Is the production and advancement in weapons of mass destruction morally right?When I say advancement, I mean, for an bio-engineer, is it morally right for him to continue his research into, say...

Is the production and advancement in weapons of mass destruction morally right?

When I say advancement, I mean, for an bio-engineer, is it morally right for him to continue his research into, say bio-weapons, that could potentially lead to civilian deaths?


The broder question being, are weapons of mass destruction morally right? or morally wrong?, wether they are going to be used or not, simply the production of them is an issue.


I'm looking for both sides of dilema, feel free to post your 'educated' opinion, and if you have interesting refferences, please leave a link!

Expert Answers
hi1954 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

War itself is morally wrong, in general.  A well prepared and executed ambush, for instance, leaves the ambushees no opportunity to defend themselves, and that is murder.  War is wrong and reprehensible.  That said, it seems unavoidable, given the general level of greed and aggression of human beings.  WMDs were developed as force equalizers; if your enemy has a larger army, you have to have a bigger stick at your disposal or you will lose.  When you get to the point of having a war thrust upon you, such as WW II, there's no choice but to fight or submit.

Before that war, an atomic bomb was being pursued by the British and the Russians and the Germans, equally.  All three had been working on their projects since the First World War.  American scientists wanted to become involved primarily because they didn't want the Nazis to rule the world, not because they wanted to kill people.  The bomb was dropped in Japan because it was a choice between killing a few tens of thousand people or invasion, with the prospect of a couple of million people being killed, and the war not being ended by the invasion. Japan had a million soldiers under arms on the mainland of Asia, the army would simply have moved headquarters there and continued the war.  It was really a no-brainer.

Now, do we need to continue all this research, and is it moral?  Well, while the Cold War was going on there didn't seem to be any choice for the West, the USSR and China were going to continue their programs no matter what.  The point of Mutually Assured Destruction was that it would make big war impossible, and restrict the big Communist-West conflict to smaller wars around the globe, which could hopefully be somewhat more controlled.  It worked, too; throughout history there was a constant increase in deaths through war, outpacing the increase in population at many times, building inexorably until 1945.  Since then, there has been about one million deaths per year due to wars, and that has been constant through all the years, regardless of which wars in Vietnam, Angola, Zaire, Iran, etc.  Since "the bomb" was dropped, the ratio of human beings killed in war compared to the total population has been the lowest in recorded history.  MAD worked.

But the Cold War is over (more or less).  With the new world we live in there are new dangers, old dangers which were not properly dealt with earlier, and unforeseen problems galore.  It would be nice if we did not have the threat of total annihilation hanging over our heads, but we do.  We cannot change what is already here.  We can destroy our older and obsolete weapons and delivery systems, and we have been.  The new treaty will continue that, but no one is going to completely disarm.  Nonproliferation is a joke, we let India and Pakistan get away with it, and Pakistan has sold technology and parts to a lot of countries.  We worry about terrorists, but poor, unstable countries which can afford nuclear technology are much more dangerous.  Companies involved in this technology need to police themselves better, and stop doing business with these people.

But, will it be better to get rid of WMDs and research no more?  If we got rid of them everyone in the world would be at the mercy of the neighboring country with the biggest army, just like before modern weapons.  That's not a solution.  More morality among the politicians and scientists?  That would be great, but can we expect it?  Someone, sooner or later, is going to use a nuclear weapon, and hopefully then everyone will take a deep breath and step back.  But biological weapons are potentially far more dangerous.

On a personal note, my father from 1955 to 1975 was Chief of Missile Design and Air Weaponizations for the US Army Missile Command, basically the head scientist/engineer in all R&D in nuclear weapons and the delivery systems.  He hated it, but faced it as a necessity, given the circumstances of the world.  He saw Buchenwald first hand, was in the unit which liberated it, and did an engineering report on the physical functioning of the camp.  He knew there were more evil things in the world than just weapons.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Weapons of mass destruction are morally reprehensible.  I don't see what middle-ground or subjectivity there is.

They lead to mass death, destruction, fear, disease, abuse of power, and they create political side-effects that lead to nations bullying each other, embargoes, economic depressions and recessions, and espionage.  What could be moral about this?

Einstein and Oppenheimer, though gods on our side, were morally wrong in producing WMD.

If you're going to say WMD are morally reprehensible, you have to go all the way like Linda Allen did a few posts up and say all weapons are morally reprehensible.  There is not, in my mind, a difference between a weapon where you need to drop 10 of them to kill 1 million people and a weapon where you only need to drop 1.  It's still killing.

And it will be necessary until all human beings are morally perfect...

booksnmore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think it's morally right to work in a position where you'd be creating bio-weapons. However, one problem is that in a lot of fields it's not like you're saying "I'm a bio-weapons creator,"...instead you might be a chemical or biological researcher and somehow tied to that field.  For example, I know someone who works in the computer software industry. The products that are manufactured through that company are used in a LOT of companies, including companies that probably use the programs to design weapons. While the worker is totally against that, the product is also used for good and the worker cannot control which companies use the product.

