Remember Your Humanity
© 1995 The Nobel Foundation
Founder and President, Pugwash Council
10 December 1995, Oslo, Norway
Majesties, Members of the Nobel Committee, Your Excellencies, Officers
and Participants in the Pugwash Conferences, Ladies and Gentlemen:
At this momentous
event in my life - the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize - I want
to speak as a scientist, but also as a human being. From my earliest
days I had a passion for science. But science, the exercise of the supreme
power of the human intellect, was always linked in my mind with benefit
to people. I saw science as being in harmony with humanity. I did not
imagine that the second half of my life would be spent on efforts to
avert a mortal danger to humanity created by science.
The practical release of nuclear energy was the outcome of many years
of experimental and theoretical research. It had great potential for
the common good. But the first the general public learned about this
discovery was the news of the destruction of Hiroshima by the atom bomb.
A splendid achievement of science and technology had turned malign.
Science became identified with death and destruction.
It is painful to me to admit that this depiction of science was deserved.
The decision to use the atom bomb on Japanese cities, and the consequent
build up of enormous nuclear arsenals, was made by governments, on the
basis of political and military perceptions. But scientists on both
sides of the iron curtain played a very significant role in maintaining
the momentum of the nuclear arms race throughout the four decades of
the Cold War.
The role of scientists in the nuclear arms race was expressed bluntly
by Lord Zuckerman, for many years Chief Scientific Adviser to the British
When it comes to nuclear weapons... it is the man in the laboratory
who at the start proposes that for this or that arcane reason it would
be useful to improve an old or to devise a new nuclear warhead. It is
he, the technician, not the commander in the field, who is at the heart
of the arms race.
Long before the terrifying potential of the arms race was recognized,
there was a widespread instinctive abhorrence of nuclear weapons, and
a strong desire to get rid of them. Indeed, the very first resolution
of the General Assembly of the United Nations - adopted unanimously
- called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. But the world was then
polarized by the bitter ideological struggle between East and West.
There was no chance to meet this call. The chief task was to stop the
arms race before it brought utter disaster. However, after the collapse
of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, any rationale
for having nuclear weapons disappeared. The quest for their total elimination
could be resumed. But the nuclear powers still cling tenaciously to
Let me remind you that nuclear disarmament is not just an ardent desire
of the people, as expressed in many resolutions of the United Nations.
It is a legal commitment by the five official nuclear states, entered
into when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Only a few months
ago, when the indefinite extension of the Treaty was agreed, the nuclear
powers committed themselves again to complete nuclear disarmament. This
is still their declared goal. But the declarations are not matched by
their policies, and this divergence seems to be intrinsic.
Since the end of the Cold War the two main nuclear powers have begun
to make big reductions in their nuclear arsenals. Each of them is dismantling
about 2000 nuclear warheads a year. If this programme continued, all
nuclear warheads could be dismantled in little over ten years from now.
We have the technical means to create a nuclear-weapon-free world in
about a decade. Alas, the present programme does not provide for this.
When the START-2 treaty has been implemented - and remember it has not
yet been ratified - we will be left with some 15,000 nuclear warheads,
active and in reserve. Fifteen thousand weapons with an average yield
of 20 Hiroshima bombs.
Unless there is a change in the basic philosophy, we will not see a
reduction of nuclear arsenals to zero for a very long time, if ever.
The present basic philosophy is nuclear deterrence. This was stated
clearly in the US Nuclear Posture Review which concluded: "Post-Cold
War environment requires nuclear deterrence," and this is
echoed by other nuclear states. Nuclear weapons are kept as a hedge
against some unspecified dangers.
This policy is simply an inertial continuation from the Cold War era.
The Cold War is over but Cold War thinking survives. Then, we were told
that a world war was prevented by the existence of nuclear weapons.
Now, we are told that nuclear weapons prevent all kinds of war. These
are arguments that purport to prove a negative. I am reminded of a story
told in my boyhood, at the time when radio communication began:
Two wise men were arguing about the ancient civilization in their respective
countries. One said: 'my country has a long history of technological
development: we have carried out deep excavations and found a wire,
which shows that already in the old days we had the telegraph.' The
other man retorted: 'we too made excavations; we dug much deeper than
you and found ... nothing, which proves that already in those days we
had wireless communication!'
