The Scientific Outlook, Part 6 – Scientific Technique and Human Reproduction

Scientific Technique and Human Reproduction

Originally posted August 3, 2008


“While it is rather rash to make detailed prophecies, it is, I think, fairly clear that in future a human body, from the moment of conception, will not be regarded merely as something which must be left to grow in accordance with natural forces, with no human interference beyond what is required for the preservation of health. The tendency of scientific technique is to cause everything to be regarded as not just a brute datum, but raw material for the carrying out of some human purpose. The child, and even the embryo, will come to be viewed more and more in this way as the mentality connected with scientific technique becomes more dominant. In this, as in all other forms of scientific power, there are possibilities of good and possibilities of evil. Science alone will not decide which is to prevail.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p172)

Breeding the Governing Class

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“Science, when it has once acquired a firm hold upon social organization, is hardly likely to stop short at those biological aspects of human life which have hitherto been left to the joint guidance of religion and instinct. We may, I think, assume that both the quantity and the quality of the population will be carefully regulated by the State, but that sexual intercourse apart from children will be regarded as a private matter so long as it is not allowed to interfere with work. As regards quantity, the State statisticians will determine as carefully as they can whether the population of the world at the moment is above or below the number which leads to the greatest material comfort per head. They will also take account of all such changes of technique as can be foreseen. No doubt the usual rule will be to aim at a stationary population, but if some important invention, such as artificial food, should greatly cheapen the production of necessaries, an increase of population might for a time be thought wise. I shall, however, assume that, in normal times, the world government will decree a stationary population.

If we were right in supposing that the scientific society will have different social grades according to the kind of work to be performed, we may assume also that it will have uses for human beings who are not of the highest grade of intelligence. It is probable that there will be certain kinds of labour mainly performed by negroes, and that manual workers in general will be bred for patience and muscle rather than for brains. The governors and experts, on the contrary, will be bred chiefly for their intellectual powers and their strength of character. Assuming that both kinds of breeding are scientifically carried out, there will come to be an increasing divergence between the two types, making them in the end almost different species.

Scientific breeding, in any truly scientific form, would at present encounter insuperable obstacles both from religion and from sentiment. To carry it out scientifically it would be necessary, as among domestic animals, to employ only a small percentage of males for purposes of breeding. It may be thought that religion and sentiment will always succeed in opposing an immovable veto to such a system. I wish I could think so. But I believe that sentiment is quite extraordinarily plastic, and that the individualistic religion to which we have been accustomed is likely to be increasingly replaced by a religion of devotion to the State. Among Russian Communists this has already happened. In any case, what is demanded is scarcely as difficult a control of natural impulses as is involved in the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood. Wherever remarkable achievements are possible and are at the same time such as to satisfy men’s moral idealism, the love of power, is capable of swallowing up the instinctive life of the affections, especially if an outlet is permitted to purely physical sexual impulses. Traditional religion, which has been violently dispossessed in Russia, will suffer a setback everywhere if the Russian experiment proves successful. In any case its outlook is difficult to reconcile with that of industrialism and scientific technique. Traditional religion was based upon a sense of man’s impotence in the face of natural forces, whereas scientific technique induces a sense of the impotence of natural forces in the face of man’s intelligence. Combined with this sense of power, a certain degree of austerity in regard to the softer pleasures is quite natural. One sees it already in many of those who are creating the mechanistic society of the future. In America this austerity has taken the form of Protestant piety, in Russia of devotion to Communism.

I think, therefore, that there is hardly any limit to the departures from traditional sentiment which science may introduce into the question of reproduction. If the simultaneous regulation of quantity and quality is taken seriously in the future, we may expect that in each generation some 25 per cent. of women and some 5 per cent. of men will be selected to be the parents of the next generation, while the remainder of the population will be sterilized, which will in no way interfere with their sexual pleasures, but will merely render these pleasures destitute of social importance. The women who are selected for breeding will have to have eight or nine children each, but will not be expected to perform any other work except the suckling of the children for a suitable number of months. No obstacles will be placed upon their relations with sterile men, or upon the relations of sterile men and women with each other, but reproduction will be regarded as a matter which concerns the State, and will not be left to the free choice of the persons concerned. Perhaps it will be found that artificial impregnation is more certain and less embarrassing, since it will obviate the need of any personal contact between the father and mother of the prospective child. Sentiments of personal affection may still be connected with intercourse not intended to be fruitful, while impregnation will be regarded in an entirely different manner, more in the light of a surgical operation, so that it will be thought not ladylike to have it performed in the natural manner. The qualities for which parents will be chosen will differ greatly according to the status which it is hoped the child will occupy. In the governing class a considerable degree of intelligence will be demanded of parents; perfect health will, of course, be indispensable. So long as gestation is allowed to persist to its natural period, mothers will also have to be selected by their capacity for easy delivery, and will therefore have to be free from an unduly narrow pelvis. It is probable, however, that as time goes on the period of gestation will be shortened, and that later months of foetal development will take place in an incubator. This would also free mothers from the need of suckling their children, and would thus make maternity a not very onerous matter. The care of infants intended to belong to the governing class would seldom be left to the mothers. Mothers would be selected by their eugenic qualities, and these would not necessarily be the qualities required in a nurse. On the other hand, the early months of pregnancy might be more burdensome than at present, since the foetus would be subjected to various kinds of scientific treatment intended to affect beneficially not only its own characteristics but those of its possible descendants.

Fathers would, of course, have nothing to do with their own children. There would be in general only one father to every five mothers, and it is quite likely that he would never have even seen the mothers of his children. The sentiment of paternity would thus disappear completely. Probably in time the same thing would happen, though to a slightly less degree, in regard to mothers. If birth were prematurely induced, and the child separated from its mother at birth, maternal sentiment would have little chance to develop.” – 251

Breeding the Working Class

“Among the workers it is probable that less elaborate care would be taken, since it is easier to breed for muscle than to breed for brains, and it is not unlikely that women would be allowed to bring up their own children in the old-fashioned natural manner. There would not be, among the workers, the same need as among the governors for fanatical devotion to the State, and there would not be, therefore, on the part of the government, the same jealousy of the private affections. Among the governors, one must suppose, all private sentiments would be viewed with suspicion. A man and woman who showed any ardent devotion to each other would be regarded as they are at present regarded by moralists when they are not married. There would be professional nurses in crèches, and professional teachers in nursery schools, but they would be considered to be failing in their duty if they felt any special affection for special children. Children who showed any special affection for a particular adult would be separated form that adult. Ideas of this kind are already widespread; they will be found suggested, for example, in Dr. John B. Watson’s book on education. The tendency of the scientific manipulator is to regard all private affections as unfortunate. Freudians have shown us that they are the sources of complexes. Administrators realize that they stand in the way of a wholehearted devotion to business. The Church sanctioned certain kinds of love while condemning others, but the modern ascetic is more thoroughgoing, and condemns all kinds of love equally as mere folly and waste of time.” – 255

