What Makes The Lion Weep?

Jacob Bronowski,  in The Ascent of Man, at the pond in Auschwitz prison camp, squeezing the mud between his fingers…

“It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

“Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken’.

“I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”

4 Responses

  1. Absolutely beautiful. What a perfect set of quotes illustrating the relationship between man, science and Truth. I hereby award you the second Gurney Halleck Award for the Perfect Quote. “Someday I will find you without a quotation, and you shall seem naked.” Dule Leto of Arrakis

    (I left the same comment (in two parts (hit the submit too soon)) over at Spanish Inquisitor’s Human Symposium #14 post).


  2. parentheses man –

    Thank you. I’ll put the Gurney up on the wall next to the Stermy.

    But I gotta tell you, I don’t care how many awards I get, I’m not getting naked on the blog.


  3. Jeezze. First the Lifeguard, now you, I had no idea free thinkers were so into bodily freedom.


  4. Wonderful, eloquent quote. Bronowski said, in a mere 250 words, what I tried to say in a recent post of more than 1,200 words.


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