Courtesy Reuters

Science and Politics in the Twentieth Century

CONTROVERSIES among the military leaders of the nation have in recent months been the subject of headlines in the daily papers. As a consequence the general public has been given a glimpse of a serious problem which faces a democratic nation in this age of applied science. Quite apart from the merits of any type of organization of our defense establishment, quite apart from inter-service rivalries, even the casual reader must be disturbed by the obvious conflict of expert technical opinion; and even more disturbed that this conflict has remained unresolved at the highest level. Members of Congress and civilian officials of the Federal Government have become involved in intricate questions which in large part turn on judgments about scientific and engineering problems. There can be no doubt that politics and science, once quite separate activities, have become intermeshed and at times the grinding of the gears produces strange and disturbing noises.

By what procedures are a free people to determine the answers to such complex questions as to whether a large amount of the taxpayer's money is to be spent on the development of a given weapon or its auxiliary? Granted the matter must be left to the people's elected representatives and the President exercising through subordinates his power as Commander-in-Chief, nevertheless the problem still remains, how are politicians to resolve conflicts of opinions among scientists and engineers? Have we devised as yet even the first approximation to a satisfactory procedure for evaluating technical judgments on matters connected with the national defense, including atomic energy? Some who have been close to the postwar scene in Washington and have followed some of the research and development projects must be inclined to answer this question in the negative.

It is one of the purposes of this article to urge the need for careful attention to these questions, even to suggest one possible line of attack on what is a political and not a scientific problem. But before plunging into this area, so

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