The Psychological Makeup

“What should we expect of the mental make-up of people in such a world? The manual workers may, I think, be fairly happy. One may assume that the rulers will be successful in making the manual workers foolish and frivolous; work will not be too severe, and there will be endless amusements of a trivial sort. Owing to sterilization, love affairs need not have awkward consequences so long as they are not between a man and woman who are both of them unsterilized. In this way a life of easygoing and frivolous pleasure may be provided for the manual workers, combined of course with a superstitious reverence for the governors instilled in childhood and prolonged by the propaganda to which adults will be exposed.

The psychology of the governors will be a more difficult matter. They will be expected to display an arduous and hard-working devotion to the ideal of the scientific State, and to sacrifice to this ideal all the softer sentiments such as love of wife and children. Friendships between fellow-workers, whether of the same or of different sexes, will tend to become ardent, and will not infrequently overstep the limits which the public moralists will have fixed. In such a case the authorities will separate the friends, unless in doing so they will interrupt some important research or administrative undertaking. When for some such public reason friends are not separated, they will be admonished. By means of governmental microphones the censors will listen-in to their conversations, and if these should at any time become tinged with sentiment, disciplinary measures will be adopted. All the deeper feelings will be frustrated, with the sole exception of devotion to science and the State.

The governors will, of course, have their amusements for leisure hours. I do not see how art or literature could flourish in such a world, nor do I think that the emotions from which they spring and to which they appeal would meet with governmental approval, but athletics of a strenuous kind will be encouraged among the young of the governing class, and dangerous sports will be considered valuable as a training in those habits of mind and body by which authority over the manual workers will be maintained. Love-making among the sterilized will be subjected to no restrictions either of law or of public opinion, but it will be casual and temporary, involving none of the deeper feelings and no serious affection. Persons suffering from unendurable boredom will be encouraged to ascend Mount Everest or fly over the South Pole, but the need for such distractions will be regarded as a sign of mental or physical ill-health.

In such a world, though there may be pleasure, there will be no joy. The result will be a type displaying the usual characteristics of vigorous ascetics. They will be harsh and unbending, tending towards cruelty in their ideals and their readiness to consider that the infliction of pain is necessary for he public good. I do not imagine that pain

will be much inflicted as punishment for sin, since no sin will be recognized except insubordination and failure to carry out the purposes of the State. It is more probable that the sadistic impulses which the asceticism will generate will find their outlet in scientific experiment. The advancement of knowledge will be held to justify much torture of individuals by surgeons, biochemists, and experimental psychologist. As time goes on the amount of added knowledge required to justify a given amount of pain will diminish, and the number of governors attracted to the kinds of research necessitating cruel experiments will increase. Just as the sun worship of the Aztecs demanded the painful death of thousands of human beings annually, so the new scientific religion will demand its holocausts of sacred victims. Gradually the world will grow more dark and more terrible. Strange perversions of instinct will first lurk in the dark corners and then gradually overwhelm the men in high places. Sadistic pleasures will not suffer the moral condemnation that will be meted out to the softer joys, since, like the persecutions of the Inquisition, they will be found in harmony with the prevailing asceticism. In the end such a system must break down either in an orgy of bloodshed or in the rediscovery of joy.

Such at least is the only ray of hope to lighten the darkness of these visions of Cassandra, but perhaps in permitting this ray of hope we have allowed ourselves to yield to a foolish optimism. Perhaps by means of injections and drugs and chemicals the population could be induced to bear whatever its scientific masters may decide to be for its good. New forms of drunkenness involving no subsequent headache may be discovered, and new forms of intoxication may be invented so delicious that for their sakes these are possibilities in a world governed by knowledge without love, and power without delight. The man drunk with power is destitute of wisdom, and so long as he rules the world, the world will be a place devoid of beauty and of joy.” – 256

Scientific Technique and the Abolition of the Family

“Take again such a matter as housing. In England individualism leads most families to prefer a small house of their own rather than an apartment in a large house. The result is that the suburbs of London are spread out through mile after mile of dreariness, to the immense detriment of the women and children. Each housewife cooks an abominable dinner at great expenditure of labour for an infuriated husband. The children, when they come home from school, or while they are too young to go to school, find themselves cooped up in small stuffy premises where either they are a nuisance to their parents or their parents are a nuisance to them. In a more sensible community, each family would occupy a part of an immense building with a courtyard in the middle; there would be no individual cooking, but only communal meals. Children, as soon as they were no longer at the breast, would spend their day in large airy halls under the care of women possessing the knowledge, the training, and the temperament required for making young children happy. The wives, who at present drudge all day doing wasteful work badly, would be set free to earn their living outside the home. The benefit of such a system to the mothers, and still more to the children, would be incalculable. At the Rachel Macmillan nursery school it was found that about 90 per cent. of the children had rickets when they first came, and almost all were cured at the end of the first year in the school. In the ordinary home the necessary modicum of light and air and good food cannot be provided, whereas all these things can be provided quite cheaply if they are provided for many children at once. The freedom to cause one’s children to grow up stunted and crippled on the ground that one is too fond of them to part with them is a freedom which is certainly not in the public interest.” – 219

This very same idea was put into action by Mao Zedong and the Communist Chinese during their “Great Leap Forward”. This was another step towards creating a truly global scientific society. The below quote is from historian Carroll Quigley in his 1966 book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time [2]:

“The third stage of agrarian reform, constituting the basic feature of the “Great Leap Forward,” merged the 750 thousand collective farms into about 26,000 agrarian communes of about 5,000 families each. This was a social rather than simply an agrarian revolution, since its aims included the destruction of the family household and the peasant village. All activities of the members, including child rearing, education, entertainment, social life, the militia, and all economic and intellectual life came under the control of the commune. In some areas the previous villages were destroyed and the peasants were housed in dormitories, with communal kitchens and mess halls, nurseries for the children, and separation of these children under the communes’ control in isolation from their parents at an early age. One purpose of this drastic change was to release large numbers of women from domestic activities so that they could labor in fields or factories. In the first year of the “Great Leap Forward,” 90 million peasant women were relieved of their domestic duties and became available to work for the state. In many cases, factories and craft centers were established in the communes to use this labor, manufacturing goods not only for the commune but for sale in the outside market.

