Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God's atomic police

Today I read a fascinating article A Cold-War Folly? by Nina Byers, a Physics Professor at UCLA. She describes a course entitled Nuclear Power: Power plants and weapons of war that she teaches UCLA undergraduates. Part of the course deals with the different views of physicists to the use of nuclear weapons, both during and after WWII.

One of the leaders of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II was Arthur Holly Compton, who had won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1937. He also chaired the committee of physicists that recommended dropping the bombs on Japan, dismissing contrary opinions of other prominent physicists, nicely summarised by Byers.

It is interesting to read his perspective on the role of nuclear weapons after the war. I find it somewhat bizarre and scary.

Compton wrote an essay, “The Moral Meaning of the Atomic Bomb,” published in a collection, Christianity Takes a Stand: an approach to the issues of today, that was published in 1946. He wrote,
It is now possible to equip a world police with weapons by which war can be prevented and peace assured. An adequate air force equipped with atomic bombs, well dispersed over the earth, should suffice… we must work quickly. Our monopoly of atomic bombs and control of the world’s peace is short-lived. It is our duty to do our utmost to effect the establishment of an adequate world police… This is the obligation that goes with the power God has seen fit to give.

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