This is chapter 14 of the "The Phenomenon of Science" by Valentin F. Turchin


The Phenomenon of Science


THE UNIVERSE IS EVOLVING. The organization of matter is constantly growing more complex. This growing complexity occurs through metasystem transitions from which new levels of organization emerge which are levels of the control hierarchy. The inorganic world, plants, animals, the human being--such has been the course of evolution on our planet, and as far as we know this is the greatest advance which has been made in the part of space that surrounds us. It also seems highly probable that the human being is the crown of evolution of the entire cosmos. In any case, we do not have any direct indications or even the slightest hints of the existence of a higher level of organization. Therefore all we can do is consider ourselves the highest.

The appearance of the human being marks the beginning of the Age of Intellect, when the leading force of development becomes conscious human creativity and the highest level of organization is the culture of human society. In its development culture generates the next level of the hierarchy within itself. This is critical thinking which, in its turn, gives rise to modern science, constructing models of reality using sign systems. These are new models; they did not and could not exist in the minds of individual human beings outside of civilization and culture, and they enlarge human power over nature colossally. They make up the continuously improving and developing super-brain of the super-being which is humanity as a whole. Thus, science is the highest level of the hierarchy in the organization of cosmic matter. It is the highest growth point of a growing tree, the leading shoot in the evolution of the universe. This is the significance of the cosmic phenomenon of science as a part of the phenomenon of man.


JUST AS IN THE EVOLUTION of animals there was a stage when the central nervous system formed and as a result profound changes occurred in the structure, behavior, and external appearance of the organism, an age of swift and profound changes under the direct influence of science has now arrived in the development of society. At the beginning of the first industrial revolution science played a relatively small part, but then came discoveries in physics and chemistry which led to revolutionary changes in technology and the conditions of societal life. In the 1950s the second industrial revolution began, indebted entirely to scientific advances. It is still picking up speed today and even its very immediate repercussions are difficult to anticipate.

It is now widely recognized that science has become a direct productive force. On the other hand, it cannot develop without the development of industrial production, and that is becoming increasingly expensive. Modern production requires not only that ready formulas from science be used but also that scientific research and the scientific approach be introduced in all elements of production. More and more it comes to resemble science. On the other hand, science, attracting a significant part of the human and physical resources of society and becoming a regulated, mass occupation, is acquiring the characteristics of production. Science and production are growing together into a single hierarchical system. The uppermost growth point sends out leaves which grow rapidly at first but then stop and become standard, stable forms of interaction with physical reality: electrical motors, airplanes, machines to produce synthetic fabrics, and genetic methods of selection. But the growth point rises higher and higher and generates more and more new leaves.


SCIENCE IS GROWING. It grows exponentially, which is to say that its quantitative characteristics increase so many times each so many years. The total number of articles in scientific journals throughout the world doubles every 12 to 15 years.[1]

The number of workers in science doubles every 15 years in Western Europe, every 10 years in the United States. and every 7 years in the USSR. With such a furious growth rate the contemporary generation of scientists constitutes 90 percent of all the scientists who have ever lived on Earth.

Along with science other quantitative characteristics of the human race are growing exponentially: the total number of people and the total volume of production of material goods. But science significantly surpasses them in growth rate. The growth rates of population, production, and science are roughly in the ratio 1:2:4. This is a healthy ratio which reflects that evolution of an organism where the mass of muscles is growing more rapidly than the total mass of the body but the mass of the brain is growing more rapidly than the mass of the muscles. Unfortunately, the territorial distribution of growth is poor. High population growth falls primarily in countries with low production growth and virtually no contribution to world science. We hope, however, that humanity will be able to handle these growing pains. There can hardly be any doubt that growing pains is all they are. After all, the rapid population growth in the underdeveloped countries is due to the high level of world science (medical service. social changes). Already today the human race represents a highly integrated system and its overall takeoff, which is conveyed by the ratio 1:2:4, is the result of the development of science, a very recent phenomenon. If we extrapolate the present rate of population growth (on the order of two percent a year) into the past, it appears that there would have been just two people living on Earth a mere thousand years ago!

The proportion of people employed directly in the sphere of science is still small, even in the highly developed countries. It ranges from 0.5 to one percent. The figure is now growing rapidly, but it is obvious that sooner or later its growth will slow down; it will reach a constant level which is difficult to predict today. As far as can be judged by the literature, it is considered improbable that this level will exceed 25 percent. After all, by weight the human brain is also a small part of the entire body.

The absolute number of people engaged in scientific work will nonetheless grow steadily, and together with it the quantity of information produced by them will also grow steadily. This quantity is already enormous today. The first scientific periodicals began to come out in the second half of the seventeenth century. By the start of the 1960s the total number of periodicals was about 50,000. 30,000 of these were still being published in 1966.

Figure 14.1. Growth in the total number of scientific journals

A total of 6 million articles had been published in them, and this figure was increasing by 500,000 a year.[2] The total number of patents and author's certificates recorded was more than 13 million. This stream of information, which must be used, gives rise to serious difficulties. For a long time scientific work has demanded an extreme degree of specialization, but recently it has become increasingly common for scientists to be unable to follow all the new work even in their own narrow areas. They face a dilemma: either read articles or work. Moreover, as a result of technical difficulties in disseminating and processing enormous amounts of information (we might also mention the imperfections in the information system in science and technology) substantial effort must often be expended to find the necessary information, and this effort is not always successful. As a result a great deal of work is duplicated or not properly done. According to estimates by American scientists, between 10 and 20 percent of scientific research and experimental design work could be dispensed with if information on similar work already done were available. The resulting losses in the United States have been $1.25 billion. According to G. N. Dobrov, in 1946 40 percent of applications for invention certification in the area of coal-combine construction were rejected as repetitious. In 1961 this figure had risen to 85 percent.


CAN WE CONCLUDE from this that there is an information crisis in science? It is perhaps too early to speak of a crisis, but we can already see that as a result of the continuous growth in the stream of information there will be a crisis in the near future if qualitative changes do not take place in the organization of scientific research. Until now scientific research has been organized in forms which developed traditionally, by themselves. Not only are they not the result of scientific investigation, but until recently they have not even been a subject of investigation. So there must be a scientific approach to the problem of organizing scientific activity--that is, a new metasystem transition: scientific control of the system of science. This metasystem transition has two aspects. The first, which does not go beyond the framework of science as a subsystem in the system of culture, creates a new level of the hierarchy within the framework of science as a primarily linguistic activity. This is what we called metascience in the preceding chapter. The second aspect concerns science as a social phenomenon. This aspect has come to be called the science of science [in Russian, naukovedenie].

We introduced the concept of the metascience without having connected it to the information problem. When speaking of mathematics, however, we remarked that the metascientific, conceptual approach is the organizing principle for the limitless number of theories and problems axiomatic symbolic mathematics can generate. The connection with the information problem in the natural and technical sciences is obvious here. There is a great deal that can be investigated, and many research plans can be boldly outlined. But one must have first clear planning principles, plans for plans. Otherwise there will be anarchy among plans, and when anarchy occurs the decisive factors are frequently those remote from the interests of science: considerations of prestige, personal contacts, and the like. Furthermore, it is essential for the language of the natural sciences and engineering to be completely formalized; then the aggregate of human knowledge will appear in the form of a harmonious system; only then will it become possible to work out the scientific principles of planning science. One should not think that the process of formalization is something "formal,'' that is to say syntactical and amounting to nothing but new notations. The problem of formalization of the scientific language is a conceptual, semantic problem. It is the problem of working out new concepts, a problem which resembles the formalization and axiomatization which occurred in mathematics.

A completely formalized language is a language accessible to the machine. When the edifice of science has a formalized frame we can separate the work that can be done by machines and automata from the jobs that require creative human participation. After the separation the machine work can be assigned to machines. Today, of course, the very simplest tasks of this sort are already being done by machines (automation and the use of computers), but formalization will make it possible to raise considerably the level of problems solved by machines. This refers above all to the processing of information flows. Systematization and storage of information, selection of needed information, and very simple information conversions-- these and other tasks which make up the information problem today cannot be satisfactorily resolved by machines without complete formalization of language. It is difficulties in formalizing language which at the present time limit the application of computers in information science. The advances that are being made in this area are primarily related to more or less successful formalization of more or less extensive parts of the scientific-technical language.


HOWEVER, turning over the lower levels of science to machines should involve, and already is involving, not only linguistic activity but also direct manipulation of the natural objects under study. Properly speaking, each time modern automation is used in scientific experiments it is indeed an "entry of the machine into research." Raising the level of automation in this or that particular sphere of research implies complete formalization of a corresponding part of the scientific language. Automatic scanning of photographs with traces (tracks) of elementary particles and sorting out given configurations of tracks is a prototype of future achievements in this area. The universal arrival of machines in direct contact with nature will require universal formalization of the language of science. The next stage which can be anticipated is independent machine formulation of experiments in accordance with metascientific recommendations.

As machines are increasingly used in science and production, the human being will become increasingly free from noncreative activity--which, no matter how paradoxical it may seem, becomes needed precisely because of the successes of creative activity! For what is creativity? Above all creativity is constructive action, action that leads to an increase in the level of organization in the world. But an action is not characterized as creative only on the basis of its results. These results must be considered within the relationship to the mechanism of the action or the relations between this action and the system that gave rise to it. The same action may be a creative act when it is done for the first time and mechanical repetition of the past when it is done according to established, known rules, by applying standard procedures. Nothing that is produced within the framework of an already existing system of control, whether it is work by a computer or the composition of stereotyped articles, is creativity. Creativity always goes beyond the framework of the system; it is free action. Creativity is a metasystem transition. The evolution of the universe is continuous creativity. One of the manifestations of this process is creative acts in culture which establish new levels of control and in this way deprive lower-level actions of their creative character. Thousands of slaves had to be driven to build a pyramid; thousands of arithmetic operations had to be performed to calculate the exact positions of the planets on paper. Machines will rid the human being of that sort of work and transfer human activity to that level of the hierarchy which is still creative at the given moment. With time, this level will also cease to be creative; the boundary between creative and uncreative work is steadily crawling upward.

Ideally, immediately after the discovery of the presence of a system in some activity, this activity (or the part subordinate to the system discovered) could be turned over to a machine. Unfortunately, there is at present a considerable gap between the time an uncreative component appears and the time when there is a practical possibility that it can be turned over to a machine. The development of automation in the realm of nonlinguistic activity, accompanied by formalization of language in the realm of linguistic activity, is lessening the gap, but it remains large. The information problem in science, the necessity of routine, stereotyped research, and the need to overcome organizational difficulties to conduct experiments are all evidence this gap exists in scientific activity. In production, we are still a long way from automatic plants capable of producing motor vehicles and television sets according to plans fed to them. We are even farther from the time when there will be nothing but automatic plants. But sooner or later this will occur. The gap will be eliminated or reduced to a minimum. The formalization of language and automation will rid human beings of uncreative work just as the use of mechanical energy has for the most part rid us of heavy physical labor.


THE SOCIAL ASPECT of the problem of controlling science is inseparable from the problem of controlling society as a whole. Science and production are growing into a single system, and politics and ideology are also inseparably linked to it. Furthermore, both aspects of the metasystem transition necessary for the development of science (the metascientific and social aspects) are also inseparably linked, and there is no hope of fully carrying out the former without carrying out the latter. Thus we have here essentially a single problem--the problem of scientific control of society. And even from the point of view of ''pure'' science this problem is the principal one; progress is impossible unless it is solved.

