I have just returned from Berlin and the annual Council meeting of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES). This is an organization much needed in our world, one that supports the ethical uses of science and technology for disarmament and sustainable development. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has helped to foster the work of this international organization since the inception of INES more than 15 years ago.
The meeting included an important presentation by Professor Guillermo Lemarchand from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina on the extent to which scientific efforts are driven by large military research and development budgets. Lemarchand presented information on the close relationship between research and development funding and the exponential growth of the lethality of weaponry. During the 20th century the lethality (maximum number of casualties per hour that a weapon can generate) grew from about 100 at the beginning of the century to about six billion at the end of the century. The lethality growth of weapons in the 20th century was 60 million, and now encompasses the population of the planet.
Scientists may not be concerned with or even know the reasons why their basic research is being funded by military sources. The driving of academic research and development by military budgets is becoming pervasive at universities throughout the world, leading to the variant of the famous statement in President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address that some now find appropriate – the military-industrial-academic complex.
The University of California is an excellent example of a university providing research and development for military purposes. It provides management and oversight to the US nuclear weapons laboratories. Its funds for doing this come through the US Department of Energy, but the work of the nuclear weapons laboratories is largely secret and military in nature. Currently the labs are working on the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a new hydrogen bomb that the Bush administration hopes will replace every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal.
The management of the nuclear weapons laboratories by the University of California is just the tip of the iceberg of military involvement with universities around the world. According to the report by Professor Lemarchand, a physicist, the US military assigns officers to practically all areas of the world to seek out scientific researchers who may be helpful in furthering US military purposes. Too often military funding is the only source of funding available for academic researchers.
This can create a dilemma for professors, who are often under pressure to bring in research funding. On the one hand, they can accept funding from the military, and find themselves contributing toward new means of weaponization – an outcome they may find unethical. On the other hand, they can turn down offers of funding from the military and not be able to continue their research into basic areas of science that they find important.
There are many issues that confront scientists and engineers in today’s world. These include weapons of mass destruction, genetic engineering, biotechnology, global warming and climate change, food supplies and agricultural production, energy use and alternative energy development, and pollution and health issues. How does one approach such issues from the perspective of global responsibility?
First, global responsibility means working for the betterment of humanity. Practically this means using one’s talents and skills for constructive rather than destructive purposes. Second, it means speaking out, individually or collectively, against dangerous and destructive uses of science and technology. Third, it means putting the welfare of humanity as a whole ahead of the considerations of any one nation.
The Council members of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility are a dedicated group that is making its voice heard on the ethical uses of science and technology. If you would like to find out more about their work and become involved in it, visit them online at www.inesglobal.com.
David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org), and a leader in the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons.