Moral Choices in Contemporary Society 0891630236, 0891630228

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MORAL

CHOICES IN

CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY

er-repression — which ple usually mean by the word repression — that with emotional phenomena sires,

a

is

It is

entails

is

emotional maladjustment. So also does

wm/er-repression.

However, under- and over-repression

are not Over-repression reduced ability, or total

social but individual maladies.

of sexuality

results in a

explore the impulse to pornography

inability,

denying human sexuality. We are, willy-nilly, brought to the overriding question of the mod-

deeply embedded in the psyche. can sometimes be treated successfully by psychiatry, so far as I know, exposure to erotica, or pornography, is not reckoned by the profession to be an essential part of the treatment. On the contrary, although the over-repressed individual might well become a voyeur, such exposure can only aggravate his sexual frustration. No matter how "permissive"

ern imagination:

EDWARD

J.

how much deceit can we afford?

MISHAN

Making the world safe for pornography

Its

Turning ... to the substantive issue concerning the social consequences of the spread of the erotic and the pornographic, two opinions in favour are offered by "permitters." The strong opinion is that it is positively beneficial, and the more cautious opinion is that the growing availability of such stuff does no harm or, more cautious still, that it does no more harm than a number of other things that are socially



causes

Though

J

to enjoy physically the sexual act. lie

it

This is as good a place as any to remind the reader that the terms "permissiveness" and the "permissive society," even where they are restricted to sexual aspects, are misleading. The "permissiveness" being debated is that which, if extended, initially offers the public increased opportunities for excitation, not for gratification. For nobody in authority is challenging any person's right to engage in sexual activity with other persons in any way he wishes, as often as he wishes, with willing adult partners. Permission to indulge and enjoy is not the issue at all. The permissiveness that is at issue is whether complete license should be extended to writers, impresarios, actors, and film producers to depict sexual activity of any variety in public places, and permission for the public to pay and stare.

223

the cinema or theatre becomes,

vividly copulation

is

tion eludes the victim

no matter how

depicted, sexual gratifica-

of over-repression. While

those well-enough adjusted to enjoy sexual activnot unduly arrested by erotic images, these can have a pathological attraction for the sexually unfulfilled. Some of the starved inmates of Nazi concentration camps were so far ob-

ity are

sessed with visions of food that,

when

rescued

and offered food, they would not eat it. They either gazed at it rapturously or sought to hoard it. The parallel with orgasmic starvation may be thought forced, but not by all psychiatrists. Yet hope springs eternal in the human breast, and if repeated failure depresses, it can also feed an inner fury that seeks

somehow to

force egress

of sensation. But drinking the salt water of pop porno gazing fixedly at live shows contemplating photos of swollen proportions, staring orifices, and bizarre postures act on the victim's fevered imagination, generating exaggerated visions of sexual gratification quite unrelated to that which is naturally into the citadels







attainable

— so adding further to his frustrations

and tempting him into sado-masochistic practices, or into intemperate attacks on his image of a grudging "establishment," in the vain hope of release. To sum up on the alleged virtues of "permissiveness" in contrast to the so-called toxicity of "repression," if the stricter proprieties of the .

.

.

Victorians presented no real barrier to sexual adventures (though one was well advised to

have decent regard to the establishment hypocrisies of society to get the best out of it), it is perhaps unnecessary to seek "liberation" by the defiant cultivation of sexual "permissiveness." What is more to the point, the causes of frigoveridity and sexual despair are manifold repression being rather a loose way of referring to some of them. And there is no evidence whatsoever that their incidence has diminished along with the growth of erotica and pornography. Frigidity and other forms of sexual failure may yield to medical and psychiatric skills. They do not yield to public manifestations of increased



"sexual permissiveness," though they are likely to be aggravated by them.

224

The sex lobby

Turning

now

to the

more

cautious proposition

of sexual content in literature and public entertainment can do no harm. To insist that, say, a reading of literature in general can never do harm is to take up an indefensible position. For it is commonly believed by those who condemn censorship of art and literature that they can do a powerful lot of good. Taken at its face value such a position that the spread

.

amounts

to the belief that, although art and

.

.

liter-

ature can do a great deal of good, they can never do

any harm vincing.

— reassuring, perhaps, but hardly con-

They knew better than this in Antiqwould ban poets from the ideal city it was because, aware of the power of art for good and evil in society, he did not wish to risk uity. If Plato

the stability of the social order in order to entertain the populace. It would be more convincing, then, if those favouring the abolition of all censorship explicitly acknowledged the influence of art and

and also of the screen, theatre, and television, in moulding people's behaviour and character. They could reasonably add that, in any particular case, the resultant effect might not be clearly perceived; that one might not always be able to determine in advance whether the impact of certain works would be benign or otherwise. But they could hardly avoid the conclusion that continued exposure to some sorts of art and literature was better than, or worse than, others in their effect on the character of people and, therefore, on society as a whole. literature,

.

.

.

The pornographic society It is time to bring some thought to bear on the harmful consequences society may suffer if cur-

rent trends toward increasing pornography continue. In order to avoid tedious qualifications at every turn in the argument, let us project existing trends and think in terms of an emergent "Pornographic Society," one in which all existing restraints have vanished. There are no legal checks on any form of erotic experience, "nat.

.

.

ural" or "unnatural," and

no

limit

with respect

to place, time, scale, or

medium,

of what today would be

in the depiction

and placed on

called the carnal

lascivious. Neither are there

any limits

the facilities for autoeroticism, or for participat-

ing in any activity, heterosexual, homosexual,

or incestuous, sado-masochistic, fetishor just plain cruel. Provided actors, audi-

bestial, istic,

ence, and participants are willing, provided there is a market for the "product," no objection is entertained. .

.

.

Can pornography be

part of the

good

life?

time to turn about in our minds some of the of the problem posed by the concept of the Pornographic Society; namely, whether such a society is compatible with the Good Life, any It is

facets

good

life.

First,

allowing that family

life

will continue in

are we to make of the efpsychology of his apprehension of a society obsessed with carnal indulgence? It has been alleged, occasionally, that children are immune to pornography; that, up to a certain

such

fect

a society,

on

what

the child's

it does not signify. Though this allegation cannot draw on any evidence since they are not in fact exposed, when young, to sexual circuses, we need not pursue this controversial question here because, presumably, there does come an age when they begin to understand the significance of what is happening about them. It is appropriate, then, to question the effect on the child's emotional life, in particular his regard

age,

and feelings for

his parents.

not just possible- that the child needs not only to love his parents but to esteem them? In his first gropings for order and security in a world of threatening impulse, does he not need to look up to beings who provide assurance, who appear to him as "good" and wise and just? Will such emotional needs not be thwarted in a society of uninhibited sexual device? I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions, but no one will gainsay their importance. In view of the possibly very grave consequences on our children's children, would it not be an act of culpable negligence to allow current trends toward an increasingly promiscuous society to continue without being in sight of the answers? Is it

Consider next the quality of love in such a Three closely related questions arise. Treated simply as a physical exploit with another body, and divorced from the intrusion of sentiment, is sexual fulfilment possible? David Holbrook, for one, has doubts whether this is possible. Indeed, he concludes that the society.

so-called sexual revolution

"placing limits on

is

people's capacities to develop a rich enjoyment

of sexual love by reducing it to sexuality." Nor has Irving Kristol any brief for the more visible manifestations of the sexual revolution: There are human sentiments involved in this animal activity. But when sex is public the viewer does not cannot see the sentiments. He can only see the animal coupling. And that is why, when men and women make love, as we say, they prefer to be alone because it is only when you are alone that you can make love, as distinct from merely copulating in an animal and casual way. .



.

.



.

.

.



The second question

that

comes

mind

to

in

whether romantic love will become obsolete in a society of unfettered sexual

this

connection

is

recourse.