In the initial stages of the development of science, scientists had a comparatively proper justification for nonintervention in the practical affairs of society. It was possible to say that science itself was one of the highest values of existence and would demonstrate its amazing capabilities in the future; in its embryonic state, it would have to be given the peace and warmth needed for development, no matter what. The scientist could say, like a hen sitting on her eggs "Do what you want, but just leave me in peace! I am hatching a remarkable chick. That is the main thing."

In our day this sort of reasoning is pure hypocrisy. The remarkable chick has come out of its shell and requires food. To isolate it from the environment now would mean to starve it to death.


THUS SCIENCE CLAIMS the role of supreme judge and master of the entire society. But will it be able to handle this role'? After all, people need not only knowledge of the laws of nature and the ability to use them. They also need certain moral principles, answers to such questions as what is good and what is bad? What should a person strive toward and what should a person oppose? What is the meaning and goal of the existence of each person and of all humanity?

Strictly speaking, science cannot answer these questions. The ideas of the good, the goal, and the duty which are part of moral principles are beyond the bounds of science. Science engages in the construction of models of that reality which actually exists, not that which should be. It answers the questions: What really is? What will be if such-and-such is done? What must be done so that such-and-such will be? But science cannot in principle answer the question "What must be done?'' without any "if'' or "in order that.'' As a certain American philosopher remarked, no matter how much you study the train schedules you will not be able to choose a train if you do not know where you are going. All attempts to construct moral principles on a scientific basis inevitably lead in the end to the question ''What is the Supreme Good?" or ''What is the Supreme Goal?'' which are essentially the same thing. Scientific knowledge and logical deductions are relevant to moral problems only to the extent that they help deduce answers to particular questions from the answer to this general, final question. The problem of the Supreme Goal remains outside science and its solution necessarily requires an act of will; it is in the last analysis a result of free choice.

This in no sense means that science has no influence at all on the solution to this problem. True to its principle of investigating everything in the world, science can look from outside at the human being and at entire societies which are deciding the problem of the Suprem Goal for themselves. Science can analyze various aspects of this situation and predict the results to which adoption of a particular decision will lead. And this analysis can significantly influence the process of solving the problem, although it does not change the nature of the solution as a freely made choice.


WHEN AND HOW does the problem of the Supreme Good and the Supreme Goal emerge? It is obvious that the animals did not have it, nor was it found in the early stages of the development of human society. Until a certain time, good for both hun-an beings and animals was that which brought .satisfaction, and there was a hierarchy of goals--crowned by the instincts for preservation of life and continuation of the species--that corresponded to the hierarchy of .satisfactions. The concept of the goal and the concept of the good are, in general, inseparable; they are two aspects of a single concept. The human being strives toward good, by definition, and calls that toward which he strives good. In the stage when good is equated with satisfaction the human being does not differ in any way from the animal in a moral sense; for the human being, moral problems do not exist. The point here is not the nature of the satisfaction, but the fact that it is given, that the criterion of satisfaction is the highest controlling system--one that changes goals but that does not undergo changes itself. Even from a purely biological point of view human satisfactions differ from animal satisfactions. As an example we may recall the sense of the beautiful. And as the social structure becomes more complex the human being acquires new satisfactions which are unknown to animals. Nonetheless, this does not create the problem of the Supreme Good. That arises when culture begins to have a decisive effect on the system of satisfactions, when it turns out that what people think, say, and do is capable of changing their attitude toward the world to such an extent that events which formerly caused satisfaction now cause dissatisfaction, and vice versa. True, satisfactions at the lowest level (those deriving from direct satisfaction of physical needs) hardly change at all as culture develops, but satisfactions of the highest level (elation at one's skill in hunting, physical endurance, and the like) are sometimes capable of outweighing low-level dissatisfaction. In this way the criterion of satisfaction itself proves subject to control. A metasystem transition occurs; the social scale of values and system of norms of behavior emerge.

But this is only the prologue to the problem of the Supreme Good. In primitive society the norms of behavior can be compared to animal instincts; in the social super-brain they are in fact a precise analogue of the instincts embedded in the brain of the individual animal. Control of association (thinking) destroys instincts or, to put it better, it demotes them and puts social norms of behavior in the topmost place. In primitive society these norms are just as absolute as instincts are for the animal. And although they do change in the process of society's development, just as instincts change in the process of evolution of the species, this is unconscious change. They are perceived by each individual as something given and beyond doubt. But then one more metasystem transition occurs, the transition to critical thinking, and then the problem of the Supreme Good emerges in full.

Now people not only influence their own criteria of satisfaction through their linguistic activity, but they are conscious of this influence. The simple ''I want it that way!" loses its primary, given quality. When a person becomes aware that what he wants is not only a result of his upbringing but also depends on himself and may be changed by reflection and self-education, he cannot help asking himself what he should want. In his consciousness he finds an empty place that must be filled with something. ''Is there an absolute Supreme Good toward which one should strive?'' he asks himself. ''How should one live? What is the meaning of life?"

But he cannot get unequivocal answers to these questions. A goal can only be deduced from a goal, and if a person is free in his desires, then he is also free in his desires for desires. The circle of doubts and questions closes and there is nothing more to rely upon. The system of behavior is suspended in the air. Naive primitive beliefs and traditional norms of behavior collapse. The age of religious and ethical teachings arrives.

There are many of these teachings and they differ in many ways, but at the same time it appears that they also have a great deal in common, at least if we speak of the teachings which have become widespread. Our job now is to determine whether the scientific worldview leads us to some type of ethical teaching, and if it does, which one. At the same time we shall discuss the question of the nature of the common denominator of the different ethical teachings.


BEFORE DISCUSSING the problems of the Supreme Good and the meaning of life we must gain assurance that the problem is worth discussing. There are many people whose point of view may be called the theory of natural values. According to this theory the creation of ethical teachings is an idle occupation if not a harmful one. This theory asserts that human nature contains, along with needs and instincts of animal origin, a yearning for specifically human spiritual values such as knowledge, beauty, justice, and love of one's neighbor. Achieving these values brings the highest satisfaction. The task of a human being is to develop these yearnings in himself and in others and thus obtain the highest satisfaction from life. This is the one natural goal of the human being, the one natural purpose. Philosophical religious and ethical teachings which begin from a priori principles or principles taken from who knows where can only muffle and distort these natural, truly human yearnings and force people to act basely in the name of a Supreme Good which they have invented.

What can we say about this theory? It is convenient as a pretext for avoiding the solution of a difficult question. It also has the merit of shunning extreme positions. But, unfortunately, it is untrue. It is contrived to a much higher degree than the other teachings which openly admit their dogmatic nature. The assertion that striving toward the highest spiritual values is part of human nature in its literal, exact sense contradicts the facts. Children carried off by animals who grow up away from human society do not show an understanding of the highest values of modern civilized people; they generally do not become full-fledged people. Therefore, there is nothing in the actual structure of the developing brain that would unequivocally generate those specific higher aspirations of which the theory of natural values speaks.

"Oh no!'' a supporter of this theory will say, becoming terribly indignant at such a vulgarization of his views. ''We are certainly not speaking of the concrete ways these yearnings are manifested; what we refer to is their general foundation, which requires the conditions created by society if it is to manifest itself.''

But then the theory of natural values commits the sin of switching concepts. To say ''general foundation'' is to say nothing if we do not give the concrete substance of this foundation and its connection with observed manifestations. From the point of view being developed in this book, the general foundation of the highest values recognized at the present time by a majority of the human race really does exist; it is inborn, encoded in the structure of the genes of each human being. This foundation is the ability to control the process of associating. It may be tentatively called the ''knowledge instinct'' (see chapter 4), but this is just a figurative expression. The profound difference between this ability and instinct is that instinct dictates forms of behavior while control of associating mainly permits them and removes old prohibitions. Control of associating is an extremely undifferentiated, multivalued capability which admits diverse applications. Even what we call thinking is not an inevitable result. And what can we say about the more concrete forms of mental activity?

Control of associating is more a destructive than a constructive principle; it needs constructive supplementation. This supplementation is the social integration of individuals, the formation of human society. It is in the process of development of society that spiritual values originate. Of course, they are far from accidental, but it is a long way from their general foundation implanted by nature in all human beings to spiritual values, and on this road it is the logic of society, not the logic of the individual, that governs. This road is not unambiguous and it is not complete.

The theory of natural values, in speaking dimly of the "general foundation" of spiritual values, thus actually equates certain particular ideals recognized at the present time by some (possibly many) people with this ''general foundation'' which is absolute, invariable, and implanted in human nature. Two consequences follow from this error. For one, the theory of natural values does a disservice to the spiritual values it promotes when it promotes them on a false basis. It is like the well-wisher who started defending the right of a peasant lad to human dignity not on the basis of the general principles of humanism but rather by attempting to prove his noble origin; the deception can easily be revealed and the unfortunate young man will be flogged. In the second place, this theory does not contain any stimuli to the development of spiritual values; it is antievolutionary, conservative to an extreme.

What do we have in mind when we say that some particular values are natural for the human being? Obviously we mean that they are dictated, established for human beings by nature itself. For the animal, instincts are the goals which nature gives him, and what fits the instincts is natural for him. But nature does not give the human being goals: the human being is the highest level of the hierarchy. This is a medical fact, as Ostap Bender[3] would say, a fact of the organization of the human brain. The human being has nowhere from which to receive goals; he creates them for himself and for the rest of nature. For the human being there is nothing absolute except the absence of absolutes and there is nothing natural except endless development. Everything that seems natural to us at a given moment is relative and temporary. And our current spiritual values are only mileposts on the road of human history.

It is worth thinking about the meaning of life. To think about the meaning of life means to create higher goals and this is the highest form of creativity accessible to the human being. This type of creativity is always needed because the highest goals must change in the process of development and will always change. And each person must somehow decide this question for himself since nature has given him such an opportunity. Assurances that this problem has been solved or assurances that it is insoluble are lies which some use deliberately: others fall back on them from mental laziness and lack of fortitude. The question is, of course, insoluble at the level of pure knowledge; it must include an element of free choice. But conscious choice accompanied by study of the object and reflection is one thing and blind imitation of an example imposed upon us is something else. In one way or another someone creates the highest goals, because outside of society, "in nature,'' there are none. Every person is given this capability to some extent; to voluntarily reject the use of it is the same thing as for a healthy animal to voluntarily reject physical movement and use of the muscles.


THE CRITICISM of the theory of natural values shows clearly that element of the scientific picture of the world we can use as a startingpoint to arrive at definite moral principles, or at least definite criteria for evaluating them. This element is the doctrine of the evolution of the universe and the human role in it. And so, let us set off.

The assertion of the continuous development and evolution of the universe is the most important general truth established by science. Everywhere we turn we observe irreversible changes subordinate to a majestic general plan or to the basic law of evolution, which manifests itself in the growing complexity of the organization of matter. Reason emerges on Earth as a part of this plan. And although we know that the sphere of human influence is a tiny speck in the cosmos still we consider the human being the crown of nature's creation. Experience in investigating the most diverse developing systems shows that a new characteristic appears first in a small space but, thanks to the potential enclosed in it, engulfs a maximum of living, space over time and creates the springboard for a new, higher level of organization. Therefore we believe that a great future awaits the human race, surpassing everything that the boldest imagination can conceive.

But no one person is the human race. What can a person say about himself, about the place of his own mortal self in the universe? What can the human being attain? How do one's will and consciousness enter the scientific picture of the world?

