Analyse, after Bertrand Russell, the relation between Science and War. ("Science and War" is a Chapter from his book entitled, The Impact of Science and Society).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Russell shows how the interaction between science and war has always existed but has increased much more in modern warfare. As early examples, he notes that Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo received opportunities to work because their intelligence could be useful for methods of warfare: fortification and canon ball trajectories in these cases. This supposes that in some, or most, instances, the field of knowledge and technological advancement is somewhat guided (or misguided) by its usefulness in war. This implies an obvious problem and that is there are other uses for technology, obviously being that of democratic prosperity and peace. 

Russell goes on and suggests that the implications of this go further; to the point that technology itself (as long as it is useful in warfare) trumps everything. This is to the point that, as Russell notes: 

One nuclear physicist is worth more than many divisions of infantry. 

. . . what secures success in war is not heroic armies but heavy industry. 

The country that wins is not necessarily right or righteous; the country that wins simply has the most advanced technology. And advancement in technology does not imply that the country is more ethically advanced than its enemy. 

Russell concludes by saying that as technology increases (noting the atomic bomb), the potential for complete destruction of the world also increases. Humanity will be left with one of two alternatives: destroy humanity or to simply agree that war as such will eventually become too dangerous for either side to even assume that they could win. In other words, this second alternative suggests that there will come a point when the potential for destruction is so great that there can be no winner. (Or, to quote from the movie War Games, "The only winning move is not to play." This notion sounds very much like the movement for all countries to ban nuclear arms.

Russell concludes this chapter with a good amount of pessimism. Here, Russell suggests a neutral group that can oversee the world's affairs: something like the United Nations. He suggests that without such an entity the world will perish. 

Some would criticize the United Nations for failing to act in certain situations and while these are legitimate criticisms in some cases, the UN does serve a function; although, it may not currently live up to the standards in Russell's hopes. Another way to shift the emphasis of war and the military to peaceful uses is for the UN or individual countries and groups to espouse the merits of technology in peaceful, scientific, inspiring, and/or artistic ways. In other words, it would be a movement in which technology drives peace; not war. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial