The Impact of Auschwitz and Hiroshima on Scientific Culture

A common belief is that the impact of science on society is inherently good. In my view, the traditional discussion of this matter collapses in the light of modern cataclysms so that the question of values in social and natural science invites serious rethinking.

Science is beyond doubt the most powerful means with which to fight evil. It is certainly obvious, that science and only science produced the power to destroy humanity (and even life on Earth). It is necessary to deal with the question, whether this danger of the very survival of humanity is just a by-product or an inherent tendency of science itself. Are the cruelties against humanity such as Hiroshima and above all the Holocaust pure barbarism, or should they rather be regarded as correlates of our dealing with scientific progress and its social consequences? All philosophers in the post-war period were judged not so much by their wisdom or common sense but by their advocacy of science or distaste for it. This paper will discuss this historical change of emphasis in both research and faith in progress alongside its philosophical matters.

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