One hundred years ago the portrait of the world that science depicted was completely deterministic. If one took it seriously, one could become an absolute fatalist. But we know now that this picture was wrong. According to contemporary notions the laws of nature are exclusively probabilistic. Events may be more or less probable (or completely impossible), but there is no law that can force events to flow in a strictly determined manner. The laws of nature more often demonstrate the impossibility of something, than the reverse; it is not accidental that the most general laws are prohibitive (the law of conservation of energy, the law of increasing entropy, and the uncertainty relation). Cases where the course of events can be predicted quite accurately far into the future are more the exception than the rule--an example here is astronomical predictions. But they are possible only because we encounter here an enormous difference in time scales between astronomical and human time. If we were to approach the motions of the celestial bodies with the time scales inherent in them it would turn out that the only predictions we could make would be as limited as our predictions regarding the molecules of air we breathe. So the successes of celestial mechanics which inspired Laplace in his formulation of determinism are a very special case.

Indeterminacy is deeply implanted in the nature of things. The evolution of the universe is a continuous and universal elimination of this indeterminacy, a continuous and universal choice of one possibility from a certain set of possibilities. We can compare two situations involving choice--extreme cases that have been well-studied.

The first situation is the collision of two elementary particles. Knowing the initial conditions of the collision, we can give the probability of particular results, but nothing more. For example, if the probabilities that a colliding particle will be deflected upward and downward are identical, we cannot now--and never shall be able to--predict in which direction the particle will go. Nonetheless, nature makes its choice. This act of choice, which is among the most elementary, is according to modern notions a blind one. Changes in the evolution of the universe occur only because of the interweaving and play of an infinite number of such acts.

The second situation is the act of will of the human personality. We can study this act from outside, just as we study the collision of particles. This is the basis of behavioral psychology. If we know the conditions in which a person is placed and some of his psychological characteristics, we can make some predictions, also purely probabilistic. But when we view this situation from within--as our own free choice (as an act of manifesting our personality)--what had appeared unpredictable in principle when considered from outside is now seen as free will.

The nature of the unpredictability in these acts is the same, as is the impossibility of watching the system without affecting it; but how greatly they differ in their significance! The act of will encompasses an enormous space-time area as compared to the act of the scattering of particles. In addition, the act of will may be a creative act, not the blind, inert material of cosmic evolution but its direct expression, its moving force.


ALL THE SAME, the human being is extraordinarily small in comparison not only with the universe, but with the human race as a whole, and this again inclines us to think of the insignificance of the act of individual will and the law of large numbers would seem to reinforce us in this thought. We must note that superficially understood and incorrectly applied scientific truths very often promote the acceptance of false conceptions. That is how things are at present. Relying on the law of large numbers people reason as follows. There are 3 billion people on Earth. The destiny of the human race is the result of their combined actions. Because the contribution of each person to this sum is equal to one three-billionth no one person can hope to significantly affect the course of history, not even accidentally. Only general factors which influence the behavior of many people simultaneously count.

In reality this reasoning contains a flagrant error, because the law of large numbers is only applicable to an aggregate of independent subsystems. It could be applied to the human race if all 3 billion people acted with absolute independence and knew absolutely nothing about one another. However, as the human race is a large and strongly interconnected system, the acts of some people have very great effects on the acts of others. In general such systems possess the characteristic of divergence of trajectories, which is to say that small variations in the initial state of the system become increasingly larger over time. We call the situations in which the law of divergence of trajectories manifests itself in an unquestionable, obvious way crises. In a crisis situation enormous chances in the state of the system depend on minute (on a system scale) factors. In such a situation the actions of one person, possibly even a single word spoken by the person, may be decisive. We are inclined to consider crisis situations rare, but we know many constantly operating factors that multiply the influence of a single person many times over. These are the so-called trigger mechanisms. Only a very slight effort is required to press the trigger or control button, but the consequences resulting from this action may be enormous. It is hardly necessary to say how many such mechanisms there are in human society.

Nonetheless, the idea of the little person, this fig leaf with which we conceal in front of others the shame of our cowardice, does not give up without a struggle. Most people, the ''little person'' says, do not participate in crisis situations and do not have access to triggers.

Many people will perhaps recall the rhyme which ends with the words:

The rhyme describes a trigger mechanism which goes from a slipshod blacksmith who did not have a nail to the defeat of an army. We take this story as humorous, not wishing to see it as completely serious. However, our entire lives consist of such multi-stepped dependencies. Mathematical investigation of large interconnected systems shows the same thing: trajectories diverge. An initially insignificant deviation (the lack of a nail in the blacksmith shop) enlarges step by step (the shoe falls off, the horse goes lame, the commander is killed, the cavalry are crushed, and the army flees). But we take a skeptical attitude toward such long chains because in our everyday life we are almost never able to trace them reliably from start to finish. In the first place, each connection between links of the chain is probabilistic: a lame horse certainly does not necessarily doom the commander. In the second place, following the relationship of events constantly raises questions of the type ''What would have happened if . . .?'' It is hard to find two people who give the same answers to a series of such questions, but it is impossible to turn the clock back and look. Finally, we practically never have the necessary information.

But that we cannot trace these chains in the opposite direction should not eclipse our awareness of their existence when we think about the consequences of our actions. Crisis situations are rare not because small factors rarely have major consequences (they do), but rather because we are seldom fully aware of the chain of events. We can never foresee the results of our actions exactly. The only thing available to us is to establish general principles through whose guidance we increase the probability of Good, that is, the probability of those consequences which we consider desirable. We should act in accordance with these principles, viewing each situation as a crisis situation because the importance of each act of our will may be enormous. By always acting in such a way we unquestionably make a positive contribution to the cause of Good. Here the law of large numbers operates at full strength.


BUT WHAT IS GOOD? What are the Supreme Good and the Supreme Goal? As we have already said, the answer to these questions goes beyond the framework of pure knowledge and requires an act of will. But perhaps knowledge will lead us to some certain act of will, make it practically inevitable?