One of the chief aims of this total reorganization of rural life was to make available, for savings and investment, surpluses of agricultural income from the rural sector of Chinese society in order to build up the industrial sector. The regime estimated that it could reverse the pervious division of agricultural incomes, under which 70 percent was consumed by the agricultural population and only 30 percent was available to the nonagricultural sectors of Chinese society. At the same time, it was expected that the communes would totally shatter the resistant social structure of Chinese society, leaving isolated individuals to face the power of the state. Finally, it was expected that these isolated individuals could be mobilized along military lines to carry out agricultural duties in squads and platoons assigned to specific fields and tasks.” – 1159

The Scientific Outlook, Part 5 – Behaviorism, Psycho-Analysis and Physiological Manipulation in Education

Behaviorism, Psycho-Analysis and
Physiological Manipulation in Education

Originally posted July 27, 2008


“Education in a scientific society may, I think, be best conceived after the analogy of the education provided by the Jesuits. The Jesuits provided one sort of education for the boys who were to become ordinary men of the world, and another for those who were to become members of the Society of Jesus. In like manner, the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play.”

– Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p243)

Behaviourism and Psycho-Analysis

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“As a technique for acquiring power, behaviourism is, I think, superior to psychoanalysis: it embodies the methods which have always been adopted by those who train animals or drill soldiers; it utilizes the force of habit, the strength of which has always been recognized; and, as we saw when we were considering Pavlov, it makes it possible both to cause and to cure neurasthenia and hysteria. The conflicts which appear in psycho-analysis as emotional re-appear in behaviourism as conflicts between habits, or between a habit and a reflex. If a child were severely beaten every time it sneezed, it is probable that a phantasy world would in time build itself up in his mind around the conception of sneezing; he would dream of Heaven as a place where the spirits of the blest sneeze unceasingly, or on the contrary he might think of Hell as a place of punishment for those who live in open sternutation. In this sort of way the problems brought to the fore by psycho-analysis can, I think, be dealt with on behaviourist lines. At the same time it should be admitted that these problems, whose importance is very great, would probably not have come to the fore but for the psycho-analytic approach. For the practical purposes of educational technique, I think it will be found that the educator should behave as a psycho-analyst when he is concerned with matters touching powerful instincts, but as a behaviourist in matters which a child views as emotionally unimportant. For example, affection for parents should be viewed in the psycho-analytic manner, but brushing teeth in the behaviourist manner.” – 182

“The most important applications of psycho-analytic theory are to education. These applications are as yet in an experimental stage, and owing to the hostility of the authorities they can only be made on a very small scale. It is, however, already evident that moral and emotional education has hitherto been conducted on wrong lines, and has produced maladjustments which have been sources of cruelty, timidity, stupidity, and other unfortunate mental characteristics. I think it possible that psycho-analytic theory may be absorbed into something more scientific, but I do not doubt that something of what psycho-analysis has to suggest in regard to education will be found permanently valid and of immense importance.” – 181

Physiological Manipulation

“So far, no experiments have been made to test the effect of X-rays on the human embryo. I imagine that such experiments would be illegal, in common with many others that might make valuable additions to our knowledge. Sooner or later, however, probably in Russia, such experiments will be made. If science continues to advance as fast as it has done recently, we may hope, before the end of the present century, to discover ways of beneficially influencing the human embryo, not only as regards those acquired characters which cannot be inherited because they do not affect the chromosomes, but also as regards the chromosomes themselves. It is likely that this result will only be achieved after a number of unsuccessful experiments leading to the birth of idiots and monstrosities. But would this be too high a price to pay for the discovery of a method by which, within one generation, the whole human race could be rendered intelligent?

Perhaps by a suitable choice of chemicals to be injected into the uterus it may become possible to turn a child into a mathematician, a poet, a biologist, or even a politician, and to ensure that all his posterity shall do likewise unless prevented by counter-irritant chemicals.” – 172

“So far we have been considering those ways of influencing the mental life which proceed by mental means as in psycho-analysis, or by means of the conditioned reflex as in behaviourism. There are, however, other methods which may in time prove of immense importance. These are the methods which operate through physiological means, such as the administering of drugs. The curing of cretinism by means of iodine is so far the most remarkable of these methods. In Switzerland all salt for human consumption is obliged by law to be iodized, and this measure has been found adequate as a preventive of cretinism. The work of Cannon and others concerning the influence of the ductless glands upon the emotions has become widely known, and it is clear that by administering artificially the substances which the ductless glands provide, a profound effect can be produced upon temperament and character. The effects of alcohol, opium, and various other drugs have long been familiar, but these effects are on the balance harmful unless the drug is taken with unusual moderation. There is, however, no a priori reason why drugs should not be discovered which have a wholly beneficial effect. I have never myself observed any but good effects to flow from the drinking of tea, at any rate if it is China tea. It is possible also that psychological marvels may become possible through pre-natal treatment. One of the most eminent philosophers of our day regards his superiority to his brothers, perhaps humorously, as due to the fact that shortly before his birth his mother was in a carriage which rolled down the Simplon in an accident. I do not suggest that this method should be adopted in the hope of turning us all into philosophers, but perhaps in time we shall discover some more peaceable means of endowing the foetus with intelligence. Education used to begin at eight years old with the learning of the Latin declensions; now, under the influence of psycho-analysis, it begins at birth. It is to be expected that with the advance of experimental embryology the important part of education will be found to be pre-natal. This is already the case with fishes and newts, but in regard to them the scientist is not hampered by education authorities.

