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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:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Chances that a Soviet woman’s first pregnancy will end in abortion:
Peaceful fungus-farming ants are sometimes protected against nomadic raider ants by sedentary invader ants.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighbor’s home.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."