Science Can Never Solve One Problem Without Raising Ten More Problems

George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Scientific knowledge is incomplete and tentative. Superior scientific theories regularly supersede existing theories. The knowledge provided is flawed, but the process is self-correcting and self-improving.

Irish playwright and activist George Bernard Shaw bluntly stated that science was always wrong. He believed that every time science solved a problem it introduced ten more problems. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1930 George Bernard Shaw delivered a speech in London honoring physicist Albert Einstein. The address was broadcast in the U.S., and a transcript appeared in “The New York Times”. Shaw presented a contrast between the certainties provided by religion and science. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1930 October 29, New York Times, Shaw and Einstein Speeches, Quote Page 12, Column 3, New York. (ProQuest) [/ref]

Religion is always right. Religion protects us against that great problem which we all must face. Science is always wrong; it is the very artifice of men. Science can never solve one problem without raising ten more problems.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

On the same day in 1930, “The Manchester Guardian” of England also printed the speech delivered by Shaw. Oddly, the text differed somewhat from the version printed in “The New York Times”. QI does not know which version is more accurate:[ref] 1930 October 29, The Manchester Guardian, Professor Einstein: Mr. Bernard Shaw’s Eulogy, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Manchester, England. (ProQuest)[/ref]

Religion gives us certainty, stability, peace. It gives us absoluteness which we so long for. It protects us against that progress which we all dread almost more than anything else.

Science is the very opposite of that. Science is always wrong and science never solves a problem without raising ten more problems. (Laughter) For three hundred years we believed in the Newtonian universe; then an amazing thing happened. A young professor got up in the middle of Europe and, without betraying any self-consciousness, said that this theory was wrong.

On the same day in 1930, the “Chicago Daily Tribune” of Illinois printed another version of the quotation:[ref] 1930 October 29, Chicago Daily Tribune, Yankees Hear Shaw, Einstein Talk in London, Quote Page 27, Column 7, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest) [/ref]

Now religion always is right. Religion solves problems. Science is always wrong. Science never solves one problem without raising ten more.

In 1931 “The Boston Herald” of Massachusetts printed Shaw’s remark about science and used it to fashion a barb aimed at the playwright:[ref] 1931 May 6, The Boston Herald, Top o’ the Morning by George Ryan, Quote Page 16, Column 4, Boston, Massachusetts. (GenealogyBank) [/ref]

“Science is always wrong,” says George Bernard Shaw. This shows how unlike science is to G.B.S in the opinion of G.B.S.

The 1936 edition of “The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations” published a different version of the quotation. This instance used the phrase “creating ten more” instead of “raising ten more”:[ref] 1936, The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations, Originally compiled by Tryon Edwards, Revised and Enlarged by C. N. Catrevas and Jonathan Edwards, Topic: Science, Quote Page 732, Standard Book Company, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating ten more.—George Bernard Shaw.

In 1949 “The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations” edited by Evan Esar reprinted the version of the quotation “The New Dictionary of Thoughts”.[ref] 1949 Copyright, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, Edited by Evan Esar, Section: George Bernard Shaw, Quote Page 182, Bramhall House, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

In 1997 the compilation “Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History” printed the speech by Shaw. The quotation matched the text in “The New York Times”:[ref] 1997, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, Revised and expanded edition, Selected by William Safire, Speech: George Bernard Shaw Salutes His Friend Albert Einstein, Start Page 206, Quote Page 207, W. W. Norton & Company, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Science is always wrong; it is the very artifice of men. Science can never solve one problem without raising ten more problems.

In conclusion, George Bernard Shaw did deliver a speech in 1930 containing a pointed remark about science. QI is uncertain about the precise phrasing employed by Shaw because contemporaneous accounts differed. QI suggests using the version in “The New York Times” which was based on the U.S. broadcast on October 28th according to the newspaper.

(Great thanks to the anonymous person whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Image Notes: Symbolic illustration of the ideas emanating from science and technology Image posted by harishs at Pixabay. Image has been resized.

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