H.1 -H.40 Aims and methods of science
H.41 -H.78 Science and society
H.79 -H.91 Science and education
H.92 -H.98 Science and war
H.99 -H.111 Science and religion
H.112-H.125 Chance and predictability
H.160, H.161 Shorter talks.
The material in this Section includes notes, lectures, broadcasts and publications, and a little related correspondence.
There is inevitably some overlap with material assigned to other Sections, e.g., F.150 - F.209 on the effects of nuclear and thermonuclear power. The main criterion is that Section H contains the reflections of a non-professional on fields of activity affected by developments in his own profession.
Thomson was always interested in the wider aspects of science. Some of the talks on the purposes and methods of science, and of its relation with religion, appear to date from the late 1920s or early 1930s; his lectures in America and Canada, 1929-30, are known to have included a talk on the philosophical implications of the recent discoveries in physics.
The surviving material represents two main strands in Thomson's thinking. One of these is concerned with the practical aspects of science, its impact on society, its funding and guidance, its relations with government institutions, its influence on individual lives in peace and war. His book `The foreseeable future' (1955, widely translated) is the best known summation of these ideas, but the entries below indicate the number and also the time-span of his writings and lectures on similar topics.
The second aspect relates to abstract and philosophical concepts. From general discussion of scientific and religious criteria of truth and choice, Thomson was led to examine determinism in human affairs, and randomness and predictability in the human brain. Much of his later work is concerned with these matters.
The two threads may be said to come together in Thomson's work for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. Here he seems to have felt that for both sociological and philosophical reasons an individual may, and should, exercise the power of choice over his life. Thomson gave much attention to this in his later years, and planned an extended work on the subject (H.126 - H.138), left unpublished at his death.