Science: a dialogue

In which Salt, heroically assuming the role of Socrates, confronts an upset gaggle of militant sciencists:

SCIENCIST: I guess I must be more optimistic than a weird Christian nihilist, because I think it’s better to aspire to a better world than to give up and slide back into some benighted religious illusion.

SALT: Great risks! Most certainly. I’d bet the 100K+ Hiroshima Japanese of August 1945 would agree! Now, just why did you scientists build that damn thing anyway?

SCIENCIST: If you actually took the time to read about WWII history, unlike, say, Vox Day,* you’d realize that the scientists built the bombs to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the behest of the American Military because the American Military wanted a way to bring the Japanese Empire to its knees without the need of a total invasion.

SALT: So, that lets the scientists off the hook culpability-wise? I guess a hit man is off the hook solely due to being hired? They knew what they were building. Had it not been built it could not have been dropped and a nuke is not simple science. It took scientists to invent and build the damn thing.

SCIENCIST: Terribly analogy. The hit man’s the one who pulls the trigger. What you mean is closer to: “I guess the gun manufacturer is off the hook solely due to having made the gun?” The Hit Man you mean to refer to is not the science or the scientists who developed the bomb, it’s one or more people in the chain of command between Harry Truman and the crew of the Enola Gay (inclusive).

SALT: You miss the point, being express intent; scientists invented, designed, and built the bomb specifically for use on a Japanese target. Not unlike hiring a hit man for an express intent. The military were just the willing and desirous delivery boys. That any were hired does not relieve culpability.

SCIENCIST: [irrelevant quibble about nationality of target]

SALT: My apologies. I should have said military target. Germany was primary, but after it surrendered and it seemed that Japan would not be far behind there was a great push to have the bomb for use while it could still be used.

Quote: “The epic story of the development of the atomic bomb is well known. [4] It began in 1939 when a small group of eminent scientists in this country called to the attention of the United States Government the vast potentialities of atomic energy for military purposes and warned that the Germans were already carrying on experiments in this field…. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled in 1954 that “we always assumed if they [atomic bombs] were needed, they would be used.”

SCIENCIST: Your arguement is weak and your conclusion pointless. Anyone on both sides of this argument who blames all members of one group for something awful that a couple memebers did is an idiot. But let’s take a look…perhaps at most somewhere in the realm of a few hundred “scientists” worked on the bomb. Perhaps the same number of military personel and politicians allowed it to be used. How many thousands of scientists are working to make the world a better place every day?

I mean I don’t even know why I have to point this out…some Jewish guy used to talk about turning the other cheek and doing onto others and all that, but the people in this day who use his name seem to think it’s okay to drop (non-atomic, of course) bombs on Iraqi children because it makes them feel a little safer.

SALT: Okay, so if we shouldn’t blame today’s scientists for the actions of other scientists who were building nuclear weapons 62 years ago, why should we blame today’s Christians for the actions of Crusaders retaking occupied Christian territory from Muslim prinicipalities 908 years ago?

SCIENCIST: (blank stare not dissimilar to deer caught in headlights)

SALT: And furthermore, if the scientists who conceive, design and build a weapon for the express purpose of killing thousands of people cannot be held responsible for its use, how can the scientists who conceive, design and build a medical treatment for the express purpose of saving thousands of lives be held responsible for its use?

SCIENCIST: But there’s an important difference! See, in the case of the former, scientists look bad, but in the latter case, they look good!

SALT: Ah yes, I stand rebuked. The logic is impeccable… in its absence. And I further note that if Science cannot be held responsible for the evil actions of a few scientists, it cannot be held responsible for the positive actions of a few scientists either.

SCIENCIST: But.. but Science is good! By definition! Polio vaccine! Computers! Your argument is weak and pointless! I like cheese! LOL, you couldn’t even read this on the Internet if it wasn’t for Science! (bursts into tears)

SALT: I almost hate to remind you that if we’re going to delve into the foundational aspects of existential credit, Science wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the Christian medieval priesthood.

SCIENCIST: PZ? St. Darwin? Mommy? HOLD ME!!!!!!

If the logic demonstrated by these heartfelt believers in science is indicative of scientists in general, I should fear for the fate of science. Fortunately, I suspect genuine scientodists are rather better equipped in that area. For the benefit of Pharyngula’s slower readers, I note that I am not Salt, as even a brief textual analysis should suffice to demonstrate. Moreover, I am neither anti-science nor anti-technology,** being a literal card-carrying, award-winning Expert in technology as well as a scientist by most sciencists’ definitions of the term. I am even a regular reader of the pop science journal, New Scientist.

*Oh, if he only knew the humor in that statement… especially given the way in which Japanese transport capacity in 1945 had been reduced to….

**I’m not sure which is funnier, the idea that an uploaded Internet superintelligence with an ASL habit doesn’t know anything about WWII history or that it is anti-technology.