As explored in the article Is Nuclear War A Sure Thing?, it seems reasonable to propose that 1) there is currently no credible plan for getting rid of nuclear weapons any time soon and 2) thousands of years of persistent all out, no holds barred, fight to the death human conflicts suggest that so long as we possess such weapons sooner or later we will use them, again.
Hopefully such speculation will prove incorrect, but given the weight of the evidence we have to at least consider that it may be true. If that’s the case, what are the implications?
One of the questions that may arise concerns a foundation of our civilization, science. If we have no credible plan for getting rid of nuclear weapons, as seems to currently be the case, what is the point of continuing scientific research? Won’t everything that is learned by such research likely be swept away in a coming nuclear holocaust?
Science is a process which continually builds upon itself, using what is learned today to learn more tomorrow. If we have no credible plan for safeguarding the future, what is science building towards?
Additional science would make sense if it could successfully address existential threats, such as that presented by nuclear weapons.
As example, during the Reagan era it was proposed that we could learn how to shoot down nuclear missiles.
But forty years later our progress on that project is so modest as to be largely meaningless. Even North Korea could probably get one or more missiles on to U.S. targets.
If we could track every atom of enriched uranium and plutonium on the planet that would surely be helpful, but according to Wired.com the U.S. Can’t Track Tons of Weapons-Grade Uranium and Plutonium.
If the majority of scientific effort was aimed at conquering existential threats such as nuclear weapons, climate change, incoming asteroids, and global pandemics etc, that would go a long way towards ensuring modern civilization survives to enjoy the benefits of new science. But, as best I can tell, such efforts make up the tiniest fraction of current research.
The point of this article is not to wave a sign declaring The End Is Near. It is instead to invite readers in to a constructive process of thinking through the implications of having no credible plan for getting rid of nuclear weapons. Looking in to the abyss with clear eyes is surely not a pleasant exercise, but such a process is likely necessary if we are to avoid being swept over the precipice.
Are we really going to give up all the incredible gifts science has handed us over the last 500 years? Are we really going to deny our descendants the miracles that would arise from science over coming centuries? Are we really going to do that? Really??
If we don’t come up with a credible plan for getting rid of nuclear weapons, the answer to these questions is most likely yes.
Giving up nuclear weapons is the price tag for the future of science and all the miracles it can offer us. We pay the price, or we don’t get the miracles. There is no reasonable logic which credibly suggests that we can have the cake and eat it too.