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The Almighty Buck Science

American Science: Addicted to Pentagon Cash? 637

Posted by michael
from the ethics-not-included dept.
An anonymous submitter writes: "In totalitarian states the military can compel scientists to perform research for weapons systems. That's not true in the United States, yet American scientists who refuse military work are exceedingly rare today. This may be in part because scientists, like most other citizens, agree that the U.S. is facing dangerous foes. But some dissidents argue the cause is more likely that Pentagon cash has become an addiction that scientists rationalize by working on 'dual use' technologies -- radar that maps planets and guides missiles; robots that peer through smoke in apartment fires to rescue victims, and through battlefield smoke to find human targets."
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American Science: Addicted to Pentagon Cash?

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  • by nairb107 (596097) * on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:58PM (#6914527)
    ...if the scientists don't to develop technology with the Pentagon's Money for fear it will be used for destruction. If they develop the technology otherwise and the pentagon wants to use it for war they will anyway...and still take the credit. So why not take the cash and go with it?
    • Ethics might be a good reason. It's difficult to rationalize taking blood money just because what you create might end up being used for bad purposes.

      Well, it used to be difficult...now it's sharp business.
      • by letxa2000 (215841) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @05:08PM (#6915353)
        Ethics might be a good reason. It's difficult to rationalize taking blood money just because what you create might end up being used for bad purposes.

        Linux could be used by the Department of Defense. It could even be used by al Qaeda. So should we abandon Linux?

        The whole concept that people should refuse to do work for the DoD just because some 60's-era peaceniks think their point of view is somehow morally superior to everyone elses and that the only reason scientists would do DoD work is because they have a selfish addiction to money is absurd. "Give peace a chance" and "greedy capitalists" all in a single concept, priceless!

        NEWS FLASH: We all hate war. But war is going to happen. We should be ready when it does happen and that doesn't mean that we start preparing when we see an immediate threat. If I can help my country build a more effective defense such that an attack on our country is less probable or, if there is a need for war, that fewer of my fellow citizens (our soliders) are killed in combat, AND I can make a buck doing it, that sounds like a sweet deal to me. I'll do it in a heartbeat. And I'll do it whether Bush or Clinton is president because, in the end, I'll be helping to save the lives of soldiers regardless of who sends them into combat.

        If you're going to accept this whole "addicted to defense dollars" then we might as well accept the theory that many scientists that profess global warming is real are doing so to assure a continuing stream of federal research dollars.

        People, the 60's are over. Even Clinton is history. Move on and stop being rebels without a cause, it gets old.

        • Re:It does matter... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jadavis (473492)
          Agreed.

          I'll just add that the idea of seperating a military technology from a technology in general is a waste of time. It's an even greater waste of time to seperate military technology into a "good" column and a "bad" column.

          If you are a scientist, researching for a military organization seems to make sense if the opportunity presents itself. After all, if you like the country, wouldn't you want to help to provide for the common defense? And if you don't like it, why are you living there?

          And I'll add
        • NEWS FLASH: We all hate war. But war is going to happen.
          With that additude it sure will. And you're part of the problem, just like everyone who thinks war is an acceptable part of politics.
          Your country isn't so great if you'll end up fighting war after war because the rest of the planet hates you.
          • by Sgt_Jake (659140)
            oh for hell's sake, pull your head out of the dark stink.

            If he's part of the problem so are you. He never said it was acceptable, he said it's going to happen. Burying your head in the sand and blaming politics or the world for it won't slow it down, but you're sure as hell willing to try. "Let's all get along!" you'll say... what a load. Millions die every year all over Africa alone from wars 'we' (you know, the country that everybody hates) have nothing to do with (and ain't it funny how they hate us fo
      • yeah, darn those scientists who invented fire to cook my food with the dual purpose of burning villages.

        wait, i forgot how to make a sarcasm tag. anyway, the point is that many things useful in civilian life can be useful to the military. nanotechnology that keeps your jeans dry can also keep fatigues dry, for example.

        depending on what you're developing, just because you're doing it (partly) for the military may not make it blood money to everyone. the nanotech i just mentioned doesn't directly kill an
    • by xyzzy (10685) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:20PM (#6914796) Homepage
      Seriously. The guy who says "don't even speculate on how my [robots] will be used for military purposes or I will hold you responsible" is doing the scientific equivalent of holding his fingers in his ears and going "la la la la I can't hear you la la la".

      If he's worried about the military import of his work, he should not do the work. Picking and choosing among the money is splitting hairs beyond that point. The reason so much "interesting" tech is now funded by the military is that we live in a high-tech society -- it isn't all just a-bombs and battleships and radar any more.
  • Military Ca$h (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:59PM (#6914535) Homepage Journal

    Funny, many people ragged on Theo de Raadt [openbsd.org] when he said "I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built." [computerworld.com] Yes these scientists are being painted as super-duper people with minty-fresh breath because they seemingly have some of the same convictions.
    • by keester (646050) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:00PM (#6914544)
      Yeah, well, that grant was revoked. Maybe he should have kept his big mouth shut.
    • Re:Military Ca$h (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xyzzy (10685) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:25PM (#6914850) Homepage
      Well, first of all, they're being painted as "minty fresh" because the article is written by the Village Voice :-)

      I, for one, don't condemn anyone for their anti-war/anti-defense principles, but in de Raadt's case, he took the position that he was scamming the government (very nice); in the VV article, the scientist seems to think that if he only thinks pure thoughts, his wonderous research will only be used for the True Good of the People. The former indicates that de Raadt is perhaps not as principled as he claims; the latter shows that the scientist is rather naive.
    • The key quote from the article [villagevoice.com] mentioned in the header of this discussion is the following.

