that we have. Again and again people have thought that we could do much better. People
in the past had, in the nightmare of their times, dreams for the future, and we of their
future have, although many of those dreams have been surpassed, to a large extent the
same dreams. The hopes for the future today are in a great measure the same as they were
in the past. At some time people thought that the potential that people had was not
developed because everyone was ignorant and that education was the solution to the
problem, that if all people were educated, we could perhaps all be Voltaires. But it turns
out that falsehood and evil can be taught as easily as good. Education is a great power,
but it can work either way. I have heard it said that the communication between nations
should lead to an understanding and thus a solution to the problem of developing the
potentialities of man. But the means of communication can be channeled and choked.
What is communicated can be lies as well as truth, propaganda as well as real and
valuable information. Communication is a strong force, also, but either for good or evil.
The applied sciences, for a while, were thought to free men of material difficulties at
they were so careful to control.
or for evil. How will it be for evil? I do not know. We will see, if we ever get peace. We
have, clearly, peace as a great force, as well as material power, communication,
education, honesty, and the ideals of many dreamers. We have more forces of this kind to
control today than did the ancients. And maybe we are doing it a little bit better than most
of them could do. But what we ought to be able to do seems gigantic compared to our
confused accomplishments. Why is this? Why can't we conquer ourselves? Because we
find that even the greatest forces and abilities don't seem to carry with them any clear
instructions on how to use them. As an example, the great accumulation of understanding
as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior has a kind of
meaninglessness about it. The sciences do not directly teach good and bad.
Throughout all the ages, men have been trying to fathom the meaning of life. They
realize that if some direction or some meaning could be given to the whole thing, to our
actions, then great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers have been
given to the question of the meaning of it all. But they have all been of different sorts.
And the proponents of one idea have looked with horror at the actions of the believers of
another—horror because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of
the race were being channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the
history of the enormous monstrosities that have been created by false belief that
philosophers have come to realize the fantastic potentialities and wondrous capacities of
what the ancients knew, but also all those things that we have found out up to today that
they didn't know, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know. But I
think that in admitting this we have probably found the open channel.
Admitting that we do not know and maintaining perpetually the attitude that we do not
know the direction necessarily to go permit a possibility of alteration, of thinking, of new
contributions and new discoveries for the problem of developing a way to do what we
want ultimately, even when we do not know what we want.
Looking back at the worst times, it always seems that they were times in which there
were people who believed with absolute faith and absolute dogmatism in something. And
they were so serious in this matter that they insisted that the rest of the world agree with
them. And then they would do things that were directly inconsistent with their own
beliefs in order to maintain that what they said was true.
continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn't get confined,
permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of
man. I say that we do not know what is the meaning of life and what are the right moral
values, that we have no way to choose them and so on. No discussion can be made of
moral values, of the meaning of life and so on, without coming to the great source of
systems of morality and descriptions of meaning, which is in the field of religion.
science and religion. I don't know why I should even have to start to make an exc use for
doing this, so I won't continue to try to make such an excuse. But I would like to begin a
discussion of the question of a conflict, if any, between science and religion. I described
more or less what I meant by science, and I have to tell you what I mean by religion,
which is extremely difficult, because different people mean different things. But in the
discussion that I want to talk about here I mean the everyday, ordinary, church-going
kind of religion, not the elegant theology that belongs to it, but the way ordinary people
believe, in a more or less conventional way, about their religious beliefs.
I do believe that there is a conflict between science and religion, religion more or less
defined that way. And in order to bring the question to a position that is easy to discuss,
by making the thing very definite, instead of trying to make a very difficult theological
study, I would present a problem which I see happens from time to time.
studies. So first he begins to doubt, and then he begins to disbelieve, perhaps, in his
father's God. By "God" I mean the kind of personal God, to which one prays, who has
something to do with creation, as one prays for moral values, perhaps. This phenomenon
happens often. It is not an isolated or an imaginary case. In fact, I believe, although I
have no direct statistics, that more than half of the scientists do not believe in their
father's God, or in God in a conventional sense. Most scientists do not believe in it. Why?
What happens? By answering this question I think that we will point up most clearly the
problems of the relation of religion and science.
from the teacher to the student, perpetually . . . Thank you for the laughter. If you take
this point of view, I believe it shows that you know less of science than I know of
he becomes a little more mature he will understand better all these things. But I don't
think so. I think that there are many mature scientists, or men who consider themselves
mature—and if you didn't know about their religious beliefs ahead of time you would
decide that they are mature—who do not believe in God. As a matter of fact, I think that
the answer is the exact reverse. It isn't that he knows it all, but he suddenly realizes that
he doesn't know it all.
in science and religion is consistent. I agree that science cannot disprove the existence of
God. I absolutely agree. I also agree that a belief in science and religion is consistent. I
know many scientists who believe in God. It is not my purpose to disprove anything.
There are very many scientists who do believe in God, in a conventional way too,
perhaps, I do not know exactly how they believe in God. But their belief in God and their
action in science is thoroughly consistent. It is consistent, but it is difficult. And what I
would like to discuss here is why it is hard to attain this consistency and perhaps whether
it is worthwhile to attempt to attain the consistency
doubt, that it is valuable to doubt. So, he begins to question everything. The question that
might have been before, "Is there a God or isn't there a God" changes to the question
"How sure am I that there is a God? " He now has a new and subtle problem that is
different than it was before. He has to determine how sure he is, where on the scale
between absolute certainty and absolute certainty on the other side he can put his belief,
because he knows that he has to have his knowledge in an unsure condition and he cannot
be absolutely certain anymore. He has to make up his mind. Is it 50-50 or is it 97 percent?
This sounds like a very small difference, but it is an extremely important and subtle
difference. Of course it is true that the man does not usually start by doubting directly the
existence of God. He usually starts by doubting some other details of the belief, such as
the belief in an afterlife, or some of the details of Christ's life, or something like this. But
in order to make this question as sharp as possible, to be frank with it, I will simplify it
and will come right directly to the question of this problem about whether there is a God
with the claim that it is almost certainly wrong to believe that there is a God.
Now the second difficulty that the student has when he studies science, and which is, in a
measure, a kind of conflict between science and religion, because it is a human difficulty
that happens when you are educated two ways. Although we may argue theologically and
on a high-class philosophical level that there is no conflict, it is still true that the young
man who comes from a religious family gets into some argument with himself and his
friends when he studies science, so there is some kind of a conflict.
Well, the second origin of a type of conflict is associated with the facts, or, more
carefully, the partial facts that he learns in the science. For example, he learns about the
size of the universe. The size of the universe is very impressive, with us on a tiny particle
that whirls around the sun. That's one sun among a hundred thousand million suns in this
galaxy, itself among a billion galaxies. And again, he learns about the close biological
relationship of man to the animals and of one form of life to another and that man is a
latecomer in a long and vast, evolving drama. Can the rest be just a scaffolding for His
creation? And yet again there are the atoms, of which all appears to be constructed
following immutable laws. Nothing can escape it. The stars are made of the same stuff,
the animals are made of the same stuff—but in some such complexity as to mysteriously
great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and
majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man
viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to
sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and
a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this
thing—atoms with curiosity—that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well,
these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they
appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for
God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.
experience is of such a kind that he finds the religion of his church inadequate to
describe, to encompass that kind of experience. The God of the church isn't big enough.
Perhaps. Everyone has different opinions. Suppose, however, our student does come to
the view that individual prayer is not heard. I am not trying to disprove the existence of
God. I am only trying to give you some understanding of the origin of the difficulties that
people have who are educated from two different points of view. It is not possible to
disprove the existence of God, as far as I know. But is true that it is difficult to take two
different points of view that come from different directions. So let us suppose that this
particular student is particularly difficult and does come to the conclusion that individual
prayer is not heard. Then what happens? Then the doubting machinery, his doubts, are
turned on ethical problems. Because, as he was educated, his religious views had it that
the ethical and moral values were the word of God. Now if God maybe isn't there, maybe
the ethical and moral values are wrong. And what is very inter- esting is that they have
survived almost intact. There may have been a period when a few of the moral views and
the ethical positions of his religion seemed wrong, he had to think about them, and many
of them he returned to.
different from the religious ones, and it seems that their moral feelings and their
understandings of other people and their humanity and so on apply to the believers as
well as the disbelievers. It seems to me that there is a kind of independence between the
ethical and moral views and the theory of the machinery of the universe.
Science makes, indeed, an impact on many ideas associated with religion, but I do not
believe it affects, in any very strong way, the moral conduct and ethical views. Religion
has many aspects. It answers all kinds of questions. I would, however, like to emphasize
discussion, to call those the metaphysical aspects of religion.