There is no direct evidence that nuclear weapons prevented a world war.
Conversely, it is known that they nearly caused one. The most terrifying
moment in my life was October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I did not know all the facts - we have learned only recently how close
we were to war - but I knew enough to make me tremble. The lives of
millions of people were about to end abruptly; millions of others were
to suffer a lingering death; much of our civilization was to be destroyed.
It all hung on the decision of one man, Nikita Khrushchev: would he
or would he not yield to the US ultimatum? This is the reality of nuclear
weapons: they may trigger a world war; a war which, unlike previous
ones, destroys all of civilization.
As for the assertion that nuclear weapons prevent wars, how many more
wars are needed to refute this argument? Tens of millions have died
in the many wars that have taken place since 1945. In a number of them
nuclear states were directly involved. In two they were actually defeated.
Having nuclear weapons was of no use to them.
To sum up, there is no evidence that a world without nuclear weapons
would be a dangerous world. On the contrary, it would be a safer world,
as I will show later.
We are told that the possession of nuclear weapons - in some cases even
the testing of these weapons - is essential for national security. But
this argument can be made by other countries as well. If the militarily
most powerful - and [therefore] least threatened - states need nuclear
weapons for their security, how can one deny such security to countries
that are truly insecure? The present nuclear policy is a recipe for
proliferation. It is a policy for disaster.
To prevent this disaster - for the sake of humanity - we must get rid
of all nuclear weapons.
Achieving this goal will take time, but it will never happen unless
we make a start. Some essential steps towards it can be taken now. Several
studies, and a number of public statements by senior military and political
personalities, testify that - except for disputes between the present
nuclear states - all military conflicts, as well as threats to peace,
can be dealt with using conventional weapons. This means that the only
function of nuclear weapons, while they exist, is to deter a nuclear
attack. All nuclear-weapon states should now recognize that this is
so, and declare - in treaty form - that they will never be the first
to use nuclear weapons. This would open the way to the gradual, mutual
reduction of nuclear arsenals, down to zero. It would also open the
way for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. This would be universal - it would
prohibit all possession of nuclear weapons.
We will need to work out the necessary verification system to safeguard
the Convention. A Pugwash study produced suggestions on these matters.
The mechanism for negotiating such a convention already exists. Entering
into negotiations does not commit the parties. There is no reason why
they should not begin now. If not now, when?
So I ask the nuclear powers to abandon the out-of-date thinking of the
Cold War period and take a fresh look. Above all, I appeal to them to
bear in mind the long-term threat that nuclear weapons pose to humankind
and to begin action towards their elimination. Remember your duty to
second appeal is to my fellow scientists. I described earlier the disgraceful
role played by a few scientists, caricatured as 'Dr Strangeloves,' in
fuelling the arms race. They did great damage to the image of science.
On the other side there are the scientists, in Pugwash and other bodies,
who devote much of their time and ingenuity to averting the dangers
created by advances in science and technology. However, they embrace
only a small part of the scientific community. I want to address the
scientific community as a whole.
You are doing fundamental work, pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge,
but often you do it without giving much thought to the impact of your
work on society. Precepts such as 'science is neutral'
or 'science has nothing to do with politics' still prevail.
They are remnants of the ivory tower mentality, although the ivory tower
was finally demolished by the Hiroshima bomb.
Here, for instance, is a question: Should any scientist work on the
development of weapons of mass destruction? A clear "no" was
the answer recently given by Hans Bethe. Professor Bethe, a Nobel Laureate,
is the most senior of the surviving members of the Manhattan Project.
On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Hiroshima, he issued a statement
that I will quote in full:
As the Director of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos, I participated
at the most senior level in the World War II Manhattan Project that
produced the first atomic weapons.
Now, at age 88, I am one of the few remaining such senior persons alive.
Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense
relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed
with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built
since that time - one hundred times more than any of us at Los Alamos
could ever have imagined.
Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear
weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues.
Whether and when the various Nations of the World can agree to stop
this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this
process by withholding their skills.
Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and
desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further
nuclear weapons - and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass
destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
If all scientists heeded this call there would be no more new nuclear
warheads; no French scientists at Mururoa; no new chemical and biological
poisons. The arms race would be over.
But there are other areas of scientific research that may directly or
indirectly lead to harm to society. This calls for constant vigilance.
