"Science and Humanity at the Turn of the Millennium"
Sir Joseph Rotblat
It is now 23 years since I retired from my University Chair and
became a "gentleman of leisure." In my case leisure
meant working full time on matters that are essentially of a moral
and political nature, such as, the elimination of nuclear weapons
and the abolition of war. But the first five decades of my adult
life were spent on scientific researchfirst in nuclear physics
and later on its applications to medicine. In this lecture I want
to go back to science, to discuss its past role in society, and
the role it should play in the future, a role that may affect
the lives of generations to come.
We are now at the threshold of a new millennium. This is an appropriate
time to reflect on the legacy we are handing down from the past,
especially from the century that is now coming to an end. There
can be no doubt that the 20th century has been a unique century,
with more momentous changes than in any previous century: changes
for better, changes for worse; changes that have brought enormous
benefits to human beings, changes that threaten the very existence
of the human species. The world today is completely different
from the world into which I was born in the first decade of this
Many factors have contributed to these changes, but in my opinion
the most important factorthe dominating factorhas
been the progress made in the natural sciences.
I was five years old when the First World War broke out. My formative
yearswhen as a young child I began to comprehend the world
around mewere spent in utter poverty and hardship. At that
time I began to develop a great passion for science, science pursued
not only to satisfy our thirst for knowledge, but as the means
to alleviate the miseries of life that I experienced every day:
death and destruction; hunger and cold; squalor and disease; degradation
and cruelty. I fervently believed that science could, and would,
put an end to these evils. It was this dream that sustained me
in those terrible years during and immediately after the war.
Nowas a nonagenarian, looking back at this dream of a childI
am glad to note that much of the dream has come true. On the whole,
the world is much better off at the end of the century than it
was at its beginning. And most of the betterment is the consequence
of the progress made in the natural sciences.
Infectious diseases that killed so many in infancy and young age,
are now a thing of the past. The average life-span has generally
increased dramatically. Greatly improved techniques in agriculture
have made it possibleat least potentiallyto provide
food for the world population, even though the world population
has been growing very fast as a result of better health and hygiene.
New industrial technologies applied in factories and mines have
largely removed the drudgery and mindlessness of labour, as well
as reducing working hours and increasing safety standards. The
products of the new industrial technologies have also lessened
the chores of day-to-day life, such as housing amenities, food
preparation and materials for clothing. The fantastic progress
in communication and information has given more and more people
access to the great cultural achievementsto books, concerts,
museums, as well enabling them to keep in touch with current events
via radio, television and the Internet. All this has made it possible
for them to be more actively involved in the life of the community,
whether at local, national or world-wide level. Altogether, people
nowadays are much healthier, more affluent, better educated and
informed, and thus more disposed to live in peace with one another,
than at the beginning of this century. And, as I said, all this
came about mainly as a result of the application of science to
Sadly, however, I have also to note many negative applications
of science. Firstly, the benefits of science are not enjoyed by
all people to the same degree. One result of this is that, in
relative terms, there is now a much wider gap between the industrialized
and the developing nations, as well as between the upper and lower
strata within individual nations. This has created new social
tensions which may lead to strife and military confrontation.
Furthermore, the better-off nationsand the affluent strata
within nationsdo not seem to be satisfied with their high
standards of living. They want ever more luxuries; greed, the
hallmark of the capitalist system, is a driving force. The result
is excessive consumption of energy and squandering of natural
resources. These excesses, in a world with an ever increasing
population, may lead to a catastrophic degradation of the environment.
We are poisoning ourselves with our own affluence. Unless drastic
steps are initiated soon to deal with the ecological problems,
we may be heading for global disaster and the destruction of many
species, including the human one.