Let us think about the results of following different ethical teachings in the evolving universe. It is evident that these results depend mainly on how the goals advanced by the teaching correlate with the basic law of evolution. The basic law or plan of evolution, like all laws of nature, is probabilistic. It does not prescribe anything unequivocally, but it does prohibit some things. No one can act against the laws of nature. Thus, ethical teachings which contradict the plan of evolution, that is to say which pose goals that are incompatible or even simply alien to it, cannot lead their followers to a positive contribution to evolution, which means that they obstruct it and will be erased from the memory of the world. Such is the immanent characteristic of development: what corresponds to its plan is eternalized in the structures which follow in time while what contradicts the plan is overcome and perishes.

Thus, only those teachings which promote realization of the plan of evolution have a chance of success. If we consider the cultural values and principles of social life which are generally recognized at the present time from this point of view, we shall see that they are all very closely connected with our understanding of the plan of evolution and in fact can be deduced from it. This is the common denominator of the ethical teachings which have made a constructive contribution to human history.

But there is still a great distance between this objective and unbiased view of ethical principles and the decision to follow them. Really, why should I care about the plan of evolution? What does it have to do with me?


A VERY IMPORTANT FACT--that human beings are mortal--now must be considered. Awareness of it is the starting point in becoming human. The thought of the inevitability of death creates a torturous situation for a rational being and he seeks a way out. The protest against death, against the disintegration of one's own personality, is common to all people. In the last analysis, this is the source from which all ethical teachings draw the volitional component essential to them.

Traditional religious teachings begin from an unconditional belief in the immortality of the soul. In this case the protest against death is used as a force which causes a person to accept this teaching; after all, from the very beginning it promises immortality. If immortality of the soul is accepted then the stimulus to carry out the moral norms imposes itself: eternal bliss for good and eternal torment for bad. Under the powerful influence of science the notions of immortality of the soul and life beyond the grave, which were once very concrete and clear, are becoming increasingly abstract and pale, and old religious systems are slowly but surely losing their influence. A person raised on the ideas of modern science cannot believe in the immortality of the soul in the traditional religious formulation no matter how much he may want to; a very simple linguistic analysis shows the complete meaninglessness of this concept.

The will to immortality combined with the picture of the world drawn above can lead him to just one goal: to make his own personal contribution to cosmic evolution, to eternalize his personality in all subsequent acts of the world drama. In order to be eternal this contribution must be constructive. Thus we come to the principle that the Highest Good is a constructive contribution to the evolution of the universe. The traditional cultural and social values may be largely deduced from this principle. To the extent that they conflict with it they should be cast aside as ruthlessly as we suppress animal instincts in the name of higher values.

The human being continues somehow to live in his creations:

What is the soul? In the scientific aspect of this concept it is a form or the organization of movement of matter. Is it so important whether this organization is embodied in the nerves and muscles, in rock, in letters, or in the way of life of one's descendants? When we try to dig down to the very core of our personality, don't we come to the conviction that its essence is not a repeating stream of sensations or the regular digestion of food, but certain unrepeatable, deeply individual creative acts? However, the physical result of these acts may go far beyond the space-time boundaries of our biological body. Thus we begin to feel a profound unity with the Cosmos and responsibility for its destiny. This feeling is probably the same in all people, but it is expressed differently in various religious and philosophical systems. It is this feeling that art teaches which elevates the human being to the level of a cosmic phenomenon.

Thus, the scientific worldview brings us to ethics, which points out the Supreme Values and demands that we be responsible for and actively pursue them. Like any ethics it includes the act of will, which we have called the will to immortality. If a person cannot or does not want to perform this act, then no knowledge, no logic will force him to accept the Supreme Values, to become responsible and active. And God save him! The Philistine who has firmly resolved to be content with his wretched ideal, who has resolved to live as a humble slave of circumstances, will not be elevated by anything and will pass from the stage without a trace. The person who does not want immortality will not get it. Just as the animal deprived of its instinct for reproduction will not perform its animal function, so the human being deprived of the will to immortality will not fulfill his or her human function. Fortunately, this case is the exception, not the rule. The will to immortality is not the privilege of certain "great'' people, it is a mass characteristic of the human being, a norm of the human personality which serves as the source of moral strength and courage.

How convincing and acceptable will the ethical ideals we have deduced from the scientific worldview be for a broad range of people, our contemporaries and descendants? Doesn't all this reasoning sound a little too abstract and unfeeling? Is it capable of involving, of affecting the emotions'? It is, and this is shown by many examples. The ideas of evolution and personal participation in the cosmic process conquer the imagination; they give life depth and meaning. But in return they demand bold conclusions and a readiness to sacrifice the conventional and adopt the unexpected and uncanny if that is where logic inexorably leads.

It is natural to expect that those who are engaged in science will have a positive attitude toward construction of an ethical system on the basis of the scientific worldview. This expectation is for the most part borne out. The scientists have many ''fellow travellers'' too. But there are also many enemies or, at least, persons who do not wish us well. In some circles (especially among the intelligentsia in the humanities) it is fashionable to curse scientists for their ''scientism,'' their endeavors to construct all life on a scientific basis, surreptitiously substituting science for all other forms of spiritual life. These attitudes (which can hardly be called justified) are engendered primarily by fear in the face of that unknown future toward which the development of science is inexorably (and rapidly!) drawing us. The fear is intensified by misunderstanding, for neither the broad public nor the representatives of the intelligentsia in the humanities and arts ordinarily understand the essence of modern scientific thinking and the role of science in spiritual culture. This problem was set forth brilliantly by C. P. Snow in his 1956 lecture entitled "The Two Cultures."[4] Science to the modern person is what fire was to the primitive. And just as fire aroused a whole range of feelings in our ancestors (terror, amazement, and gratitude), so science today arouses a similar range of feelings. Fire has an attractive and enchanting force. The primitive looked at fire and delights and dim premonitions earlier unknown rose in his soul. It is the same with science. Science fiction, for example, is just like the visions of primitives sitting around a fire. And constructing supreme goals and principles on the basis of the scientific picture of the world can be called fire worship. These metaphors do not degrade; they honor modern fire worshipers. After all, we are very deeply indebted to the imagination of our ancestors who were enchanted by the dancing flames of the fire.