The "savage" satire,

Brave

New

in

Aldous Huxley's

World,

brilliant

who commits

suicide

romantic love but could obtain only instant sex. There might well continue to be sexual friendships, sexual rivalries, sexual jealousies. But the sublimation of sex, thought to be the well-spring of creative imagination and of romantic love, would be no more. One of the great sources of inspiration of poetry and song, of chivalry and dedication, throughout the ages would have dried up. The third related question is about the quality of love in general that can be expected to emerge along the road to such a society. One wonders if it would really be possible to love other people very much, or to care for them as persons very much in a world without opportunity for sublimation. Can such virtues as loyalty, honour, compassion, sacrifice, charity, or tenderness, flourish in an environment of uninhibited public exhibitionism and pornography? Taking a wider perspective of the scene, one wonders whether it is possible to unite unchecked public sexual indulgence with the conin despair, tried for

.

.

.

225



thinking of tinued progress of any civilisation terms not merely of increasing scientific advance and technological innovation

civilisation in

but in those, also, of a refinement of taste and sensibility. Let the reader ponder on the question at his leisure, bearing in mind the reflection that

whereas the emergence in the past of a new civilisation, or of a new age within the matrix of an existing civilisation, has indeed always been associated with a rapid displacement of old conceptions, values, and purposes by new ones, it has never been associated with a mass movement toward unbridled sexual licentiousness. Thus, a first experiment of this kind just might be the last experiment ever. Goaded on by the predatory forces of commercial opportunism, expectations of carnal gratification aroused by increasingly salacious spectacles, and increasing .

facilities

.

.

— for new sexual perversions — would soar

beyond the physical

limits

of attainments. In the

unrelenting search for the uttermost in orgiastic experience, cruel passions might be unleashed,

impelling humanity into regions beyond barbarism. One has only to recall the fantastic sadistic

barbarities



of the Nazi era and to recall also were within an ace of win-

that in 1941 the Nazis

ning the

War

— to accept

this

far-fetched nor fanciful, civilisation is

conjecture as neither

and

to recognise that

Censorship is something quite different. It always and everywhere an evil. Censorship means the screening of material by an authority invested with power to ban that which it disapproves. A censor is someone appointed to regulate public morals and judge public taste. And who is that paragon to whom we would be willing to entrust such authority? And who, if he be such a paragon, would be willing to accept the is

responsibility?

John Milton published his AreoSpeech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing when printing was the major medium In 1644,

pagitica:

A

for the dissemination

for

it

of

ideas. Milton's essay

word on censorship limned the dangers with unmatched

should have been the

last

eloquence: .

.

.

there

is

not aught more likely to be prohib-

whose first appearance to our eyes bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom, is more unsightly and implausible than ited than truth itself;

many errors. And though .

.

.

all

the

winds of doctrine were

let

loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting, to

misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple.

What Milton

held in defense of the absolute

right to publish applies also to judgments about

what is obscene and what is not obscene. One man's obscenity is another man's customary mode of expression. In art and in drama, as well

indeed but skin-deep.

only the arrantly self-certain

ARTHUR LELYVELD

as in literature,

Censorship

But having enlisted on the side of freedom, we need not slough off the social problems which come in the wake of license. Those who would

/

am

who would know where

226

human

to cry halt.

exploit prurience for profit have been quick to

against censorship.

This essay will argue that freedom to speak, to publish, or to communicate from stage, screen or any other public media should be subject to only two inhibitions. The first is that which flows naturally from public taste. The people can choose to reject what is offered, to ignore it, or even to condemn it. The second inhibition is that which may result from the provision for after-the-fact, due-process review under carefully drawn laws prohibiting demonstrable injury to

it is

welfare or

human

rights.

take advantage of the

new freedom. American

sex movies today are a billion-dollar-a-year business with low costs yielding astronomical prof-

New York-'s 42nd "Adult Movies" become Street which advertise more brazen day by day. But compared to the huge nudes on billboards abutting Piccadilly

its.

The marquees along

Circus which thrust oversized breasts into the London night, the 42nd Street display looks positively decorous. The four-letter word, long

tabooed

in polite society, is

today

a

common-

place used even by distinguished professors of

theology.

During

this last

decade, public acceptance of

these trends has been deepening with

amazing

genre make Fanny Hill and Lady Chatterley's Lover look like Sunday School primers. speed. Portnoy's Complaint and

.

There

is

no denying

.

its

.

new freedom from furtiveness and

that the

affords a refreshing release

from clandestine "dirtiness." Why, then, are some aspects of this flood of uninhibited ex-

The counter-reaction is being expressed not only by the descendants of Watch and Ward but also by impressive public personalities. Recently, a professor of pediatric psychiatry gave voice to his fear that the brutality and the cheapness of current sex displays may diminish the meaning, the loveliness and hence the joy of the future love life of pression so offensive?





D.H. Lawrence, whose Lady

Chatterley's

Lover was

a landmark case in the battle against censorship, professed that he himself would censor "real" pornography "rigorously," and for the same reasons as those given by the psy-

chiatrist just referred to. Said

Lawrence:

Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt it. Take the very lowest instance, the picture What I have seen of postcard sold underhand them have been of an ugliness to make you cry they make the sexual act trivial and cheap and nasty.

on

.

.

.

.

.

.

But

how

to deal effectively

social evils? If absolute

freedom

to

.

.

with such

show and

tell

brings abuses in its train, is censorship a warranted and effective remedy? John Milton said "no" with a trenchant and unforgettable analogy:

manners are as perfectly learned without thousand other ways which cannot be stopped And he who were pleasantly disposed, could not well avoid to liken it to the exploit of that gallant man, who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his park gate. .

.

.

evil

books

a

.

.

the

mouth." Says one Talmudic

.

A helpful

distinction

is

available in the Jewish

view of this matter; it is a distinction founded largely on intent. When the ancient rabbis were teaching or expounding the traditional sources,

teacher:

Everyone knows why the bride is brought into the anyone who befouls that moment with his mouth, even if seventy years of good have been decreed for him, has it changed into seventy years of evil. bridal-tent, but

And this judgment applies with equal force to anyone who listens to foul and leering speech and who remains silent. Note, however, that the penalty for coarseness is

not legal action but moral condemnation.

itself

mankind.

.

they spoke and wrote with the utmost freedom and frankness, as did the Biblical material on which they based their discussion. But when the intent was to demean, "to do dirt" on sex, to insult sex or deprecate sex, then this was inadmissible coarseness. In Hebrew the phrase used was nibbul peh: literally, "disfigurement of

The

text

speaks with perfect freedom about sexual

intercourse.

which

is

Condemnation

only on that

falls

intentionally degrading and lewd.

The Bible contains abundant references to the sex act, homosexual as well as heterosexual, to rape, to prostitution,

and to fornication. The

Bible refers without self-consciousness to natural functions, and the Bible preserves some of the world's most beautiful erotic poetry. It is

noteworthy that the same authorities who were banning Rousseau's Confessions were putting into the hands of youngsters the story of David and Bathsheba, ofjudah and Tamer, and of Lot and the men of Sodom. Had they been consistent they would have banned Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the plays of Ben Jonson, and the works of Shakespeare. Indeed, as most legal authorities agree, it is impossible to arrive at a reasonable, workable definition of obscenity for purposes of censorship.

It is

toward an

this difficulty that leads

many jurists

absolutist interpretation

Amendment.

In the

words of

of the

Justice

First

Hugo

Black:

My view is, without deviation, without exception, without any ifs, buts, or whereases, that freedom of speech means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they have, or the views they express, or the

words they speak or

write.

227

Freedom of expression, if it is to be meaningmust include freedom for "that which we loathe," for it is obvious that it is no great virtue and presents no great difficulty for one to accord freedom to what we approve or to that to which we are indifferent. This is the heart of the dilemma. That which I hold to be true has no protection if I permit that which I hold to be false to be suppressed for you may with equal logic turn about tomorrow ful at all,



and

label

my

truth as falsehood.

individual's right to

what he wishes

make and

to see

his

Certain explicit sexual materials are capable of causing considerable offense to numerous Americans

when thrust upon them without their consent. The commission believes that these unwanted intrusions upon individual sensibilities warrant legislative regulation and it further believes that such intrusions can be regulated effectively without any significant interference with consensual communication of sex-

among

ual material

unedifying.

certainly a fortiori true, as the

.

