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Sometimes one reads or hears about a crisis of rational thought—that rational thought is impotent when confronted by the complexity and irrationality of human life. I am convinced that such doubts are unfounded. Historically, it has been the representatives of science—that is, of rational thought—who have recognized and tried to solve the problems of economic and social regulation, environmental protection, pollution control, the management of irreplaceable resources, population planning, the maintenance of an open society with the free exchange of information, and disarmament including the control of nuclear weapons.
I am convinced that humanity’s survival depends upon open and tolerant societies, and their ability to progress guided by scientific principles. This method does not promise paradise on earth, but then, does the essence of human existence reside in utopias? Our future depends on persistent and unselfish effort, on our sense of responsibility, and on our wisdom.
–Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, Science and Society: Address to the New York Academy of Sciences, Dec. 6, 1979 (remembering Andrei Sakharov on the twentieth anniversary of his death).
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”