Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why You Will Never Find Scientists Leading Armies Into Battle

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In this weekend’s issue of Parade, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson opens up about his passion for the laws of nature and how he wants to “transform how we think about science.”

In the exclusive extras below, the beloved science rock star talks about his childhood curiosity about the universe, Carl Sagan, and his experience on 9/11 in downtown Manhattan.

On discovering the stars as a child, on a family trip to the Hayden Planetarium. “The stars came out, and I was hooked. How could you not be?… I was helpless in the presence because of the boundlessness of that night sky. Some people fear the unlimited horizon that is exploration. If you do, then you retreat; you say, ‘I’m afraid of that. I want to just go back to my bed and my warm covers and my chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk.’ I was not like that. I wanted to learn more about what I didn’t know…. My curiosity was large enough to leave me in intellectually unstable places. It was a driver to get [me] to learn more.”

On not trying to fill Carl Sagan’s shoes.“That was an important discussion [early on]. Yeah, I can say ‘billions and billions’ like the best of them. And I realized—and I think others agreed—that I could try to fill his shoes and perhaps fail, [or] I could be a really good version of myself. And no one can say I failed at that.

“The Sagan influence was not his delivery. It is the thematic foundations of what Cosmos was and its relationship to the viewer. So now I am in that host role, and I’m connecting with you, the viewer, in all the ways I know how and have done up until now.”

On his experience on 9/11 in downtown Manhattan, and why “you will never find scientists leading armies into battle.”“I was at home looking out the window. Yeah, it was right there. I watched it unfold: One plane in the North Tower, okay, that’s a really bad accident. And then a second plane hits, and everyone can do the calculations. Yes, I saw the second plane hit. In fact, I was filming the fire in the North Tower on my camcorder, using my high-zoom lens to assess, is it going to tip over? Because I live closer to Ground Zero than the height of the towers. If they were to fall at their base toward me, what would I do? In retrospect, it was clear that the tower could not have fallen at its base because it was not destabilized at its base…. And while I’m watching this happen, the South Tower gets hit, and then you see the fireball. It’s all in the camcorder….

“It was an odd kind of—I may have been the closest scientist to that event. And when I sent out an email that evening to my colleagues and family, I just sort of described what I saw analytically. Now, how did I feel? What I know is, when you have a cosmic perspective, when you know how large the universe is and how small we are within it—what Earth looks like from space, how tiny it is in a cosmic void—it’s impossible for you to say, ‘I so don’t like how you think that I’m going to kill you for it.’ You will never find scientists leading armies into battle. You just won’t. Especially not astrophysicists—we see the biggest picture there is. We understand how small we are in the cosmos. We understand how fragile and temporary our existence is here on Earth. We understand there are bigger problems we need to solve as a species than what God you pray to.

“Any time scientists disagree, it’s because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right or you’re right or we’re both wrong. And we move on. That kind of conflict resolution does not exist in politics or religion. It does not exist in so much of what we do as human beings on this Earth that it’s almost tragic.
 

Written By: Roisin Kelly
continue to source article at parade.com

50 COMMENTS

  1. It seems odd to say that scientists wouldn’t ever “lead armies”… kind of assumes that there’s nothing important enough to fight for in that way, or that “no true scientist” would think that there was.

    This could just be my anti-Tyson bias creeping in, though.

    • In reply to Neil deGrasse Tyson:

      You Will Never Find Scientists Leading Armies Into Battle.

      Oh, I don’t know. I always thought Mr. Spock and Mr. Scott both performed quite well whenever they had to take the helm.

      • In reply to #9 by IDLERACER:

        That you need to refer to fiction kind of helps his case :)

        It’s an interesting assertion. It’s kind of true in the way that if one was honestly scientific, one would not be religious. However, not everyone who is a scientist is that honest and free from delusion. On the other hand, a lot of the counter arguments here are flawed in talking about the application and direction of scientific discoveries. That’s somewhat beside the point, as science is the best way to achieve any practical goal. The scientists did not set the objectives, in most cases suggested the method, not the direction (as with the A. bomb– the dropping of which really should be a term for saying you’re atheist) or didn’t realise the consequences (which is why we have the Nobel prize, I understand). In Teller’s case, he rose to prominence because his views were in accord with those of the establishment, not his scientific peers. However, he favoured the threat of MAD to conflict, he claimed. It’s a bit tricky to tell what he actually thought, as he’s lionised by some right-wingers (historically the Neocons, who shared his paranoia and even took it further, initiating projects such as Team B), and they like to spin for him.

