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Science and Ethics: The Manhattan Project during World War II


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Science and Ethics: The Manhattan Project during World
War II indicated the formation of the
alliance between scientific and political

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Science and Ethics: The Manhattan Project during World War II

  1. 1. Science and Ethics: “The Manhattan Project during World War II indicated the formation of the alliance between scientific and political establishments”
  2. 2. Manhattan Project and How it Started?  The Manhattan Project was a research and development program by the United States with the United Kingdom and Canada that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II.  As it was executed in the Manhattan district, the name followed.  Well , the root cause that started the Manhattan project would go back to a Hungarian scientist named Leo Szilard.
  3. 3.  He was the first person to create a human controlled nuclear chain reaction.  He drafted a confidential letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining the possibility of nuclear weapons, warning of Nazi work on such weapons and encouraging the development of a program which could result in their creation. During August 1939 he approached his old friend and collaborator Albert Einstein and convinced him to sign the letter, lending his fame to the proposal.
  4. 4. Transition and Changes the Project brought  This presentation is a history of the political activity of Manhattan Project physicists before the bombing of Hiroshima.  Trying to handle the postwar implications of this project entering the political realm, however were not successful though.  The physicists' political arguments, however, were rooted in the ethos of science and therefore inapplicable to national governance and international diplomacy.
  5. 5.  Manhattan project served as an example of how scientists have to assume social responsibility for science and the limitations of their profession in the political realm.  Scientific purity got challenged.  When science and politics collided in the Manhattan Project, both had their destinies changed, and neither were pleased.
  6. 6. Importance to study science and politics  It’s about the momentous history of the Manhattan Project.  the Manhattan Project represented a watershed in the relationship between physics and politics. This never happened before.  Also between scientists and politics.
  7. 7. Science Meets Politics
  8. 8. The age of Scientific Purity  During this period, scientists were of the opinion that:  The basic principle of science is that the pursuit of knowledge is the most worthy of all human activities  Simply to acquire knowledge is an end in itself  They essentially meant that, “Science is disconnected from all other human activities or concerns and has significance only in and for itself”  The intrusion of “irrelevant” social institutions – threatened the right to free inquiry and was wholly inconsistent with the methods of science
  9. 9.  So, scientists agreed to maintain a Wall – which separates the laboratory from the worldly affairs  This keeps the worldly affairs away from the scientific realm and scientists out of the worldly realm  As Oppenheimer says, “I was deeply interested in my science, but I had no understanding of the relations of man to his society”  But on the course of the Manhattan project, science became so unambiguously political that the physicists themselves became the liaisons between the two realms
  10. 10. The Origin of Manhattan Project
  11. 11. A small backdrop …  The great nuclear physicists of the twentieth century, which consisted of Openheimer, Teller, Leo Szilard, and Nobel Laureates like Max Born, James Frank, Heisenberg, Fermi, Einstein, Neils Bohr, etc. --- formed a ‘tight’ community  While making unprecedented progress in revealing the secrets of the atom, they remained part of a relatively small field of science  Hitler’s control over Germany --- Scientists could no longer maintain their ‘Wall’
  12. 12. Meanwhile.. The secrets of atom’s nucleus.. !  It was also the time when the scientists were unlocking the secrets of the atom’s nucleus  In 1933, Szilard had a vision of a nuclear chain reaction too…  The lecture delivered by Neils Bohr on “Splitting the nucleus of Uranium” at a conference on low temperature physics in Jan 1939 – aroused the concern of numerous conscientious scientists  Szilard took Teller aside and said, “Let’s be careful. Let’s not talk about this too much”  Teller agreed and “concentrated on returning the conference to the subject of low temperatures”  This incident depicts that they were very careful to keep a lid on their secret
  13. 13. The fear of Hitler and Germany..  The development of this natural phenomenon of atom -- with the context of a world at war – and a Hitler in Germany – assumed Political implications  The scientists were well aware of this :  “Given the capabilities of German physics and the inclinations of Hitler”  World might be endangered by such a scientific discovery  A number of scientists thereby agreed to a ban on all publishing related to nuclear investigation