The power of psychological technique to mould the mentality of the individual is still in its infancy, and is not yet fully realized. There can, I think, be little doubt that it will increase enormously in the near future. Science has given us, in succession, power over inanimate nature, power over plants and animals, and finally power over human beings. Each power involves its own kinds of dangers, and perhaps the dangers involved in power over human beings are the greatest, but that is a matter that we will consider at a later stage.” – 183

“Whether men will be happy in the Paradise I do not know. Perhaps biochemistry will show us how to make any man happy, provided he has the necessaries of life; perhaps dangerous sports will be organized for those whom boredom would otherwise turn into anarchists; perhaps sport will take over the cruelty which will have been banished from politics; perhaps football will be replaced by play battles in the air in which death will be the penalty of defeat, they will not mind having to seek it in a trivial cause: to fall through the air before a million spectators may come to be thought a glorious death even if it may be that in some such way a safety valve can be provided for the anarchic and violent forces in human nature; or again, it may be that by wise education and suitable diet men may be cured of all their unruly impulses, and all life may become as quiet as a Sunday school.” 214

Bertrand Russell would later write in a similar book entitled The Impact of Science on Society (1952) [2] that:

“It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” – 61

The Scientific Outlook, Part 4 – Propaganda: From the Class Room to Hollywood

Propaganda: From the Class Room to Hollywood

Originally Posted July 20, 2008

“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study… This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of

modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called ‘education’. Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the Press, the cinema and the radio play an increasing part.” – Bertrand Russell, 1952 (p40)

Mass Psychology

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“There is, however, a large amount of genuine experimental science in social affairs. Perhaps the most important set of experiments in this realm is that which we owe to advertisers. This material, valuable as it is, has not been utilized by experimental psychologists, because it belongs to a region remote from the Universities, and they would feel themselves vulgarized by contact with anything so gross. But anybody who is in earnest in studying the psychology of belief cannot do better than consult the great advertising firms. No test of belief is so searching as the financial one. When a man is willing to back his belief by spending money in accordance with it, his belief must be regarded as genuine. Now this is precisely the test which the advertiser is perpetually applying. Various people’s soaps are recommended in various ways; some of these ways produce the desired result, others do not, or at any rate not to the same degree. Clearly the advertisement which causes a man’s soap to be bought is more effective in creating belief than the one which does not. I do not think any experienced advertiser would suggest that the merits of the respective soaps had any share whatever in bringing about the result. Very large sums of money are paid to the men who invent good advertisements, and rightly so, for the power to cause large numbers of people to believe what you assert is a very valuable power. Consider its importance, for example, to the founders of religions. In the past they often had to adopt the most painful forms of publicity. How much pleasanter their lives would have been if they could have gone to an agent who would have purchased the respect of their disciples in return for a percentage on the ecclesiastical revenues!

From the technique of advertising it seems to follow that in the great majority of mankind any proposition will win acceptance if it is reiterated in such a way as to remain in the memory. Most of the things that we believe we believe because we have heard them affirmed; we do not remember where or why they were affirmed, and we are therefore unable to be critical even when the affirmation was made by a man whose income would be increased by its acceptance and was not backed by any evidence whatever. Advertisements tend, therefore, as the technique becomes perfected, to be less and less argumentative, and more and more merely striking. So long as an impression is made, the desired result is achieved.

Considered scientifically, advertisements have another great merit, which is that their effects, so far as is known through the receipts of the advertisers, are mass effects, not effects upon individuals, so that the data acquired are data as to mass psychology. For the purposes of studying society rather than individuals, advertisements are therefore invaluable. Unfortunately their purpose is practical rather than scientific. For scientific purposes I suggest the following experiment. Let two soaps, A and B, be manufactured, of which A is excellent and B abominable; let A be advertised by stating its chemical composition and by testimonials from eminent chemists; let B be advertised by the bare statement that it is the best, accompanied by the portraits of famous Hollywood beauties. If man is a rational animal, more of A will be sold than of B. Does anyone, in fact, believe that this would be the result?

The advantages of advertisement have come to be realized pretty fully by politicians, but are only beginning to be realized by the Churches; when the Churches become more fully alive to its advantages as compared with the traditional religious technique (which dates from before the invention of printing), we may hope for a great revival of faith. On the whole, the Soviet Government and the Communist religion are those which hitherto have best understood the use of advertisement. They are, it is true, somewhat hampered by the fact that most Russians cannot read; this obstacle, however, they are doing their best to remove.” – 187

Education as Propaganda

“This consideration brings us naturally to the subject of education, which is the second great method of public propaganda. Education has two very different purposes; on the one hand it aims at developing the individual and giving him knowledge which will be useful to him; on the other hand it aims at producing citizens who will be convenient for the State or the Church which is educating them. Up to a point these two purposes coincide in practice: it is convenient to the State that citizens should be able to read, and that they should possess some technical skill in virtue of which they are able to do productive work; it is convenient that they should possess sufficient moral character to abstain from unsuccessful crime, and sufficient intelligence to be able to direct their own lives. But when we pass beyond these elementary requirements, the interests of the individual may often conflict with those of the State or the Church. This is especially the case in regard to credulity. To those who control publicity, credulity is an advantage, while to the individual a power of critical judgment is likely to be beneficial; consequently the State does not aim at producing a scientific habit of mind, except in a small minority of experts, who are well paid, and therefore, as a rule, supporters of the status quo. Among those who are not well paid credulity is more advantageous to the State; consequently children in school are taught what they are told and are punished if they express disbelief. In this way a conditioned reflex is established, leading to a belief in anything said authoritatively by elderly persons of importance. You and I, reader, owe out immunity from spoliation to this beneficent precaution on the part of our respective Governments.

One of the purposes of the State in education is certainly, on the whole, beneficent. The purpose in question is that of producing social coherence. In mediaeval Europe, as in modern China, the lack of social coherence proved disastrous. It is difficult for large masses of men to co-operate as much as is necessary for their own welfare. The tendency to anarchy and civil war is always one to be guarded against, except on those rare occasions when some great principle is at stake which is of sufficient importance to make civil war worth while. For this reason that part of education which aims at producing loyalty to the State is to be praised in so far as it is directed against internal anarchy. But in so far as it is directed to the perpetuation of international anarchy, it is bad. On the whole, at present in education, the form of loyalty to the State which is most emphasized is hostility to its enemies.” -190

Uniformity of Opinion – The Press

Modern inventions and modern technique have had a powerful influence in promoting uniformity of opinion and making men less individual than they used to be. […] But in the modern world there are three great sources of uniformity in addition to education: these are the Press, the cinema, and the radio.