    • In reply to #1 by Jabarkis:

      It seems odd to say that scientists wouldn’t ever “lead armies”… kind of assumes that there’s nothing important enough to fight for in that way, or that “no true scientist” would think that there was.

      This could just be my anti-Tyson bias creeping in, though.

      If the Dutch Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, starts flinging shit about, his Ph.D. in chemistry will make Tyson eat his words.

    • In reply to #1 by Jabarkis:

      It seems odd to say that scientists wouldn’t ever “lead armies”… kind of assumes that there’s nothing important enough to fight for in that way

      Could be a valid assumption.

      I’m disappointed Matthew Lehman’s objection (post 4) to jingoism proves seemingly alien to many commenters.

      Tired, boring examples of men involved in government with science-born careers. These arise often also, when anyone wants to link “scientists” to war. Context is discarded by many, whilst proudly condemning a 1940′s man (of half their intellect and global awareness) as being a great bit of evidence to counter the article, or indeed science’s “purpose”.

      One perhaps more valid assumption might be that the “scientists” involved in war were weak human beings, devoid of ethics to a point about as bad as the era encompassed generally. Or driven to toil in unethical fields for the sole purpose of monetary gain or fame.

      It is easy to draw examples of such failures. A harder bow to draw is that which places weak, politically motivated scientists as a force widely present today. Even less plausible would be the voice which denies that the broader scientific community would condemn them.

    • Well if you think about it, a rational person would probably consider the direction that society was headed way before it led to any war. War mongering is often angled as being in the defense of something or other, the defense & continuation of a way of life or the defense of some ancient tradition, a majority that feels threatened by a minority & so on.
      If there ever was a war where it really was in defense of a better world (which, despite the simplicity of the statement, could actually be said about WWII & the need to obliterate Nazism) then that would be important to fight for.
      But even in that case one can historically see plenty of ways in which even that war could have been stopped before it even began, there were plenty of warning signs & economic difficulties, public political statements that ought to have been enough for the rest of the world to step in before it got momentum. Typical example, but I don’t think we’ve been so ignorant about war since, & I also don’t think we’re any longer in a world where we can’t stop wars before they happen (we don’t, but that’s clearly because one can’t generalize that all of humanity is rational just yet :P).

      The point is, wars shouldn’t exist, they are a mistake & if our world was rational they wouldn’t occur.

      In reply to #1 by Jabarkis:

      It seems odd to say that scientists wouldn’t ever “lead armies”… kind of assumes that there’s nothing important enough to fight for in that way, or that “no true scientist” would think that there was.

      This could just be my anti-Tyson bias creeping in, though.

    • That could be because NDT doesn’t feel the need to give the usual obligatory, jingoistic lip service to those in uniform just because the military was vaguely referenced.

      In reply to #2 by A3Kr0n:

      I didn’t hear him thank the people that do his fighting for him so he can be an astrophysicist.

  2. Was every scientist who worked on the A-bomb kept in the dark about what the military was planning to use it for?
    I realize that this is not the same as leading an army into battle, but c’mon.

    “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing”
    –Marcus Aurelius–

  3. Would scientist lead armies if need arose?

    No one knows what the future may bring but the irrational can bring anything, including armies. Would they not be opposed by the rational if need be? Scientists included. Though I can not think of any scientist I have ever known leading an army!

    • In reply to #5 by Neodarwinian:

      Would scientist lead armies if need arose?

      No one knows what the future may bring but the irrational can bring anything, including armies. Would they not be opposed by the rational if need be? Scientists included. Though I can not think of any scientist I have ever known leading an army!

