"The greatest danger to scientific advance is scientific advance," Dr. Issac Asimov said last night in a speech at the Ford Hall Forum.
Asimov, associate professor of bio-chemistry at Boston University and prolific author of both science and science fiction works, blamed the "information explosion" for making it impossible to keep up to date even in a specialized scientific field.
Science's rapid accumulation of data, Asimov said, has created the need for a new branch of science, information retrieval. The new field, he said, should attempt to make the data scientists need available to them simply "by pushing the right button."
Regaling his audience with a Jackie Masonesque style, Asimov then launched into a lengthy example of how Mendel's theories of heredity were overlooked for a generation, the delay producing misconceptions that may ultimately have led to two world wars.
Asimov concluded by explaining the purpose of his writings--he has published 61 books--as the explaining and relating of scientific fields, in an attempt to integrate the various fields in simple terms and perhaps prevent dangerous misunderstandings.
Though he stated that the future course of science is very difficult to predict, Asimov nevertheless ventured that "one possibility is an advance in a surefire and simple method of contraception. If it comes at all, it had better come fast," he added, referring to the population explosion as another threat to scientific advance.
"As information expands, it is to be hoped that techniques will improve and generalizations will expand," Asimov said.