Karnataka Science and Technology Academy

Department of Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka

Humanism: Is it being killed?  

4 min read
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Philosopher George Santyana once said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. War in Ukraine reminds us that history is repeating. It was in 1955, after the Second World War, Bertrand Russell in association with Albert Einstein and eminent men of science, submitted a Manifesto, since called Russell-Einstein manifesto, to a Pugwash Conference where it was resolved as: ‘In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them’. This appeal is relevant even today and it originated, among others, from the background of the deep scars left behind by the Nazi concentration camp and atom bomb-struck Japan. Following the holocaust, a renowned psychiatrist Victor E. Frankl, in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, has cautioned as saying, ‘The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each one of us does his best. So let us be alert – alert in a two-fold sense: (1) Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of; (2) And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake’. The real threat to common people’s life due to a war has remained since 1946 as it has begun in Ukraine. While the Second World War was fought and won, it appears peace is lost forever. Still wars are fought all over the world by guided missiles and by misguided political leadership. Genocides have continued. People are displaced from their homes, making them refugees in search of new homes. A happy life to which people are entitled is snatched for no mistake of theirs. A fundamental question is therefore raised: Is humanism being slowly killed? The UN, a world body to keep international order, appears helpless since one of its permanent members on the Security Council, Russia, has waged a war in Ukraine. Is the world-politics, day by day, dominated by fascists at the expense of the silence of intellectuals and pacifists? Have scientists and technologists misled us? Are science and technology for the betterment of man or for his destruction? ‘Our scientific power’, said civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, ‘has outrun our spiritual power’. Today, governments are armed with the most lethal weapons of mass destruction with no parallel in history. As a result, have we become self-destructive? It is worthwhile to remember destruction caused by explosives made by dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, who later, in order to atone for his deadly invention, instituted a Nobel Prize for the promotion of peace. Can scientists and technologists redeem themselves from guilt like Nobel did?  In his book ‘The Demon-Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark’, the distinguished cosmologist Carl Sagan refers to a meeting between J.Robert Oppenheimer, who was the scientific director of the Manhattan nuclear weapons project and the then US president Harry Truman. During the meeting Oppenheimer comments that “scientists had bloody hands, they had now known sin”. His reference was to the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. It seems Truman never wanted to see Oppenheimer again. So what drives governments to war? In his letter to ‘Friends of Peace’ in 1934, Einstein opined that, ‘the armament industry is indeed one of the greatest dangers that beset mankind. It is the hidden evil power behind nationalism which is rampant everywhere. Last year I asked a well-known American diplomat why Japan was not forced by a commercial boycott to desist from her policy of force – “Our commercial interests are too strong” was the answer’. Powerful nations are persuaded by the military-industry complex for a war citing potential threats and strategic reasons. Military prowess blinds leaders in power as seen in mythologies where a blessed devout is armed by God and he goes berserk creating victims. God is invoked by the victims for protection who then destroys the devout. In the end, the good wins over the evil. However, in the practical world, it is man’s wisdom, not folly that saves him from the brink of unjustifiable war. A Buddhism principle says there is only one key to open the gates of both Heaven and Hell; it is up to the man to decide. Einstein says in semi-scientific terms, ‘Only two things are infinite, the universe and the human stupidity, and I am not sure about the former’. We wish to live in a world free of conflicts, suffering and misery; that world would be more human, spiritual and a happier one.

Prof. B. G. Mulimani
Member, KSTA & Former Vice Chancellor,
Gulbarga University, Kalaburgi
email: bgmulimani70@gmail.com


Prof. J. R. Tonannavar
Former Chairman, Dept of Physics
Karnatak University, Dharwad

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