MAN - AN IRRATIONAL ANIMAL, by Linus Pauling
Western Continental Congress for Peace, Mexico City, 5 Sept. 1949
During thirty years of scientific activity I have been deeply interested in the structure of the material universe in which we live. With increasing awe I have learned about the wonderfully complex way in which atoms are built out of electrons and atomic nuclei, molecules and crystals out of atoms, viruses and living ceils out of molecules. There is beauty in the crystal of gamma bronze - an ordered arrangement of units consisting of 31 copper atoms for every 8 tin atoms; and the same beautiful order appears over and over again in nature - until we reach man, and his social and political activities.
Here we see not order, but disorder. We see not reason but unreason. We see groups of men, who make up the nations of the world, devoting the material wealth of the world and the intellectual powers of man, the "rational animal," not for the welfare of mankind, but for destruction.
How much longer are we going to behave in this irrational way? How many more devastating wars, how many more years of deprivation, will there be before the people of the world see the truth - that they do not need to destroy one another, and that their duty is to work for peace and for the happiness and welfare of mankind?
Many of the problems that fact us at the present time are the result of the struggle that is going on between the East and the West - between Russia and the United States. The material welfare of the people of the world is significantly poorer because nearly 10 percent of the world’s income is being used for war or preparation for war. We are experiencing a setback in the fight for human rights - the fight to make all men free and equal in the fundamental right of living with other men, because human rights and war are incompatible. War is the enemy of man.
The world looks to science for the ultimate solution of the problem of providing food for the ever-increasing world population, and of raising the standards of living of peoples over the entire globe. But scientific progress depends on freedom of thought and action of the scientist. Scientific knowledge is not a matter of geography, and the progress of science is hampered if there is not free intercourse among the scientists of the world - and yet, because of the political barrier between the East and the West, for several years American scientists and Russian scientists have not been able to discuss the problems of science with one another.
The fascists thought that science could be made national. Hitler forbade the study of Jewish science - of Einstein's theory of relativity; and the German nation suffered from this prohibition, because of its hindrance to scientific progress. Word has reached us in America that there is now a similar hindrance of the progress of biology in Russia, because of some political interference in the free activities of biological scientists, especially the geneticists. As Professor Shapley has stated, "the laws of natural science, in genetics, physics, astronomy, are above the dictates of social arbiters. Such a policy is wrong in the natural sciences. It has always failed to advance the human mind and the human kind whenever tried. I am sure that the great majority of the scientists of Eastern Europe agree, for they too are sincere workers who have made world-serving contributions."
In our country too we have suffered from the war hysteria. Because of an unreasoning fear of Communism and of liberal political thought in general, many scientists have been forbidden to work in universities, even on problems of pure science that have no immediate bearing on the preparation for war. The time seems to be approaching when a scientist must express hatred for Russia in order to be allowed to carry on Government-sponsored research. In a spirit of revulsion against loyalty probes, political control of thought, and political edicts on freedom of thought, able men have been led to abandon science as a career. The rights of free speech and free assembly and criticism have begun to suffer serious interference through political and social pressure.
There is one significant basis for hope now in existence - the United Nations, and especially its subsidiary organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Let me recall the preamble of UNESCO. "That since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed", and the conclusion of the preamble - that the signatory governments "create the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization for the purpose of advancing through the educational, scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nation Organization was established and which its Charter claims." Here is our hope for peace - and yet it is a feeble hope, unless it can be nurtured. The budget of UNESCO is $7,800,000 this year - what a pittance this is in comparison with the scores of billions of dollars that are being spent on war and in preparation of war: fifteen billion dollars per year spent by the United States and similar amounts by Russia and other nations in preparing for war - and $7,800,000 in the struggle for peace through UNESCO: six billion dollars wasted in China in a vain effort to support a corrupt, oppressive government, a billion dollars wasted in Greece - and only $7,800,000 for peace.
I regret that the USSR does not belong to UNESCO, and that, perhaps because of the pressure of the cold war, she recently withdrew from the World Health Organization, and I hope that this situation will soon-change.
The atomic bomb and the possibility of a significant improvement in the standards of living throughout the world through the peace-time uses of atomic energy have great significance for the world of the future. Four years ago we were hopeful that a start toward a rational political world would be made through the institution of an effective system of
international control of the atomic bomb and atomic energy. The influence of antiquated political concepts has, however, led to the, at least temporary, abandonment of this hope - the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations is no longer active.
The principal reason for the failure of the move toward international control of atomic energy seems to be opposition by all nations to the abandonment of national sovereignty in any degree. And yet we see national sovereignty being abandoned in the formation of groups of nations, such as those included in the Atlantic Pact, for the purpose of waging war. I believe that the sole justification for abandonment of national sovereignty is the assurance of peace through a world-wide supernational organization. The preparation for war on a greater scale is not a justification. The nations of the world need to transfer more of their sovereignty to the United Nations, and in the course of time to convert it into an effective world government.
We need to replace the spirit of cold-war agression that we see determining relations between Russia and the United States and between other nations by the spirit of peace, the spirit of harmonious adjustment of international problems through arbitration, the spirit of world order, of a world of reason, based on an effective world-wide supernational government that maintains the peace but does not inflict one ideology or another on the member nations. We cannot place a simple trust-in our national representatives - they have the duty of working for national supremity. It is we, the people of the world, who have the duty of working for peace for the welfare and happiness of human beings everywhere. If another devastating world war comes, it will be because we have failed.