      Scientists have a long history of working for and contributing to the military. Since the end of the second world war the vast majority of R&D, virtually everything in computer science for example, was funded by the military. It’s why they changed the name of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to the Defense… (DARPA).

      And it goes back a lot further than that. Leonardo Davinci designed all sorts of weapons of war. Edward Teller was the model for Dr. Strangelove. John Von Neumann was enthralled by nuclear brinksmanship and invented a new discipline of math (game theory) to model it, and many many more.

      • In reply to #7 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #5 by Neodarwinian:

        …And it goes back a lot further than that. Leonardo Davinci designed all sorts of weapons of war. Edward Teller was the model for Dr. Strangelove. John Von Neumann was enthralled by nuclear brinksmanship and invented a new discipline of math (game theory) to model it, and many many more.

        Much further back than Leonardo, even. Archimedes’ (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) Burning Mirror (images 1 & 2) and ship-grabbing Claw of Archimedes (nos. 3 & 4) helped to frustrate the Roman army during the Siege of Syracuse (214 BC – 212 BC).

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rdf richard ![rdf 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)

  4. “You won’t see scientists leading an army into battle…”

    He’s so right. We’re stuck with 2 kinds of people in the world. People like Neil and people who want to crawl under the covers and eat milk and cookies. I don’t see things ever changing much because of this basic nature of people. I read somewhere recently that “fundamentalists can’t compromise. If they could, they wouldn’t be fundamentalists in the first place.” Again, so true.

    I sincerely wish we had more Neils and less Fundies.

  5. It appears that some folks are having the usual reaction to this. You know, where the Minister shouts “Oh yeah, well atheists do bad stuff to. So there!”

    NDT indicated that scientists will argue about possibilities, and when all of the data is in, (I will add, “and if they are rational thinking people”) they will come to an agreement. I do not see Richard Dawkins leading an army against scientists who are also Young Earth Creationists, seeking their death because they believe differently (and irrationally). Their disagreement does not lead to a physical war against the “others”.

    While this is an over simplification, nations lead and go to war over disagreeing what other people believe, do, or have. And they do so because they believe that they have a moral imperative to do so.

    Someone who happens to be a scientist, and writes about a 6,000 year old earth, is not representing the principals of science and is acting upon his predisposed beliefs and rejecting science. Someone who happens to be a scientist and makes concoctions that will destroy people because of any non-scientific reason (“the sunnis must die.” “they took our land”, etc.) is not acting as a scientist, but as a tool who knows how to make things. Once it is no longer about knowledge, discovery, observation, and reason, it has become something else.

    And the “something else” will certainly be part of death movements.

    But it appears to me that NDT has an idyllic view of what a scientist is, and therefore, from that view, he cannot imagine those who embrace reason and discovery through logical observation, to lead armies, whose purpose is to overpower and kill, because the political leadership says that the other side is wrong, and we are right, and the wrong deserve to be killed.

    That is not a scientific view, and so, those who are leading the armies are not scientists.

    (Speaking as one who was in the military during the Viet Nam war, I can affirm that part of the training was to brainwash little Timmy from Iowa, who never killed anything in his life, that “the gooks” were not even human. And so, when going into a village and killing anything that moved, Timmy wouldn’t need to think about it. And if they were not human, just imagine what you can really do! Now, while such brainwashing is an outgrowth of scientific research, we cannot say that scientists led the war.)

  6. I genuinely think we should recognise the difference between investigative science and applied science / technology.
    I have a masters in and work daily in computer science but I know it’s not the kind of science NDT is talking about; its not advancing scientific understanding to come up with a new algorithm no matter how clever it might be.
    Similarly somebody with a job title of chemist in the first world war was not pursuing science when they devised a more deadly way to kill their countries enemies with deadly gas any more than Hiram Maxim was when he invented the machine gun. Even the physicists at Los Alamos were working with existing theoretical knowledge when they were looking for the technological means to split the atom.
    What I think NDT is talking about is the irrationality of violence, its destructive effect on our species and is stating his opinion that most scientists recognise it as an ineffective way to solve disputes.