The Press has become an agent of uniformity as a result of technical and financial causes: the larger the circulation of a newspaper, the higher the rate it can charge for its advertisements and the lower the cost of printing per copy. A foreign correspondent costs just as much whether his newspaper has a large or a small circulation; therefore his relative cost is diminished by every increase in circulation. A newspaper with a large circulation can hire the most expensive legal talent to defend it against libel suits, and can often conceal from all but serious students its misstatements of facts. For all these reasons, of which advertisements are the chief, big newspapers tend to please small sets of cranks or high-brows, and there are journals devoted to special interests, such as yachting or fly-fishing, but the immense majority of newspaper readers confine themselves either, as in England, to a small number of newspapers, or, as in America, to a small number of syndicated groups of newspapers. The difference between England and America in this respect is, of course, due to size. In England, if Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook desire anything to be known, it will be known; if they desire it to be unknown, it will be unknown except to a few pertinacious busybodies. Although there are rival groups in the newspaper world, there are, of course, many matters as to which the rival groups are agreed. In a suburban train in the morning, one man may be reading the Daily Mail and another the Daily Express, but if by some miracle they should fall into conversation they would not find much divergence in the opinions they had imbibed or in the facts of which they had been informed. Thus for reasons which are ultimately technical and scientific, the newspapers have become an influence tending to uniformity and increasing the rarity of unusual opinions.” – 191

Uniformity of Opinion – The Radio

“Another modern invention tending towards uniformity is the radio. This, of course, is more the case in England, where it is a Government monopoly, than in America, where it is free. During the General Strike in 1926 it afforded practically the only method of disseminating news. This method was utilized by the Government to state its own case and conceal that of the strikers. I was myself at the time in a remote village, almost the furthest from London, I believe, of any village in England. All the villagers, including myself, assembled in the Post Office every evening to hear the news. A pompous voice would announce: “It is the Home Secretary who has come to make a statement.” I regret to say that the villagers all laughed, but if they had been less remote they would probably have been more respectful. In America, where the Government has not interfered with broadcasting, one must expect, if the same policy continues, that there will be a gradual growth of big interests analogous to the big newspapers, and that these will cover as large a proportion of the ground as does the syndicated Press.” – 193

Uniformity of Opinion – The Cinema

But perhaps the most important of all the modern agents of propaganda is the cinema. Where the cinema is concerned, the technical reasons for large-scale organizations leading to almost world-wide uniformity are over-whelming. The costs of a good production are colossal, but are no less if it is exhibited seldom than if it is exhibited often and everywhere. The Germans and the Russians have their own productions, and those of the Russians are, of course, an important part of the Soviet Government’s propaganda. In the rest of the civilized world the products of Hollywood preponderate. The great majority of young people in almost all civilized countries derive their ideas of love, of honour, of the way to make money, and of the importance of good clothes, from the evenings spent in seeing what Hollywood thinks good for them. I doubt whether all the schools and churches combined have as much influence as the cinema upon the opinions of the young in regard to such intimate matters as love and marriage and money-making. The producers of Hollywood are the high-priests of a new religion. Let us be thankful for the lofty purity of their sentiments. We learn from them that sin is always punished, and virtue is always rewarded. True, the reward is rather gross, and such as a more old-fashioned virtue might not wholly appreciate. But what of that? We know from the cinema that wealth comes to the virtuous, and from real life that old So-and-so has wealth. It follows that old So-and-so is virtuous, and that the people who say he exploits his employees are slanderers and trouble-makers. The cinema therefore plays a useful part in safeguarding the rich from the envy of the poor.

It is undoubtedly an important fact in the modern world that almost all the pleasures of the poor can only be provided by men possessed of vast capital or by Governments. The reasons for this, as we have seen, are technical, but the result is that any defects in the status quo become known only to those who are willing to spend their leisure time otherwise than in amusement; these are, of course, a small minority, and from a political point of view they are at most times negligible. There is, however, a certain instability about the whole system. In the event of unsuccessful war it might break down, and the population, which had grown accustomed to amusements, might be driven by boredom into serious thought. The Russians, when deprived of vodka by war-time prohibition, made the Russian Revolution. What would Western Europeans do if deprived of their nightly drug from Hollywood? The moral of this for Western European Governments is that they must keep on good terms with America. In the American imperialism of the future it may turn out that the producers of cinemas have been the pioneers.” – 194

The Scientific Outlook, Part 3 – Scientific Technique and Education

Scientific Technique and Education

Originally Posted July 13, 2008

“Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen…” – Bertrand Russell, 1952 (p41)

Education for the Working Class

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“Education has two purposes: on the one hand to form the mind, on the other hand to train the citizen. […]

Education in a scientific society may, I think, be best conceived after the analogy of the education provided by the Jesuits. The Jesuits provided one sort of education for the boys who were to become ordinary men of the world, and another for those who were to become members of the Society of Jesus. In like manner, the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play. Children will be educated from their earliest years in the manner which is found least likely to produce complexes. Almost all will be normal, happy, healthy boys or girls.

Their diet will not be left to the caprices of parents, but will be such as the best biochemists recommend. They will spend much time in the open air, and will be given no more book-learning than is absolutely necessary. Upon the temperament so formed, docility will be imposed by the methods of the drill-sergeant, or perhaps by the softer methods employed upon Boy Scouts. All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called “co-operative,” i.e., to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them. Their education thought will be in great part manual, and when their school years come to an end they will be taught a trade. In deciding what trade they are to adopt, experts will appraise their aptitudes. Formal lessons, in so far as they exist, will be conducted by means of the cinema or the radio, so that one teacher can give simultaneous lessons in all the classes throughout a whole country. The giving of these lessons will, of course, be recognized as a highly skilled undertaking, reserved for the members of the governing class. All that will be required locally to replace the present-day school-teacher will be a lady to keep order, though it is hoped that the children will be so well-behaved that they will seldom require this estimable person’s services.” – 243

As for the manual workers, they will be discouraged from serious thought: they will be made as comfortable as possible, and their hours of work will be much shorter than they are at present; they will have no fear of destitution or of misfortune to their children.

As soon as working hours are over, amusements will be provided, or a sort calculated to cause wholesome mirth, and to prevent any thoughts of discontent which otherwise might cloud their happiness.

On those rare occasions when a boy or girl who has passed the age at which it is usual to determine social status shows such marked ability as to seem the intellectual equal of the rulers, a difficult situation will arise, requiring serious consideration. If the youth is content to abandon his previous associates and to throw in his lot whole-heartedly with the rulers, he may, after suitable tests, be promoted, but if he shows any regrettable solidarity with his previous associates, the rulers will reluctantly conclude that there is nothing to be done with him except to send him to the lethal chamber before his ill-disciplined intelligence has had time to spread revolt. This will be a painful duty to the rulers, but I think they will not shrink from performing it.” – 248

Education for the Governing Class

“Those children, on the other hand, who are destined to become members of the governing class will have a very different education. They will be selected, some before birth, some during the first three years of life, and a few between the ages of three and six. All the best-known science will be applied to the simultaneous development of intelligence and will-power.