And then it says how to behave. I don't mean in the terms of ceremonies or rituals or
things like that, but I mean how to behave in general, in a moral way. This we could call
the ethical aspect of religion.
know that you don't do things the way you would like yourself to do them. And one of
the powerful aspects of religion is its inspirational aspects. Religion gives inspiration to
act well. Not only that, it gives inspiration to the arts and to many other activities of
Being the word of God connects the ethical and metaphysical aspects of religion. And
finally, that also inspires the inspiration, because if you are working for God and obeying
God's will, you are in some way connected to the universe, your actions have a meaning
in the greater world, and that is an inspiring aspect. So these three aspects are very well
integrated and interconnected. The difficulty is that science occasionally conflicts with
the first two categories, that is with the ethical and with the metaphysical aspects of
There was a terrible argument and the outcome was, in that case, that religion retreated
from the position that the earth stood at the center of the universe. But at the end of the
retreat there was no change in the moral viewpoint of the religion. There was another
tremendous argument when it was found likely that man descended from the animals.
Most religions have retreated once again from the metaphysical position that it wasn't
true. The result is no particular change in the moral view. You see that the earth moves
around the sun, yes, then does that tell us whether it is or is not good to turn the other
cheek? It is this conflict associated with these metaphysical aspects that is doubly
difficult because the facts conflict. Not only the facts, but the spirits conflict. Not only are
there difficulties about whether the sun does or doesn't rotate around the earth, but the
spirit or attitude toward the facts is also different in religion from what it is in science.
The uncertainty that is necessary in order to appreciate nature is not easily correlated with
the feeling of certainty in faith, which is usually associated with deep religious belief. I
do not believe that the scientist can have that same certainty of faith that very deeply
religious people have. Perhaps they can. I don't know. I think that it is difficult. But
anyhow it seems that the metaphysical aspects of religion have nothing to do with the
ethical values, that the moral values seem somehow to be outside of the scientific realm.
All these conflicts don't seem to affect the ethical value.
some conclusions about moral values.
scientific realm. First, in the past there were conflicts. The metaphysical positions have
changed, and there have been practically no effects on the ethical views. So there must be
a hint that there is an independence.
earlier that I take a provincial view of religion. I know that there are many people here
who have religions that are not Western religions. But in a subject as broad as this it is
better to take a special example, and you have to just translate to see how it looks if you
are an Arab or a Buddhist, or whatever.
or not. I don't have any evidence of it on the basis of scientific study.
And finally I would like to make a little philosophical argument—this I'm not very good
at, but I would like to make a little philosophical argument to explain why theoretically I
think that science and moral questions are independent. The common human problem, the
big question, always is "Should I do this?" It is a question of action. "What should I do?
do this. We still have another part, which is "Well, do I want that to happen?" In other
words, the first question—"If I do this what will happen?"—is at least susceptible to
scientific investigation; in fact, it is a typical scientific question. It doesn't mean we know
what will happen. Far from it. We never know what is going to happen. The science is
very rudimentary. But, at least it is in the realm of science we have a method to deal with
it. The method is "Try it and see"—we talked about that—and accumulate the
information and so on. And so the question "If I do it what will happen?" is a typ ically
scientific question. But the question "Do I want this to happen"—in the ultimate
moment—is not. Well, you say, if I do this, I see that everybody is killed, and, of course,
I don't want that. Well, how do you know you don't want people killed? You see, at the
end you must have some ultimate judgment.
depression." Wait. You see, only knowing that it is a depression doesn't tell you that you
do not want it. You have then to judge whether the feelings of power you would get from
this, whether the importance of the country moving in this direction is better than the cost
to the people who are suffering. Or maybe there would be some sufferers and not others.
you may follow the argument of what will happen further and further along—but
ultimately you have to decide "Yeah, I want that" or "No, I don't." And the judgment
there is of a different nature. I do not see how by knowing what will happen alone it is
possible to know if ultimately you want the last of the things. I believe, therefore, that it
is impossible to decide moral questions by the scientific technique, and that the two
things are independent.
idea of the answer. The source of inspiration today, the source of strength and comfort in
any religion, is closely knit with the me taphysical aspects. That is, the inspiration comes
from working for God, from obeying His will, and so on. Now an emotional tie expressed
in this manner, the strong feeling that you are doing right, is weakened when the slightest
amount of doubt is expressed as to the existence of God. So when a belief in God is
uncertain, this particular method of obtaining inspiration fails. I don't know the answer to
this problem, the problem of maintaining the real value of religion as a source of strength
and of courage to most men while at the same time not requiring an absolute faith in the
metaphysical system. You may think that it might be possible to invent a metaphysical
system for religion which will state things in such a way that science will never find itself
in disagreement. But I do not think that it is possible to take an adventurous and everexpanding
science that is going into an unknown, and to tell the answer to questions
ahead of time and not expect that sooner or later, no matter what you do, you will find
that some answers of this kind are wrong. So I do not think that it is possible to not get
into a conflict if you require an absolute faith in metaphysical aspects, and at the same
time I don't understand how to maintain the real value of religion for inspiration if we
have some doubt as to that. That's a serious problem.
Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific
spirit of adventure— the adventure into the unknown, an unknown that must be
recognized as unknown in order to be explored, the demand that the unanswerable
mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, the attitude that all is uncertain. To
summarize it: humility of the intellect.
logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all. One needs one's heart to follow an
idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern
church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God? More, one who disbelieves in
God? Is the modern church the place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of
such doubts? So far, haven't we drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the
other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this
unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of Western
civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? That, I don't
know. But that, I think, is the best I can do on the relationship of science and religion, the
religion which has been in the past and still is, therefore, a source of moral code as well
as inspiration to follow that code.
views. Different people have different ideas of what is right and wrong. If we are
uncertain of our ideas of what is right and wrong, how can we choose in this conflict?
remain uncertain. We may be pretty sure that capitalism is better than government
control, but we have our own government controls. We have 52 percent; that is the
corporate income tax control.
There are arguments between religion on the one hand, usually meant to represent our
country, and atheism on the other hand, supposed to represent the Russians. Two points
of view—they are only two points of view—no way to decide. There is a problem of
human values, or the value of the state, the question of how to deal with crimes against
the state—different points of view—we can only be uncertain. Do we have a real
conflict? There is perhaps some progress of dictatorial government toward the confusion
of democracy and the confusion of democracy toward somewhat more dictatorial
government. Uncertainty apparently means no conflict. How nice. But I don't believe it. I
think there is a definite conflict. I think that
solution to human problems is known, that all effort sho uld be for the state, for that
means there is no novelty. The human machine is not allowed to develop its
potentialities, its surprises, its varieties, its new solutions for difficult problems, its new
points of view.
when you don't know how. And the way to arrange it is to permit a system, like we have,
wherein new ideas can be developed and tried out and thrown away. The writers of the
Constitution knew of the value of doubt. In the age that they lived, for instance, science
had already developed far enough to show the possibilities and potentialities that are the
result of having uncertainty, the value of having the openness of possibility. The fact that
you are not sure means that it is possible that there is another way some day. That
openness of possibility is an opportunity. Doubt and discussion are essential to progress.
excited and lobbying replaces the minority's chance to represent itself, and so forth. The
government of the
satisfactory, the most modern, but not very good.
seem, unfortunately, that engineering and technological development are not consistent
with suppressed new opinion. It appears, at least in the days of Hitler, where no new
science was developed, nevertheless rockets were made, and rockets also can be made in
applications of science, can go on without the freedom.
not learned that there is a limit to government power. The great discovery of the AngloSaxons is—they are not the only people who thought of it, but, to take the later history of
the long struggle of the idea—that there can be a limit to government power. There is no
free criticism of ideas in
definite form. Only to a definite extent. We should take advantage of this. Why don't we
discuss anti-Stalinism too? Why don't we point out all the troubles we had with that
gentleman? Why don't we point out the dangers that there are in a government that can
have such a thing grow inside itself? Why don't we point out the analogies between the
Stalinism that is being criticized inside of
very same moment inside
completely rational, unprejudiced scientific argument.
the influence of the Russians. They can't publish what they want, but at the time when I
was there, which was a year ago, they could say what they wanted, strangely enough, but
not publish anything. And so we would have very lively discussions in public places on
all sides of various questions. The most striking thing to remember about
way, is that they have had an experience with
frightening and so horrible that they cannot possibly forget it. And, therefore, all of their
attitudes in foreign affairs have to do with a fear of the resurgence of
thought while I was there of the terrible crime that would be the result of a policy on the
part of the free countries which would permit once again the development of that kind of
a thing in that country. Therefore, they accept
you see, the Russians definitely are holding down the East Germans. There is no way that
the East Germans are going to have any Nazis. And there is no question that the Russians
can control them. And so at least there is that buffer. And the thing that struck me as odd
was that they didn't realize that one country can protect another country, and guarantee it,
without dominating it completely, without living there.
