This I Believe

Hoagland, Hudson


  • Hudson Hoagland describes the importance of science and democracy and how they work together.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Doctor Hudson Hoagland is a scientist. As an experimental physiologist, executive director of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, he probes such things as our nervous systems and our endocrine glands but he’s had time for vivid reflection about the greater mysteries of life too.
I believe that basic values from our rich cultural heritage contain all the ingredients needed to solve the problems that plague our modern world. From the ancient Greeks came our belief in the importance of intellectual honesty and free inquiry. From Judaism and Christianity have come our
religion and faith in the brotherhood of man. Primarily from Rome and England, we have derived our humane legal code, which holds that a man is innocent until proved guilty and is not guilty when charged. From the Magna Carte, on through eighteenth and nineteenth century liberalism and our Bill of Rights, has come my conception of the rights of man.
The state is for man, and man must not be a pawn of the state. All of these add up to my belief in the dignity of the individual, in the dignity of yourself and myself as individuals, with freedom to choose and, if we wish, to be unorthodox in the honest choice of our opinions. What Chief Justice Holmes has referred to as “the right of dissent,” that is the right to disagree with authority, is essential for
the survival and advancement both of science and of the democratic society. Without the exercise of this right, I believe that knowledge ceases to grow and democracy is turned to tyranny.
I believe that the norms of ethics—the purposes and values by which we live—are not static but dynamic and subject to education and evolution, and that we have a moral obligation to be intelligent, as well as honest, in appraising the consequences of action and so directing our values in terms of these consequences. I believe that much that ails the world today is the result of the fact that many people everywhere have surrendered their freedom of choice in favor of the easy slogans of dictators and demagogues with their false solutions and authoritarian panaceas.
Since I have spent a quarter of a century doing research in the biological and medical sciences, it is inevitable that my beliefs should be colored by this background. Science and democracy have advanced hand-in-hand over the last three hundred years. Without the cultural climate of western democracy, science, with its wide impact on human affairs, could not, I believe, have developed. German science deteriorated under the Nazis, and the science of genetics has already been destroyed behind the iron curtain.
While I believe that science is a technique of the greatest importance for the activation of true knowledge and that truth is intrinsically good, I am fully aware of the limitations of science. The
frontiers of the unknown hem me in on all sides and I am conscious of how little I know according to the rigorous criteria of scientific validity. These limitations are especially conspicuous in the realm of values in human affairs. I believe that there are other approaches to truth. Thus, literature, history, the arts, religion, and the experiences that come from living with one’s fellows, are for different aspects of truth.
In daily affairs I must make decisions and act on evidence that is entirely inadequate for scientific conclusions. But I nonetheless believe that the more objectively reasonable are my acts, the more nearly will they serve the values I live by. Reason and the basic sciences have emancipated us from the
superstitions of the Dark Ages. I have faith that reason and loyalty to our historically tested values, derived by the struggles of free men over the centuries, can do more than anything else to resolve the tragic problems of our time. This is not an easy road, but I know of no shortcuts.
That was Doctor Hudson Hoagland, a physiologist and teacher from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, who has learned much himself about the business of living.