.

to

.

But, praised be the law, this same freedom right to condemn, to decry

makes possible our and

to attack, as effectively as

we can, that which

our view tawdry or salacious or nauseating. To affirm freedom is not to applaud that which is done under its sign. Thomas Jefferson showed vigor and indignation as he made this point: in

is

I deplore the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity, and the mendacious spirit of those who write them. These ordures are rapidly depraving the public .

.

.

.

.

.

however, an evil for which there is no remliberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost. It is,

.

Our

.

.

But

have

I

a right to

want

the

law

to

prevent you from imposing your "ordures" on me. The law cannot create morality and taste, but it can prevent you from rubbing my nose in what I consider to be execrable. This is what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., meant when he said "my right to swing my arm ends at the point at which your nose begins." It should be added that our new devices for instantaneous

and universal communication make "your arm" far longer than it used to be, and it may well be necessary for legal authorities to give careful consideration to whether or not an extension of the doctrine of "clear and present danger" is required.

.

Ignored

.

.

in the hullaballoo

about the report of

Commission on Obscenity and Pornography is the fact that the Commission has rec-

the

ognized

this

dilemma, and has affirmed the

propriety of legislative action to protect the

228

If this

is

adults.

an acceptable limitation, then

Commission

it

is

rec-

ognizes, that "explicit sexual materials," particularly those that brutalize and insult sex, should not be thrust upon children. But here we are desperately confused. It is possible to be

degradingly lewd while fully clothed. rather

I

would

my own children saw The Lovers than have

late Marilyn Monroe in Some movie in which adultery and transvestitism were leering jokes. Many motion pictures rated for general audiences seem to me

had them see the Like

far

It

Hot, a

more harmful than many

that are rated

"Restricted."

taste.

edy:

choices as to

report includes this declaration:

what I consider lovely or unlovely, moral or immoral, edifying or

The same test applies

own

to hear. Its majority

And this

is

where we came

in.

Legislation will

not lighten the complexity of these problems, and censorship will not solve them. We can but hope that more and more men will come to have respect for

of human

human

and for the

life

relationship.

And

potentialities

as for that

which

is

depraved and disgusting in our own time, we can only wait for taste and good judgement to reassert themselves after the first wild release.

own

some evidence that porcure built into it after a

relatively short time

pornography produces

Fortunately, there

nography has ennui.

.

.

its

is



.

Repression, on the other hand, as the Prohibition experiment showed us, creates an unwholesome, heightened desire for that which is forbidden. No one bothers to write a crudity on a wall or on a placard exposed to public view unless such a writing is considered banned and appropriate only to secret places, such as the

room. But I have seen freedom and

cubicle of a men's It

isn't easy.

have seen repression. Freedom

is

better.

I

m

"But, Galileo at

—why should you

home most people

I960 13Y

SHAFER

IN

study

moon

craters

when

right here

don't have satisfactory bathrooms yet?"

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF J WESLEY SMITH

COURTESY VANGUARD PRESS

Essentially, science is the pursuit of truth: How then could it ever be held to be immoral? Clearly only if the truth itself or some truths were immoral a charge that is



rarely

made nowadays.

It is not scientific truth in itself that is challenged ethically, but the uses to which it is put. Many argue that there is nothing inherent in the scientific discovery that insures it will be used for moral ends. The polio vaccine, for instance, may inoculate people against polio, but it may also be used to cause it.

Another moral problem of technology with the ignorance of scientists of all the consequences of a particular scientific

arises

might turn out, for instance, had unintended harmful side effects, which had not been foreseen. In such a case, one might say that the doctors were morally negligent in not proceeding more carefully in the use of the application.

It

that the successful vaccine

vaccine.

These examples refer to the applications of to the technology of atomic energy, computers, and biological compounds not to the scientific formulas that underlie them. How many of us know modern evolutionary theory, relativity theory, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, or Godel's Proof? These are all the business of experts. But the possible uses to which theories may be put very likely have a momentous impact on our way of life. It is not surprising, therefore, that the moral debate that has surrounded science has most frequently concentrated on the way our technologies ought to be science

11

SCIENCE

AND MORALS: FREEDOM OF INQUIRY

AND

THE PUBLIC

INTEREST





developed.

Modern

science developed in close relation

to technology: It is not too much to say that they were wedded to each other. The possibilities

were

of technology for improving our lives seen by Francis Bacon in the

first clearly

early seventeenth century. In the first selection

Lewis Mumford recalls Bacon's vision and analyzes how much the practice of contemporary science has changed since Bacon's time. Mumford argues that the scientist in the twentieth century "has forfeited

in this chapter,

231

the qualities that were exalted, in the seventeenth century, as the very hallmark of the his detachment from worldly gains scientist



and

his disinterested pursuit

has

become

of truth." Science

the servant of corporate organiza-

of governments that use it for their ends of power and riches that may not have humane consequences. C. P. Snow, in the next article, displays more optimistic faith in the beneficent consequences of science. He remains convinced of the goodness promised by technology and of the high moral standards of scientists because he sees scientific inquiry as itself a moral tions or

own

activity.

He seems

to believe that the

moral

Snow

and

affect

how

that discovery

is

"a built-in moral component right in the core of the

used.

writes that there

scientific activity itself.

The

is

desire to find the

truth is itself a moral impulse, or at least contains a moral impulse." In a passage of the same essay, which is not excerpted,

Snow

exhorts his fellow scientists to take up

the challenge of overcoming

DNA

DNA

character present in the pursuit of a discovery will carry over

this danger, however, are unknown dangers we may face as man enters a new phase of technology in creating life. Recombinant research can teach us much about our genetic structure and might have beneficial practical consequences, such as a cure for cancer and the repair of genetic defects in humans; but in the face of our awesome new powers, Sinsheimer suggests that caution may become an essential scientific virtue. research The current controversy over is reminiscent of the controversy that surrounded nuclear physics in the mid-century. Then, too, scientists knew they were embarking on research that could have disastrous consequences for humanity. The next selection is from the Report of the General

Beyond

hunger around

the world.

But is the pursuit of truth always moral, or does the very search for knowledge sometimes does, what is the responsibility toward society? These ques-

Advisory Committee to the United States Atomic Energy Commission in October 1949. The committee, which included scientists who had developed the atomic bomb, recommended on moral grounds that the government halt its work on the "Super" or hydrogen bomb and that it make the public aware of the issues involved. Despite these recommendations, President Truman decided, on January 31, 1950, to proceed with the bomb. In the following very brief excerpt, Edward Teller takes

tions are addressed in the next three articles

the position that such political decisions are not the responsibility of the scientist, whose sole job is to find out how the laws of nature

in this chapter.

operate.

Robert Sinsheimer discusses the dangers inherent in research into recombinant DNA.

takes issue both with the idea that scientific

entail evil? If

of the

The

it

scientist

DNA

molecule, present in every cell, determines the hereditary properties of an organism. It has now become possible to from dif"recombine" fragments of

DNA

new forms of life. At the present time such recombination is

ferent species, thus creating

possible only in a bacteria that

is

currently

man. Sinsheimer calls attention to the dangers of releasing a new hybrid organism found

in

that could cause

new forms of widespread

disease. This possibility has caused

demon-

of public concern near some of the major biomedical centers where such research is taking place, such as Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego. strations

232

In the following article,

Jacob Bronowski

research can be halted and with the idea that scientists are not responsible for the applications

of their research.

some work

scientists

may

He

recognizes that

morally obligated to for the government; these scientists should clearly do so. But Bronowski sees a basic incompatibility between the aims of nationalism and the moral pursuit of the truth that is the essence of science. Scientists, Bronowski maintains, must "set an incorfeel

ruptible standard for public morality." It is time, he argues, for scientists to disestablish themselves from the government that currently

finances their

most of their research and

own

priorities

to set

up

and allocation of resources.

recognition of the delicate balance of our

In the concluding selection in this chapter,

Barry

Commoner makes

clear

environment. He concludes that "university have a clear obligation to the society that supports us. We have no right to retreat behind the walls of our laboratories; instead, we must use our knowledge to help improve the world."

what he

believes those priorities should be.

