Science & Technology

Automation640Marxists are fully in support of developing science and technology: replacing labour with machinery; producing more wealth for society with less work; and reducing the hours of the working day. In the science fiction of the past – influenced by the rise of automation in production at the beginning of the 20th Century – writers imagined a future utopia in which the biggest problem facing humanity would be what to do with all our leisure time whilst machines did all the work!

Such a society has been made entirely possible by capitalism, which played a most revolutionary and progressive role in the past in terms of its development of the productive forces. But now capitalism is unable to use these productive forces and has become an absolute fetter on further progress. Rather than realising the dream of a life of leisure for all, millions are consigned to forced idleness by a system that cannot create jobs, whilst millions of others work round the clock in order to feed themselves and their families.

— From the article Technology, innovation, growth, and capitalism

Marx and Engels took a great interest in science, for the same dialectical processes of change that exist in society, economics and politics also exist in natural processes. Here our oil industry correspondent demonstrates how this is true even in the use of sound signals to find new oil fields. He also emphasizes how in private hands new technology does not enhance life but instead destroys it.

The Internet is open to all, but capitalism demands an owner of everything and payment for everything. This new privatisation of ideas has provoked widespread indignation and sense of injustice. Tight control over intellectual property rights can actually slow down innovation. New technology has transcended the standard capitalist business model. We need to get rid of capitalism in order to unchain human creativity. The Internet shows us a glimpse of what is possible under socialism. Don't let them take it away from us!

In 2005, we published an article on the 'Crisis in Cosmology' by Harry Nielsen, which provoked some comment from readers. In addition to the original article, we publish as appendixes a letter that defends the main theories dominant in contemporary physics. This is followed by a reply that points out that the latest observations should at least lead scientists to question the validity of the Big Bang theory, a theory that dominates the thinking of mainstream physicists in spite of the all evidence. We also publish a second letter, supportive of Nielsen, commenting on the Olbers' paradox (explained in another

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Capitalism attempts to turn everything into private property, the air we breathe, the water we drink and even ideas. Attempts of capitalists to make money from “their” intellectual property are like the highway robbery of medieval aristocrats who levied tolls on traders and restricted the growth of commerce and prosperity. Today private property and the profit motive are the biggest threat to our enjoyment of new ideas, our progress and even our existence as a species.

A new Mexican edition of Reason in Revolt, Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science is coming out shortly. Here we provide a new introduction by Alan Woods, in which he looks at some of the more important scientific breakthroughs since the book was first published ten years ago. He also dedicates some words to the poverty of modern bourgeois philosophy which has sunk back to the level of subjective idealism.

Quantum mechanics has given scientists and engineers a new and deeper understanding of physical reality. It explains the behaviour of electrons, atoms and molecules, the nature of chemical reactions, how light interacts with matter, the evolution of stars, the bio-chemistry of life and the evolution of mankind itself. Despite its successes it remains an intensely controversial theory. It suggests that very small objects such as electrons or photons behave in ways that contradict the common sense ideas. Yet many scientists to this day refuse to accept the fact that contradiction is an essential part of all matter.

A recent Horizon programme on Channel Four asked the question “What Really Killed the Dinosaurs?” For a hundred and forty million years, the dinosaurs were dominant. Then, all of a sudden they all disappeared. Something must have killed them off. What was it?

Even those who accept the theory of evolution frequently draw reactionary conclusions from the evidence provided by science. In Darwin’s day, natural selection was presented as a justification of capitalism and its dog-eat-dog morality. The fact that such ideas have no basis in what he actually wrote is conveniently ignored. A recent BBC documentary attempts something similar in trying to establish that the violence of human males is genetically determined and can be proved by looking at the behaviour of chimpanzees. Alan Woods explains why this theory is flawed.

On Sunday April 27, the British Channel 4 broadcast a documentary which went into detail into "how far drug companies are prepared to go to get their drugs approved and get the prices they want". Basing itself on four different cases, the program made a very powerful case for its main conclusion: "if the Big-Pharma powers remain unchecked soon many more people will be dying for drugs."

The first volume of Reason in Revolt has, by all accounts, been well received in the USA. In general, the Anglo Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical generalizations and to Marxism in particular. Yet without such philosophical generalizations it is impossible to acquire a rational understanding of the world in which we live.

We are publishing for the first time on our website the preface to the first volume of the US edition of Reason in Revolt, published last summer. Though written one year ago, we think that it is still an useful introduction to all the main subjects dealt with in the book, such as Marxism and religion, the Big Bang theory and chaos and complexity.

On Monday, May 20, the famous American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould died of cancer at his home in New York. Gould made a major contribution to development of modern science with his theories on evolution, and challenged some of the accepted views of bourgeois science.

When Reason in Revolt was published seven years ago, it was greeted with enthusiasm by many people, not just by Marxists but those who were interested in the new scientific theories of chaos and complexity. But some readers found the authors' opposition to the theory of the Big Bang hard to accept, after all it seemed that the whole scientific community accepted the theory without question. But last week Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok published a paper in Science in which they propose an alternative model to the Big Bang theory. They suggest that the universe goes through and endless cycle of big bangs, expansion and then stagnation. Their ideas are at an early stage

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The German translation of Reason in Revolt has just come out, and was presented at the recent Frankfurt book fair (see above article). Alan Woods wrote a new introduction for this edition, which for editorial reasons was shortened and slightly edited. Here we publish the full original text in English.

"With the greatest enthusiasm we welcome the republication of Reason in Revolt in Spanish. In the six years since the book was first published in English and Spanish it has received a favourable response from many parts of the world, both from labour movement activists and from scientists. Interest in our ideas has been expressed in many countries. It has so far been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Urdu and Turkish, and new translations are being prepared in German and Dutch." Alan Woods and Ted Grant comment on

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Nearly 40 South African pharmaceutical companies are taking the South African government to court in order to defend their massive profits, even if this means the death of millions of people who are HIV positive. The case opened at the Pretoria High Court on March 5th. This article examines how the profit motive of the pharmaceutical multinationals prevails over the lives of millions of people.

Once every century or so great scientific breakthroughs grip the imagination of the world. With the publication of the results of the human genome project, we stand on the threshold of such a breakthrough. Science is now poised to understand the forces behind evolution, explode racial myths, change the way doctors diagnose disease, and try to help people live longer. The new approach - looking at systems of genes rather than individual genes - will transform biologists' view of the human body. Alan Woods explains how this discovery proves amongst other things that there is no scientific ground for racism or genetic determinism, and analyses the significance of this discovery from a

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On June 26 this year Clinton and Blair made a joint statement saying that the human genome had been sequenced. Rikard Erlandsson looks at the scientific implications of this development.

We reprint this article by John Pickard which reviews Engels contribution to the understanding of human development and specifically his pamphlet The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man.

Science is big business, and none more so than genetics. The Human Genome Project, the deciphering of the make up of human DNA has already resulted in some startling breakthroughs. But, while our scientific understanding of life attempts to race ahead, once again we find ourselves hemmed in by the enormous waste of capitalism. In this field, as in any other, competition plus profit equals waste.