Above all, the use of science and technology to develop and produce
weapons of mass destruction, has created a real threat to the
continued existence of the human race on this planet. This is
already the case with nuclear weapons. Although their actual use
in combat has so far been confined to the destruction of two Japanese
cities, during the four decades of the Cold War obscenely huge
arsenals of nuclear weapons were accumulated and made ready for
use. The arsenals were so large that if the weapons had actually
been detonated, the result could have been the complete extinction
of the human species, as well as of many animal species. To a
very large extent this was due to the work of scientists. Many
of them did it not because of any credible security requirementarsenals
a hundred times smaller would have sufficed for any conceivable
need for deterrencebut simply to satisfy their inflated
egos, for the intense exhilaration experienced in exploring new
scientific concepts. This is a complete perversion of the lofty
ideals of science. It is a terrible but warranted indictment of
members of a highly respected group in society.
On several occasions during the Cold War we came very close to
the ultimate catastrophe. Each time we were saved at the last
moment because the leaders concerned were sane people; but can
we be sure that we will be so lucky next time? According to Robert
McNamara: "The indefinite combination of nuclear weapons
and human fallibility will lead to a nuclear exchange."
That human society is capable of being led to extreme inhumanity
is exemplified by another gruesome event of this century. I am
referring to the holocaust. Millions of peopleliterally
millionswere put to death for no reason other than that
they were members of certain ethnic groups. And this genocide
was carried out not in a spontaneous act of frenzy; not in some
ritualistic fight between primitive tribes; not as a last resort
in the face of extermination. It was carried out in cold blood,
in a systematic fashion, in a carefully prepared plan; it was
executed with scientific precision, using a chemical "zyklon",
which was invented by a scientist, a Nobel Laureate. It was perpetrated
by one of the most civilized of nations.
These two eventsthe holocaust and the nuclear arms race
that began with the Hiroshima bombare in my opinion the
worst chapters in the 20th century, a very violent century by
any measure, with some 160 million people estimated to have perished
in various conflicts. Although having different causes and consequences,
these two events demonstrate the degree of lunacy to which our
minds can descend, the depths of depravity to which our society
is capable of sinking. These evils must never be forgotten. Future
generations must be constantly reminded that there is no limit
to the evil that can be perpetrated by Man on Man. Every country
should set upas part of its millennium commemorationsmuseums
of the holocaust and of the atom bomb.
William Shakespeare had said: "The web of our life is of
a mingled yarn, good and ill together." My brief review of
the application of one strand of human activities, science, seems
to bear out this adage. But does it have to be so? Must ill always
co-exist with good? To be more explicit: are we biologically programmed
for aggression and war?
I am no authority in genetics, but from my readings and life-long
observations, I see no evidence that we are genetically condemned
to commit evil. On the contrary, on very general grounds I would
venture to say that we are destined to do things that are of benefit
to the human species, and that the capacity for aggression was
acquired as a transient requisite in the struggle for survival.
In other words, I start from the assumption that Man is inherently
good. This has been my basic philosophy since my youth, and all
the terrible events of this century that I have mentionedincluding
personal tragedyhave not shaken this belief.
I would like to expand on this philosophy as part of my attempt
to outline the future role of science in relation to human values,
although it is not a necessary part of my argument.
I mentioned the goodness of Man. By doing this I entered into
the field of ethics, which for most people is linked with religion.
I do not quarrel with people who seek ethical guidance in religion,
as long as they do not insist on imposing their religious doctrines
on others; when this happens, religion becomes a highly negative,
even dangerous element in society. As a scientist, I try to derive
ethical concepts on rational grounds, in terms of the laws of
nature, mainly the laws of physics.
The laws of physics seem to be able to explain the evolution of
life from inanimate matter to simple living organisms, and thence
to plants, to animals, to Man. The human species is the outcome
of a continuous, inexorable process that has led, through random
mutations influenced by environmental factors, to the emergence
of systems of ever better adaptation, thus safeguarding their
continuity. In animals, this has led to the evolution of species
with increasing intelligence, climaxing in the human species,
which has acquired the ability of original thinking. I believe
that this marks a very important phase in evolution: the first
time that Man was able to take charge of his own destiny.
