Abelson, Philip. "Are the Tame Cats in Charge?" Saturday Review 49 (1 January 1966), pp.

 

Abelson, Philip. "Are the Tame Cats in Charge?" Saturday Review 49 (1 January 1966), pp.
100-103.

"(The)...failure of scientists to criticize publicly, to any appreciable degree, programs many of
them deem ill-judged often stems from analysis of the balance sheet of their own self-interest. On
the opposite side is the consideration that the long-term interest of their profession and the nation
dictates that unwise expenditures not be made. If the public loses confidence in the integrity of
scientists, the sequel could be calamitous for all. But this nebulous possibility does not outweigh
present realities. The witness who questions the wisdom of the establishment pays a price and
incurs hazards. He is diverted from his professional activities. He stirs the enmity of powerful
foes. He fears that reprisals may extend beyond him and his institution. Perhaps he fears
shadows, but in a day when almost all research institutions are highly dependent on federal
funds, prudence seems to dictate silence." (p. 103) That is a very useful quote about science and
here is another: "Our decision to send a man to the moon was a political decision occasioned by
the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The decision was made in haste and after essentially no consultation with
the scientific community." (p. 102)

There is a beautiful quote from Robert Oppenheimer on error which is too long to be included
here but, essentially, it concerns the politics of nuclear fund raising and its payoff to the public.
Nuclear physics is not "human interest"; it does not move the philosopher's pen and it is
meaningless to the vast majority of human beings. Therefore, it is supported only because there
are political advantages to supporting it.

Incidentally, this piece is subtitled "Omens of Orwell."