The truth is that man’s special gifts and achievements are inseparable from his evolutionary history. A multitude of animal species run, fly, swim and borrow around us, shaped by and locked into their environment. But, among all species, only man has achieved enough command to have largely influenced his own biological evolution.
In the past, man molded himself for the most part unconsciously. Now he is able to command at least his immediate future with a much larger understanding of the implications of what he does.
No doubt, this human evolution from the Stone Age to the present Atomic-cum-Automation Age owes its speed to the gift of technology, by which we have shaped the environment, for good or for perverse purpose. There is also no denying the fact that we, as intellectuals, innovators, inventors and discoverers have never fitted very well into any ecological niche, and instead have carved with care our own niches, with our hands and brain.
Surely, to quarrel with technology is to quarrel with the nature of man— just as if we were to find fault with his upright gait, his symbolic imagination, his faculty for speech, et al.
It would be a flat denial of entire history of human evolution to assert that cultures in which science and technology have flourished have stifled the development of more personal and sensitive expressions of human nature.
On the contrary, the works of high culture, that we admire, come from the most advanced technological societies of their day: Classical Greece, the Arab Civilization, the Italian city-States, Elizabethan and Restoration England and, of course, the contributions of ancient Indian civilization to human thought and philosophy.
The same is true of our great religions: Buddha, Confucius, Christ and Mohammed were not the desert prophets of backward peoples, but grew up in technologically and intellectually advanced civilizations.
Every civilization has been grounded on science and technology: what makes ours unique is that for the first time we believe that every man is entitled to all its benefits. The claim to an equal share in all human goods, and an equal access to nature and to knowledge, without considerations of class, caste or race, gives special quality to the technological civilization that we are trying to make.
It is, therefore, salutary to say that the ethic of science, like any decent human ethic, wholly rejects the appeal to “higher” ends. Truth and the other values reside not in the end, but in the means. Our actions are judged by the honesty of every part of them. It is not true that the end justifies the means; on the contrary, we need to say again and again that only the means can justify the end.
We have only one choice: we cannot stop now—but rather must move on to a higher level of understanding, sophistication, and sensitivity in our exploitation of science, technology and society on mankind’s behalf.