The acquisition of the power of original thinking has added a
new dimension to the process of natural evolution: a much faster
cultural evolution. It has resulted in huge strides in all aspects
of civilizationin the arts, in literature, in medicine,
in technology, above all, in science, which is at the forefront
of the expansion of the human intellect. However, these very advances
in science have led to our acquiring the capacity for self-destruction,
to the development of the means to destroy the human species itself.
As I have shown, this has already happened in one area, with the
development of nuclear weapons. But other means of wholesale destruction,
perhaps more readily available than nuclear weapons, may result
from further scientific research, if it is allowed to go on without
We are thus faced with a daunting dilemma. As part of cultural
evolution, science should be allowed to develop freely, with no
restrictions put on it. But can we afford the luxury of uninhibited
researchwhich may lead to an even greater potential for
total destructionin a world in which war is still a recognized
For the preservation, and continuing enhancement of the human
species, we need to learn to live with one another in peace and
harmony. But this learning process has been slow and arduous,
and is far from being complete. In the distant past, under the
harsh conditions in which primitive Man lived, he often had to
kill for survival, in competition for food or for a mate. Later
on, when communities were formed, groups of people were killing
other groups of people for the same reason, and war became part
of our culture. But now such motivation is no longer valid. Thanks
largely to the advances in science and technology, there is no
need for people to kill one another for survival. If properly
managed and distributed, there could be enough food and other
life necessities for everybody, even with the huge increase in
world population. But as already mentioned, the problem is that
the resources are not distributed evenly, and thus many people
are still starving, many children are still dying from malnutrition.
We have still much to do before the basic cause of war is removed
Apart from the basic cause, survival, other causes of war, based
on tribal, cultural, religious or ideological differences, have
arisen in course of time and resulted in terrible carnage. Most
of these causes are derivatives of the basic cause, and they too
are becoming obsolete. The increasing interdependence of nations,
and the rapidly growing means of communication, such as the Internet,
which enable people to talk to each other directly, is instrumental
in removing prejudice and mistrust which mostly stem from ignorance.
Indeed, there are signs that we are learning the lessons of history
and are moving towards a war-free world. In the two World Wars
of this century, France and Germany were mortal enemies. Young
people of these and many other countries were slaughtered by the
millions. But now a war between France and Germany seems inconceivable.
The same applies to the other members of the European Union. There
are still many disputes between them over a variety of issues,
but these are being settled by negotiations, by mutual give-and-take
agreements. The members of the European Union have learned to
solve their problems by peaceful means.
The same is beginning to take place in other continents. Military
regimes are on the decline; more and more countries are becoming
democracies. Despite the terrible bloodshed still taking placethe
recent tribal genocide in Rwanda; the ethnic cleansing in Kosovothe
number of international and internal wars is decreasing. Slowly
and painfully we are appreciating the folly of war and learning
how to resolve conflicts without resorting to military confrontation.
However, we are not there yet. We are still not organized for
a war-free world. In the meantime, the human species may be brought
to an end by the use of the tools of destruction, themselves resulting
from science and technology.
In my opinion, the problem has to a large extent arisen from the
uneven advancements in the different areas of human activities,
in particular, the discrepancy between the progress made in the
natural scienceswhich include the physical and biological
disciplinesand that made in the various social sciences:
economics, sociology, political science, psychology. There is
no doubt that there has been much faster progress in the natural
sciences than in the social ones.
Why have the natural sciences, especially the physical sciences,
advanced so much faster than the social sciences? Two main reasons
come to mind. One, the social sciences became recognized as scientific
disciplines much later than the physical sciences; indeed, even
now there are many who doubt whether the social sciences can be
classified as such. Related to this is the second reason, that
the subject matter of the social sciences is much more difficult
to master than the physical sciences. Physics, for example, deals
with highly intricate matters, but the laws of physics are immutable,
they apply everywhere, on this planet or everywhere else in the
universe. They are not affected by human reactions and emotions,
as the social sciences are.