He

takes

scientists

the position that scientists have been too

narrow

concerns and failed to realize world today. New technology has been developed without a clear in their

the complexity of the

NOTES ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Lewis Mumford, born

in 1895, is generally considered the leading American critic of twentiethcentury architecture. His books range from art and architecture to the impact of technology on human life. His books include Technics and Civilization, The Highway and the City, The Culture of Cities, and The City in History, for which he received the National Book Award in 1961 "Science as Tech.

nology" originally appeared C. P.

Snow

is

a British

in the Proceedings of the

peer

who

is

American Philosophical Society for 1961.

also a novelist, scientist,

and government adviser.

He immor-

England's professional class in his eleven- volume series of novels Strangers and Brothers, His work on the relation of science to morality and culture includes The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. "The Moral Un-neutrality of Science" first appeared in 1961 in Science. talized

Robert L. Sinsheimer

is

professor of biophysics and chairman of the Division of Biology

California Institute of Technology.

He

at

the

chairman of the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the author of many research reports on nucleic acids. is

also

The General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission was

established in

1946 "to advise the Commission on scientific and technical matters relating to materials, production, and research and development." Composed of nine civilians, its membership in 1949 included such notable scientists as James B. Conant, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Enrico Fermi, all of whom had been instrumental in developing the atomic bomb.

Edward Teller, born in Hungary in 1908, came to the United States after fleeing the Nazi regime. He was among the group of scientists that went to Los Alamos to work on the atomic bomb during World War II, and he was responsible for much of the theoretical groundwork for a hydrogen bomb. In 1953 he joined the faculty of the University of California. In contrast to much of the scientific community during the 1950s, he strongly favored the continued testing and development of nuclear weapons. The recipient of the Atomic Energy Commission's Fermi Award in 1962, he is the author of Our Nuclear Future and The Legacy of Hiroshima. scientist and a humanist. A mathematician by training, he was research professor and fellow of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in Lajolla, California and director of the Council for Biology in Human Affairs there. His books reflect his broad interests and include Science and Human Values, The Identity of Man, Nature and Knowledge and The Ascent of Man, which

Jacob Bronowski was both a

,

was made

into a television series

of Science"

first

appeared

by

the British Broadcasting Corporation.

in Encounter in 1971.

Bronowski died

"The Disestablishment

in 1974.

Commoner

is professor of plant physiology at Washington University in St. Louis. He is of the Center of the Biology of Natural Systems and cochairman of the Scientists' Institute for Public Information. His interests encompass both science and the humanities, and his books Science and Survival and The Closing Circle have had a major impact on the environmental protection movement. "The Dual Crisis in Science and Society" first appeared in Today's Education

Barry

also the director

in 1968.

233

and insights of creative minds were to have the widest kind of application, they would need abundant collective supthat, if the illuminations

LEWIS

MUMFORD

Science as technology

port: state aid, corporate organization, systematic

The title of this paper, Science as Technology, would not have surprised or shocked Francis Bacon, for perhaps his most original contribu-

celebration in

conferences and publications, liberal rewards and honors, and finally, public exhibition and

tion to the enlargement of the province

of sci-

It

was

and

museums of science and

these features

of

industry.

collective organization

regimentation, not perhaps entirely in pre-Christian Alexandria, that so presciently recognized, advocated,

state

unknown

ence was his understanding of its great future role in transforming the physical conditions of life. But I am sure that the conclusions that I shall conclusions in the form of finally present would have doubts, challenges, and questions

Bacon

shocked him quite as much shock many of those who

the nineteenth century, when for the first time purely theoretic researches in physics, by Volta, Ohm, Henry, and Faraday, resulted, almost within a generation, in the invention of the elec-





as

.

.

for his faith in science as a source

technology

and

in

tion

of science must now,

it

will,

fear,

I

[read this paper],

.

of technology,

itself as the final justifica-

after four centuries,

be submitted to an historic evaluation and the pragmatic test. When Bacon's assumptions are rigorously examined, they should, I submit, lead to a modification of Bacon's original hopes and even a radical change in our own attitude toward many Baconian beliefs we have, somewhat blindly, taken to be axiomatic. .

his

.

.

most fresh and original in Bacon [is] conception of the role of science as the spir-

What

is

arm, so to speak, of technology. But Bacon went further: he saw that curiosity, to be fully effective, must enlist, not solitary and occasional minds, but a corps of well-organized itual

.

.

.

workers, each exercising a specialized function and operating in a restricted area. By the technological organization of science as he portrayed it in the New Atlantis, he proposed to fabricate an engine capable of turning out useful knowledge in the same fashion that a well-organized factory would, shortly after Bacon's prediction, turn out textiles or shoes. Bacon's conception of the organization of science as a technology did not altogether overlook the part played by individual creative minds: he even had a name for such seminal investigators, for he called them "Lamps," and indicated that their function was to "direct new experiments of a Higher Light, more penetrating into na.

ture."

234

But

.

.

his peculiar contribution

was

to sense

and exalted. In looking

.

anticipations, ical points.

.

.

back over the fulfillment of Bacon's it is

The

plain that there

first

were two

occurred in the

first

crit-

half of

telegraph, the dynamo, the electric motor; and within two generations in the invention of the telephone, the electric lamp, the x-ray, and the wireless telegraph: all of these being inventions that were not merely impracticable but technically inconceivable until pure scientific research made them live possibilities. The methods that were so fruitful in mechanics and electronics were then applied, with growing success, in organic chemistry and biology; though significantly enough the parts of technology with the longest accumulation of purely empiric knowledge, like mining and metallurgy, remained almost impervious to the advances of tric

science.

The second critical point came during

the first

half of the twentieth century, along with a change of scale and magnitude partly brought

about, almost automatically, by the expansion facilities for communication and the ex-

of the

of new sources of power. This change on human activities: a shot could be heard around the world by means of radio more than eleven times faster than it could be heard by the unaided ear a mile away. At this point, science itself became the technology of technologies; and as the mass production of scientific knowledge went hand in hand with the mass production of inventions and products derived from science, the scientist ploitation

lifted hitherto inviolable limits

came

to

have

a

new

status in society, equivalent

occupied by the captains of indusHe, too, was engaged in mass production.

to that earlier try.

The old image of the

self-directed scientist

still

remains popular, particularly among scientists; but as science expands as a mass technology, the scientist himself becomes a servant of corporate organizations intent on enlarging the bounds of

— by no means always "humane em— and endowing themselves by means of

empire pire!"

invention with power and riches and worldly prestige. By this transformation the scientist has forfeited the qualities that were exalted, in the seventeenth century, as the very hallmark

of the

scientist



his

detachment from worldly

gains and his disinterested pursuit of truth.

To

the extent that his capacity for pursuing truth

depends upon costly apparatus, collective collaboration, and heavy financial contributions

from government or industry, he has Charles

Snow

lost, as

pointed out the capacity to stand alone and to say No even on matters like the mal-exploitation of nuclear energy that threatens the future of the human race. Sir

Not merely have

[has]

.

.

.