their own government and were free, they would go along more or less the way they are
going. I said, "What do you mean? I am surprised. You mean you wouldn't have freedom
of speech." "Oh, no, we would have all the freedoms. We would love the freedoms, but
we would have nationalized industries and so on. We believe in the socialistic ideas." I
was surprised because I don't understand the problem that way. I don't think of the
problem as between socialism and capitalism but rather between suppression of ideas and
free ideas. If it is that free ideas and socialism are better than communism, it will work its
way through. And it will be better for everybody. And if capitalism is better than
socialism, it will work its way through. We have got 52 percent.. .
well . . .
The fact that
are quite obvious. One of the best examples is Lysenko, who has a theory of genetics,
which is that acquired characteristics can be passed on to the offspring. This is probably
true. The great majority, however, of genetic influences are undoubtedly of a different
kind, and they are carried by the germ plasm. There are undoubtedly a few examples, a
few small examples already known, in which some kind of a characteristic is carried to
the next generation by direct, what we like to call cytoplasmic, inheritance. But the main
point is that the major part of genetic behavior is in a different manner than Lysenko
thinks. So he has spoiled
and the beginnings of the science, is dead. Only in the Western countries can it be
continued, because they are not free in
discuss and argue against us all the time. And the result is interesting. Not only in this
case has it stopped the science of biology, which, by the way, is the most active, most
exciting, and most rapidly developing science today in the West. In
nothing. At the same time you would think that from an economic standpoint such a thing
is impossible. But nevertheless by having the incorrect theories of inheritance and
genetics, the biology of the agriculture of
corn right. They don't know how to develop better brands of potatoes. They used to
know. They had the greatest potato tuber collections and so on in
than anywhere in the world. But today they have nothing of this kind. They only argue
with the West.
thought which argue with each other. They were all in a meeting in
Polish Intourist, the analogue of Intourist in
trip. And of course, there was only a limited number of rooms, and they made the mistake
of putting Russians in the same room. They came down and they screamed, "For
seventeen years I have never talked to that man, and I will not be in the same room with
physics is developing much more rapidly in the West, and although it looked for a while
like something good would happen there, it hasn't.
Now this doesn't mean that technology is not developing or that they are in some way
backward that way, but I'm trying to show that in a country of this kind the development
of ideas is doomed.
modern art in
To make the thing still more real I give you the example of a Mr. Nakhrosov who
traveled in the
castigated for, I quote the castigator, "A 50-50 approach, for bourgeois objectivism." Is
this a scientific country? Where did we ever get the idea that the Russians were, in some
sense, scientific? Because in the early days of their revolution they had different ideas
than they have now? But it is not scientific to not adopt a 50-50 approach—that is, to not
understand what there is in the world in order to modify things; that is, to be blind in
order to maintain ignorance.
Ukranian Communist Party. He said, "You told us here... (He was at a meeting at which
the other man had just spoken, but nobody knows what he said, because it wasn't
published. But the criticism was published.) You told us here you would only write the
truth, the great truth, the real truth, for which you fought in the trenches of
and people cannot and will not tolerate. You, Comrade Nakhrosov, had better think this
over very seriously." How can the poor man think it over seriously? How can anyone
think seriously about being a petty bourgeois anarchist? Can you picture an old anarchist
who is a bourgeois also? And at the same time petty? The whole thing is absurd.
we admire and respect his courage, because we are here only at the very beginning of
time for the human race. There are thousands of years in the past, and there is an
unknown amount of time in the future. There are all kinds of opportunities, and there are
all kinds of dangers. Man has been stopped before by stopping his ideas. Man has been
jammed for long periods of time. We will not tolerate this. I hope for freedom for future
generations—freedom to doubt, to develop, to continue the adventure of finding out new
ways of doing things, of solving problems.
Why do we grapple with problems? We are only in the beginning. We have plenty of
time to solve the problems. The only way that we will make a mistake is that in the
impetuous youth of humanity we will decide we know the answer. This is it. No one else
can think of anything else. And we will jam. We will confine man to the limited
imagination of today's human beings.
ways, and what I am going to emphasize is only an intellectual thing. I don't want to talk
about everything at the same time. Let's take a small piece, an intellectual thing.
No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to
prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a
government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of
literary or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic,
historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to
maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the
development of the human race. Thank you.