Friday, December 19, 2014

We possessed an inborn biological tendency towards conflict: Albert Einstein on The New I Ching

Albert Einstein, probably the greatest scientist the world has ever known, had actually felt that we possessed an inborn biological tendency towards conflict and that we had therefore become virtual hostages to this genetic inheritance. As such, he had recognized the considerable risks involved with respect to the various discoveries that were then being made in science and how they could  so easily then cause our downfall..

Considering this perception, it is then ironic that Einstein himself - a lifelong pacifist -  had provided the theoretical framework for the development of the most powerful and destructive weapon that the world had ever known: the atomic bomb. Perhaps  he should have been  more circumspect with regard to the dissemination of his various discoveries and how they could perhaps be applied against our interests, but such safeguards are inevitably of little practicality when it comes to the extravagant ambitions of those who foment war.

In 1938, Einstein had heard the news that scientists working in Germany had succeeded in splitting the atom. This was clear evidence to him that the Nazis were planning to manufacture an atomic bomb – an horrendous  prospect!  There was no possibility at all that America could afford to let  the Nazis achieve their malevolent objective and therefore detrimentally affect the fate of humankind for generations to come. Einstein had felt that he had no choice in the matter and he immediately added  his considerable influence to the development of America’s own bomb.

In a letter sent to  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and signed by Einstein himself, the President was  urged to authorize  immediate work on this unbelievably destructive new weapon. Again, there was seemingly no choice in the matter, and a directive was subsequently provided that gave the green light for a top secret technological dash to achieve nuclear superiority. The repercussions of that decision still haunt us today.

Probably then, in this frantic haste and amidst the many scientific uncertainties and unanswered questions involved, the horrific consequences of what was really happening were obscured:  that such a substantial number of lives would eventually have to be sacrificed to the bomb’s effectiveness.  To dwell on such possibilities in a time of war was inimical to the country’s interests. In the successful accomplishment of this project though, the totally appalling destruction that had obliterated the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 had profoundly affected many, not least Einstein himself.  He had been almost overwhelmed with anguish, regret and a  growing apprehension concerning our future.

He declared: “We helped in creating this new weapon in order to prevent the enemies of mankind from achieving it ahead of us, which, if given the mentality of the Nazis, would have meant inconceivable destruction and the enslavement of the rest of the world. We delivered the weapon into the hands of the Americans and the British people as trustees of the whole of mankind, as fighters for peace and liberty. But so far we fail to see any guarantee of peace, we do not see any guarantee of the freedoms that we were promised to the nations of the Atlantic Charter. The war is won, but the peace is not…”

Realizing the possibility that such deadly power in the wrong hands was obviously a blueprint for our potential extinction, he had stated that unless its use could somehow be contained, it would one day be probably used again. But by who?  Einstein’s motivations behind his anxiety are still as relevant today as they were in 1945 when he surveyed the harrowing aftermath that had stunned the Japanese into a state of mute and almost uncomprehending shock.

Five months before Einstein’s death in 1954, and perhaps then reviewing his various achievements in life, he couldn’t erase the memory of such terrible carnage: “I made one great mistake in my life,” he said, “….when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending the atom bomb be made, but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” It was a poignant but realistic admission from someone who abhorred the ever-present conflicts of humankind.


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