Scientists as Citizens 
Sir John Cornforth

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Reproduced with permission from the Australian Journal of Chemistry 1993 
Vol. 46, p.265, RACI 75th Anniversary Lecture presented in September 1992 

Text of a public lecture on the position of scientists in society, and the dilemmas facing scientists as a small minority possessing new information and perspectives which the majority does not yet accept or understand.
Scientists as Citizens

Since the Royal Australian Chemical Institute celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and so do I, it seems appropriate to speak of the changes that these years have seen, and how they affect the present and future role of scientists as part of the communities in which they live and work. 

It has been my good luck to spend all my working life in the borderland between physical and biological sciences, and to retain an active interest in them both.  But I must begin by limiting my right, or the right of any scientist, to speak for science as a whole.  It may once have been possible for one human brain to grasp the essentials of all sciences, but not now, not ever again.  Even in my own discipline, organic chemistry, I keep having to make assumptions that I have not tested.  I accept, without full belief, the findings of fellow scientists in fields where I have no expertise.  They do the same with my findings. Something must tie me to these scientists, and them to me.  What is it? 

The art of the probable: 
It is certainly not faith; it is more tentative and incomplete.  What one scientist assumes in a statement by another is that evidence about it has been recorded and can be checked, and that facts...