    • Well said :) In reply to #15 by mr_DNA:

      I genuinely think we should recognise the difference between investigative science and applied science / technology.
      I have a masters in and work daily in computer science but I know it’s not the kind of science NDT is talking about; its not advancing scientific understanding to come up with a new a…

    • In reply to #15 by mr_DNA:

      I genuinely think we should recognise the difference between investigative science and applied science / technology.
      I have a masters in and work daily in computer science but I know it’s not the kind of science NDT is talking about; its not advancing scientific understanding to come up with a new a…

      I disagree. I think you are a scientist. (Partly because I’m in the same field and I think of myself as one. Although I have done a fair bit of R&D for DARPA and the USAF so not sure how you would classify me) Of course these are just questions of linguistic convention so not really solvable, there is no right or wrong answer. So this is more a question of cultural perspectives but what I think is we should stop thinking of “science” as some narrowly defined disciplines that require lab coats, microscopes, or telescopes. The scientific method can apply to just about any problem and I think it makes more sense to be inclusive in the way we describe each other, to see science as a way to deal with analysis of social problems and ethical issues just as much for analyzing the natural world.

      • In reply to #19 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #15 by mr_DNA:

        I genuinely think we should recognise the difference between investigative science and applied science / technology.
        I have a masters in and work daily in computer science but I know it’s not the kind of science NDT is talking about; its not advancing scientific understan…

        No I’m a technologist – software production makes you a tool maker actually. No shame in that. For every Alan Turing there had to be a Tommy Flowers to realise the potential.
        I agree science doesn’t have to be in a lab and can be anything where the sum of human knowledge can be added to. That definitely includes social psychology, computer science etc.
        My distinction comes from the kind of work you are doing (not you personally!): Are you advancing knowledge in your field or seeking a practical application from the knowledge someone else has acquired? The practical applications of science can be incredibly destructive or incredibly beneficial. The seeker after new scientific knowledge is not in the same position to wreak havoc or save lives as those that implement the technology that comes after.
        So unless you think Rutherford should not have begun research into the atom because it would lead to the bomb or a chemist into gasses because of its lethal potential you can see that NDT comments were valid for the kind of blue sky work he does.

  7. You will never find scientists leading armies into battle. You just won’t.

    Well that’s actually empirically wrong. I can cite numerous scientists who have served as officers in the armed forces, one particular example that springs to mind was a botanist in the Zulu War.

    Whether or not you’d count Archimedes as ‘leading’ the forces of Syracuse could be debated, but I find the statement woefully inaccurate.

    • In reply to #17 by Mr Greene:

      You will never find scientists leading armies into battle. You just won’t.

      Well that’s actually empirically wrong. I can cite numerous scientists who have served as officers in the armed forces, one particular example that springs to mind was a botanist in the Zulu War.

      Whether or not you’d count…

      I agree. You probably won’t find scientists now leading armies because modern humans are highly specialized. Anyone who learns enough science to be called an actual scientist is unlikely to have the skills to lead an army. Also, I think the kinds of personalities are different. Scientists like to work on problems and like an intellectual challenge. Warriors like to dominate and lead people and like tangible challenges.

      • In reply to #18 by Red Dog:

        I agree. You probably won’t find scientists now leading armies because modern humans are highly specialized…

        Found him; Lt. Henry Charles Harford. The Beetle Collector Hero of the Zulu War, Soldier and Entomologist.
        As an experienced Lieutenant attached to the Colonial Natal Native Contingent from the 99th (Wiltshire) Regiment, he led the first attack against the Zulus under the watchful eye of the British Commander, Lord Chelmsford during which he caused some confusion in the heat of battle by famously pausing to collect a rare beetle.
        http://www.1879zuluwar.com/t1486-lieutenant-adjutant-henry-charles-harford-99th-regiment
        Personally I suspect you’ll find a fair number of scientists in the officers mess, particularly in the Territorial Army.

  8. One more example of a prominent military man who IMO you could say was a scientist was Admiral Hyman G. Rickover I don’t know what level of education he had and his career was all in the US Navy but his approach to problems and his in depth understanding of nuclear technology always made him seem like a scientist (in the broad sense of the term) to me.