Indeedif I may digress for a momentit is these very
characteristics of the physical sciences that have led to the
"ivory tower" mentality of the natural scientists, to
their assertions that science is neutral, that it has nothing
to do with politics, and should be allowed to be undertaken for
its own sake, without regard to the ways it may be applied. In
its extreme form, it was this attitude that enabled the scientists
in the military establishments on both sides of the iron curtain,
in Los Alamos and Livermore, in the Chelyabinsks and the Arzamases,
to use their ingenuity to keep on inventing new, or improving
old, instruments of destruction during the Cold War, and has led
to the build up of the huge nuclear arsenals with the capacity
to destroy the human species. It is this frame of mind that currently
enables scientists working in genetic engineering to propose experiments
that could play havoc with our genetic make up.
How can we tackle this unevenness in the rate of progress of different
areas of science? The two alternatives are: accelerate the rate
of progress in the social sciences, or slow down the rate of advancement
of the natural sciences in some areas.
Clearly, the former is preferable by far. What we would like to
see is faster progress in the social sciences, leading to the
establishment of a social system that would make war not only
unnecessary but unthinkable; a system in which the existence of
old, or the invention of new, weapons of mass destruction, would
not matter, because nobody would dream of using them; a system
which Victor Weisskopf described succinctly: "nuclear weapons,
How long will it take to achieve this ideal state? Considering
that it would require an educational process to develop and nurture
in us a feeling of loyalty to mankind, transcending national boundaries,
it may be a long time coming. Earlier than this much progress
can be made by initiating a comprehensive programme of political
measures, aiming at enhancing confidence in relations between
nations; increasing adherence to international law; and strengthening
the peacekeeping and peace-enforcing instruments of the United
Nations. Eventually it would mean setting up a system of global
What can be done to accelerate progress in the various disciplines
of the social sciences? I do not know enough about these sciences
to offer specific suggestions. But it seems to me that social
sciences would benefit from the adoption of some of the methodology
of the natural sciences. In the first instance, by greater reliance
on fact than on opinion; on a rational approach in place of precedents;
on objective analysis rather than on preconceived ideas. This
may reduce somewhat the very wide divergence of views that is
now apparent in the social sciences.
George Bernard Shaw had said: "If you take all economists
in the world and lie them end to end, you would still not get
agreement on a single idea." This was said a long time ago,
and by now this may no longer be true. Economics is now recognized
as a respectable discipline, with the prospect of a Nobel Prize
for its luminaries.
However, even with much greater effort, it will take a long time
to achieve the objectives that I have outlined. Meanwhile the
threats now hanging over our heads could become a reality, should
there occur a major military conflict. We have therefore to consider,
in addition, the alternative approach, namely imposing some restraint
on research in the natural sciences.
At first this sounds unimaginable, a limitation on scientific
research is almost a contradiction in terms. How can thinking
be muzzled? How can one control the ideas that come into one's
head? We still remember the political regimes that tried to do
this, and nobody wants to bring them back. Moreover, scientific
research is very likely to bring huge further benefits to us all,
and we should not do anything that may hinder such outcomes.
But given that unlimited research may also lead to grave dangers,
as I have described, the prevention of these dangers should, in
my opinion, have priority, even if it means that, temporarily,
science does not have a completely free run. After all, we do
not need to do everything; we don't have to pursue every
idea that comes into our heads. In exercising our intellectual
powers we can afford to be selective, and the basis for the selection
should be responsibility for the consequences of our work.
This responsibility has not yet been fully recognized by the scientific
community. Despite the enormous impact of science on the world
community, many scientists still cling to the "ivory tower"
mentality. Their logic rests on the distinction between pure and
applied science. It is the application of science that can be
harmful, they say. As far as pure science is concerned, the only
obligation on the scientist is to make the results of research
known to the public. What the public does with them is their business,
not that of the scientist.
