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NEWSLETTER: Science for Peace

Anatol Rapoport — May 1984

Brief to the Commission of the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark
presented 9th March 1984

I am a member of Science for Peace, a nationwide organization of scientists interested in peace research and peace education. I do not, of course, presume to speak for that organization. However, the views I am about to present are shared by many of my colleagues, who, being professionally engaged in scientific activity, feel a special responsibility imposedon them by that activity.

At one time, there was a widespread view that the professional responsibilities of the scientist did not include concerns about good and evil but only with the discovery and dissemination of truth, that is, with questions about what is — not about what ought or ought not to be. Nevertheless, even though the scientist in his professional role was supposed to ignore questions of value, science as such was for a long time regarded as the basis of man’s power over nature and hence as a fountainhead of positive contributions to the quality of life. In the last decades, this image of science has become tarnished. Science now tends to be seen increasingly as a source not only of benign technology but also of ultra-sophisticated destructive technology, literally threatening to wipe out the human race either quickly by megaweapons or more slowly by progressive degradation of the environment.

In my view, it is the responsibility of the scientists to explain that the misuse of science for destructive or self-destructive ends is not inherent in science as a mode of perceiving the world. On the contrary, the frightening perversions of technology now portends (a situation without any remotely analogous precedent in history), partly from deeply rooted delusions about social and political realities and even from misconceptions about the meaning of rational decisions in conflict situations.

Research on these matters and the dissemination of knowledge so obtained have become, to my way of thinking, a prime responsibility of the scientists to his profession and to humanity as a whole. Responsibility to the profession involves counteracting the image of science as Frankenstein’s monster — an image still projected by scientists who continue to serve the needs of the global war machine. These scientists disavow responsibility for the uses to which their research is put by insisting that science must be “value-free”. This stance, however, which amounts to disengaging intellect from conscience. is in itself an avowal of value, inimical in my opinion, to the spirit and ideals of science. Responsibility to humanity is that of providing a scientifically based infrastructure for the establishment of institutions designed for a lasting global peace.

In the societies of the superpowers, there are formidable obstacles in the way of a scientist attempting to discharge these responsibilities. In the Soviet Union, where expression of opinions in any way critical of the regime or of its policies is fraught with severe dangers, these obstacles are obvious. In the United States, where criticism and disscnt do not necessarily evoke sanctions. Ihe obstacles are of another kind, namely, the inertia of public perception of national security. still dominated by anxieties about world power status, reactions to challenges by determined adversaries, etc. ‘

Countries unencumbered by great power status and thus potentially free from self-defeating compulsions can play an important and constructive role in providing an antidote to the poison now pervading rclations between the superpowers. Canada is especially well suited for this role. in the first instance through diplomacy by developing creative peace initialives, conflict-resolving techniques, etc. This role can also be played internally by encouraging the attainment and dissemination of reliable, scientifically supported knowledge aboul how the new dimension of war has made all the time-honoured notions about its genesis. nature, and consequences all but irrelevant to the present plight of humanity.

Science for Peace was organized with Ihe view of providing enlightenment on all these matters. Thank you for the opportunity of presenting Ihis view al these Hearings.

MEMBERSHIP: We extend an invitation to join Science for Peace to all scientists physical, life, behavioural and social). engineers, physicians, and others. whether from industry, business. or tbe professions. Membership includes a subscription to the BULLETIN and thc right to participate in Chapter activities. Membership subscription: $25.00 (student/retired: $5.00). Make cheques payable to Scicnce for Peace we are registered as a charitable organinlion. Mail to: Science for Peace. University College, University of Toronto, Toronto On., M5S 1A1. Contacts: office, xxx-xxxx; Derek Paul, secretary, xxx-xxxx; Raymond Kapral, treasurer. xxx-xxxx.