THE RELATIONS BETWEEN SCIENCE AND ETHICS

Abstract

I HAVE read with great interest Dr. Waddington's lucid and well–reasoned essay in speculative metaphysics, into which he has ingeniously woven hypotheses derived from Freud and Marx, but I fail to see the alleged connexion between science and ethics. He says that the contribution of science to ethics is “the revelation of the nature of the character and direction of the evolutionary process in the world as a whole, and the elucidation of the consequences, in relation to that direction, of various courses of human action”. (This might almost be a quotation from Herbert Spencer.) The direction of the evolutionary process may have been revealed to Spencer or Dr. Waddington, but not by science. It is said that Amoeba and Hydra represent early stages in animal evolution, yet there are plenty of them alive still. For all we know they may survive long after Homo has perished by mutual slaughter. Would that make them better or worse from the scientific point of view?

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RITCHIE, A. THE RELATIONS BETWEEN SCIENCE AND ETHICS. Nature 148, 278 (1941) doi:10.1038/148278a0

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