by on February 11th, 2011
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Clearly, scientists both of the east and of the west have an imperative duty: namely, the duty of bringing home to the protagonists the fact that the time is past for swashbuckling and boasting and campaign of bluff which, if the bluff is called, can end only in utter disaster. I have been glad to see a lead given by a small number of men of science of the highest eminence, representing many countries and all creeds Americans, western Europeans, poles and Japanese. I have rejoiced to see these men issue a clear statement as to what is likely to happen in a great war; and I wish them to invite all other men of science, in all countries, to subscribe to this statement.

I am aware that this will involve a certain degree of heroism and self-sacrifice. But there will be a reward which brave men should find sufficient: the reward of preserving uprightness and self-respect in the face of danger. These virtues are common in battle, and men of science should be able to show them also in a conflict with ignorance and ferocity. Science has fought great fights in former centuries against the embattled forces of obscurantism. In the nineteenth century, it seemed as though science was victorious, but the victory is in danger of proving illusionary. If science is to do its duty to mankind, men of science must once again face martyrdom and accusation of indifference to moral lives. Perhaps their prestige may suffice to save them from the worst penalties for their courage, but of this we cannot be confident. What we can say with confidence is that it is not worth while to prolong a slavish and cowardly existence for a few miserable years while those who know the magnitude of the impending catastrophe wait for that radioactive death that is in store for them as well as for others.

A difficult readjustment in the scientists’ conception of duty is imperatively necessary. As lord Adrian said in his address to the British association: “unless we are ready to give up some of our old loyalties, we may be forced into a fight which might end the human race.” This matter of loyalty is the crux .Hitherto, in the east and in the west alike, most scientists, like most other people, have felt that loyalty to their own state is paramount. They have no longer a right to feel this. Loyalty to the human race must take its place. Everyone in the west will at once admit this as regards soviet scientists. We are shocked that Kapitza, who was Rutherford’s favorite pupil, was willing when the soviet government refused him permission to return to Cambridge, to place his scientific skill at the disposal of those who wished to spread communism by means of hydrogen bombs. We do not so readily apprehend a similar failure of duty on our own side. I do not wish to be thought to suggest treachery, since that is only a transference of loyalty to another national state; I am suggesting a very different thing: that scientists the world over should join in enlightening mankind as to the perils of a great war and in devising methods for its prevention. I urge with all the emphasis at my disposal that this is the duty of scientists in east and west alike. It is a difficult duty. And one likely to cause danger and on this account, all scientists must do everything in their power to save mankind from the madness which they have made possible.

I do not think that men of science can cease to regard the disinterested pursuit of knowledge as their primary duty. It’s true that new knowledge and new skills are sometimes harmful in their effects, but scientists can not profitably take account of this fact since the effects are impossible to foresee. We cannot blame Columbus because the discovery of the western hemisphere spread throughout the eastern hemisphere an appallingly devastating plague. Nor can we blame James Watt for the dust bowl, although if there had been no steam engines and no railways the west would not have been so carelessly or so quickly cultivated. To see that knowledge is wisely used is primarily the duty of statesmen not of men of science; but its part of the duty of men of science to see that important knowledge is disseminated and is not falsified in the interests of this or that propaganda.

Scientific knowledge has its dangers but so has every great this. And over and beyond the danger with which it threatens the present, it opens up as nothing else the vision of a possible happy world, a world without poverty, without war, with little illness. And ,what is perhaps more that all, when science has mastered the forces which mold human character, it will be able to produce populations in which few suffer from destructive fierceness and in which the great majority regard other people not as competitors to be feared, but as helpers in a common task.

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