THE PROCESS of social integration has never gone on so furiously and openly as it does today. Modern science and engineering have put every person in the sphere of influence of every other. Modem culture is global. Modern nations are enormous mechanisms which have a tendency to regulate the behavior of each citizen with increasing rigidity--to define needs, tastes, and opinions and to impose them on people from without. Modern people are hounded by the feeling that they are being turned into standardized parts of this mechanism. and are ceasing to exist as individuals.

The basic contradiction of social integration--that between the necessity of including the human being in the system, in the continuously consolidating whole, and the necessity of preserving the individual as a free, creative personality--can be seen today better than ever before. Can this contradiction be resolved? Is a society possible which will continue to move along the path of integration but at the same time ensure complete freedom for development of the personality? Different conceptions of society give different answers.

The optimistic answer to the question sounds positive. Each successive stage in the integration of society will probably involve some external limitations not fundamental from the point of view of creative activity. On the other hand, each stage will foster a liberation of the nucleus of the personality, which is the source of creativity. Belief in the possibility of such a society is equivalent to belief that the impulse implanted by nature in the human being has not been exhausted, that the human being is capable of continuing the stage of cosmic evolution he has begun. After all, the personal, creative principle is the essence of the human being, the fundamental engine of evolution in the age of intellect. If it is suppressed by social integration, movement will stop. On the other hand, social integration is also essential. Without it the further development of culture and increasing human power over nature are impossible; the essence of the new level of organization of matter lies in social integration. But why should we suppose that social integration and personal freedom are incompatible? After all, integration has been successfully carried out at other levels of organization! When cells join into a multicellular organism they continue to perform their biological functions-- exchange of matter and reproduction by division. The new characteristic, the life of the organism, does not appear despite the biological functions of the individual cells but rather thanks to them. The creative act of free will is the ''biological'' function of the human individual. In the integrated society, therefore, it should be preserved as an inviolable foundation and new characteristics must appear only through it and thanks to it.

If we refuse to believe in the possibility of an organic combination of social integration and personal freedom then we must give one of them preference over the other. The preference for personal freedom leads to the individualistic conception of society, while preference for social integration leads to totalitarian regimes.

Individualism views society as nothing more than a method of ''peaceful coexistence'' of individuals and increasing the personal benefits for each of them. But by itself this idea is inadequate to build a healthy society. Pure individualism deprives the life of a person of any higher meaning and leads to cynicism and spiritual impoverishment. In fact, individualism exists only thanks to an alliance with traditional religious systems--or, to put it better, by living as a parasite on them--because they are in principle hostile to individualism and permit it only as a weakness. With the collapse of the religious systems this parasite reaches enormous size. Individualism becomes a fearsome ulcer eating up society and inevitably, as a protest against itself, it gives rise to its negation, totalitarianism.

For totalitarianism, integration is everything and the individual is nothing. Totalitarianism constructs a hierarchical state system which is usually headed by one person or a small group of people. An ideological system is also constructed which each citizen is obliged to accept as his or her personal worldview. Anyone refusing to do this is subject to punishment, which may go as far as physical extermination. The person trapped in between the two systems becomes a thoughtless, soulless part in the social machine. The person is given only what freedom is necessary to carry out instructions from above. Every manifestation of individual activity is viewed as potentially dangerous to the state. Personal rights are abolished.

Striving to preserve and strengthen itself, the totalitarian state uses all means of physical and moral influence on people to make them suitable to the state--"totalitarian'' people. The fundamental characteristic of the totalitarian person is the presence of certain prohibitions he is unable to violate. He may be a scientist, an investigator filled with curiosity, but upon approaching certain aspects of life his curiosity suddenly begins to evaporate. He may be a brave man, capable of giving his life for his country without a thought, but he trembles in fear before his leader. He may consider himself an honest man but speak what he knows to be a lie, and not connect this lie with his supposed honesty. He may steal, commit treason, and kill in the confidence that ''it is necessary''; he will never permit himself to ask if it really is necessary. And he will walk a mile to avoid anything that might force him to think about this.

The totalitarian person is compensated for these tabus, which are imposed on precisely what constitutes the highest value of human existence, by the feeling of unity--the feeling that he belongs to an enormous aggregate of people who are organized into a single whole. The human being has an inherent, internal need for social integration, and totalitarianism's strength is that it plays on this need and satisfies it to some extent. The strength and danger of totalitarianism are that it stands for social integration, and social integration is an objective necessity.

But the totalitarian state is not the solution to the problem of social integration. It achieves wholeness by smoothing out differences among its constituent human units to the point where they lose their human essence. It cuts off people's heads and forces the stumps to be elated at the unity achieved at such a price. Totalitarianism is a tragically clumsy and unsuccessful pseudosolution: it is the abortion of social integration. By destroying the individual person it deprives itself of the source of creativity. It is doomed to rot and decay.

While individualism generates totalitarianism, totalitarianism, inversely, generates individualism. "Down with the collective!" cries the person raised in totalitarianism who has become aware of his slavery. ''Leave me alone! I don't want unity! I don't want military might! I don't want a feeling of comradeship! I want to live the way I like! I! I! I!" Fearing punishment, however, he only imagines he is shouting this; at most he whispers it. His ego, which has grown up under totalitarian conditions, is a wretched, half-strangled one. And he becomes a purposeless Philistine with the perspective of a chicken. He is not interested in anything except his own self. He does not believe in anything and therefore he subordinates himself to everything. This is no longer a totalitarian personality, it is a miserable and cowardly individualist living in a totalitarian state.

