“When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and to do it, and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the bomb,” said Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan Project (Polenburg 2002, 41). The atomic bomb has been exhaustively debated, as is Robert Oppenheimer’s life, but that’s what makes it so researchable and interesting; there is information on both sides of the argument – on Oppenheimer’s morals and on criticism on the U. S. government.
Scientists, can kind of care, care, or not care about morality; and there is a responsibility when making war decisions – there should be a parallel harmony between the government and scientists. However the government outweighs the decision, because if one scientist disagrees, there are plenty of others to do the government’s bidding. Albeit, the American government and American people do not seem to care too much about other nations and some moral issues after looking at past actions in a supposed necessity dominate, no matter the circumstance, for example: creating and dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” agreed to create this most mortifying weapon, thinking it was what necessary to keep the United States’s hegemony, videlicet, the predominance over all things. And it is through other people’s recount and perceptions of him, and his own words and actions therein, that reinforce one example of this nationalistic attitude. The reasoning behind creating formidable arms that could wipe out humanity, specifically in the context of Robert Oppenheimer’s background, actions, and reasoning processes, contributes to the greater rouble of nationalism and hegemony in today’s society.
First, to look at the nature of scientists in order to make claims about them, is a study: testing at an IQ score of one-hundred-thirtyfive or higher beginning in 1930, a select group of kids were charted throughout their well-established careers in the book “The Management of Scientists. ” It contains a chapter named “The Psychology of Scientists” and entails the social, academic, and work life of these children who were predicted and became scientists, assumed by their IQ scores.
Similar research, stated the author of the chapter Anne Roe, did not conflict with this book’s findings on these scientist’s lives (Hill 1964, 48-49). Throughout their lives, a disconnection to the world supervenes – in childhood and in the lab. These children would often rather stay home and ravenously read instead of going out and being social. The relationship the test group held with their parents was decent; their parents even encouraged them to become scientists, and the fathers were almost always professional men.
Furthermore, in regard to their personal dogmas, it is with an uncertain judgment to say that without religion, one can ease into temptations and corruption easily, but out of over sixty of these kids that started off with early religious schooling, only three continued to be actively religious. Roe did not comment on their spiritual stances either, only quoting someone else who said that the most interest in science comes from an openmindedness to secular attitudes (Hill 1946, 49).
The prevalence of these early findings is not to indicate that all natural scientists are morally corrupt people, they just are not as in tune with their atmosphere as everyone else. It could be concluded that it is easy for them to get caught up in the elucidating experience of experimentation and not remember the rest of the world or the entire consequence of a discovery. And in accordance with Roe’s findings of children scientists, Oppenheimer displayed every tendency and characteristic of these children who became “standard” scientists.
He had a decent relationship to his parents, a magnetism toward knowledge, not much of a social life, and a sanguine disconnection to the world. His mother actually tried on multiple occasions to get him to play with children his age, much to his indifferent display of attention to other children. He never looked at the news or cared for politics, as everyone else in that age did. At one point, one of his graduate students was found in Oppenheimer’s car asleep and alone; “Oppie” had walked home, leaving her and the car at the site (Pais 2006).
Oppenheimer’s experience showed an ongoing, but not too frequent, absent-mindedness for the present. How familiar his relationship was to society became identifiable when he stated, “I was interested in man and his experience; | was deeply interested in my science; but I had no understanding of the relations of man to his society. ” No relation entails he may have felt a disconnection to society. But, it is unclear whether Oppenheimer never understood this relationship; he said this before he accepted the leading position in the bomb’s creation.
His scientists and workers at Los Alamos, the site of the Manhattan Project, said he brought out the best of people’s work ethic and personalities as their leader, but he was too orderly; he wanted everyone at one point to be inducted into the military. Subsequently, his memoir described him as “… unswerving to duty” (Pais 2007, 48) There were many accounts of him saying he had duty to this country and he kept recounting to his team the utmost importance of this experiment for the country, even stating “we see no other acceptable alternatives to direct military use,” (46).
It is this very “obedience” to a country that encircles a problem of nationalism, but this is to be discussed a little later. Nevertheless, Oppenheimer emanated vitality and enthusiasm for his work as a leader and as a scientist. Robert Wilson, one of the men who met often with Oppenheimer said, “I was soon caught up with by the Oppenheimer charisma, and became a loyal and devoted lieutenant, a confidant, a friend (at least, until the postwar era when his personality seemed to change,” (Pais 2006, 124).