  14. 14. The breaking of the ‘Wall’..  The scientists possessed two things:  The Knowledge of Nuclear Capabilities  The Fear of Hitler’s Germany  So, they decided it was not enough to keep a lid on their secret – Instead, they had to provide the Advantage to the United States  Hence, they decided to break their wall of isolation  The choice was clear for them and they took initiative for the development of nuclear power for military purposes on a large scale in this country
  15. 15. Science approaching Politics …
  16. 16. The Change of Mind…  Let’s consider Edward Teller  He initially had deep resentment against applying science to weaponry – but was convinced by Roosevelt’s speech , which ran :  “The duty of scientists was to see that the most effective weapons would be available for use if necessary, that would stand normally guilty before the free world if we refused to lend our talents to the cause of the free world”  So, he decided to join the project for the defense of freedom  So is the case with many other scientists who joined the project
  17. 17.  The key factors:  Political urge  Appeals to patriotism  Duty to act as the citizens of a nation at war  Hitler, a threat to civilization  They thought :  They had the talent that could help end a war  And they vowed to support the United States
  18. 18. The Impetus..  As one of the physicists wrote:  “With Hitler on rise, we scientists no longer can be frivolous. We cannot play around with ideas and theories. WE MUST GO TO WORK !!!”  This fear was the Impetus that spurred the scientists into politically-motivated weapons research  It was well evident that, more than people or politicians, it was the physicists who were acting as citizens, something they had been hesitant to do in the past
  19. 19. Was the scientific “purity” present ?  The question that whether scientists maintained some semblance of scientific purity, or were they just trying to get a technical application of their discoveries, always existed.  But it was argued that, “Manhattan project was essentially engineering rather than science” , since:  There were considerable amount of technical difficulties that occupied much of the scientist’s time  Here, scientists carried on the research until the final application – which was not as before
  20. 20. The sight of Science effected …  The traditional right of scientists – which is the free exchange of information – has been lost due to the bureaucratization of the project  The scientists regulated their strongest capacity: which is the asking of questions, due to :  Environment of secrecy  Practical urgency
  21. 21. Weren’t the implications realized ?  In the words of Physicist Louis Ridenour:  “The inventor or the engineer knows the goal of his work; the scientist has no goal but truth .This essential unknowability of the practical ends of scientific investigation makes it senseless to speak, as some do of ‘the planning of science for human betterment’. We can plan science only to the extent of turning it on or off”  But in Manhattan, fully conscious of the goal it would serve, the physicists had turned on science.
  22. 22. Weren’t the implications realized ?  As Richard Feynman says:  “You see, what happened to me – what happened to the rest of us – is we started for a good reason, they you’re working very hard to accomplish something and it’s a pleasure, it’s excitement. And you stop thinking, you know; you just stop”  Some depict that there was some half-conscious closing of the mind to anything beyond the fact that they were ‘trying desperately to produce a device which would end the war’  They knew the implications, but a feel of excitement, passion and above all, science dominated it
  23. 23. Germany’s surrender …  However, in May 1945, Germany has surrendered.  But no disturbance in the work flow of the Manhattan project was observed  Even though most of the scientists entered the project to help beat Hitler, none of the scientists withdrew from the project  This was a very peculiar observation  What’s the reason.. Let’s see …
  24. 24. The Dedication towards the Project  The scientists were actually at the end of success of such a huge project  Though the implications were clear, but the excitement of working on a fascinating real world problem, with best minds of physics, with a chance to end a world war motivated them a lot.  In fact, it was a chance of life time for all the scientists  So, they had a trance-like dedication towards the project
  25. 25.  The scientists were challenged a work and they went about it  As one of them says, “It wasn’t because we understood the significance against Japan. It was because the machinery has caught us in its trap and we were anxious to get this thing to go”  It was expected of them – because after all, they are scientists and are passionate about science  For them, the completion of the project mattered the most rather than its implications or anything else