Individualism and totalitarianism are two opposites linked in a common chain. There is only one way to break this circle: to set as our task conscious social integration with preservation and development of creative personal freedom.


ATTEMPTS TO LOOK even farther, as far as imagination permits, produce more questions than answers.

How far will integration of individuals go? There is no doubt that in the future (and perhaps not too far in the future) direct exchange of information among the nervous systems of individual people (leading to their physical integration) will become possible. Obviously the integration of nervous systems must be accompanied by the creation of some higher system of control over the unified nerve network. How will it be perceived subjectively? Will the modern individual consciousness, for which the supreme system of control will be something outside and above the personal, something alien and not directly accessible, be preserved unchanged? Or will physical integration give rise to qualitatively new, higher forms of consciousness that will form a process that can be described as merging the souls of individual people into a single Supreme Soul? The second prospect is both more probable and more attractive. It also resolves the problem of the contradiction between reason and death. It is difficult to tolerate the thought that the human race will always remain an aggregate of individual, short-lived beings who die before they are able to see the realization of their plans. The integration of individuals will make a new synthetic consciousness which is, in principle. immortal just as the human race is, in principle, immortal.

But will our descendants want physical integration? What will they want in general? And what will they want to want? Already today the manipulation of human desires has become a phenomenon that cannot be discounted, and what will come in the future when the structure and functioning of the brain have been investigated in detail? Will the human race tall into the trap of the absolutely stable and, subjectively, absolutely happy society which has been described in the works of science fiction writers such as Zamyatin and Huxley?

To avoid falling into such a trap there must be guarantees that no control structure is the highest one finally and irreversibly. In other words, there must be guarantees that metasystem transitions will always be possible in relation to any system no matter how large it may be. Are such guarantees possible? Does consciousness of the necessity of the metasystem transition for development give people such guarantees? And is the very need for development, the yearning to continue development, ineradicable? We have reason to hope that it is. Having conquered the human consciousness, the idea of evolution seemingly does not want to go away. If we imagine that the human race will exist forever like a gigantic clock, unchanging and identical, with people (its machinery) being replaced as a result of the natural processes of birth and death, we become nauseous; this seems equivalent to the immediate annihilation of the human race. But will it always seem that way to our descendants? Perhaps now, when we feel that necessity of development, we should try to perpetuate this feeling? Perhaps this is our duty to the living matter which gave us birth? Suppose we have made such a decision. How can it be carried out?

Now let us pose the question of the pitfalls along the path of development in more general form. Ant society is absolutely stable. But that is not because it is poorly organized; the individuals which make it up are such that unifying them does not give rise to a new characteristic--it does not bring brains into contact (the poor things have virtually nothing with which to make contact). Is it possible for the remote descendants of the ants or other arthropods to become rational beings? Most likely it is not. It appears that the arthropods have entered an evolutionary blind alley, but perhaps we are in one too. Perhaps the human being, is unsuitable material for integration and no new forms of organization and consciousness based on it will develop. Perhaps life on Earth has followed a false course from the very beginning and the animation and spiritualization of the Cosmos are destined to be realized by some other forms of life.

Let us assume that this is not true, that nature has not committed a fatal injustice in relation to the Earth. Now, when conscious beings have appeared, what should they do to avoid wandering unknowingly into a blind alley? For such a general question a general answer may be offered: preserve, even in some miniature, compressed form, the maximum number of variations; do not irreversibly cut off any possibilities. If evolution is wandering in a labyrinth, then when we come to a point where the corridors intersect and we choose the path going to the right we must not forgot that there is also a corridor going to the left and that it will be possible to return to this place. We must mark our path with ineradicable, phosphorescent dye. This is precisely the function of the science of history. But are the linguistic traces which it leaves adequate? Perhaps a conscious parallelism is essential in solving all social problems.

We shall hope that we have not yet made an uncorrectable mistake and that people will be able to create new, fantastic (from our present point of view) forms of organization of matter, and forms of consciousness. And then the last, but also the most disturbing, question arises: can't there exist a connection between the present individual consciousness of each human personality and this future superconsciousness, a bridge built across time? In other words, isn't a resurrection of the individual personality in some form possible all the same?

Unfortunately, all we know at the present time compels us to answer in the negative. We do not see any possibility of this. Neither is there a necessity for it in the process of cosmic evolution. Like the apes from which they originated, people are not worth resurrection. All that remains after us is what we have created during the time allotted to us.

But no one can force a person to give up hope. In this case there is some reason to hope, because our last question concerns things about which we know very little. We understand some things about the chemical and physical processes related to life and we also can make our way in questions related to feelings, representations, and knowledge of reality. But the consciousness and the will are a riddle to us. We do not know the connection here between two aspects: the subjective, inner aspect and the objective, external aspect with which science deals. We do not even know how to ask the questions whose answers must be sought. Everything here is unclear and mysterious: great surprises are possible.

We have constructed a beautiful and majestic edifice of science. Its fine-laced linguistic constructions soar high into the sky. But direct your gaze to the space between the pillars, arches, and floors, beyond them, off into the void. Look more carefully, and there in the distance, in the black depth, you will see someone's green eyes staring. It is the Secret, looking at you.

[1] The figures are taken from G. N. Dobrov's book Nauka o nauke (The Science of Science), Kiev, 1966.

[2] The figures are taken from D. Price's "Little Science, Big Science,'' in the collection of artlcles Nauka o nauke (The Science of Science), Moscow. Progress Publishing House, 1966; original: Columbia University Press, 1963.

[3] Hero of the novel Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov -- trans.

[4] C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (London: Macmillan, 1959).