Oppenheimer’s morals and reasoning processes did change, but his immediate reaction to the bomb trial is crucial to understanding his morality. After the bomb was successfully executed, there was an unmistakeable air of fulfilled conclusiveness in the way he walked away from the site; 1. I. Rabi, a scientist at Los Alamos, recounts Oppenheimer’s reaction: “He moved like a confident stranger, darkly glittering, at ease, in tune with the thing. I’ll never forget his walk… ” (Pais 2006, 24).
This suggests a conjecture that Oppenheimer only had miniscule doubts, if any, of the bomb not working, because of the phrase “at ease, in tune with the thing. ” Furthermore, Rabi was a close friend and co-worker, yet he called Oppenheimer a stranger, making Oppenheimer seem inharmonic with that moment Rabi’s life. Contrarily, according to Oppenheimer, he did feel connected. Now, for a disclaimer on his words: there is an uncertainty when decrypting Oppenheimer’s words; it seems there is consistently something he does not say.
To this respect, in an interview by Ed Murrow he says, “There aren’t secrets about the world of nature, there are secrets about the thoughts and intentions of men. Sometimes they are secrets because a man doesn’t like to know what he is up to if he can avoid it” (Hewitt 1955). He is implying, clarified by his later thoughts, that science is available for everyone to learn, but man’s intent for science is a secret, even though the man may not even want to know what his intentions are. Perhaps the ambiguity comes from this generalization of man; he would not say this unless he believed in its truthness a little.
But, for what reason would a man not want to know what his intentions are besides if he knows they are wrong thoughts or for fear of the consequences? He might be implying that the whole time he was working at Los Alamos, he was avoiding the true nature of the project, and that was to kill hundreds of thousands of people, but he thought of that more as doing what the government says is necessary to end the war. The latter is a euphemism that he accepted.
Oppenheimer instantly knew however, that the first part, the killing part of the nature of this project, was very real; and now, e feels connected to his project. Alas, in this interview he says this after the first bomb trial at Trinity site: “I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, in which Krishna is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty; and to impress him, he takes on his multi-armed form and says ‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. ‘T. suppose we all felt that, one way or another” (Hewitt 1955). It is unclear whether this is memory alone reveals regret.
It is seemingly safer to conclude that Oppenheimer feels he has become death, destroyer of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the peace of mind between the nations of the world, because of nuclear warheads pointed at one another during the Cold War. Moreover, Ed Murrow in his broadcasted series See It Now asked Oppenheimer if humans discovered a way to destroy humanity, to which Oppenheimer replies, “Not quite, not quite. You can certainly destroy enough of humanity so that only the greatest act of faith can persuade you that what’s left will be human” (Hewitt 1955).
Through much research, sparingly does one find his actual spiritual beliefs, and although faith does not always succeed faith in a heavenly being, this appears contradictory; if one has no faith, in a sacred mystery or in any theorized sort of way, what’s left will not be human, and humanity is destroyed. So, if he had no faith, humanity can be destroyed. Either way, he understood the breadth of his creation and acknowledges that most of humanity can be wiped out by applied science; however, he makes a different argument for pure science.
He contended that chemistry, physics, and natural and pure sciences are not the culprit; as Oppenheimer puts it, walking along a forest and charting flowers is not the crime. “It is when you try to see why there is necessity, why it is this way and no other way… ” that there becomes a problem (Hewitt 1965). He goes on to say that one does not need to know pure science to apply it; the government may need to know if it is possible to create such a bomb and if so, where they want to apply it, but they do not need to know how to do it, they just need Oppenheimer and a team of scientists to execute the project.
He kept defending pure science, and did not regret his action because it was his understanding that an atomic bomb was the only end to the war (Hargittai 2012). Howbeit, Sir Zolly Zuckerman, the author of Scientists and War, has a different opinion. He declares there is an inevitable follow of applied science to pure science and it is because of science that humans give up some of their “abstract liberties.” His reasoning is that man is always wanting more and needs science to fulfill his unending desires, therefore, giving up all that is necessary to get more of what he wants (Zuckerman 126-135, 1966).
So, if there is no way to disconnect pure and applied science through time, Oppenheimer in this aspect is wrong and the government uses science to get what it wants – dominance – and it must give up morals. Although Oppenheimer’s thoughts, justifications, and morals are complicated, understandably, he has registered his actions and he learned a lesson, this is proved through his position on the creation of the hydrogen bomb.