LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
To the Editors:
R. L. Kuhn, in "Science as Democratizer" (Macroscope, September–October) contends that "scientific literacy energizes democracy," and he may be right, but only to a point. In urging that a civilized society should pay more attention to "pure science," thereby clarifying the mind of the common citizen, he overstates his case. Let us subdivide "pure science" into that which could benefit mankind, "relatively pure science" (RPS), and that which cannot, "absolutely pure science" (APS). Among APS, take the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Whether there are 10 or 10 million sentient beings out there is irrelevant to my way of life. Those who are curious about such things should pay for it themselves—not out of my taxes. Surely our democracy is not necessarily affected by APS.
Ralph A. Lewin
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, California
Dr. Kuhn replies:
I agree with Dr. Lewin that "RPS," particularly telecommunications, can advance democracy. We differ in that I believe that "APS" can be even more effective in that it can bore deeper into the minds and attitudes of people, moving them toward a "way of thinking" that is, I suggest, rich psychological soil in which democracy can take root and flourish. Those who become passionately interested in, say, SETI—Lewin's example is a good one—or cosmology, or even number theory, are far more likely to appreciate the need for broad and open communications and to respect and appreciate diverse opinions.