Actually, the distinction between pure and applied science is
a remnant of the distant past when scientific research was completely
divorced from day-to-day life, and practical applications that
could have resulted from academic research were remote in time
and space. It would take decades before an application was found,
and then it would have been taken up by different people, mostly
engineers, in polytechnics or industrial laboratories.
Nowadays, the distinction is hardly discernible. Practical applications
often follow immediately after scientific discoveries, and are
pursued by the same people. University scientists are encouraged
to do applied research, to enable them to be financially self-sufficient.
The amoral attitudes of the advocates of the laissez-faire policy
for science is actually highly immoral, because it eschews personal
responsibility for one's actions.
We live in a world community with ever greater interdependence;
an interdependence largely due to technical advancement arising
from scientific research. An interdependent community offers great
benefits to its members, but by the same token it imposes obligations
on them. Every citizen has to be accountable for his/her deeds.
We all have a responsibility to society.
But the need for such responsibility is particularly imperative
on scientists, mainly because scientists understand the technical
problems better than the average citizen or the politician. And
knowledge brings responsibility.
In any case, the scientists do not have a completely free hand.
The general public, through elected governments, have the means
to control science, either by withholding the purse, or by imposing
restrictive regulations harmful to science. Clearly, it is far
better that any control should be exercised by the scientists
themselves. It is most important that science improves its public
image, that it regains the respect of the community for its integrity,
trust in its pronouncements. Scientists must show by their conduct
that it is possible to combine creativeness with compassion; letting
the imagination roam with caring for fellow creatures; venturing
into the unknown yet being fully accountable for one's doings.
The prominent role of modern science in society has made it necessary
for scientists as individuals to adopt a self-imposed code of
conduct, and for organizations of scientists to take measures
to implement it.
An ethical code of conduct for physicians has been in existence
for nearly two and a half millennia, since the days of Hippocrates.
In those daysand still todaythe life of the patient
was literally in the hands of the doctor, and it was essential
to ensure that the doctor would wield his power responsibly, the
care of the patient being his foremost duty. Hence the Hippocratic
Oath taken by doctors when they qualify.
Nowadays, scientists can be said to have acquired a somewhat similar
role in relation to humanity. The time has thus come for some
kind of Hippocratic Oath to be formulated and adopted by scientists.
A solemn oath, or pledge, taken when receiving a degree in science,
would, at the least, have an important symbolic value, but might
also generate awareness and stimulate thinking on the wider issues
among young scientists.
Various professional groups have proposed different formulations
for oaths or pledges, to suit specific desiderata. For young scientists,
and if to be taken on graduation, the text of the pledge adopted
by the US Student Pugwash Group seems to me highly suitable. The
"I promise to work for a better world, where science and
technology are used in socially responsible ways. I will not use
my education for any purpose intended to harm human beings or
the environment. Throughout my career, I will consider the ethical
implications of my work before I take action. While the demands
placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I
recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on
the path to peace."
Apart from thetries where there are no academies),
which usually are the highest authorities on scientific matters,
should explicitly include ethical issues in their terms of reference.
The charters of some academies already contain clauses that allow
them to be concerned with the social impact of scientific research.
But I would like to see those clauses made mandatory: there should
be explicit statements that ethical issues are an integral part
of the work of scientists.
A specific task for the academies should be the setting up of
ethical committees to review research projectsanother practice
to be borrowed from medicine. In many countries, a research project
that involves patients has to be approved by the ethical committee
of the hospital, to ensure that the investigation will not put
the patient's health and welfare to a significant risk.
This practice should be extended to research work in general,
but in the first instance, perhaps, to genetic engineering, an
area of research that has a direct bearing on the health of the
I suggest that ethical committees, composed of eminent scientists
from different disciplines, should be set up for the task of examining
potentially harmful long-term effects of proposed research projects.
