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Science and revolution

Clifford D. Conner

Subject History of Science, Medicine, and Technology » History of Science

Place World

Key-Topics revolution, science, socialism, technology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01326.x


Does science have anything to do with revolutions? Or do revolutions have anything to do with science? If there is a connection between the two, they probably meet up somewhere in the vicinity of the idea of human progress, which took a big hit in the twentieth century, what with the two world wars, the Holocaust, the dropping of atomic bombs on heavily populated cities, and the like. But although it is difficult to sustain a claim for moral progress, there are certain areas of human experience in which progress is undeniable. Scientific and technological progress are beyond dispute. Nobody can credibly argue that humans have not gained a great deal of ability to manipulate nature– for better or for worse . Anyone who defends the extreme postmodernist view that there has been no progress of any kind in human affairs is invited to instruct their dentist henceforth to use only eighteenth-century methods on their teeth. But although the fashionable denial of progress is clearly inapplicable to science and tech nology, what about history? In history, too, it is not difficult to identify certain irreversible patterns of change that deserve to be called growth, or even progress. Most evident in this regard is the sheer number of human beings. There are far more of us now than at any time in the past, and the pattern of accelerating growth over the last 12 or so millennia is hard to miss. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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