Scientific Military

Purposeful Science finds Funds/Usefulness in Military Effort

Military systems are ordered under the chain of command, and service members follow orders without asking questions. Soldiers who do not agree with their commands still have to follow them, that is the way the MRE crumbles. During wartime, if a soldier refuses to follow a direct command, he may be shot in the head immediately by his commanding officer. No trial, no argument – follow the orders the superiors dictate. When faced with a moral concern, the soldier is ultimately to follow orders. Science disagrees with this approach. For one thing, scientists who are able to create weapons of mass destruction are burdened with the moral issue: is it right and just to create these weapons? Once materialized, the scientists do not possess the authority to restrict the military – or rogue nations – from using the weapons to destroy life. The aim of science to understand natural life, not destroy it.

The military has a ruthless approach. The object of the service is to protect, defend, and sustain. The military accepts that certain loses must happen to better the whole, but they accept this on a literal level. If a group of 100 people can be saved by one man dying, then military reason says the one man should feel honored to die for the glory and safety of his country. There is an enlisted job/specialty that literally is an enlisted soldier who follows the Chaplin around (everywhere he goes). That soldier’s “real” job is to jump in front of the Chaplin if he is attacked to save his life because his job is to bring support to the masses. Military morality is different because it is flexible according to the demands of the nation.

Bowler and Morus noted that many scientists are pacifists. In 1939, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt to begin constructing the bomb because he feared that the Axis forces would be able to make a bomb.[1] The Allies would need the Atomic bomb for defense purposes. The arms race (and later space race) created great anxiety for scientists because they wanted funding for research but did not like kneeling to the ways of the military.

The scientists wanted to test their theories about the atom, and due to the high cost of the research required, science found funding with the military. Science had assisted the service during WWI, and especially the Navy with technology produced to communicate via radar, sonar, and radio.[2] Using scientific method, the scientists approached the military problems with reason and theory. Scientists were advising the military – different branches including biology and physicists.[3]

Einstein was excluded from the Manhattan Project, and much to the scientists dismay, Brigadier General Leslie Groves took command. Robert Oppenheimer was a leading physicist, and his team of civilians and scientists: “…were not simply taking orders from the military and were free to think about the consequences of what they were doing”[4] in which allowed major debates about the moral concerns regarding the bombs construction. However, the members of the Manhattan Project believed they were trying to beat Germany, and therefore, they patriotically participated. Science cooperated with the military and industry so that they had practical means to back their experimentation process. Bowler and Morus said, “In a sense, the Manhattan Project was changing the way science was done, requiring leading scientists to engage in much closer cooperation with military and industrial interests.”[5]

As science continued to shift away from theoretical and abstract purposes towards practical uses, the military eagerly demonstrated the need and embraced for weapon advancement and wartime strategic technologies. Russia took over as villain once Germany was defeated, and the hydrogen bomb, along with the cold war scare, would dominate America from the 1950s on, only losing steam at the fall of communist Russia. C.M. Mody Cyrus said, “Evidence of mobilization was everywhere, from the Manhattan Project to the space race to the civil rights movement to the “wars” on poverty, drugs, and cancer.”[6] After WWII, the Cold War gripped the nations in an icy fear that: “each superpower was acutely aware that not pursuing even the most outrageous visions could result in a victory for the other side.”[7] Scientific advance was found in “big science,” which looked to funding from the military and industry.

Bowler and Morus noted that Oppenheimer had contact with left-wing organizations and fell victim to persecution by McCarthy and the Red Scare.[8] I remember during my childhood, the 1980s, the intense animosity for Russia and all things non-democratic. In elementary school, we had nuclear drills like the kids have fire drills. The alarm was even more annoying, and the students filed out into the hall, faced the wall and sat down with crossed legs. As a kid, I remember thinking, “How is sitting in the hall going to keep us safe from a bomb?” Now, I think they did it so that everyone would be together and try to stay calm as long as possible. Realistically, if the school were hit with a nuclear bomb, everyone is done – does not matter if you sat cross or straight legged. What is scary is, at that point, all humanity can do is calmly prepare to be decimated. {le sigh}



Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Cyrus, C.M. Mody. “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 38.3 (2008): 451-461. Web. 20 Jan 2016.

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[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 473.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 470.

[3] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 471.

[4] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 474.

[5] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 475.

[6] Cyrus, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” p. 452.

[7] Cyrus, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” p. 452.

[8] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 480.