When the first atomic bomb was tested, its creators realized that such a powerful weapon could kill hundreds of millions of people, and perhaps even destroy the entire human civilization. This raised serious moral questions facing scientists hired to create it.
In the West, there appeared two distinct trends in the discussion of the moral problems generated by the nuclear-weapon: deontological approach (from Greek “duty, obligation”) and consequentialism (from Latin word “consequential” – consequence.). Proponents of deontological ideology, guided by the directive, known among philosophers as “the principle of improper intentions,” said that it is immoral to intend or threaten to do something you ought not to do. Stating that evil cannot be used as a means to do good. Thus, they condemn the threat of using nuclear weapons, even if these threats have resorted for the sake of preventing war.
Consequentialists argue that the actions should be judged by their consequences and not by the purity of intentions. According to their position, if a system of mutual deterrence presupposes the threat to turn millions of civilians to ash in order prevent these treats to be implemented, it is quite moral and it is immoral not to resort to such threats.
Unsurprisingly, weapons scientists were almost without exception consequentialists.
Activists of anti-nuclear movement and critics accused atomic bomb creators in ignoring the moral issues raised by their work, and being in a state of moral lunacy. The words of Donald King, one the atomic weapon scientist, who became a member of the anti-nuclear movement, are indicative in this respect. “In my impression, most of the weapon scientists worked on atomic bomb for the same reason as I did: we needed a job, and it was job for good pay. Most employees have never bothered to much thought about morality of their work.” One of the reasons for antinuclear organizing protests in the 1980s, consisted in the hope that such a demonstration would force scientists to face the moral issues, which they allegedly avoided.
Many of the weapon scientists felt deeply offended by these moralistic attacks and insisted that they just held on to ethical views other than those of their critics, but are by no means devoid of such. They told that although they felt quite comfortable, creating nuclear weapons, there was some work that they consider unethical and could not perform, for example, to be a lawyer defending murderers or drug traffickers. One of them said that for reasons of principle he could never be involved in the Vietnam War.
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