    One thing that I came to realize when I worked for the US air force was that my perception of the military was all wrong. They aren’t all cigar chomping lunatics who want to blow up the planet. (I remember the first meeting i went to with senior brass I was expecting something like General Jack D. Ripper and was pleasantly surprised) There are a lot of very thoughtful principled men (and now women) there as well and Rickover was an example.

  9. The premise definitely could have used a bit more study. I guess this proves to fundies that we don’t worship at the alter of science. When a scientist, who I think we can all agree is a very smart guy, makes a dodgy and somewhat dubious claim we have no problem jumping on it to argue the validity. I’d like to see that happen among the laity of any random religion.

    • In reply to #22 by DocWebster:

      The premise definitely could have used a bit more study. I guess this proves to fundies that we don’t worship at the alter of science. When a scientist, who I think we can all agree is a very smart guy, makes a dodgy and somewhat dubious claim we have no problem jumping on it to argue the validity. I’d like to see that happen among the laity of any random religion.

      Too true. We do not suck the teat.

  10. Perhaps Tyson means to say that while political power, religion, land and resources are flash point issues that can lead to wars and violence, no-one could ever consider going to war over a scientific disagreement. (eg creationism vs evolution, anyone remember the Big Bang/Steady State Universe Wars? Nope, me neither). Any career scientist would probably not have the time or the inclination to ‘fight’ for their hypothesis, and just let nature decide who is correct.

    I am sure there are some military/political leaders who have conducted wars and have science educations, but any wars conducted by them are usually related to the other issues as mentioned above. Maggie Thatcher had a Bsc in Chemistry from Oxford, but no-one would say that chemists cause wars.

  11. I don’t like his style very much…I don’t quite know why…he thinks he’s a stand up comedian – who’s not that funny perhaps
    I guess I don’t want to be entertained by an astrophysicist just informed by his knowledge…..

  12. Tyson’s excitement about science is infectious (annoying, for some), but it has a downside — he sometimes over-reaches in his statements**. Krauss has a similar problem. Feynman and Dennett, too, although they are (were, in Feynman’s case) often quick to realize when they over-stepped the mark. Of all the “celebrity” scientists of the latter 20thC (that I know of), these, IMO, are the most measured in their statements: the late Sagan, Greene, Dawkins and, especially, Pinker.

    ** I read somewhere that the department of defense was the largest single employer of scientists. If true, it would belie Tyson’s point. Scientists may not “lead” wars (this is arguable and, indeed, other posters on this thread have shown it to be false), but they certainly, through their work, sit at the heart of many war machines!

  13. To learn about the motivation for developing the A bomb refer to Richard Feynman; he states clearly why he wanted it made, and also, why after its deployment, twice, he became depressed.

    That’s a case in point, but generally speaking, once the political classes have got hold of what has resulted from scientific endeavour, the scientists are rendered powerless to effect how it’s applied.

    Witness also Feynman’s involvement in the Challenger investigation; he finally got to the truth in spite of huge opposition from the powers that be, but it was of course too late. Had a scientist been in charge of the project the tragedy would not have occurred.

    I agree with NDT; no sane scientist would ever lead an army in to battle.

    • In reply to #29 by Stafford Gordon:

      To learn about the motivation for developing the A bomb refer to Richard Feynman; he states clearly why he wanted it made, and also, why after its deployment, twice, he became depressed.

      That’s a case in point, but generally speaking, once the political classes have got hold of what has resulted fr…

      I think the decision to create the bomb, as awful as it was, was justified given the context. The people who criticize the decision are mostly using hind sight. In hind sight we know the Nazis weren’t even close to developing the bomb (getting rid of the Jews means getting rid of most of the best physicists) but we didn’t know that at the time.

      But I think your analysis is overly simplistic for a couple of reasons. First of all reading Feyneman will tell you about Feyneman’s reasons for developing the bomb. Each person on the team had their own reasons and each was a little different.

      And speaking as someone who has compromised his own values to work for the US Air Force I can tell you that there is definitely an allure of doing that kind of work. For one thing (this is how I rationalized it at least) just solving that kind of hard cutting edge problem, something you often can’t do unless you work for the military, can be enticing. In my case it wasn’t nearly as hard or important a problem as nuclear power but it still was fascinating to me (using mathematical methods to automate the software process).