,



the sciences, then,

become

technologies, but the scientist himself, caught

corporate process, is fast becoming the model of a docile, standardized, organization man, imprisoned by his own obsolete premises, incapable of making his escape without altering those premises. I hope I need not underline the moral that Snow properly drew from this. But there is a corollary that I would stress. Since in the

science as technology has already submitted, often with great eagerness, to political and eco-

nomic

pressures, for the sake of the

immense

cannot escape facing the consequences of this submission, and actively helping to rectify them. The scien-

scientific opportunities offered,

now

it

has the obligation of erecting intellecand social safeguards against the frequently malign consequences of scientific discoveries, even if the creation of these internal checks and balances slow up, or occasionally bring to a halt, the process of scientific investigation or technological application. As an agent of technology, science no longer has the immunities or the irresponsibilities that it claimed for itself during its great quarrels with the Church. Today, the tist

tual

comes not from the of traditional institutions but from the patronage of contemporary ones. Now if the fulfillment of Bacon's dream deserves our respectful recognition of his prophetic insights, it also imposes upon us a special that of dissociating ourselves from the duty mythology he so largely helped to promote, so as to appraise, in the light of historic experience, his unexamined premises. These premises are now so thoroughly institutionalized that most of our contemporaries continue to act upon them without even a quiver of doubt. But observe: science as technology presents a series of problems that science, as the disinterested examination of nature in search of rational understanding, never confronted; for already it shows the same deep irrationalities and absurdities that mass production in other fields has brought about. The chief premise common to both technology and science is the notion that there are no desirable limits to the increase of knowledge, of material goods, of environmental control; that quantitative productivity is an end in itself, and that every means should be used to expand the facilities for quantitative expansion and greatest danger to science hostility



production.

We

.

.

now

.

faced with the situation Goethe foresaw in the fable of the Sorcerer's Apprentice: we have achieved the magic formula for automatically increasing the supply of scientific knowledge; but we have forgotten the Master Magician's formula for regulating or halting the flood, and so are on the point of drowning in it. Science as technology gets its main financial support, and therefore its overall direction, from the national government, or from great industrial corporations like those engaged in exploiting new pharmaceutical preparaare

.

.

.

atomic energy, and from quasi-public philanthropic foundations exerting almost equally large powers. Though the professed aim of these organizations is truth and human welfare, they are governed in perhaps an even greater degree by the Baconian goals of riches and power. On these premises they have no concern with ordering science in accordance with some human measure, toward the fulfillment of broader human goals: for this tions, chemical pest controls, or

235

know

means altering the method of mass production and slowing down the whole process. Our schools and universities are helpless to restore an organic balance, because they themselves have accepted the same ideology and rely for a large part of their activities upon endowments that are scaled to the prospects of continued expansion and quick turnover: indeed the very possibilities for professional

lished

promotion depend

number of scientific papers pubthan upon long-term results that may not

more upon

the

be visible for a generation or more. The greatest contribution of science, the most .

.

.

of all its many gifts, far surpassing its purely material benefits, has been its transformation of the human consciousness, through its widening illumination of the entire cosmic and desirable

transfer to man of the with his whole being, in that process. Has the time not come, then in technology as in every other aspect of the common life to re-examine our accepted axioms and practical imperatives and to release science itself from the humanly impoverished and underdimensioned mythology of power that Francis Bacon helped to promote?

and

historic process,

power

its

to participate,





C. P.

nonsense. I have even tried to exsome kinds of scientific temperament and scientific experience. I know well enough that scientists are very much like other men. After all, we are all human, even if some of us don't give that appearance. I think I would be prepared to risk a generalization. The scientists I have known (and because of my official life I have known as many as anyone in the world) have been in certain respects at least as morally admirable as any other group of intelligent that

SNOW

men. So scientists are not much different from other men. They are certainly no worse than other men. But they do differ from other men in one thing. That is the point I started with. Whether they like it or not, what they do is of critical .

un-neutrality

.

importance for the human race. Intellectually, it has transformed the climate of our time. Socially, it will decide whether we live or die, and

how we live

It holds decisive powers for That is the situation in which the scientists find themselves. They may not have asked for it, or may only have asked for it in part, but they cannot escape it. They think, many of the more sensitive of them, that they don't deserve to have this weight of responsibility heaved upon them. All they want to do is to get on with their work. I sympathize. But the any scientists can't escape the responsibility more than they, or the rest of us, can escape

good and

or die.

evil.

There has been

they do. Yet, potentially, they can have great influence. The rest of the world is frightened

both of what they do that is, of the intellectual discoveries of science and of its effect. The rest of the world, transferring its fears, is frightened of the scientists themselves and tends to think of them as radically different from other



It

I

may

call

myself

so,

I

a favourite

way

for intellectual persons

in the



consists



say



how

The tools may be purposes which most of us would rethe tools are used.

used for gard as bad. If so, we are sorry. But as scientists, that is no concern of ours. This is the doctrine of the ethical neutrality of science. I can't accept it for an instant. I don't believe any scientist of serious feeling can accept it. It is

ex-scientist, if

is

midst of water too rough for them. of the invention of categories or, if you like, of the division of moral labour. That is, the scientists who want to contract out say, we produce the tools. We stop there. It is for you to the rest of the world, the politicians

caught

most important occupational group in the world today. At this moment, what they do is of passionate concern to the whole of human society. At this moment, the scientists have little influence on the world effect of what



moment in which we stand. of course one way to contract out. It

the gravity of the

Scientists are the

236

.



The moral of science

men. As an

is

press in fiction

hard,

some think,

ments which

will

prove

to find the precise stateit

wrong. Yet we nearly

all feel

intuitively that the invention

ble categories

a

is

moral

trap.

of comfortaone of the

is

It

methods of letting the conscience rust. Are we going to let our consciences rust? Can

easier

.

.

.

ignore that intimation we nearly all have, that scientists have a unique responsibility? Can we believe it, that science is morally neutral? To me it would be dishonest to pretend oththere is only one answer to those erwise

we

— —

questions.

Let

me

.

.

a

remark which seems

some way off the point. Anyone who has ever worked in any science knows how much aesjoy he has obtained. That is, in the actual activity of science, in the process of making a discovery, however humble it is, one can't help feeling an awareness of beauty. The subjective thetic

experience, the aesthetic satisfaction, seems

same

as the satisfaction

one gets

a from writing a poem or a piece of music. That is not the end of it. The result of the activity of science, the actual finished piece of scientific work, has an aesthetic value in itself. The judgments passed on it by other scientists will more often than not be expressed in aesthetic terms: "That's beautiful!" or "That really is

novel, or composing

.

very pretty!"

The

.

.

(as the

understating English tend

of scientific constructs, of works of art, are variegated. We think some of the great syntheses, like Newton's, beautiful because of their classical simplicity, but we see a different kind of beauty in the relativistic extension of the wave equation of the interpretation of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, perhaps because of the touch of unexpectedness. Scientists know their kinds of beauty when they see them. They are suspicious, and scientific history shows they have always been right to have been so, when a subject is in an "ugly" state. For example, most physicists feel in their bones that the present bizarre assembly of nuclear particles, as grotesque as a stamp collection, can't possibly be, in the long run, the last word. There is no doubt, then, about the aesthetic content of science, both in the activity and the result. But aesthetics has no connection with morals, say the categorizers. I don't want to to say).

truth.

By truth,

.

begin with

exactly the



but are you waste time on peripheral issues quite sure of that? Or is it possible that these categories are inventions to make us evade the human and social conditions in which we now exist? But let us move straight on to something else, which is right in the grain of the activity of science and which is at the same time quintessentially moral. I mean, the desire to find the

aesthetics

like the aesthetics

.

.

.

uses

it.

don't intend anything complicated,

I

once again.

am using the word as a scientist know that the philosophical ex-

I

We

all

amination of the concept of empirical truth gets us into some curious complexities, but most

They know that the word and as the rest of us

scientists really don't care.

truth, as they use the

language of common speech,

is what enough for makes science work. That is good them. On it rests the whole great edifice of modern science.

use

it

in the

.

.

Anyway,

.

truth in their

own

straightforward

what They want to

the scientists are trying to find.

desire, there

no

sense

is

is

what

find

science.

is

there.

