Ethical Issues with a potential job...
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15-09-2011, 04:54 AM
 
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
Robert Oppenheimer expressed his fears more forcefully on his last day as director of the Manhattan Project:

“If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the name of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people of the world must unite, or they will perish. This war, that has ravaged so much of the earth, has written these words. The atomic bomb has spelled them out for all men to understand.” (Richard Rodes: “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” pg 758)

The actual truth was stated, with Russian bluntness and brutality, by Nikita Khrushchev to Andrei Sakharov (father of the Russian hydrogen bomb, who later became a prominent dissident) when Sakharov suggested suspension of further tests:

“Sakharov writes that we don’t need tests…He’s moved beyond science into politics. Here he’s poking his nose where it doesn’t belong. You can be good scientist without understanding a thing about politics…Leave politics to us – we are the specialists. You make your bombs and test them, and we won’t interfere with you; we’ll help you. … Sakharov, don’t try to tell us what to do or how to behave. We understand politics. I’d be a jellyfish and not the Chairman of the Council of Ministers if I listened to people like Sakharov” (Andrei Sakharov: “Memoirs” page 216)

Translation: “give us the weapons we want and shut up about what to do with them”. What the naïve scientists did not realize was the unfortunate fact that they were talking to madmen intent on exploiting the terror they had created and maximize the profit they could make from this terror.

Some of the scientists believed in what they were doing, for many, it was only a job.

Almost all of them (with a few prominent exceptions like Edward Teller) regretted it after.


There are many reasons why scientists decide to participate in weapons development. Here are a few of them:

· We need it to defend our nation
· These weapons will prevent war
· The enemy won’t stop, so we can’t either
· If I don’t do it, someone else will
· It is a great challenge and “super physics”
· Nobody else would fund my research
· It’s the only job I could find
· It’s a living
· It is fun!
·
A few of these arguments sound convincing and did convince superb minds back in the 1940-s to develop nuclear weapons for the first time in human history. What many scientists don’t realize is the simple fact that arguments are dime a dozen. Anything can be justified by clever demagogues if they pick their facts and reasons carefully, omitting anything that contradicts their pre-conceived conclusions.

And this is precisely what scientists should never forget: the arbiter of any theory is experiment. Arguments aside, the world did not face total destruction before nuclear weapons were developed. Now it does.

As Richard Rodes writes in “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” (pg 784):

“…the death machine that we have installed in our midst will destroy the nation-state, ours and our rival’s along with most of the rest of the human world. The weapons with which the superpowers have armed themselves – collectively the equivalent of more than one million Hiroshimas – are linked together through their warning systems into a hair-trigger, feedback-looped contrivance, and no human contrivance has ever worked perfectly nor ever will. Each side is hostage to the other side’s errors. The clock ticks. Accidents happen.”

Nothing will change this fact!

Yes, the war may have lasted longer without it (historians seriously doubt it), yes, there may have been another world war or two without nuclear deterrent, instead of the many, many small wars all over the world that killed millions since WWII.

But humanity would not face the possibility of extinction today, if scientists refused to participate in that ‘superb and magnificent’ project of insanity.

The ethics of science that should be taught to science students all over the world should be the same as the Hippocratic Oath taught to medical students: “First, do no harm!”. Say no to weapons research, say no to projects that could harm the environment, that would cause pain and suffering to life on this planet.

Nothing can be simpler than that.

(quoted from the "Ethics of Science" chapter of my book)
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15-09-2011, 06:48 AM
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
Have you spoken to your mom about what she would think if you started working there? You sound like you would think of it as a betrayal of sorts to work there, but it might not seam so bad if your mom endorses it or if she is aware that you are doing it reluctantly.

I want to rip off your superstitions and make passionate sense to you
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15-09-2011, 07:45 PM (This post was last modified: 15-09-2011 07:59 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
(15-09-2011 04:54 AM)Zatamon Wrote:  There are many reasons why scientists decide to participate in weapons development.

And some of us were just summer interns while we were in University, graduated and got job offers from the World Bank and the DOJ and realized that we really really did not want to wear a suit and tie so I just stayed where I was. No suit or tie required. Selfish I know, but I literally cannot tolerate a suit and tie and still be productive.

(15-09-2011 04:54 AM)Zatamon Wrote:  What the naïve scientists did not realize was the unfortunate fact that they were talking to madmen intent on exploiting the terror they had created and maximize the profit they could make from this terror. ... What many scientists don’t realize is the simple fact that arguments are dime a dozen. Anything can be justified by clever demagogues if they pick their facts and reasons carefully, omitting anything that contradicts their pre-conceived conclusions.

I am not naïve. I get that.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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15-09-2011, 08:02 PM
 
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
I have read many books about the Manhattan Project. In one of the books I found this quote from Albert Einstein. Unfortunately, I can not seem to find it again. If one of you know this and can give me a link, I would greatly appreciate it.

Here it goes:

When Albert Einstein was approached during WWII and asked to support the Manhattan Project, his answer was: "Gentlemen, your reasons are unanswerable, your justification is irrefutable, your case is compelling -- however, I will not do it. Why? Because it is wrong."

(15-09-2011 07:45 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  I am not naïve. I get that.

GirlyMan, I never thought you were naive. I do respect the clarity of your mind! Smile
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15-09-2011, 08:11 PM (This post was last modified: 15-09-2011 08:39 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
(15-09-2011 08:02 PM)Zatamon Wrote:  
(15-09-2011 07:45 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  I am not naïve. I get that.

GirlyMan, I never thought you were naive. I do respect the clarity of your mind! Smile

My point was that I doubt they were naïve either. If bullshit is clear to me and my little peanut brain, I just assume it's clear to smarter fuckers than me. ... Granted, that hasn't always held true. I've met and worked with some geniuses who were otherwise dumb as a rock. Many of them just needed to get laid.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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15-09-2011, 08:16 PM
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
Wow, I'm surprised to come back here and see this topic pushed up.

Uh... anyways, I don't really have to worry about getting a job right now, my aunt stopped pressuring me.

HOWEVER, in place of a job, I am going to be volunteering to help my Biology professor in the lab with his research on Salamanders, so uh... hooray for that!

"Science is interesting, if you don't agree, you can fuck off."
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15-09-2011, 08:28 PM
 
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
(15-09-2011 08:11 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  ... I just assume it's clear to smarter fuckers than me. ... Granted, that hasn't always held true. I've met and worked with some geniuses who were otherwise dumb as a rock.

Agreed.

If a person is a genius in one way, he can be a real ass in many others.

Have you read “The Private Lives of Albert Einstein” written by Roger Highfield and Paul Carter? It is almost shocking how dumb the man was in many areas other than science.
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19-09-2011, 01:35 PM
RE: Ethical Issues with a potential job...
My experience with people who are brilliant in science and math is they tend to be very limited in their ability to cope with other parts of life. I have an uncle who is a genius. In the 60s he worked for a contractor who worked on the space program and he came up with an algorithm that was used to determine the trajectory to launch the Apollo moon missions. He did this with a slide ruler and a piece of paper and worked on it for I don't know how long. And, he came up with something that made the moon walk possible.

45 years later and he's lucky he's not homeless because he can't balance his check book. I'm not kidding about that, either. If it wasn't for my dad, he'd probably be dead

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
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