The ethical committees should work under the aegis of the national
academy of sciences in the country, but it would be essential
for the criteria used in the assessment of projects to be agreed
internationally by academies of sciences, so that the same standards
are applied everywhere.
I believe that these proposals, if accepted by the scientific
community and backed by public opinion, would go some way towards
reducing the adverse effects of science, without diminishing its
On many issues of public concern, non-governmental organizations
play an ever-increasing role. Academies of science often are formally
or indirectly part of the governmental establishment and this
limits their freedom of action. There is, therefore, also a need
for completely independent organizations of scientists to be concerned
with the ethical issues arising from scientific research and its
applications, functioning in a way that is complementary to the
activities of the academies.
Many such organizations are in existence. Among those familiar
to me I would mention the Federation of American Scientists, the
Forum on Physics and Society of the American Physical Society,
the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Scientists for Global Responsibility.
Above all, our own, the Pugwash Movement, often described as the
social conscience of scientists, has a good track record; this
applies both to the seniors and the student Pugwash organizations,
particularly the Student Pugwash Group in the United States.
I spoke earlier about the code of conduct for scientists. This
applies, of course, to Pugwashites, but I believe that something
more is expected from them. I talked about this on another occasion,
in an address to a Pugwash Conference.
We are a bunch of individuals, engaged in scientific work, or
in preparing for a scientific career. What links us is that we
all have a social conscience; but, in addition, we want, through
our activities, to set an example to other scientists. In calling
on others to heed their social conscience, we must take care that
we are doing it in a responsible way. Pugwash should always be
avant-garde, not afraid of being unconventional; we should have
vision, imagination, originality. But we should not become divorced
from reality. We should be modernizers but also moderate; pioneers
but also pragmatic; radical but also realistic. Our work should
be a combination of idealism and practicality. We should have
long-view objectives but not neglect short-term measures. Expressed
colloquially, what we want is to be able to hold our heads high,
above the clouds, but at the same time keep our feet firmly on
ground. And this, of course, is not at all easy.
Pugwash desires to be progressive, to foster new ways of thinking
and encourage pioneering ideas. This may bring us into conflict
with the establishment; make us non-conformists, radicals, dissidents.
Dissidence can be said to be part of our ethical code.
Bertrand Russell, the great dissident of this century, has said:
"Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, because every opinion
accepted was once eccentric." We cannot be bystanders when
the establishment behaves in a hypocritical manner. We cannot
but protest against the manipulation or suppression of facts,
particularly in areas in which we have expert knowledge. Our protests
can often take the form of "whistle-blowing"; bringing
to the notice of the public attempts by governments, or industrial
firms, to mislead by giving false information, or by concealing
But in this too, things are not always simple. What are the criteria
that determine whether an act of whistle-blowing is responsible
or foolhardy? What is the difference between an idealist and a
The judgement of where the balance lies is highly subjective,
and is influenced by many factors. This explains why even in Pugwash,
where we all share the same ultimate objective, there are considerable
differences of opinion about the ways to achieve it. Some believe
that we should speak out in public when a threat to world security
appears. Others feel that by being more circumspect we will have
more credibility among decision-makers and thus be able to influence
them in the right direction. For the same reason, some people
stay in government posts even if they disagree with official policy.
In Pugwash we have former ministers, past scientific advisers
to government, retired generals, ex-ambassadors. They feel free
to express their real view only after retirement. On the whole,
they have probably done more good by staying in their posts than
by resigning in protest and being replaced by hawks.
These observations, a sort of an addendum to the code of conduct
for scientists, apply both to senior and to student Pugwashites,
although the roles of the two groups differ in some respects.
