Saturday, 24 July 2010

Max Delbruck's opinion on the moral qualities of science

Max Delbruck - 1906-1981. Nobel Prize 1969.

Question (1971): "Does scientific research by itself foster high moral qualities in men?"

Delbruck's answer: "Scientific research by itself fosters one high moral quality: that you should be reasonably honest.

"This quality is in fact displayed to a remarkable extent.

"Although many of the things that you read in scientific journals are wrong, one does assume automatically that the author at least believed he was right." 

(Quoted p282 in Thinking about Science: Max Delbruck and the origins of molecular biology. EP Fischer &  C Lipson. 1988)

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Comment: that was written in 1971, by a man who was one of the most well-connected of twentieth century scientists, a kind of godfather to molecular biology, and a person of great personal integrity.

So Delbruck was in a position to know what he was talking about.

And, in 1971, he was able to state that scientific research by itself fosters the high moral quality that you should be reasonably honest. And that this quality is *in fact* displayed to a remarkable extent. And that when reading journals scientists could and did assume that the authors were telling the truth as they saw it.

Only 40 years ago Delbruck could state that scientists were in fact, in reality, in practice - honest...