many metaphors and summaries about technological development, but from reading his introduction and conclusion, one gets the impression that he is using science as an example to debate the human psyche. One impression he makes, is to talk about the consistent hope through history that mankind will develop an inherent kindness. However, by the end of the article he seems resigned to the conclusion that man will continue to use science, the most powerful of all historical progresses, to satisfy the prejudices of the masses and those in power. In his mind, only a strong global power can solve this problem, which is a confusing statement considering Russell’s lack of explanation. However, he debases this method as well, stating that the historical stagnation of the last great power, the Roman Republic, shows that the fall of civilization may the best answer to the combination of scientific progress and human flaws.

This theory is partially disproved by Stone, as he talks about one of Russell’s themes, eugenics, and describes its conclusion after the fact. His description of the Head of the Eugenics Society in Britain who changes his stand from pro-race eugenics to ‘parental obligations’ after the Holocaust, is symptomatic of the societal pressures of responsibility that the combination of scientific progress and human flaws can create (Stone, 99). However, it is hard to completely discredit Russell’s ideas as he does not give a time line for his projection of the fall of civilization. The themes, if not the specifics, of his article would be responsive of the dangers of scientific progress today.

2 thoughts on “Russell – The Future of Science

  1. I thought this post was well written; however, you did not tie the article and the film together. Barring that, the points you make are very well constructed. I wonder how you would address the contradictions that Russell presents in his article. You note that he seems to both encourage and denounce the type of civilization a superpower would cause to develop, but why? He says that the fall of civilization could save the world, but what are the larger implications of this? And what are the larger implications of a superpower? How do these themes tie into the coming of WWII and the Holocaust?

  2. I appreciate the summary of the article in this post, showing a clear understanding of the work. However your analysis of the work did not build away from the article as I thought you could have. I think you could have worked many parts of the film into the analysis of new technology as a changing force in the world at the time. Perhaps seeking more context to drive the article and find more information able to be taken from it. Finally your conclusion does question the author in an apt way that I just wish had been better articulated. Overall very clear and well written.

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