It is now widely recognized that war is no longer an acceptable means of resolving disputes. Although there will undoubtedly continue to be violent conflicts, the notion of war as a normal and noble activity is no longer acceptable.
The survival of the human race is threatened by three dangers. These are: sudden death in a war of destruction; irreversible environmental degradation, due in part to the military establishment which is the greatest single source of environmental degradation) and chronic terrorism, due in large’ part to the great disparity between the affluent and the destitute. Attempts to deal with these problems are met with resistance, partly due to lack of awareness of the seriousness of the danger and partly to opposition by vested interests.
Concern about the threat to the environment is Widespread, and measures are being taken to combat it at many levels. It is proving more difficult to organize effective action to Combat the threat of wax and to reduce the disparity between the rich and the poor.
With the collapse of Communism In Europe, the danger of global -war has been :greatly reduced, yet efforts to reduce the military establishment in the west have met with opposition. This is because new rationales have been devised for its existence, and because it has enormous political influence, partly on account of its role in providing short-term prosperity.
The task of rendering resource distribution more equitable Is even more difficult. The problem has no direct impact on the affluent populations of the more developed countries, who if anything feel it is in their interests to maintain the disparity.
The responsibility of scientists has traditionally been thought to be limited to areas of their own specific expertise. However, science functions in a specific social milieu which may be more or less conducive to it. Consequently, it is the right and responsibility of scientists to advocate policies to create a social milieu favorable to science.
Science is widely seen as a source of power because it has given rise to technology which can be used to exercise power over people and nature. Because this power is often abused, science has come to be seen as a source of evil rather than good. This in turn has led to a great increase in superstitions of all kinds and widespread rejection of rational thought. The social role of science as a source of enlightenment is much less widely recognized. The enlightening function of science is greatly hampered by the existence of military establishments and their adjuncts. Global enlightenment is impossible as long as half the human race lives on the verge of starvation, often under despotic regimes.
Prof. Rapoport ends the presentation with the following words: “In sum, the enlightening function of science can be served only if organizations of scientists dedicated to calling attention to and searching for solutions of cardinal global problems fully recognize the importance of open political struggle against institutions that stand in the way of creating conditions conducive to enlightenment, global integration, and global mobilization of effort to insure the survival of the human race.”