Eugenics, chemical and thermal treatment of the embryo, and diet in early years will be used with a view to the production of the highest possible ultimate ability. The scientific outlook will be instilled from the moment that a child can talk, and throughout the early impressionable years the child will be carefully guarded from contact with the ignorant and unscientific. From infancy up to twenty-one, scientific knowledge will be poured into him, and at any rate from the age of twelve upwards he will specialize in those sciences for which he shows the most aptitude. At the same time he will be taught physical toughness; he will be encouraged to roll naked in the snow, to fast occasionally for twenty-four, to run many miles on hot days, to be bold in all physical adventures and uncomplaining when he suffers physical pain. From the age of twelve upwards he will be taught to organize children slightly younger than himself, and will suffer severe censure if groups of such children fail to follow his lead. A sense of his high destiny will be constantly set before him, and loyalty towards his order will be so axiomatic that it will never occur to him to question it. Every youth will thus be subjected to a threefold training: in intelligence, in self-command, and in command over others. If he should fail in any one of these three, he will suffer the terrible penalty of degradation to the ranks of common workers, and will be condemned for the rest of his life to associate with men and women vastly inferior to himself in education and probably in intelligence. The spur of this fear will suffice to produce industry in all but a very small minority of boys and girls of the governing class.

Except for the one matter of loyalty to the world State and to their own order, members of the governing class will be encouraged to be adventurous and full of initiative. It will be recognized that it is their business to improve scientific technique, and to keep the manual workers contented by means of continual new amusements. As those upon whom all progress depends, they must not be unduly tame, nor so drilled as to be incapable of new ideas. Unlike the children destined to be manual workers, they will have personal contact with their teacher, and will be encouraged to argue with him. It will be his business to prove himself in the right if he can, and, if not, to acknowledge his error gracefully. There will, however, be limits to intellectual freedom, even among the children of the governing class. They will not be allowed to question the value of science, or the division of the population into manual workers and experts. They will not be allowed to coquette with the idea that perhaps poetry is as valuable as machinery, or love as good a thing as scientific research. If such ideas do occur to any venturesome spirit, they will be received in a pained silence, and there will be a pretence that they have not been heard.

A profound sense of public duty will be instilled into boys and girls of the governing class as soon as they are able to understand such an idea. They will be taught to feel that mankind depends upon them, and that they owe benevolent service especially to the less fortunate classes beneath them. But let it not be supposed that they will be prigs – far from it. They will turn off with a deprecating laugh any too portentous remark that puts into explicit words what they will all believe in their hearts. Their manners will be easy and pleasant, and their sense of humour unfailing.” – 244 “Education used to begin at eight years old with the learning of the Latin declensions; now, under the influence of psycho-analysis, it begins at birth. It is to be expected that with the advance of experimental embryology the important part of education will be found to be pre-natal. This is already the case with fishes and newts, but in regard to them the scientist is not hampered by education authorities.” – 185

“In normal cases, children of sufficiently excellent heredity will be admitted to the governing class from the moment of conception. I start with this moment rather than with birth, since it is from this moment and not merely from the moment of birth that the treatment of the two classes will be different. If, however, by the time the child reaches the age of three, it is fairly clear that he does not attain the required standard, he will be degraded at that point. I assume that by that time it will be possible to judge of the intelligence of a child of three with a fair measure of accuracy. Cases in which there is doubt, which should, however, be few, will be subjected to careful observation up to the age of six, at which moment one supposes the official decision will be possible except in a few rare instances. Conversely, children born of manual workers may be promoted at any moment between the age of three and six, but only in quite rare instances at later ages. I think it maybe assumed, however, that there would be a very strong tendency for the governing class to become hereditary, and that after a few generations not many children would be moved from either class into the other. This is especially likely to be the case if embryological methods of improving the breed are applied to the governing class, but not to the others. In this way the gulf between the two classes as regards native intelligence may become continually wider and wider. This will not lead to the abolition of the less intelligent class, since the rulers will not wish to undertake uninteresting manual work, or to be deprived of the opportunity for exercising benevolence and public spirit which they derive from the management of the manual workers.” – 249

Education for the Priestly Class

“The latest stage in the education of the most intellectual of the governing class will consist of training for research. Research will be highly organized, and young people will not be allowed to choose what particular piece of research they shall do. They will, of course, be directed to research in those subjects for which they have shown special ability. A great deal of scientific knowledge will be concealed from all but a few. There will be arcane reserved for a priestly class of researchers, who will be carefully selected for their combination of brains with loyalty. One may, I think, expect that research will be much more technical than fundamental. The men at the head of any department of research will be elderly, and content to think that the fundamentals of their subject are sufficiently known. Discoveries which upset the official view of fundamentals, if they are made by young men, will incur disfavour, and if rashly published will lead to degradation. Young men to whom any fundamental innovation occurs will make cautious attempts to persuade their professors to view the new ideas with favour, but if these attempts fail they will conceal their new ideas until they themselves have acquired positions of authority, by which time they will probably have forgotten them. The atmosphere of authority and organization will be extremely favourable to technical research, but somewhat inimical to such subversive innovations as have been seen, for example, in physics during the present century. There will be, of course, an official metaphysic, which will be regarded as intellectually unimportant but politically sacrosanct. In the long run, the rate of scientific progress will diminish, and discovery will be killed by respect for authority.” – 247

The Scientific Outlook, Part 2 – The Rule of the Scientific Expert

The Rule of the Scientific Expert
originally posted:
July 7, 2008


“Equality, like liberty, is difficult to reconcile with scientific technique, since this involves a great apparatus of experts and officials inspiring and controlling vast organizations. Democratic forms may be preserved in politics, but they will not have as much reality as in a community of small peasant proprietors. Officials unavoidably have power. And where many vital questions are so technical that the ordinary man cannot hope to understand them, experts must inevitably acquire a considerable measure of control.”

– Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p224)

The Expert Manipulator

From The Scientific Outlook: [Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“When I speak of scientific government I ought, perhaps, to explain what I mean by the term. I do not mean simply a government composed of men of science. […] I should define a government as in a greater or less degree scientific in proportion as it can produce intended results: the greater the number of results that it can both intend and produce, the more scientific it is. […]

Owing to the increase of knowledge, it is possible for governments nowadays to achieve many more intended results than were possible in former times, and it is likely that before very long results which even now are impossible will become possible. […] Eugenics, except in the form of sterilization of the feeble-minded, is not yet practical politics, but may become so within the next fifty years. As we have already seen, it may be superseded, when embryology is more advanced, by direct methods of operating upon the foetus.