It is

Without

that

the driving force

of the whole activity. It compels the scientist to have an overriding respect for truth, every stretch of the way. That is, if you're going to find what is there, you mustn't deceive yourself or anyone else. You mustn't lie to yourself. At the crudest level, you mustn't fake your experiments. Curiously enough, scientists do try to behave like that. A short time ago, I wrote a novel in which the story hinged on a case of scientific fraud. But I made one of my characters, who was himself a very good scientist, say that, con-

sidering the opportunities and temptations,

it is

We such have all heard of perhaps half a dozen open and notorious ones, which are on the record for anyone to read ranging from the "discovery" of the L radiation to the singular episode of the astonishing

how few

cases there are.



Piltdown man. But the total number of all these men is vanishingly small by the side of the total number of .

scientists.

.

.

.

.

.

The remarkable thing

is not the handful of from the search for truth overwhelming numbers who keep to it.

scientists

but the

who

deviate

237



That is anyone

demonstration, absolutely clear for of moral behaviour on a very

a

to see,

large scale.

We

Yet

very imporwidest sense (which includes scholarship) from all other in-

tant.

take

It

it

for granted.

it is

differentiates science in

tellectual activities.

There

is

component

right in the core

tivity itself.

The

its

a built-in

of the

moral

scientific ac-

desire to find the truth

is

itself a

at least contains a moral imwhich a scientist tries to find the truth imposes on him a constant moral discipline the constant moral exercise of seeking and telling the truth. To scientists, who are brought up in this climate, this seems as natural as breathing. Yet it is a wonderful thing. Even if the scientific activity contained only this one moral component, that alone would be enough to let us say that it was morally

moral impulse, or

pulse.

The way .

.

in

.

un-neutral.



mate world

to

human purpose

— and many

are

Now

than pleased with the consequences. the description of life in molecular terms provides the beginnings of a technology to reshape

less

the living

world

to

human purpose



to re-

construct our fellow life forms, each, as are we, the product of three billion years of evolution into projections of the

human

are profoundly troubled

With

will.

And many

by the prospect.

we leave web of evolutionary Nature

the advent of synthetic biology

the security of that

and strangely, bore us and all of our fellow creatures. With each step we will be increasingly on our own. The invention and introduction of new living forms may well be irreversible. How do we prevent grievous misthat, blindly

steps, inherently unretraceable?

Can we

in truth

foresee the consequences, near- and long-term, of our interventions? Genes, composed of DNA, provide the basic molecular blueprints for the design of living organisms. The recombination of genes providing new arrangements of has always been a mechanism for the generation of genetic diver-

DNA

ROBERT

SINSHEIMER

L.

sity within species (and thus

in evolution).

Caution

may be an

essential

scientitic virtue

However,

biological evolution. Inevitably, this must change not only the world in which we live, but also the way in which science functions in it. It is the success of science that has ended its

from the strident conflict of and the often passionate clash of values. The great discoveries in molecular and cellular biology in particular the elucidation of the structure and functions of the nucleic acids have provided us with a definitive understanding of the nature of life. Earlier in this century splendid discoveries in physics and chemistry provided us with a definitive understanding of the nature of matter. From that understanding has come the technology to reshape the inanipleasant isolation

interests



238

an essential factor

new technology of

"recombinant DNA" provides the capability to recombine genetic material from the most diverse species, i.e., to

Troubled scientists and confused laymen may wish that the recombinant DNA issue would go away, but it will not. Mankind is about to extend its dominion by redirecting the course of

the

mix genes from animals

and plants and microorganisms, and thereby to produce novel organisms not derived by the usual evolutionary processes. I

it is impossible to predict from knowledge the properties of such organ-

suggest that

present

isms and therefore the consequences of their introduction into our biosphere. Most would probably be innocuous. Some could, by design and selection, become of very great value for human purpose. Others might possibly, inad-

become a considerable human, animal or plant life.

vertently,

ent

peril to pres-

novel organisms could be fully contained while they were under study, there would be much less cause for concern. However, the technology is currently feasrecombinant ible only in microorganisms and in particular in the organism, Escherichia coli, a microbe indigenous to man, animals, soil and plants. The continued total containment of microorganisms If these

DNA

has never been accomplished even under the most stringent conditions. The proposed use

work of "crippled" bacterial strains with reduced likelihood of survival outside the

in this

laboratory

is

certainly a valuable precaution;

however, pragmatically, I suggest that the likelihood of error, of accident, of culture contamination, etc. will inevitably frustrate the goal of containment.

total

Because we are concerned here with selfreproducing organisms, this hazard has a novel and irreversible character. Once released, and finding an appropriate ecological niche, these

organisms cannot be recalled nor their manufacture ceased. They will be with us potentially forever.

By our wits mankind has become the master of the extant living world. Will short-sighted ingenuity

now spawn new

competitors to be-

apparent significance of the potential haz-

ard of recombinant

DNA

depends markedly

upon the perspective in which the issue is seen. Viewed narrowly the potential hazard seems slight. Most of the novel microorganisms will likely be innocuous. A few, by careful design of value for human purfew might inadvertently be perilous. The chance of release of these organisms is staand

selection, will be

A

poses.

tistically small,

The chance of a duce

a

although

it

can hardly be null.

of events necessary to proplague seems slim in any one experiment. series



Viewed broadly, however over long years, in numerous environs, with countless experiments a far larger penumbra of hazard appears.



We

are ignorant of the probable consequences, near- and long-term, of crossing the well-developed barriers to genetic recombination between species. We, and all higher organisms, figuratively live immersed in a sea of

microorganisms.

Our

intimate and inevitable

interactions with these ubiquitous beneficial,

on

low but, in truth, incalculable probability, would advocate extreme caution in the development of research in this field. I suggest such research be restricted to a small number of lablikely I

oratories providing the

maximum

possible con-

tainment, under supervision, to insure that all possible precautions are in fact employed. I would also advocate the transition as rapidly as feasible of such research from the Escherichia coli organism to some other organism adapted by nature to survival in only a very restricted

and extreme environment and

some

pathological





forms some however,

are,

the metabolic level, not at the genetic level.

The introduction of genetic intercourse between microorganisms and higher organisms

may

provide opportunities for the subsequent evolution of new forms of pathogens and new modes of transmission of disease. If the diseases con-

far less

intimately associated with man. It is only the reservoir of knowledge accumulated over the past 25 years concerning Escherichia

devil us?

The

cerned have long latent periods (as do cancers or slow virus diseases) they might not become apparent until the causative organisms had become widely disseminated. Because of these potential major hazards of

coli

that

makes it the organism of choice. An extensive program of research could likely provide alternatives within a few years, if the delay is accepted and the effort is made. We can have no assurance that science will not bring us into a more dangerous world. The search for knowledge has often been hazardous; many explorers have faced great perils. Now the hazards can encompass the planet. For our knowledge now gives us great power and we may not continue to rely upon the resilience of Nature to protect us from our follies.

New As

circumstances bring

new

perspectives.

we

have had the rare luxury to pursue truth, unconflicted by compassion. Caution has been an unfamiliar virtue, while boldness and curiosity have been hallowed. As we cut free the strands of our inheritance, a different blend of virtues may be in order and other traditions may be helpful. We should not underestimate these stakes, now and in time to come. We will need to establish in each time a sense of limits commensurate with our finite vision and shaped by our limits within which we sense of the moral believe we can explore without fear and with decency and beyond which we ought tread most gingerly. These limits will change continually as knowledge grows. In their definition and rescientists



239

should involve all who can help of those affected. As scientists who seek to understand Nature we should not unthinkingly and irreversibly perturb it. As human beings we have a responsibility always to be concerned for our fellows and our fellow creatures and the future definition

we

and respect

all

would entail. It should make clear that there are no known or foreseen nonmilitary applications of this development. The separate views of the members of the Committee are attached to this report for

your use. J. R.

Oppenheimer

generations.

October 30, 1949

We have been asked by the Commission whether or not they should immediately ini-

Report of the General Advisory Committee to the United States Atomic Energy Commission, October 30, 1949

tiate an "all-out" effort to develop a weapon whose energy release is 100 to 1000 times greater and whose destructive power in terms of area of damage is 20 to 100 times greater than those of the present atomic bomb. We recommend strongly against such action.