      Also, at least for me and I was a pacifist (mostly) at the time and didn’t have very positive views of the DOD, there can be something intoxicating about going to Washington, the Pentagon, the incredible power that you become a part of. Especially for guys I think for some of us it appeals to something almost primal. I think that explains the behavior of people like Edward Teller for example. If you read about Oppenheimer I think he felt this conflict a lot. He was intoxicated by the challenge of the problem and at times I think he even admitted to being enticed by the opportunity to be a decision maker in the power elite. Although in his case, unlike Teller’s, he turned away from that once he saw the irrational and dangerous direction the US and USSR were going with nuclear weapons.

      And finally the whole idea of “scientist = good & politician = bad” is far too simplistic. It’s about as valid as “atheist = good & theist = bad”. Yes, I agree in general scientists are driven more by laudatory motives such as understanding the universe and politicians are driven more by less laudatory motives such as money and power. But scientists can be corrupted and politicians can be idealistic. It’s far more common for the reverse to be true but it’s not an incontrovertible law of nature.

      • In reply to #30 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #29 by Stafford Gordon:

        To learn about the motivation for developing the A bomb refer to Richard Feynman; he states clearly why he wanted it made, and also, why after its deployment, twice, he became depressed.

        That’s a case in point, but generally speaking, once the political classes…

        Yes, I take your points, but I think it was clear that I was generalizing; granted, that this is not the place to do that, but I’m born lazy.

        However, my posting did at least motivate you to elaborate on the subject for all our benefits.

        S G

  14. Guys, aren’t we forgetting the most important thing here?

    Tyson’s annoying and patronising now-listen-to-me-children head-tilt. What the f*** is with that?

    Now that I’ve got that out of the way, the claim.

    I think it’s true, to an extent, but not for reasons that scientists should celebrate. The reason that scientists wouldn’t lead an army into battle is because they live sheltered existences and they derive too much pleasure and comfort (when the funding is plentiful, at least) to ever risk that by showing up to a hell-hole on the other side of the planet. Other than the science, scientists (in the West, anyway) are often SUV-polishing navel-gazers who don’t want to get their hands dirty and are too ‘lofty’ for anything even hinting at violence, at least so far as directing or explicitly participating in the violence is concerned. If they’re designing the theoretical tools for violence, or helping to engineer the tools of violence, then that’s okay. The important thing is to keep the hemoglobin off their tailored shirts.

    And anyway, WHO CARES if scientists would never lead an army? The structural causes of war will be there whether or not Tyson and others are pontificating about war. Someone is going to fight and kill for a cause, and the fact that scientists will steer clear of the battlefield won’t make a lick of difference. Instead of congratulating himself and intoning ‘disappointment at humanity’ (the head tilt, people), Tyson and others should perhaps pay serious attention to why wars are waged in the first place.

    • In reply to #32 by Promethean Entity:

      I suspect the ratio of SUV-owners in the population of scientists is lower than for the general population. But your basic point that they don’t fight because they don’t have to is sound. That’s true for most elites with the poverty draft “volunteer” US army. However, leading an army doesn’t require one to fight, either (only to have fought– how much of the current brass have been deployed in the most dangerous occupied parts of Afghanistan or Iraq?)

  15. Of course many examples of ‘scientists leading armies’ can be found (and I guess Neil deGrasse Tyson would fight if it came to it), but I appreciate his article in the sense that yes, I feel that a broader view on life and the cosmos as opposed to the narrow divisive views that political, religious, cultural and national beliefs generate.

    Whatever the belief, we can see numerous examples of their divisive nature where due to their heavy investments in maintaining very personal ‘ego-maintaining’ concepts and beliefs they would fight and destroy.

    A more holistic view of the Earth and life could improve the way we think and act and perhaps go toward helping us to see our place in the scheme of things – or are we doomed to unconsciously act out the frontal lobe programming we have been indoctrinated with?