All these are things which, as soon as they become clearly feasible, will make a great appeal to energetic and practical idealists. Most idealists are a mixture of two types, which we may call respectively the dreamer and the manipulator. The pure dreamer is a lunatic, the pure manipulator is a man who cares only for personal power, but the idealist lives in an intermediate position between these two extremes. Sometimes the dreamer preponderates, sometimes the manipulator. William Morris found pleasure in dreaming of “News from Nowhere”; Lenin found no satisfaction until he could clothe his ideas in a garment of reality. Both types of idealist desire a world different from that in which they find themselves, but the manipulator feels strong enough to create it, while the dreamer, feeling baffled, takes refuge in fantasy.

It is the manipulative type of idealist who will create the scientific society. Of such men, in our own day, Lenin is the archetype.

The manipulator idealist differs from the man of merely personal ambition by the fact that he desires not only certain things for himself, but a certain kind of society. Cromwell would not have been content to have been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in succession to Strafford, or Archbishop of Canterbury in succession to Laud. It was essential to his happiness that England should be a certain sort of country, not merely that he should be prominent in it. It is this element of impersonal desire which distinguishes the idealist from other men. For men of this type there has been in Russia since the Revolution more scope than in any other country at any other time, and the more scientific technique is perfected the more scope there will be for them everywhere. I fully expect, therefore, that men of this sort will have a predominant part to play in molding the world during the next two hundred years.

The attitude of what may be called practical idealists among men of science at the present day towards problems of government is very clearly set forth in a leading article in Nature (September 6, 1930), from which the following are extracts: “[…] In the modern world the dangers arising from mistakes caused by prejudice and neglect of impartial or scientific inquiry are infinitely more serious. In an age when nearly all the problems of [governmental and industrial] administration and development involve scientific factors, civilization cannot afford to leave administrative control in the hands of those who have no first-hand knowledge of science. …

Under modern conditions, therefore, more is required of scientific workers than the mere enlargement of the bounds of knowledge. They can no longer be content to allow others to take the results of their discoveries and use them unguided. Scientific workers must accept responsibility for the control of the forces which have been released by their work. Without their help, efficient administration and a high degree of statesmanship are virtually impossible.

The practical problem of establishing a right relationship between science and politics, between knowledge and power, or more precisely between the scientific worker and the control and administration of the life of the community, is one of the most difficult confronting democracy. The community is, however, entitled to expect from members of the British Association some consideration of such a problem and some guidance as to the means by which science can assume its place of leadership. …

It is significant that, in contrast to the relative impotence of scientific workers in national affairs, in the international sphere advisory committees of experts have since the War exerted a remarkable and effective influence even when devoid of all legislative authority. To committees of experts organized by the League of Nations, and exercising advisory functions only, is due the credit of the schemes which were successful in rescuing a European State from bankruptcy and chaos, and in handling an unemployment scheme which settled a million and a half refugees, following upon the greatest migration in history. These examples sufficiently demonstrate that, given the requisite stimulus and enthusiasm, the scientific expert can already exert an effective influence when normal administrative effort has failed, and when indeed, as in the case of Austria, the problem had been dismissed by statesmen as hopeless.

In truth, scientific workers occupy a privileged position in society as well as industry, and there are welcome signs that this is now recognized by scientific workers themselves. Thus, in his presidential address to the Chemical Society (at Leeds) last year, Professor Jocelyn Thorpe suggested that the age is at hand in which the changing majorities of governments will no longer be able to determine major policies, except in directions approved by organized industry, and, in advocating the closer organization of science and industry, stressed the political strength to be obtained thereby. […]

Whatever inspiration or encouragement the meetings of the British Association may give to scientific workers in the prosecution of their researches, there is no way in which the Association can more fittingly serve humanity than by calling scientific workers to accept those wide responsibilities of leadership in society as well as in industry which their own efforts have made their inevitable lot.”

It will be seen from the above that men of science are becoming conscious of the responsibility towards society conferred by their knowledge, and are feeling it a duty to take a larger part in the direction of public affairs than they have hitherto done.” – 227


The Society of Experts and the Oblivious Masses

“The society of experts which I am imagining will embrace all eminent men of science except a few wrong-headed and anarchical cranks. It will possess the sole up-to-date armaments, and will be the repository of all new secrets in the art of war. There will, therefore, be no more war, since resistance by the unscientific will be doomed to obvious failure. The society of experts will control propaganda and education. It will teach loyalty to the world government, and make nationalism high treason. The government, being an oligarchy, will instil submissiveness into the great bulk of the population, confining initiative and the habit of command to its own members.

It is possible that it may invent ingenious ways of concealing its own power, leaving the forms of democracy intact, and allowing the plutocrats to imagine that they are cleverly controlling these forms.

Gradually, however, as the plutocrats become stupid through laziness, they will lose their wealth; it will pass more and more into public ownership and be controlled by the government of experts.

Thus, whatever the outward forms may be, all real power will come to be concentrated in the hands of those who understand the art of scientific manipulation.” -236

This idea of concealing the real power structure from the masses was later described by Bertrand Russell in his book The Impact of Science on Society[2] (1952):

“Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated.

When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen […]” – 41

The Scientific Outlook, Part 1 – Scientific Technique and Power

Scientific Technique and Power

Originally Posted: June 30, 2008


“The scientific society with which the following chapters are to be concerned is, in the main, a thing of the future, although various of its characteristics are adumbrated in various States at the present day, The scientific society, as I conceive it, is one which employs the best scientific technique in production, in education, and in propaganda. But in addition to this, it has a characteristic which distinguishes it from the societies of the past, which have grown up by natural causes, without much conscious planning as regards their collective purpose and structure. No society can be regarded as fully scientific unless it has been created deliberately with a certain structure in order to fulfill certain purposes.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p203)

Science as Power-Thought

From The Scientific Outlook: [Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“But scientific thought is different from this. It is essentially power-thought – the sort of thought, that is to say, whose purpose, conscious or unconscious, is to give power to its possessor. Now power is a causal concept, and to obtain power over any given material, one need only understand the causal laws to which it is subject. This is an essentially abstract matter, and the more irrelevant details we can omit from our purview, the more powerful our thoughts will become. The same sort of thing can be illustrated in the economic sphere. The cultivator, who knows every corner of his farm, has a concrete knowledge of wheat, and makes very little money; the railway which carries his wheat views it in a slightly more abstract way, and makes rather more money; the Stock Exchange manipulator, who knows it only in its purely abstract aspect of something which may go up or down, is, in his way, as remote from concrete reality as the physicist, and he, of all those concerned in the economic sphere, makes the most money and has the most power. So it is with science, though the power which the man of science seeks is more remote and impersonal than that which is sought on the Stock Exchange.