Again, I do think weapons of mass destruction are morally wrong. But like so many things in life, the answers aren't easy.

hi1954 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You're not too likely to get a "pro" answer about biological weapons, they are the most dangerous and least controllable weapons ever invented.  In 1345 the Golden Horde beseiged Kaffa, a Genoese trading post on the Black Sea.  Decimated by the plague (bubonic), they threw their dead bodies into the city with seige engines.  The outbreak was so severe that the Mongol army had to life the seige and leave.  But the plague was carried two years later from Kaffa to Sicily by the Genoese, and three years after that the population from India to Greenland was less than two-thirds what it had been. After repeated outbreaks over the next hundred years the population was halved.  Modern biological agents are far worse, and far less controllable by man or nature.

lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As others have said, questions of morality are entirely subjective. However, by nature, I would argue against the morality of WMDs simply because, as their name implies, they are designed for mass destruction. They are not designed as a means of defense or security. Most major belief systems have some sort of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" tenet - WMDs fly in the face of those tenets. As such, I cannot argue for their creation as morally right except in that, when faced with potential enemies creating WMDs, the argument then becomes one of having the same or better technology as a means of maintaining balance and thereby keeping the "peace" as was the case during the cold war between the USSR and the United States.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to think that I would be able to rationalize if for my self.  I would tell myself (and I think it's believable) that I need to help produce this so that my country could have it if needed.  I would assume that my country would not use it first, but it would be nice to have it around in case the bad guys got it -- then it would be at least useful as a deterrent.

So I don't think I would feel bad about it as long as I lived somewhere like the US where I would not think that we would use it aggressively.

And yes, I know we used a-bombs first, but that was before we really knew how different of a thing they were.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Weapons of mass destruction are morally reprehensible.  I don't see what middle-ground or subjectivity there is.

They lead to mass death, destruction, fear, disease, abuse of power, and they create political side-effects that lead to nations bullying each other, embargoes, economic depressions and recessions, and espionage.  What could be moral about this?

Einstein and Oppenheimer, though gods on our side, were morally wrong in producing WMD.

usbummer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure this is a question of "morality," as much as it is a question of practicality. It is neither moral nor immoral in the sense that it violates some type of ultimate code of human behavior.

If Einstein was morally wrong, would he have been morally correct in NOT warning Roosevelt of Nazi Germany's program to develop the same nuclear weaponry?

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Morality is so subjective.  What one person feels is right another may feel is wrong.  I personally do not see in positives in creating biological weapons.  The sole purpose of them would be to kill a group of others.  I do not feel this is right.  If there were some other positive use for them, I might reconsider, but as far as I can say there aren't.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fact of the matter is that weapons of mass destruction will be produced whether we like it or not. The "bad" guys (example-terrorists) probably already have these kinds of weapons and would love to use them if they could get the chance. So I think that it is okay for responsible countries to have them if they are needed.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If a bio-engineer's research was solely concentrated on the production of WMPs, then I would have to question his moral conscience. I'm sure many of the researchers who helped to assemble the first atomic bombs had some moral dilemmas concerning how their own work would be used.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't believe the production of any kind of weapon, whether for mass destruction or to harm just one person, is morally right. It is unrealistic to believe that all people can get along peacefully, but we can hope for that.

nusratfarah | Student

It is a user makes a tool either something lethal or something life-giving. Morally, when Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, he was not incorrect at all. But, later the users made it a deadly, destructive weapon.

So, I think, the inventors should be more careful about the advancement of the production that could become a threat in future. Though, they must go ahead, but should be alert somehow so that the procedure of producing or using the substances must be kept confidential. Weapons are necessary for soldiers, but these must be restricted for the terrorists.

Yet, this is my subjective view.

cratios | Student


For those that argue the simple point that all weapons are morally wrong.

There is truth to that, but you must consider that war is inevitable and unfortunately sometimes the best solution to certain conflicts.

After the only use of WMD (nuclear bomb) to my knowledge there has not been any other use of them, only because of the effects it had.

This is why you can not simply justify that all weapons are morally wrong because, like stated war has been with us since the creation of the human being, and will be with us until our death.

In the medieval times, it was considered "disrespectful" to use poison on arrows (this was decided after a first use), the same with catapulting dead human corpses over sieged cities to spread the disease within the walls.

All these weapons are considered morally wrong, with that said, are WMD morally right?

One could argue they are simply a deterrent, then again the possession of such weapons means you are ready to use them.

A counter-argument to that would be, all weapons have collateral damage, except WMD usually have the biggest collateral damage.

Still looking for some answers on the pro side.

Thanks for all the replies so far

frizzyperm | Student

Just imagine that in a few hundred years time an alien civilization discovers Earth and sends robot-scouts for a closer look...

The scouts, after lots of scanning and mapping, return to the Mothership and report they found evidence of great cities, huge ships, long highways, massive factories etc; all the myriad evidence made by billions of lifeforms living in intelligent communities. But they didn't find any land-based, multi-celled animal life anywhere on the planet.

After a lot of further investigation the alien researchers conclude that all the higher animal life had been wiped out in 2047 by a virus that (from its DNA) had evidently been purposefully designed in a Laboratory. 

Would the aliens conclude that the designer of the virus had acted in a morally responsible way?