IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Einstein, Oppenheimer and Nukes

Albert Einstein had a lot of interesting things to say about war and peace.   Here is one of my favorites (that you might know).  He was apparently asked what he thought the weapons of the Third World War would be.  I suppose whoever asked the question wanted to hear Einstein’s views about the usability of the newly created (at the time) atomic weapons.  However, the great man made a more profound point:

“I don’t know what kind of weapons will be used in the third world war, assuming there will be a third world war. But I can tell you what the fourth world war will be fought with—stone clubs.”

I always thought this was pretty clear.  However, as I was looking around the Net, I found a Yahoo answers page where somebody actually asked:  “What was Einstein’s reasoning behind his quote “World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones?”.    This question, btw, elicited several quite good responses, such as:

“The weapons that would be used to fight a third world war are so destructive there wouldn’t be anything left in the form of weaponry or humans (as we know them today) to fight a 4th world war. Because humans would have been wiped out, we would have regressed – having to start the evolution process of humans all over again. Early mans’ first tools and weapons were sticks and stones.”  This contributor goes on to add:

“Einstein was a great pacifist: he also said…
‘The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.’

I think we can sympathize with Einstein’s feelings here, and apparently Robert Oppenheimer who worked on the Manhattan project had similar thoughts about what had been done with these discoveries.

“After witnessing the first test at Trinity, Oppenheimer wrote that some laughed, some cried, and through his mind floated a line from the Bhagavadgita: “I am become death: the destroyer of worlds.” His ambivalance towards the use of science for military ends led to his opposition to the development of a hydrogen bomb after the war.” (from the article linked above).

Destroyer of the worlds, indeed.  Of course, as Martin Amis has written (and I have cited previously), you can always take the “bullets” out of the gun (sounds like a good idea to me!).

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April 10, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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