Much as I should like to agree with Mr. Haldane's forecast, a long experience of statesmen and governments has made me somewhat sceptical. I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups, rather than to make man happy. Icarus, having been taught to fly by his father Daedalus, was destroyed by his rashness. I fear that the same fate may overtake the populations whom modem men of science have taught to fly.But, a year or so later, Bertrand Russell provided, in What I Believe, the antidote to the fears he expressed in Icarus. It is a remarkable and fascinating tract, which ends with this paragraph:
Nature, even human nature, will cease more and more to be an absolute datum; more and more it will become what scientific manipulation has made it. Science can, if it chooses, enable our grandchildren to live the good life, by giving them knowledge, self-control, and characters productive of harmony rather than strife. At present it is teaching our children to kill each other, because many men of science are willing to sacrifice the future of mankind to their own momentary prosperity. But this phase will pass when men have acquired the same domination over their own passions that they already have over the physical forces of the external world. Then at last we shall have won our freedom.In re-reading the debate between Haldane and Russell, for that is what it was, it is necessary to remember that it occurred not long after the end of the First World War, and also that immediately after his Daedalus, Haldane had written another provocative book for Ogden called Callinicus, a Defence of Chemical Warfare. The Russell of the time, a vehement pacifist, was hardly in sympathy with the aggressive Haldane, back with glory from the war. In a letter he wrote to H. G. Wells, in May 1928, he refers to Haldane who, he says "would not forego the pleasure to be derived from the next war". Ogden must have had pretty close relations with Russell, whom he appears to have been able to persuade to contribute frequently to his various series, even if only a preface to some translation.
Scientists tend to become isolated as they advance in their own fields, both from scientists in other branches of knowledge and from the non-scientific world. Conversely a modicum of scientific knowledge is essential to permit the layman to communicate with those who, through their discoveries, are helping to shape the present and the future. The need for good science dictionaries is thus self-evident.And I went on to say :
Considering the number of terms it had succeeded in covering, and the lucidity with which it has been able to explain them in the scientifically simplified medium of Basic English, the new Dictionary reflects the brilliance of Ogden's approach.Today I can only repeat these lines. A reference to any word in the book makes one realise just how powerful a vehicle for understanding were the 850 Basic English words which Ogden and his colleagues distilled out of the enormous vocabulary which is in everyday use.