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Cover Quote: February 1982

The activity of modern natural science has transformed our knowledge and control of the world about us; but in the process it has also transformed itself; and it has created problems which natural science alone cannot solve. Modern society depends increasingly on industrial production based on the application of scientific results; but the production of these results has itself become a large and expensive industry; and the problems of managing that industry, and of controlling the effects of its products, are urgent and difficult. All this has happened so quickly within the past generation, that the new situation, and its implications, are only imperfectly understood. It opens up new possibilities for science and for human life, but it also presents new problems and dangers. For science itself, the analogies between the industrial production of material goods and that of scientific results have their uses, and also their hazards. As a product of a socially organized activity, scientific knowledge is very different from soap; and those who plan for science will neglect that difference at their peril.…The illusion that there is a natural science standing pure and separate from all involvement with society is disappearing rapidly; but it tends to be replaced by the vulgar reduction of science to a branch of commercial or military industry. Unless science itself is to be debased and corrupted, and its results used in a headlong rush to social and ecological catastrophe, there must be a renewed understanding of the very special sort of work, so delicate and so powerful, of scientific inquiry.



- J. R. Ravetz
Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems, 1971
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