Urânio em White (1949)

Culturological theory provides a simple explanation of this re- markable “coincidence.” The Law of Conservation of Energy was simply the synthesis of already existing concepts, each of which, in turn, was the outgrowth and synthesis of earlier experience. A synthesis of cultural elements requires two things: the elements in question and a process of interaction. Cultural interaction is always going on in any cultural system, although the rate of interaction may vary. A given synthesis cannot take place until the elements requisite for it are available, obviously. But, when the elements are present, the process of cultural interaction is bound to effect the synthesis. The situation is something like the chain reaction in Uranium 235. If the mass of metal is below a certain size a chain [207] reaction is impossible. But when a certain size—the “critical size”— is reached, the chain reaction is inevitable. Prior to 1843-47, the elements requisite to the formulation of the Law of Conservation of Energy were not available. But, when they became available the interactive culture process made their synthesis so “inevitable” that it was achieved not once but five times. [Nota de rodapé *: “. . . there is a good deal of evidence to indicate that the accumulation or growth of culture reaches a stage where certain inventions if not inevitable are certainly to a high degree probable . . .” (Ogbum, Social Change, p. ] (White 1949:206-7)

But, granting that what we do counts even though it is culturally determined, of what use is it to develop a science of culture if we cannot control civilization or direct its course? We have a science of pathology in order to combat disease, sciences of physics and chemistry to control the external world. But if we do not control our culture and cannot ever hope to control it, of what use would a science of culture be? We might begin our reply to this question by asking, of what value is it to know the temperature of a star a million light years away? Questions such as these betray a limited understanding of science. Science is not primarily a matter of control in the sense of harnessing rivers with hydroelectric plants or constructing uranium piles. Science is a means of adjustment; control is but one aspect of adjustment. Man finds himself in a universe to which he must adjust if he is to continue to live in it. Mythology and science are means of adjustment; they are interpretations of the world in terms of which man behaves. There is, of course, a vast difference in terms of adjustment between a philosophy that interprets stars as a flock of snow birds lost in the sky, and one that measures their masses, distances, dimensions, and temperatures. This difference is a very practical one, too, in terms of the contribution that each philosophy makes to the security of life. (White 1949:354)

WHITE, Leslie. 1949. The science of culture: a study of man and civilization. New York: Grove Press.