Originally the work of Science for Peace focused on the science of the nuclear age, a phenomenon that our members saw as a suicidal use of scientific knowledge. We met with some success: the Armageddon we feared did not come to pass.
The present situation is still ominous as more and more countries have obtained nuclear weapons and as the possession of nuclear weapons is still equated with power; hence, the continued need for our organization.
It is appropriate to examine the meaning of “science” and “peace” both today and in the future.
In the time of Francis Bacon, the scientific method was extolled as an unbiased way to understand nature as detached observers. He believed it would allow the human mind to conquer and subdue nature and “shake her to her foundations” “extending the power of dominion of the human race itself over the universe.” What we have seen is the assumption “that the world is made up of objects that can be analyzed in isolation, independent of the larger wholes of which they are a part.”1
These assumptions have led us down some dangerous paths. Fortunately, science is now moving from the experimental laboratories and lecture halls of old to engaging the wider world and the concept of the “web of life.” The whole world is our “lab.”
As the advance of nuclear technologies has not been ceased, it has become clear that science needs the help of environmentalists, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and futurists. The membership of Science for Peace can reflect this new perspective.
We face another problem: the use of university researchers who depend on corporate and military funding for their work. About half the research conducted in the US is linked to the military sector; this, at a time when the need for research into benign energy, land reclamation, climate change and better international relations is essential. Military companies, worried about a future lack of need for military hardware are taking over the work of governments. Lockheed Martin has taken on the census work in Canada, the US, and the UK.2
The other major change in our mandate involves the concept of peace. Peace is still the absence of war. However, our definition of peace must now include the concepts of peace with the planet and peace among people.
We, as a group, are committed to ending the supply of the instruments of war manufactured in Canada, sold to the United States and used elsewhere in the world.
In fact, we hope for a world without war and the redeployment of workers from military to civilian production. We question whether the present capitalist system can accomplish this goal. In order to achieve it, we may have to add more economists to our membership.
We have a special interest in the University of Toronto, the alma mater of some of us. Many universities, including the University of Toronto, are in danger of compromising themselves by accepting donations from individuals who hope to influence the curricula.
The corporate influence on science is also evident in the development of genetically modified seeds and pharmaceuticals for the rich (as millions die untreated from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS). There is no money to be made from the poor so science is being co-opted by corporations.
The nuclear age is still with us. For example, nuclear byproducts such as depleted uranium enter battlefields. We must continue to oppose the further use of nuclear power, the “Siamese twin of nuclear weapons”, this time with many allies.
If the future of Science for Peace is related to the need for the organization’s existence, then it should have a bright future.
1 Rifkin, Jeremy. The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin: 2009. ^
2 Hartung, William D. Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Nation Books, New York: 2011. ^