The extreme abstractness of modern physics makes it difficult to understand, but gives to those who can understand it a grasp of the world as a whole, a sense of its structure and mechanism, which no less abstract apparatus could possibly supply. The power of using abstractions is the essence of intellect, and with every increase in abstraction the intellectual triumphs of science are enhanced.” – 83

“It has had hitherto less success in direct applications to man, and it therefore still meets with opposition from traditional beliefs where man is concerned, but it cannot well be doubted that, if our civilization survives, man also will soon come to be viewed scientifically. This will have a great effect upon education and the criminal law, perhaps also on family life. Such developments, however, belong to the future.” – 143

“Science increases our power to do both good and harm, and therefore enhances the need for restraining destructive impulses. If a scientific world is to survive, it is therefore necessary that men should become tamer than they have been. The splendid criminal must no longer be an ideal, and submissiveness must be more admired than it has been in the past. In all this there will be both gain and loss, and it is not within human power to strike a balance between the two.” – 215

“In psychological terms, this means that the love of power has thrust aside all the other impulses that make the complete human life. Love, parenthood, pleasure, and beauty are of less account to the modern industrialist than to the princely magnates of past times. Manipulation and exploitation are the ruling passions of the typical scientific industrialist. The average man may not share this narrow concentration, but for that very reason he fails to acquire a hold on the sources of power, and leaves the practical government of the world to the fanatics of mechanism. The power of producing changes in the world which is possessed by the leaders of big business in the present age far exceeds the power ever possessed by individuals in the past. They may not be as free to cut off heads as were Nero or Jenghiz Khan, but they can settle who shall starve and who shall become rich, they can divert the course of rivers, and decree the fall of governments. All history shows that great power is intoxicating. Fortunately, the modern holders of power are not yet quite aware how much they could do if they chose, but when this knowledge dawns upon them a new era in human tyranny is to be expected.” – 152

Scientific Technique

“The social effect of modern scientific technique is, in practically all directions, to demand an increase both in the size and intensity of organization. When I speak of the intensity of organization I mean the proportion of a man’s activities that is governed by the fact of his belonging to some social unit. The primitive peasant may be almost entirely self-directed; he produces his own food, buys very little, and does not send his children to school. The modern man, even if he happens to be an agriculturist, produces only a small proportion of what he eats; if he grows wheat, for example, he probably sells the whole of his crop and buys his bread from the baker like any other man; even if he does not do this, he has to buy most of the rest of his feed. In his buying and selling he depends upon immense organizations which are usually international; his reading is provided by the great newspapers, his amusements by Hollywood, the education of his children by the State, his capital, in part at least, by a bank, his political opinions by his Party, his safety and many of his amenities by the Government to which he pays taxes. Thus in all his most important activities he has ceased to be a separate unit and has become dependent upon some social organization. As scientific technique advances, the most profitable size for most organizations increases. In a great many respects national boundaries have become a technical absurdity, and further advance demands that they should be ignored. Unfortunately nationalism is immensely strong, and the increasing power of propaganda which scientific technique has put into the hands of national States is being used to strengthen this anarchic force. Until this state of affairs is amended, scientific technique will not be able to achieve the results of which it is capable in the way of promoting human welfare.” – 198

“The greatest triumphs of applied science so far have been in the realm of physics and chemistry. When people think of scientific technique they think primarily of machines. It seems probable that in the near future science will achieve equal triumphs in biological and physiological directions, and ….

will ultimately acquire as much power to change men’s minds as it already has power to deal with our inanimate environment.” – 146

“No sharp line can be drawn between scientific technique and traditional arts and crafts.

The essential characteristic of scientific technique is the utilization of natural forces in ways not evident to the totally uninstructed.” – 137

“The power of psychological technique to mold the mentality of the individual is still in its infancy, and is not yet fully realized. There can, I think, be little doubt that it will increase enormously in the near future. Science has given us, in succession, power over inanimate nature, power over plants and animals, and finally power over human beings.

Each power involves its own kinds of dangers, and perhaps the dangers involved in power over human beings are the greatest, but that is a matter that we will consider at a later stage.” – 185

“While it is rather rash to make detailed prophecies, it is, I think, fairly clear that in future a human body, from the moment of conception, will not be regarded merely as something which must be left to grow in accordance with natural forces, with no human interference beyond what is required for the preservation of health. The tendency of scientific technique is to cause everything to be regarded as not just a brute datum, but raw material for the carrying out of some human purpose. The child, and even the embryo, will come to be viewed more and more in this way as the mentality connected with scientific technique becomes more dominant. In this, as in all other forms of scientific power, there are possibilities of good and possibilities of evil. Science alone will not decide which is to prevail.” – 172

[1] Bertrand Russell, The Scientific Outlook (1931). First Edition.

The Scientific Outlook, Series Introduction

Series Introduction

Bertrand Russell


This series examines Bertrand Russell’s 1931 book The Scientific Outlook. Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872-1970) was a renowned British philosopher and mathematician who was an adamant internationalist and worked extensively on the education of young children. This included running an experimental school in the 1920’s with his second wife Dora Black. He was the founder of the Pugwash movement which used the spectre of Cold War nuclear annihilation to push for world government. Among many other prizes, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 and UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Kalinga prize for the popularization of science in 1957.

  • Part 1 of this series examines science as power-thought and the use of scientific technique to increase the power of an elite scientific minority over the unscientific masses.
  • Part 2 examines the composition of the society of experts who will use scientific technique to dominate the masses. At the forefront of this society of experts is the expert “manipulator”, whom Lenin is the archetype. This society also aims to conceal its power and influence behind political veils like democracy.
  • Part 3 explores the application of scientific technique to education with an emphasis on the distinction between education for the “governing class” and “working class”.
  • Part 4 looks at the use of education, the Press, radio and Hollywood as forms of propaganda.
  • Part 5 examines the use of behaviorism, psycho-analysis and physiological manipulation as applied to education.

  • Part 6 examines the application of scientific technique to the reproduction of human beings including the separate breeding techniques to be applied to the “governing class” compared with the “working class”. This also includes the creation of a “priestly class” within the ruling governing class.
  • Part 7 explores the changes to freedom and equality in the scientific society. This includes changes in the relationship between individual freedom and the collective good, freedom of speech and the Press, freedom to choose ones own career and the freedom to have children.
  • Part 8 examines the changes to free trade and labor in the scientific. Including the removal of competition and the choice between pre-determined work or prison.
  • The final article describes the creation of two artificial societies including the design and implementation of a new religion specifically for that new planned society. The two societies described are: Japan following their 1867 revolution and Russia following the Bolshevik revolution.