„How do you know that the incessant progress of science will not compel scientists to consider that life has existed during eternity, and not matter?“

—  Louis Pasteur, Context: I have been looking for spontaneous generation for twenty years without discovering it. No, I do not judge it impossible. But what allows you to make it the origin of life? You place matter before life and you decide that matter has existed for all eternity. How do you know that the incessant progress of science will not compel scientists to consider that life has existed during eternity, and not matter? You pass from matter to life because your intelligence of today cannot conceive things otherwise. How do you know that in ten thousand years, one will not consider it more likely that matter has emerged from life? You move from matter to life because your current intelligence, so limited compared to what will be the future intelligence of the naturalist, tells you that things cannot be understood otherwise. If you want to be among the scientific minds, what only counts is that you will have to get rid of a priori reasoning and ideas, and you will have to do necessary deductions not giving more confidence than we should to deductions from wild speculation. Partially quoted in René Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Free Lance of Science, Da Capo Press, Inc., 1950. p 396. Original in French: «La génération spontanée, je la cherche sans la découvrir depuis vingt ans. Non, je ne la juge pas impossible. Mais quoi donc vous autorise à vouloir qu'elle ait été l'origine de la vie? Vous placez la matière avant la vie et vous faites la matière existante de toute éternité. Qui vous dit que, le progrès incessant de la science n'obligera pas les savants, qui vivront dans un siècle, dans mille ans, dans dix mille ans... à affirmer que la vie a été de toute éternité et non la matière.? Vous passez de la matière à la vie parce que votre intelligence actuelle, si bornée par rapport à ce que sera l'intelligence des naturalistes futurs, vous dit qu'elle ne peut comprendre autrement les choses. Qui m'assure que dans dix mille ans on ne considérera pas que c'est de la vie qu'on croira impossible de ne pas passer à la matière? Si vous voulez être au nombre des esprits scientifiques, s, qui seuls comptent, il faut vous débarrasser des idées et des raisonnements a priori et vous en tenir aux déductions nécessaires des faits établis et ne pas accorder plus de confiance qu'il ne faut aux déductions de pures hypothèses." (Pasteur et la philosophie,Patrice Pinet, Editions L'Harmattan, p. 63.
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