Science has been a handmaiden to the military for thousands of years. Humanity has sought to weaponize technology since the use of hand axes, fire, and spears against large prey on the plains of the Serengeti.

Among some of the more notable individuals of science helping the war efforts of the past was Archimedes. Archimedes was born in Syracuse— an ancient Greek colony of Corinth [in present day Sicily.] Archimedes, known as both Natural Philosopher and Mathematician,  made scientific discoveries equal to that of Newton and Einstein.

Notably different from Newton and Einstein, Archimedes aided the war effort of ancient Syracuse by inventing advanced weapons of war (neither Newton nor Einstein aided war efforts despite popular myth to the contrary).

Operation Crossroads Test Able explosion_ 946

Weapons of war have grown increasingly sophisticated from the invention of gun powder to the threat of nuclear weapons. By USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Archimedes aided the war effort during the Roman siege of Syracuse. One of  his accomplishments, the Iron Claw,  reportedly stalled the Roman siege on Syracuse. The Iron Claw reportedly capsized Roman war vessels

Other instances of science assisting the weapons of war include (1) the hardening of steel by ancient metallurgists for swords with the Damascus process, (2) the invention of gun powder by Chinese scientists, and modern inventions like the (3) hydrogen and neutron bombs. When looked at from the lens of war, science has been both deterrent and  weapon.

“… dynamite will sooner lead to peace … … men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed …”  Alfred Nobel, (1867.)

The economic gains from the spoils of war, alone, would provide good reasons for some nations to push science education. However, there lies the problem with using science as the means for economic gain— science as war machine is costly. The costs of war come from its effects upon limb and mind. 

Many mourn the loss of loved ones long after a war has ended. The loss of innocence that war brings, however, may be worse. To those who study war and its psychological effects, PTSD and depression among veterans occurs in many instances. The general population must care for war veterans who suffer psychological trauma. 

The-Claw-of-Archimedes

The inventions of Archimedes helped stave off the complete destruction of peoples. The question remains: should technology be used as a means to conduct war? Image by John A. Jaksich

 

Is it Morally Responsible to Use Technology to Build War Weapons?

While war is often argued to be wrong and immoral, using technology to gain an advantage over a foe is an escalation of the war machine. And the question follows, what if we didn’t use technology to build more destructive bombs and war tools?

Could we, as a species, survive? Pacifists often respond: an intelligent and morally sophisticated society has no need to spill blood to prove its worth nor to advance its goals.

More to the point: ‘Is is realistic to assume that war can be eliminated?’ – I often ponder the question myself… with no real answers, either… … it is as if there needs to be a part of the human condition that needs to be expunged. How and where that relates to individual behavior is hard to pin down. The human brain acts in part by instinct and in higher cognitive faculties, as well.

However, the two questions can be viewed as mutually exclusive– using technology to build advanced weapons and fighting a war through the spilling of blood.

So a question arises: why can’t we just send our best athletes to a game that determines who is top dog (kind of sounds like the Olympics… well, almost)?

There is something about the human condition that makes some of us act out aggressively and some of us, not so much? What needs to addressed is the need or satisfaction that aggression brings in the human brain?

And, that is a ‘Holy Grail’ — that we may need to address if we are to become a more advanced civilization….

“We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. Violence and war lead only to death.”   Pope Francis, (2016.)

 

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The Responsibility of Humanity: Should Science be a Tool of War?

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