We

base our recommendation on our be-

extreme dangers to mankind inherent in the proposal wholly outweigh any military advantage that could come from this development. Let it be clearly recognized that lief that the

Although the members of the Advisory Committee are not unanimous in their proposals as to what should be done with regard to the super bomb, there are certain elements of unanimity among us. We all hope that by one means or another, the development of these weapons can be avoided. We are all reluctant to see the United States take the initiative in precipitating this development. We are all agreed that it would be wrong at the present

moment effort

to

commit

toward

We

are

its

ourselves to an all-out

development.

somewhat divided

of the commitment not

as to the nature

develop the weapon. The majority feel that this should be an unqualified commitment. Others feel that it should be made conditional on the response of the Soviet government to a proposal to renounce such development. The Committee recommends that enough be declassified about the super bomb so that a public statement of policy can be made at this time. Such a statement might in our opinion point to the use of deuterium as the principal source of energy. It need not discuss initiating mechanisms nor the role

to

which we believe tritium

will play.

It

should explain that the weapon cannot be explored without developing it and prooffiring it. In one form or another, the statement should express our desire not to make this development. It should explain the scale and general nature of the destruction which its use

240

super weapon; it is in a totally differfrom an atomic bomb. The reason for developing such super bombs would be to have the capacity to devastate a vast area with a single bomb. Its use would involve a decithis is a

ent category

sion to slaughter a vast

We

are

alarmed

number of

civilians.

as to the possible global ef-

fects of the radioactivity generated by the explosion of a few super bombs of conceivable magnitude. If super bombs will work at all, there is no inherent limit in the destructive power that may be attained with them. Therefore, a super bomb might become a weapon of genocide. The existence of such a weapon in our armory would have far-reaching effects on world opinion: reasonable people the world over would realize that the existence of a

weapon of tion

this

type whose power of destruc-

essentially unlimited represents a threat

is

of the human race which is intolThus we believe that the psychological of the weapon in our hands would be

to the future

erable. effect

adverse to our interest. We believe a super

bomb should never be produced. Mankind would be far better off not to have a demonstration of the feasibility of such a weapon until the present climate of world opinion changes.

by no means certain that the weapon

It is

The application of this weapon with the consequent great release of radioactivity would have results unforeseeable at present, but would certainly render large areas unfit for

can be developed at all and by no means certain that the Russians will produce one within a decade. To the argument that the Russians may succeed in developing this weapon, we would reply that our undertaking it will not prove a deterrent to them. Should they use the

weapon

habitation for long periods of time.

The

fact that no limits exist to the destrucof this weapon makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light. For these reasons we believe it important for the President of the United States to tell the American public, and the world, that we think it wrong on fundamental ethical principles to initiate a program of development of such a weapon. At the same time it would be appropriate to invite the nations of the world to join us in a solemn pledge not to proceed in the development or construction of weapons of this category. If such a pledge were accepted even without control machinery, it appears highly probable that an advanced stage of development leading to a test by another power could be detected by available physical means. Furthermore, we have in our possession, in our stockpile of atomic bombs, the means for adequate "military" retaliation for the production or use of a "super."

tiveness

against us, reprisals by our large

stock of atomic

bombs would

effective to the use

of

a

be comparably

super.

determining not to proceed to develop bomb, we see a unique opportunity of providing by example some limitations on the totality of war and thus of limiting the fear and arousing the hopes of mankind. In

the super

James B. Conant Hartley

Rowe

Cyril Stanley Smith

L.A. DuBridge Oliver E. Buckley

Oppenheimer

J. R.

October 30, 1949

AN OPINION ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE "SUPER"

A decision on the proposal that an allout effort be undertaken for the development of the "Super" cannot in our opinion be separated from considerations of broad national policy. A weapon like the "Super" is only an advantage when its energy release is from 100-1000 times greater than that of ordinary atomic bombs. The area of destruction therefore would run from 150 to approximately 1000 square miles or more. It is clear that the use of such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground which .

human

.

I. I.

EDWARD

TELLER

Back

to the laboratories

Rabi

.

being a certain individuality and dignity even if he happens to be a resident of an enemy country. It is evident to us that this would be the view of peoples in other countries. Its use would put the United States in a bad moral position relative to the peoples of the world. Any postwar situation resulting from such a weapon would leave unresolvable enmities for generations. A desirable peace cannot come from such an inhuman application of force. The postwar problems would dwarf the problems which confront us at present. gives a

E. Fermi

The

scientist

nature.

operate.

It is It is

not responsible for the laws of job to find out how these laws the scientist's job to find the ways is

his

which these laws can serve the human will. However, it is not the scientist's job to determine whether a hydrogen bomb should be constructed, whether it should be used, or how it in

should be used. This responsibility rests with the American people and with their chosen representatives.

241



whether it is conceived as a moratorium on on publication, or on development, in the present system of support for science it could be imposed only by government action. And no government would agree to that in the middle of an arms race, when it is hidebound in the concept of negotiating from strength which means by threat and counter-threat. In fact no scientist, and I hope no one who cares for the growth of knowledge, would accept a moratorium even if it were practicable. The tradition of free inquiry and publication has been essential in setting the standard of absolute truth in science: it is already eroded by secrecy in government and industry, and we need to resist any extension of that. On this ground certainly any idea of a literal stand-still in science is wrong-headed, and I do not take it seriously. But it would be shallow to find in the popular dream of a moratorium nothing more than this literal idea. There is something there that goes deeper, and that is the idea of a voluntary agreement among scientists themselves. For the layman sees that he will never put an end to misuse by letting governments tell scientists what to do: that leads only to the exploitation of science by those who know how to manipulate power. He sighs for a moratorium because he wants science used for good and is convinced that this can come about only by the action of ter

JACOB BRONOWSKI

research,

The disestablishment ot science On 2 February 1939 my late friend and colleague Leo Szilard sent a letter to Professor J. F. JoliotCurie in France in which he proposed that atomic physicists should make a voluntary agreement not to publish any new findings on the fission of uranium. It was a crucial time in history. The date was shortly after Munich; Hitler was riding high, and was clearly determined to make war. And just at this threatening moment, results were published which left no doubt that the atom of uranium could be split and neutrons released in the process. Szilard concluded that

a

chain reaction could be pro-

duced and warned Joliot-Curie, "In certain circumstances this might then lead to the construction of bombs which would be extremely dangerous in general and particularly in the hands of certain governments." Far-sighted as Leo Szilard was, it is hard to believe that the events he feared could have been stopped even if the scientists he canvassed had accepted his invitation to silence. The embargo that he tried to improvise was too crude to be realistic, in a field in which discoveries were being made so fast and their implications were so clear and so grave. At best Szilard's scheme could have been a stop-gap with which he might hope to buy a little time. Yet it is revealing and important that a scientist with the standing of Leo Szilard should have put into words the favourite daydream of the

on publication

bewildered

citizen:

to call a

Moratorium on

reminds us that scientists also feel helpless in the rush of events, which unseen hands seem constantly to direct towards more and more massive and unpleasant forms of death. We all want to buy time: a time to reflect, without next year's weapons programme already grinning behind our backs. Science.

A

proposal to

a strict

today

242

It

and

as

it

call a

moratorium on science, in would be as unrealistic years ago. It does not mat-

literal sense,

was

thirty

.

.

.

scientists themselves.

If science is to express a conscience, it must come spontaneously out of the community of scientists. But

of course this hope poses the crucial questions on which in the end the whole argument hinges. Is science as a discipline capable of inspiring in those who practise it a sense of communal responsibility? Can scientists be moved, as a body, to accept the moral decisions which their key position in this civilisation has thrust

upon

them? These questions cut deep, and I do not think that any scientist now can sleep in peace by pushing them to the back of his mind. However, there are two distinct kinds of questions here, which engage different parts of his activity and personality. Both are questions of moral conscience. But I will distinguish the first kind by

calling

ond by

them questions of humanity and the calling them questions of integrity.

