Matching Items (2)
- All Subjects: ethics
- Member of: Barrett, The Honors College Thesis/Creative Project Collection
In 1996, President Clinton ordered the formation of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), which undertook to evaluate the morality of a myriad of secret and publicized radiation experiments ranging from 1944 to 1974. The goal of this thesis is to analyze the ways in which that committee formed moral evaluations and the extent to which its strategies related to a broader historical and philosophical discourse. Here I attempt to describe two specific techniques of simplification the committee deploys in order to make a retrospective moral analysis possible. Although the techniques comprise specific problems, frameworks, subjective perspectives, and conceptual links, their unifying principle is the field of choices the techniques produce. In the first technique I outline, I argue that by focusing on the problem of historical relativism, the committee gains a platform through which it would be granted flexibility in making a distinction between moral wrongdoing and blameworthiness. In the second technique of simplification I outline, I argue that the committee's incorporation of a principle to reduce uncertainty as an ethical aim allow it to establish new ways to reconcile scientific aims with moral responsibility. In addition to describing the structure of these techniques, I also demonstrate how they relate to the specific experiments the analysts aim to evaluate, using both the ACHRE experiments as well as the Nuremberg Trial experiments as my examples. My hope is not to show why a given committee made a particular moral evaluation, or to say whether a decision was right or wrong, but rather to illustrate how certain techniques open up a field of choices that allow moral analysts to form retrospective moral judgments.
Joseph Rotblat, the Physicist Who Left the Manhattan Project: a Biography of Scientific Responsibility
Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project for moral reasons before its completion. He would spend the rest of his life advocating for nuclear disarmament. His activities for disarmament resulted in the formation, in 1957, of the Pugwash conferences, which emerged as the leading global forum to advance limits on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Rotblat's efforts, and the activities of Pugwash, resulted in both being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Rotblat is a central figure in the global history of resistance to the spread of nuclear weapons. He also was an important figure in the emergence, after World War II, of a counter-movement to introduce new social justifications for scientific research and new models for ethics and professionalism among scientists. Rotblat embodies the power of the individual scientist to say "no" and thus, at least individually, put limits of conscience on his or her scientific activity. This paper explores the political and ethical choices scientists make as part of their effort to behave responsibly and to influence the outcomes of their work. By analyzing three phases of Rotblat's life, I demonstrate how he pursued his ideal of beneficial science, or science that appears to benefit humanity. The three phases are: (1) his decision to leave the Manhattan Project in 1944, (2) his role in the creation of Pugwash in 1957 and his role in the rise of the organization into international prominence and (3) his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. These three phases of Rotblat's life provide a singular window of the history of nuclear weapons and the international movement for scientific responsibility in the 50 years since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. While this paper does not provide a complete picture of Rotblat's life and times, I argue that his experiences shed important light on the difficult question of the individual responsibility of scientists.