The purpose of some governmental or industrial research is sometimes
concealed, and misleading information is presented to the public. It
should be the duty of scientists to expose such malfeasance. 'Whistle-blowing'
should become part of the scientist's ethos. This may bring reprisals;
a price to be paid for one's convictions. The price may be very heavy,
as illustrated by the disproportionately severe punishment of Mordechai
Vanunu. I believe he has suffered enough.
The time has come to formulate guidelines for the ethical conduct of
scientists, perhaps in the form of a voluntary Hippocratic Oath. This
would be particularly valuable for young scientists when they embark
on a scientific career. The US Student Pugwash Group has taken up this
idea - and that is very heartening.
At a time when science plays such a powerful role in the life of society,
when the destiny of the whole of mankind may hinge on the results of
scientific research, it is incumbent on all scientists to be fully conscious
of that role, and conduct themselves accordingly. I appeal to my fellow
scientists to remember their responsibility to humanity.
third appeal is to my fellow citizens in all countries: Help us to establish
lasting peace in the world.
I have to bring to your notice a terrifying reality: with the development
of nuclear weapons, Man has acquired, for the first time in history,
the technical means to destroy the whole of civilization in a single
act. Indeed, the whole human species is endangered, by nuclear weapons
or by other means of wholesale destruction which further advances in
science are likely to produce.
I have argued that we must eliminate nuclear weapons. While this would
remove the immediate threat, it will not provide permanent security.
Nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented. The knowledge of how to make
them cannot be erased. Even in a nuclear-weapon-free world, should any
of the great powers become involved in a military confrontation, they
would be tempted to rebuild their nuclear arsenals. That would still
be a better situation than the one we have now, because the rebuilding
would take a considerable time, and in that time the dispute might be
settled. A nuclear-weapon-free world would be safer than the present
one. But the danger of the ultimate catastrophe would still be there.
The only way to prevent it is to abolish war altogether. War must cease
to be an admissible social institution. We must learn to resolve our
disputes by means other than military confrontation.
This need was recognized forty years ago when we said in the Russell-Einstein
Here then is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful,
and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race: or shall mankind
The abolition of war is also the commitment of the nuclear weapon states:
Article VI of the NPT calls for a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control.
Any international treaty entails some surrender of national sovereignty,
and is generally unpopular. As we said in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto:
"The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations
of national sovereignty."
Whatever system of governance is eventually adopted, it is important
that it carries the people with it. We need to convey the message that
safeguarding our common property, humankind, will require developing
in each of us a new loyalty: a loyalty to mankind. It calls for the
nurturing of a feeling of belonging to the human race. We have to become
Notwithstanding the fragmentation that has occurred since the end of
the Cold War, and the many wars for recognition of national or ethnic
identities, I believe that the prospects for the acceptance of this
new loyalty are now better than at the time of the Russell-Einstein
Manifesto. This is so largely because of the enormous progress made
by science and technology during these 40 years. The fantastic advances
in communication and transportation have shrunk our globe. All nations
of the world have become close neighbours. Modern information techniques
enable us to learn instantly about every event in every part of the
globe. We can talk to each other via the various networks. This facility
will improve enormously with time, because the achievements so far have
only scratched the surface. Technology is driving us together. In many
ways we are becoming like one family.
In advocating the new loyalty to mankind I am not suggesting that we
give up national loyalties. Each of us has loyalties to several groups
- from the smallest, the family, to the largest, at present, the nation.
Many of these groups provide protection for their members. With the
global threats resulting from science and technology, the whole of humankind
now needs protection. We have to extend our loyalty to the whole of
the human race.
What we are advocating in Pugwash, a war-free world, will be seen by
many as a Utopian dream. It is not Utopian. There already exist in the
world large regions, for example, the European Union, within which war
is inconceivable. What is needed is to extend these to cover the world's
In any case, we have no choice. The alternative is unacceptable. Let
me quote the last sentence of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto:
We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity
and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise;
if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.
The quest for a war-free world has a basic purpose: survival. But if
in the process we learn how to achieve it by love rather than by fear,
by kindness rather than by compulsion; if in the process we learn to
combine the essential with the enjoyable, the expedient with the benevolent,
the practical with the beautiful, this will be an extra incentive to
embark on this great task.
Above all, remember your humanity.