    • In reply to #37 by WhoAreWe:

      Would wars exist if science would not supply the tools?

      No weapon can be built without scientist cooperating.

      Spears and arrows. Tribal peoples have often warred against each other and presumably have done since prehistoric times. Their death rates by killing supersede even those of the most notorious modern American cities, as documented in Better Angels by Steven Pinker. Science’s main contribution in recent centuries has been to enable people to refine and intensify their weaponry and military technology. It didn’t give them the motives to use them in the first place. So yes, wars would exist if science weren’t around to supply the tools because wars have existed in the absence of science.

    • Uh, yeah, Chimps have tribe wars :P & man would use rocks & spears (as we once did).
      We have the responsibility to create a world that is on par with the responsibility needed to use the powers that science affords us.
      Part of that agenda means making the world more rational, which if anything means that we ought to propagate science & criticize the knowingly cruel political manipulations & irrational, delusional justifications that lead to war.

      In reply to #37 by WhoAreWe:

      Would wars exist if science would not supply the tools?

      No weapon can be built without scientist cooperating.

      Doubts? Please check this for example:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsTUDl_6RsY

  16. What he means here is that scientists are not in general fighters. They are seekers, they are curious people and they are helpers.

    What he probably meant was in the context of conventional warfare between countries and armies. What he seems to be suggesting is that scientists realise the need to live cooperatively, in harmony because warring is irrational. I’m just conjecturing here.

  17. Well not to long from today a new age will begin for man one of knowledge, a new fiery law of time, and space, and magnetic mechanical physics will be known , at a great economic destruction of the present system but a needed new system , the law in mechanical physics. Is the use of permanent field assemblies used for motion thru repulsion combined with inducted high voltage fields that are contained on top of the revolving field assemblies to be charged and discharged in timed mechanical sequences to perpetuate powered permanent field field motion, to spin an axle at will with no need for fossil fuels anymore on earth,for energy production

    • In reply to #45 by david t ursiny:

      Well not to long from today a new age will begin for man one of knowledge, a new fiery law of time, and space, and magnetic mechanical physics will be known , at a great economic destruction of the present system but a needed new system , the law in mechanical physics. Is the use of permanent field…

      Damn! Send that to Deepak Chopra he would love it. Otherwise, WTF!

  18. right on, Neil! I totally get that the ‘god’ nonsense is out of hand in America, but what’s with all the nationalism at sporting events? you can attend a ball game where kids from kindergarten are competing against each other in America, and there will be a military presentation of the flag and singing of the national anthem before the game begins. what on earth does that have to do with sports? are Americans so insecure that they constantly need some kind of confidence booster in the form of military bravado? I also understand someone having been in the military and risked his/her life, and feeling strongly about having done so- but with the exception of perhaps economic circumstances which force some people to join the military as a last resort, no one asks or forces people to run off and join the army, marines, or whatever. WHY, then, do they expect everyone to honor their service? there is no draft (that would of course be unfair to the rich and wealthy among us whose children could be sucked up into the military and sent off to war somewhere), and I most certainly did not ask you to run off to war and get your limbs blown off- so why must I honor your personal decision to go to the military?

  19. Any time scientists disagree, it’s because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right or you’re right or we’re both wrong. And we move on — What a load of BS, History is filled with stories of vendetta driven Scientists, Scientists whose hubris was so huge that they wouldn’t the right to surface because it disagreed with their ‘opinion’. Edison and Tesla. Need I say more. If scientists had their place in politics, I am sure these fights would have gone into battles and wars

  20. I haven’t read the other comments but, science does much more important things in a war than lead people into battle.
    In fact War has been a terrific stimulus to science.
    Just from WWII,
    * Mass production of penicillin
    * New surgical techniques,
    * many plastics including nylon
    * atomic power
    * aviation advances particularly jet engines
    * computers (colossus and enigma)
    * rocketry
    * radar
    * Medical advances (plastic surgery, burns)
    * Radio direction finding (RDF)
    * Weather prediction

    Not to mention the role played by scientists in developing weapons. Bomb disposal, special bomb ,making (earthquake, bouncing and grand slam bombs and the torpex inside them)

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