  26. 26. Scientists in Politics  The scientists who took an interest in the implications of their work could fall into three categories:  One group that decided it was not the scientists’ duty to ask questions or intervene in decision making process  A second group which felt they have to ask questions to educate themselves, but has no right to make suggestions  A third group which felt that it was necessary to ask questions and also should involve in the decision making
  27. 27. Scientists in Politics  First group  mentioned ‘hopelessness’ and ‘inappropriateness’ as the reasons for their non invovlement  They thought that:  Statesman’s job : making decisions  Scientist’s job : making the bomb  Second group  Never went beyond raising consciousness  They felt that bomb was something that should never be permitted on the earth
  28. 28. Scientists in Politics  Third group  They were worried about the implications and danger the bomb would cause  They felt they have to be consulted and their advice has to be taken before implementing any decisions  As they had the knowledge of the dangers involved and so considered it was their responsibility to make them known
  29. 29. "Scientized" Politics
  30. 30. The background…  Some physicists felt that having brought their profession into contact with worldly politics, they too had to enter the political realm  They focused on long term goals because they are less concerned with using bomb to win war than its post war implications  how to use bomb so as to make it predominantly a tool of peace?
  31. 31. Greater Implications  how would the atomic bomb be used?  what it would mean for the postwar world?  larger frame work and greater implications of the bomb  created a new weapon so terrifying that both war and peace acquired new meaning  science could offer no solution to postwar problems  scientists felt that they themselves could and should offer a solution  They saw harnessing of nuclear energy as symbol of beginning of a new stage of civilization
  32. 32. Relative Stages of Advancement  science will not wait for man to catch up  It does not hold itself responsible for the morals or capacities of its human employees  This concern that scientific progress was overtaking moral, social, and political advancement deeply affected the physicists of the Manhattan Project
  33. 33. Tipping the Offense/Defense Scale  Weaponry had advanced to the point where offense and defense were distinctly unequal  The Physicists emphasized that offense had outpaced defense; that war had become disgustingly brutal, bloody, and impersonal; and that survival was just as much a goal as was victory  Protection can come only from the political organization of the world
  34. 34. The "Secret" of the Bomb  According to many Manhattan Project physicists, science was developing powers beyond the bounds of human control, defense was being outstripped by offense, and secrecy was an impossibility  Whereas the statesmen saw the atomic bomb as a national secret to be protected, the physicists saw it as a natural secret that so far had only been discovered by scientists from a few countries  There would be no way to prevent other nations from developing and utilizing atomic weapons. The secrets of nature are accessible to competent scientists in all nations
  35. 35. Crossroads  The physicists saw a bomb of unprecedented power and that would be discovered by other nations in the not-so- distant future  To top it off, the physicists had built the bomb  This was a result not simply of the terrible peril but also of a great hope: if mankind could avoid the disaster, it could also usher in a new, brighter era of civilization  The creation of the atomic bomb represented a critical moment in history offering the scientists in the Manhattan Project two options:  the path of fear or destruction  the path of peace and international cooperation
  36. 36. Path of Fear  The existence of these bombs will bring disaster upon the world even if we anticipate them and win the war, but lose the peace that will follow  it would be well if we devoted more thought to the ultimate political necessities which will arise out of our present work  In essence, Szilard envisioned a cold war  Traditional conceptions of peace had become outdated
  37. 37. Scientized Politics  The physicists thus saw in the bomb both a peril and a hope  To avoid the perils of the nuclear age, it is necessary to examine how they approached political questions.  Three arguments will be proposed
  38. 38.  The physicists thought they would make good politicians  The scientist regards himself as being able to approach political issues with the same dispassionate, objective state of mind that he believes he displays in his scientific endeavors  When the physicists entered the political realm, they did not adjust their methods, assumptions, or beliefs  The Manhattan Project physicists, believing they would make fine politicians because of their scientific framework of thought
