Moral Risk And Nuclear Weapons Essay

Moral Risk And Nuclear Weapons Essay

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Moral Risk and Nuclear Weapons
See the Cat? See the Cradle?

"'See the cat?' asked Newt. 'See the cradle?'" (Vonnegut- 183).

The day the atomic bomb dropped, August 6, 1945, was the day in which Newt Hoenikker's father tried to play a game with him. Felix, one of the scientists who had helped create the weapon, wanted to play cat's cradle. It is a game played with string looped over the fingers. After a series of movements, one is supposed to be able to see what appears to be a cradle shape. To most, it simply looks like a tangled string. Newt’s constant reference to the game of Cat’s Cradle is Vonnegut's way of symbolizing the search for meaning that people get caught up in all the time. In the scientific community, they have made a career out of this game.
Michael Polyani was known for being a physical chemist, economist, and philosopher. In the second chapter of Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, he discusses Polyani's concept of the "republic of science". It is used to explain accepted governing principles in the scientific community which have not been made clear to those outside of it. As said by American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, "If we know the rules, we consider that we 'understand' the world" (Rhodes- 32). This paper will discuss two of the three principles, the apprenticeship concept and the undesirablilty of strong, central leadrship, and how these concepts evolved in both pre and post World War II physics.
Polyani had always acknowledged the role played by inherited practices. The fact that we know more than we can clearly express contributes to the conclusion that much knowledge is passed on by other means, such as apprenticeship. When one is in an apprenticeship, one has "close...


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...ecurity on defense, or should the money be used for something else? The second new principle should be moral leadership. The simple fact that so many scientists dropped everything to work on the Manhattan Project had a great deal to do with America's moral leadership at this time in history. When these scientists took a look at Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, they saw those countries as pure evil. Morals helped rally the world's brightest citizens to its cause. If it worked in 1945, it could certainly work today.
"Science is sometimes blamed for the nuclear dilemna. Such blame confuses the messenger with the message. Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman did not invent nuclear fission; they discovered it. It was there all along waiting for us, the turn of the screw" (Rhodes- 784).

Citing: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

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