Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels."
Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today 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 neccessary for survival. In previous ages a nation's life and culture could be protected to some extent by the growth of armies in national competition. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
Modern war, the bomb, and other discoveries or inventions, present us with revolutionary circumstances. Never before was it possible for one nation to make war on another without sending armies across borders. Now, with rockets and atomic bombs no center of population on the earth's surface is secure from surprise destruction in a single attack.
America has a temporary superiority in armament, but it is certain that we have no lasting secret. What nature tells one group of men, she will tell in time to any other group interested and patient enough in asking the questions. But our temporary superiority gives this nation the tremendous responsibility of leading mankind's effort to surmount the crisis.
Being an ingenious people, Americans find it hard to believe there is no foreseeable defense against atomic bombs. But this is a basic fact. Scientists do not even know of any field which promises us any hope of adequate defense. The military-minded cling to old methods of thinking and one Army department has been surveying possibilities of going underground and in wartime placing factories in places like Mammoth Cave. Others speak of dispersing our population centers into "linear" or "ribbon" cities.
Reasonable men with these new facts to consider refuse to contemplate a future in which our culture would attempt to survive in ribbons or in underground tombs. Neither is there reassurance in proposals to keep a hundred thousand men alert along the coasts scanning the sky with radar. There is no radar defense against the V-2, and should a "defense" be developed after years of research, it is not humanly possible for any defense to be perfect. Should one rocket with atomic warhead strike Minneapolis, that city would look almost exactly like Nagasaki. Rifle bullets kill men, but atomic bombs kill cities. A tank is a defense against a bullet but there is no defense in science against the weapon which can destroy civilization.
Our defense is not in armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order.
Henceforth, every nation's foreign policy must be judged at every point by one consideration: Does it lead us to a world of law and order or does it lead us back toward anarchy and death? I do not believe that we can prepare for war and at the same time prepare for a world community. When humanity holds in its hand the weapon with which it can commit suicide, I believe that to put more power into the gun is to increase the probability of disaster...
We are still making bombs and the bombs are making hate and suspicion. We are keeping secrets and secrets breed distrust. I do not say we should now turn the secret of the bomb loose in the world, but are we ardently seeking a world in which there will be no need for bombs or secrets, a world in which science and men will be free?
While we distrust Russia's secrecy and she distrusts ours we walk together to certain doom.
The basic principles of the Acheson-Lilenthal Report are scientifically sound and technically ingenious, but as Mr. Baruch wisely said, it is a problem not of physics but of ethics. There has been too much emphasis on legalisms and procedure; it is easier to denature plutonium than it is to denature the evil spirit of man.
The United Nations is the only instrument we have to work with in our struggle to achieve something better. But we have used U.N. and U.N. form and procedure to outvote the Russians on some occasions when the Russians were right. Yes, I do not think it is possible for any nation to be right all the time or wrong all the time. In all negotiations, whether over Spain, Argentina, Palestine, food, or atomic energy, so long as we rely on procedure and keep the treat of military power, we are attempting to use old methods in a world which is changed forever.
No one gainstays that the United Nations Organization at times gives great evidence of eventually justifying the desperate hope that millions have in it. But time is not given to us in solving the problems science and war have brought. Powerful forces in the political world are moving swiftly toward crisis. When we look back to the end of the war it does not seem ten months—it seems ten years ago! Many leaders express well the need for world authority and an eventual world government, but actual planning and action to this end have been appallingly slow.... Meanwhile, men high in government propose defense or war measures which would not only compel us to live in a universal atmosphere of fear but would cost untold billions of dollars and ultimately destroy our American free way of life—even before a war....
Before the raid on Hiroshima, leading physicists urged the War Department not to use the bomb against defenseless women and children. The war could have been won without it. The decision was made in consideration of possible future loss of American lives—and now we have to consider possible loss in future atomic bombings of millions of lives. The American decision may have been a fatal error, for men accustom themselves to thinking a weapon which was used once can be used again.
Had we shown other nations the test explosion at Alamogordo, New Mexico, we could have used it as an education for new ideas. It would have been an impressive and favorable moment to make considered propoals for world order to end war. Our renunciation of this weapon as too terrible to use would have carried great weight in negotiations and made convincing our sincerity in asking other nations for a binding partnership to develop these newly unleashed powers for good.
The old type of thinking can raise a thousand objections of "realism" against this simplicity. But such thought ignores the psychological realities. All men fear atomic war. All men hope for benefits from these new powers. Between the realities of man's true desires and the realities of man's danger, what are the obsolete "realities" of protocol and military protection?
During the war many persons fell out of the habit of doing their own thinking, for many had to do simply what they were told to do. Today, lack of interest would be a great error, for there is much the average man can do about this danger.
This nation held a great debate concerning the manace of the Axis, and again today we need a great chain reaction of awareness and communication. Current proposals should be discussed in the light of the basic facts, in every newspaper, in schools, churches, in town meetings, in private conversations, and neighbor to neighbor. Merely reading about the bomb promotes knowledge in the mind, but only talk between men promotes feeling in the heart.
Not even scientists completely understand atomic energy, for each man's knowledge is incomplete. Few men have ever seen the bomb. But all men if told a few facts can understand that this bomb and the danger of war is a very real thing, and not something far away. It directly concerns every person in the civilized world. We cannot leave it to generals, Senators, and diplomats to work out a solution over a period of generations. Perhaps five years from now several nations will have made bombs and it will be too late to avoid disaster.
Ignoring the realities of faith, good-will, and honesty in seeking a solution, we place too much faith in legalisms, treaties, and mechanisms. We must begin through the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission to work for binding agreement, but America's decision will not be made over a table in the United Nations. Our representatives in New York, in Paris, or in Moscow depend ultimately on decisions made in the village square.
To the village square we must carry the facts of atomic energy. From there must come America's voice.
This belief of physicists promoted our formation of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Physicists, with headquarters at Princeton, N.J., to make possible a great national campaign for education on these issues, through the National Committee on Atomic Information. Detailed planning for world security will be easier when negotiators are assured of public understanding of our dilemmas.
Then our American proposals will be not merely documents about machinery, the dull, dry statements of a government to other governments, but the embodiment of a message to humanity from a nation of human beings.
Science has brought forth this danger, but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men. We will not change the hearts of other men by mechanisms, but by changing our hearts and speaking bravely.
We must be generous in giving to the world the knowledge we have of the forces of nature, after establishing safeguards against abuse.
We must be not merely willing but actively eager to submit ourselves to binding authority necessary for world security.
We must realize we cannot simultaneously plan for war and peace.
When we are clear in heart and mind—only then shall we find courage to surmount the fear which haunts the world.
"The Real Problem Is in the Hearts of Men," New York Times Magazine, 23 June 1946, N & N 1960, 383-388
Ten bucks goes to the first person who can tell me who was interviewed for this famous article by Michael Armine! Two thousand dollars goes to my broke ass for a tax refund!