Science, Education, Antibiotics
To the Editor:
Paul Goodman’s apparently ingenuous article, “The Human Uses of Science” [December 1960], is one of the strongest anti-intellectual appeals I have read in some time. The ancient cry, “If I don’t get it, it ain’t worth knowing,” is raised as his criterion. . . .
Mr. Goodman reveals an astonishing ignorance of the Uncertainty principle (and not the Principle of Indeterminacy). . . . There is a famous saying which embodies much of the Uncertainty Principle, “As we study something, we tend to learn more and more about less and less till we know everything about nothing.” An external observer has nothing to do with this question.
A second point concerns his ignorance of the scientists about whom he writes so knowingly. The “model” scientist received his degree (Ph.D.) in the last decade, is probably under forty, and is more likely to treat his work like a boy in search of salamanders under rocks than like an “old scholarly monk or priest: obsessional, puzzle-solving, ritualistic, and with a detached kind of objectivity.”
The last point deals with his conclusion. Is Mr. Goodman a college sophomore who thinks that if all the really smart people got together the world would be peachy dandy? The armament race is not a product of research but the reverse. The use of science to eliminate want is just the technology against which Mr. Goodman inveighs so dramatically.
To require a scientist or the community of scientists to do what no other man or group can do with their employers or field of endeavor—i.e., be circumspect about whom and what they work for—is indeed to place them in a class apart. . . . If the students of the humanities refuse to understand the most powerful force man has found for controlling his environment, then let them bear the onus of being uneducated. . . .
(Dr.) Jay N. Zemel
To the Editor:
I have often been provoked by certain articles that appear in COMMENTARY. The object of my irritation is the clumsy, confusing, vague, and inaccurate writing they contain. I am referring specifically to Mr. Paul Goodman. His writing is characteristic of what James Reston calls “gassy report written in that highfalutin and vapid textbook prose which only professors can compose or understand.” . . . The item that really got me (at the top of page 466) deals with the “craze” for antibiotics. Where does Mr. Goodman get the medical knowledge to expound with such self-assurance? It only follows, since he is 100 per cent wrong in this field, he is likely to be wrong in his other premises. . . .
(Dr.) Menahem Steinberg