The seniors are often in a position to talk directly to decision-makers
and thus facilitate the implementation of our objectives. On the
other hand, the students in Pugwash have opportunities to influence
the new recruits to science, a most important task since our future
depends on the responsible attitude of the young generation. SPUSA
is doing a magnificent job, through its many chapters, in providing
advice about careers. It is vital to make students think on ethical
issues and social responsibilities, so that they will not be lured
by siren calls of rapid advancement and unlimited opportunities.
The SPUSA Pledge is highly relevant to this. I hope that the campaign
to promote its applicationand to persuade more universities
to incorporate it as part of the degree ceremonieswill be
pursued with even more vigour. The campaign would be helped if
universities could be persuaded to run courses of lectures on
the ethical aspects of science in undergraduate curricula. In
this connection I would like to see SPUSA taking on yet another
task, a task that would be a reversal of tradition, namely, students
educating the teachers. There are still members of science faculties
who do not see any necessity for scientists to be concerned about
the social impact of science; indeed there are some who are actively
opposed to such ideas and discourage their students from becoming
involved in these issues. SPUSA might have a go at persuading
them to change their attitudes, by arranging discussion meetings
with those teachers. It would be a worthy exercise. To quote George
Bernard Shaw again: "It's all that the young can do
for the old, to shock them and keep them up do date."
Referring back to the differences between the natural and social
sciences, Pugwashyoung and seniorhas played a significant
role in narrowing the gap, by providing an opportunity for both
groups to meet and discuss problems of mutual concern.
When Pugwash began, the participants in the Pugwash Conferences
were mainly physicists, some of whom had worked on the Manhattan
Project: in those days the technical aspects of nuclear weapons
and the effects of nuclear warfare figured prominently on the
agenda. But gradually, with the debate becoming focused on arms
control measures, social scientists were brought in in increasing
numbers so that nowadays their participation exceeds that from
the natural sciences.
This change also reflects the radical change in the political
climate. When Pugwash came into being, at the height of the Cold
War, its outstanding feature was the provision of a channel of
communication between scientists from both sides of the iron curtain.
At that time there were hardly any such channels in existence;
now there are plenty. Nowadays, the noteworthy feature of Pugwash
is that it provides a forum for collaboration between social and
natural scientists, while retaining the methodology of the natural
Since the end of the Cold War Pugwash has concentrated its efforts
on the elimination of nuclear weapons, because their very existence
is a threat to mankind. As long as nuclear weapons are deemed
to be a vital element of national security, sooner or later they
will be used, and once used there is danger of escalation, with
the dire consequences that I have described. We have to keep on
drawing attention to this danger, until we convince the decision
makers of the logic of our arguments. I believe that the combined
intellectual power of the natural and social scientists will prevail.
But the elimination of nuclear weapons is only part of our goals.
These weapons cannot be disinvented: we cannot erase from our
memories the knowledge of how to make them. We will have therefore
to go on to achieve the main objective, the creation of a war-free
world. This should be our clear goal at the start of the 21st
The establishment of a war-free world would enable science to
remove the temporary restrictions, and to resume in full its roles
of advancing the frontiers of knowledge and bring further benefits
to people and society.
What these further benefits will be we do not know. By the very
nature of scientific research, its long-term outcome is unpredictable.
But on the basis of past performance, we can be sure that the
benefits will be immense. And if scientists fully accept their
social obligations, if they include ethics into their paradigms,
and take steps to ensure that their work does not lead to harm
to human beings or the environment, then the outlook for humanity
in the new millennium is very good, not only for survival but
for a peaceful, equitable and prosperous world.
In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, scientists issued the
Russell-Einstein Manifesto. It concluded with the grim warning:
"There lies before us, if we choose, continual
progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead,
choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal
as human beings, to human beings: remember your humanity, and
forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new
Paradise; if you cannot there lies before you the risk of universal
Now, at the end of this violent century, the
risk of universal death is still with us, but the chance of avoiding
it is much better, and the prospect of a new Paradise shines brighter.
To ensure this always keep in your mind the plea of the Russell-Einstein
Manifesto: "Remember your humanity."