The questions of humanity concern

sec-

the stand

man

should take in the perpetual struggle of each nation to outwit the others, chiefly in the ability to make war. Although the scientist is more often drawn into this (as a technician) than that a

his fellow citizens, his moral dilemma is just the same as theirs: he must weigh his patriotism against his sense of a universal humanity. If there is anything special about his being a scientist, it

can only be that he is more conscious than others that he belongs to an international community. The second kind of moral questions, those of integrity, derive from the conditions of work which science imposes on those who pursue it. inLike every form of research and scholarship scideed, like every intellectual commitment ence is an endless search for truth, and those who devote their lives to it must accept a stringent discipline. For example, they must not be a party to hiding the truth, for any end what-

— —

ever.

There

is

no

distinction

have no choice: each of them has been of his nation, and to be deaf and stony-hearted to the interests of humanity at large. In a world in which diplomacy still consists of national bargaining, and jockeying for positions of power, no statesman has a mandate for humanity, and therefore the state

elected to protect the interests

between means and

ends for them. Science admits no other end than the truth, and therefore it rejects all those devices of expediency by which men who seek power excuse their use of bad means for what they call good ends.

man

in the street turns to scientists in the des-

perate

hope

that they will act as keepers

of an

international conscience.

Some a

answer that they have which is to disclose what the head of state who has been

scientists will

national duty, too,

they

know

to

it to whatever use he judges best. time of world war, when the survival of a nation may be at stake, most scientists will act like this; and they will have a better conscience than Klaus Fuchs, who thought himself entitled to do as he chose with scientific secrets. Even in time of peace, there will be some who will put national loyalty first. I think this is a matter of private conscience, which no man can adjudicate for another. Therefore scientists who feel that

elected to put

At

a

their ultimate loyalty

is

to their nation

must

be allowed to follow their conscience; and they should do so by working directly for their government.

But what

I

think

times as they are,

Oppenheimer

is

is

no longer

tenable, in the

the stance that Dr. Robert

namely to be a on weapons on some days and an international conscience on others. The rivalry of nations has now become too bitter, and tried to maintain,

begin with the questions of humanity. Since so much scientific and technical talent goes into advice and research on war, it is natural that the

technical adviser

moral problem that stands largest in our minds (as it did in Leo Szilard's) is still the disavowal of war.

the choices that it poses for the scientist too appalling, to make it possible to be involved in

I

.

.

.

No man who

is

able to see himself as others

do can approve making war on

civilians,

and



consequence) using broadcast weapons atomic bombs, napalm, orbiting missiles, and the like. Yet he also knows that every government that ordered the development of these indiscriminate weapons, anywhere in the world, did so as a duty to its own nation. This is why (as a

the

man

in the street

away from such

wants

scientists to turn

enterprises, or at the least to

keep these dreadful secrets to themselves when they discover them. He knows that the heads of

weapons and war policy and still to claim the right of personal judgment. And that is not merely

matter of professional independence: it a deeper conflict with the morality of nationalism, government, and diplomacy. Nationalism has now distorted the use of science so that it outrages the aspirations of the user. All over the world, from Jordan to Viet Nam, and from Nigeria to South America, men carry in their hands the most precise and expensive products of technology: automatic rifles, a

comes from

homing rockets, and all of combat and terrorism.

radar, infra-red glasses,

the refined machinery

243

Yet the Viet Cong sniper and the Negro infantryman on whom these gifts are heaped has them only to kill. Nothing like this has been given him at home to live with: he has no toilet there and no bath, not a stick of decent furniture and no tools, no medicines and no schooling to speak of. It is bad enough that the world is full of people who live in such misery; and it is an affront to humanity and morality that there should then be pressed upon them as the blessings of technical civilisation the beautiful instruments of murder. It

seems

plain, therefore, in

my

analysis that

unless a scientist believes as a matter of conscience that he directly

on war

owes

it

to his nation to

work

research, he should not accept

any indirect part in it. If he chooses war research, he should work in a government department or establishment. But if he abhors the consequences of national war, he should also reject any contract, grant or project that comes to him from a military department, in any country. This is not an easy counsel in those countries (chiefly the United States and Russia) where most research in the physical sciences, and much outside them, is financed by service and other government departments. For it does not apply only to work on weapons and strategy, but by historical

momentum

extends over

a large area

of fundamental and theoretical research. 1 The support of science from military and

allied

Although I begin with the physical sciences, my theme is the dependence of all science now on government support, and I ought to give the reader some measure of that. To avoid an excess of detail, will confine myself to two statistics: Where is basic research done, and who pays the piper there? In Soviet Russia, of course, the monopoly by government is absolute. In the United States between 1965 and 1970, 62% of the annual cost of basic research (which rose from 2.9 to 3.5 billion dollars in these years) was paid by the Federal Government, and 58% of it was done in the Universities. When research done outside the Universities is stripped from the total cost, the balance sheet becomes: 75% of the basic research done in the Universities is paid by Federal grants and contracts, and only 25% by other I

funds. This

is

for basic research in

all sciences together.

The dis-

even greater for the physical sciences alone, and for non-basic and development work. parity

244

is

grew

it

after

in a haphazard way. 1945 out of the crash

to finance research which had been improvised during the War. This pattern of quasi-military support still persists, both in general research grants and in specific project costs and contracts, in much of the work done in physics and chemistry, for example. There is a similar pattern in the research financed by the space programme in the United States; again the theoretical and fundamental scientist finds himself at the end of a long pipeline which is not strictly military, and yet whose command of funds derives from a belief by government that the department is a useful outpost of technology as an instrument of com-

methods

.

.

.

petitive nationalism.

Because of these arrangements, nient for to

worker

a

it

is

conve-

in the physical sciences

draw the money for his research, whatever from one of these quasi-military pipelines.

it is,

And

since his university usually cannot pay for

his research,

and often

(in the

United

States, for

example) cannot survive without grants, he is compelled to go for help where the money is. So it comes about that physical scientists in different countries, who would not willingly work in war research, nevertheless get their funds from government departments whose main business is

related to war, or

which

departments. It seems timely to decide research should not

A

now

that this

is

a

and that grants for non-military

practice,

sources.

are at least sensi-

wishes and displeasures of war

tive to the

bad 1

come about

funds has

In the main,

scientist

come from

who

accepts

quasi-military

money from

such a source cannot be blind to the subtle conformity that it imposes on his own conduct and on those who work with him, including his students.

.

.

.

have already said that most physicists who take money from government departments have nowhere else to go; so that if they were to refuse these grants, they would have to give up their I

would be

hardship, but it is long. For the technical society that we live in cannot afford to let research languish, and will be forced to create research. This

unlikely that

it

could

last

a

channels for support if the old channels are stopped up by the receivers themselves. But it would be foolhardy to pretend that the transition period will be easy while it lasts. A deeply entrenched and politically powerful practice can be overthrown in time, but not without sacrifices meanwhile (in careers and even in

A pervasive moral distortion, a readiness to use any means for its own ends, warps the machinery of modern government. The scientist who joins a committee becomes a prisoner of the

scientific success)

by those who take the first step monopoly of government patronage. Meanwhile, the longer we wait, the more deeply rooted this patronage becomes, and

lieve.

The machine

in trying to break the

which

is

new

the harder to break.

problem of creating a organisation of support for non-military research. For the problem applies to all sciI

shall return later to the

new

beyond physics, and before I discuss it must establish a case for detaching them also from government departments. To do so, I must move on from the inhumanity of war to the moral standing of government influence in

ences, far I

general: that

is,

to the issue

of

scientific

and

intellectual integrity.

The

traditional issue of conscience for scienhas been the use of their work to make war more terrible. But the problem that confronts us

tists

now

is

more fundamental and

is

all-embracing.

no longer confine their qualms to the uses and abuses to which their