  39. 39.  They believed that contemporary politics needed to be scientized  Greater emphasis should be laid on internationalism than nationalism  Atomic energy is not merely a new danger added but a reminder of how closely the fate of all mankind is coupled together  Abuse of atomic energy could be prevented through early consultations between the nations allied in the war about the best ways jointly to obtain future security
  40. 40.  They were peculiarly unpragmatic when faced with issues of war and peace  The final major consequence of scientific logic in the political realm is that it rejected war as a means of conflict resolution or problem-solving  Albert Einstein argued that the atomic bomb created no new problem; it merely made old problems more urgent  War never would , nor did it ever serve mankind  Scientists believe that international problems should not be solved by war, but by the application of man's power to reason  This can be achieved through arbitration, negotiation, international agreements, international law
  41. 41. Path of Peace  The controls abolishing atomic warfare would be strong enough to abolish all other forms of warfare  In a memo to President Roosevelt on July 3, 1944, Bohr argued that not to tell the Russians would mean loss of a unique opportunity to take the initiative and to forestall an atomic arms race  He discussed with Secretary of War Stimson  On September 30, 1944, drew up a report which said that because of the bomb's magnitude and the United States present advantage secrecy could not be maintained in the future, bipolar control could spark an arms race
  42. 42.  So a program of free, international exchange of scientific information should be initiated  On March 15, 1945,Stimson told Roosevelt that a postwar atomic plan must be settled before the first projectile is used and that he must be ready with a statement to come out to the people on it just as soon as that is done  However, the many attempts to sway presidential opinion were all in vain. While Roosevelt assured his subordinates that he took their arguments seriously and was concerned for the postwar world, he kept to himself the conclusions of his numerous meetings with Churchill
  43. 43. The Question of First Use  How to conduct the war so as to create favorable conditions for postwar international cooperation?  The first use of the bomb would set the tone for its future  Some physicists argument was based upon the scientific tenet that conclusions cannot be drawn until all data are in. That is, postwar peace was unattainable unless the peoples of the world learned what the new bomb meant  Other physicists, however, believed that postwar international control of atomic weapons began with not dropping the bomb
  44. 44.  Such a use would jeopardize the trust necessary to create an era of global peace. It would begin an armaments race and prejudice support against international control  Helping Japan capitulate by altering the terms of surrender would preserve the United States place as a great humanitarian nation  Saving of American lives achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against Japan is outweighed by the ensuing loss of confidence and by a wave of horror and repulsion sweeping over the rest of the world and perhaps even dividing public opinion at home
  45. 45. The Bomb of Peace  The new weapon might be so powerful as to make war obsolete  Atom bomb redefined scale of destruction meant that civilization was faced with a real threat  Doomsday scenario would lead to a popular recognition of the futility of war  Problem here - where scientists perceived an unwinnable war, they reasoned that no one would enter into one
  46. 46. Anachronistic Nationalism  Atomic bomb could end harmful and divisive nationalism  “civilization has moved toward a world in which war and the threat of war no longer have a rightful place as the instrument of national policy. We must all, including the diplomats and national leaders, change our point of view. We must recognize that extreme nationalism is a thing of the past.” -- Linus Pauling  Scientists tend to believe that scientific advance is taking mankind into a new period of history where the old rules of the statesmen no longer apply  They envisioned the development of a new set of political rules based on the facts of a truly scientific age
  47. 47. Rising Internationalism  Physicists believed the only way for civilization to survive in the nuclear age would be through international cooperation and control of the atom  Unless free exchange of scientific information was reestablished, suspicions of American intentions would spur unhealthy competition and jeopardize mutual security  the nations of the world could choose the path of fear and competition and risk the perils of a nuclear war, or they could forfeit a measure of national autonomy and seek peace through global communication and cooperation
  48. 48.  “The atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we knew it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking. In the light of new knowledge, a world authority and an eventual world state are not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, they are necessary for survival. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation” ---Albert Einstein
  49. 49. Reality  The scientists hopes for international control of the atom and reduced sovereignty were never realized  The obstacles that stood before an international armaments agreement and global organization were not simply issues of trust and communication, but involved the imbalance of state power and forces of patriotism and national identity  In response to Bohr's persistent arguments Churchill and Roosevelt wrote “The suggestion that the world should be informed regarding atom bomb with a view to an international agreement regarding its control and use, is not accepted. The matter should continue to be regarded as of utmost secrecy: national interests and international politics and diplomacy had no room for scientific idealism”
  50. 50.  With the detonation of nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, such hopes met their death  Letter written by the Japanese government to the U.S. Department of State one day after the Nagasaki bomb was dropped: “The bombs in question, used by the Americans, by their cruelty and by their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm the use of which is prohibited by the treaties for reasons of their characteristics.”  The future of nuclear armaments would be one of competition, not cooperation. Sparked the beginning of cold war
  51. 51.  The Manhattan Project entailed the fusion of politics and physics. When the scientists realized neither would be the same again, they fought to protect civilization from the bomb, and physics from secrecy and political demands. In this fight the scientists themselves were politicized  However, in entering the political realm, the Manhattan Project physicists did not check their scientific ethos at the door. This ethos of openness, exchange, collaboration, and cooperation led the physicists to scientifically logical solutions to the problems the bomb created for international politics and civilization  Such an ethos does not, however, necessarily translate into politically viable solutions. This is what happened to the wartime atomic scientists' movement
  52. 52. Political Science The demands of military and governmental work were taking a toll on physics. Physics was politicized. The legacy of the Manhattan project thus describes what many believe is the corruption of science.
  53. 53. Science Corrupted  Before World War II, asserts Richard Feynman, "nobody knew what a physicist even was, and there weren't any positions in industry for physicists.... It's interesting that very soon, after the war, it was the exact opposite." People realized that physics would play a critical role in the future of international relations.  People realized that physics would play a critical role in the future of international relations.  With recognition came funding. Federal support of scientific research sky rocketed after 1945.  Funding, in turn, has served to shift the focus of exploration: "The center of gravity of scientific pursuits has moved from basic research to the technological application of knowledge.“
  54. 54. Science Corrupted  Pre-war physicists were sustained by the belief that they searched for natural truths. After the Manhattan Project, however, many were transformed into tools whose purpose it was to serve national interests.  It is relevant to cite the statistic that, in the mid-1980s, one in nine scientists and engineers in the United States was employed by nuclear weapons programs as evidence that, beginning with the Manhattan Project, science has slowly been corrupted.
  55. 55. Universities Polluted  Physicists may also continue to believe that science is pure because of its strong association with the university, the traditional bastion of unadulterated freedom of investigation and expression. After the Second World War, many Manhattan Project physicists rejected all military- government work and fled to the ivory tower.  This was, however, pure illusion. When money followed the scientists into the ivory tower, it influenced and directed the supposedly free exploration of natural phenomena.  Universities in competition for funding, sold themselves as providers of technological services.  By the late 1940s, for example, the military in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission funded eighty-five percent of the MIT research budget.  The availability of these large sums of money led many universities to adopt policies that would encourage faculty members to develop research interests that would be 'fundable‘.
  56. 56. “I have been asked whether I would agree that the tragedy of the scientist is that he is able to bring about great advances in our knowledge, which mankind may then proceed to use for purposes of destruction - my answer is that this is not the tragedy of the scientist; it is the tragedy of mankind.” --Leo Szilard
  57. 57. Team Members  P.P. Venkat Sai – 10010149  Priyatham Bollimpalli – 10010148  Chukka Aditya Harish – 10010117  Pydi Prasanna Sai Kamanuru – 10010150  Revanth Bhattaram – 10010153  Amerineni Rohith – 10010109  Sunku Vinesh Reddy – 10010167  Shiv Chaitanya - 10010243