      Clearly much of the military research is geared toward weapon making. But is that categorically wrong? Many people would be hard-pressed to draw moral equivalence between U.S. troops and some of their foes--the bombers of the UN HQ in Baghdad, or the Taliban.

      In blunt terms, the anonymous submitter who began this discussion is dreadfully wrong when he implies that the United States

    • Re:Military Ca$h (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ratamacue (593855)
      "I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built."

      That is a logical fallacy. Government doesn't generate it's own revenue; it simply takes it from the people who do. This means that government does not experience loss as private business does. When government sustains a "loss", they in fact profit. Those in power still get paid. Government as a whole gets bigger, no matter what the cash is spent on. A huge percentage of government expense is wasted on administrat

  • I dare say that thr problem comes not with the development of dual-use technologies; the other use may very well be a well-merited one. The problem really comes with single-use military development by scientists who could have their hours devoted to tasks which have an even more beneficial effect.
    • Don't worry, this won't last long - we all know what happens to countries who spend too much on military R&D. And once it's over all the good scientists will be able to go to a non totalitarian country and carry on their non military research (for a while).
    • Re:I dare say... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:30PM (#6914906) Journal
      Firstly, technology is rarely single use, only for the military. Average citizens drive frickin' Hummvees down highway streets, for crying out loud.

      Secondly, since when is it unethical for a scientist to aid the military? The world is not a nice place, and if we accept that a military is necessary, then why not have the best damn military in the world?

      Thirdly, guess what, posting messages to Slashdot is using technology developed with military grants -- a hell of a lot of communication research is done with military money. Shock, horror.

      Signed, a telecommunication scientist who once served in the military.
      • Re:I dare say... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nullard (541520)
        if we accept that a military is necessary,

        I don't think that everyone accepts that to the same degree (or necessarily at all). Some people want a smaller military, some people want a larger one, some want none at all. Other people may have other ideas about how the military should be used.

        If your convictions include not supporting a particular thing, then not doing it is hou you keep from being a hypocrite. I'll be accused of pandering to the moderators for this next part, but it's just how I feel. I wou
      • Re:I dare say... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by version5 (540999)
        The world is not a nice place...

        I guess that depends on your interpretation of nice. Some would say that the world is not a nice place because we are not a nice country. The military defends our economic interests - if you believe those economic interests are always righteous and moral, then working for the military is moral. If you believe that the use of the military is mostly moral with the occasional screw up, then it would still probably be OK to work for the military.

        But if you believe that histo

  • But... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:01PM (#6914554) Journal
    But I thought we all loved DARPA cash?
  • we should worry about what's going on INSIDE the United States before worrying about what's going on OUTSIDE. What good does a new weapons system due if the problem comes from the inside, not some foreign country.
  • Hmm Pentagon cash (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332)
    ..like all that cash thats been dumped into OSS by way of NSA linux, ReiserFS, etc, etc?

    Those guys are all shameful murdering hypocrites too, lest we forget!

  • by FileNotFound (85933) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:04PM (#6914583) Homepage Journal
    Yeah ok, tax payers money, useless vapor ware technology, lobbying yadda yadda...

    Still is it a bad thing that people are trying to develop technology even if the only purpose is war? TV, radio, even the internet were all initialy military projects. There is nothing "bad", "evil" or "immoral" about it. In the end it's technology and the military power that came with it which allows this country to exist as it does today. How you see that, good/bad is your own opionion.
    • Still is it a bad thing that people are trying to develop technology even if the only purpose is war? TV, radio, even the internet were all initialy military projects. There is nothing "bad", "evil" or "immoral" about it

      Change out war with sex and I think it'd work just as well for the same reasons.
    • Not to mention (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ralico (446325) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:26PM (#6914865) Homepage Journal
      that battlefield medicine of the last two centuries has lead to great advances in first responder, emergency room treatment, and reconstructive surgery. What would our medical care be like without these traumatic events to push medicine along?
    • by cev (572524) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:36PM (#6914974)

      Government funding for research is inarguably the #1 reason why the United States is the technological world leader. Unfortunately, this is way too much of a fuzzy concept for the average American to understand.

      Americans see technology soming from "Sony," or "HP," or "Dell." These companies do, at best, very little science research (I'm not counting product development as research). They don't understand that the technological concepts are developed far from the private sector in government-fundded research labs and universities.

      Americans are constantly barraged with the notion that all money spent by the government is "wasted." Thus, our politicians are pressured to cut everything they can. The degree to which a project is 'safe' from cutting depends only on the strength of the lobby defending it.

      For politicians, cutting pure science is a no-brainer. There is no lobby to defend pure science research. There is no apparent downside to cutting the research since practical application is in the distant future (i.e. longer than one term of office). I think NASA is a perfect example. For 20 years, NASA's budget has gotten smaller. It is an easy target.

      So, how do you justify science expense to the masses? Call it "military research," and fund it though semi-military organizations like DARPA. It's bulletproof, because Americans will support any military expense (if you doubt me, I refer you to Bush's $87 billion request this week).

      As a scientist, I have absolutely no problem with this arrangement.

      CV
      • I'm sorry, come again? HP and Sony don't perform R&D? You're myopic, right?

        Dell may just be a product shop turning out commondities, but I think you're way off base about HP and Sony. Either that or these links [sony.co.jp] are just [sony.net] a figment [sony-bplabs.com] of my imagination. [hp.com]
    • Some technology can definetly be detrimental to our society.

      For example, I am working indirectly for the Missle Defense project. The average person might say, "Great, now we can be protected from all of the rogue long range nuclear missles out there."

      The problem here is that we had to break the ABM treaty [armscontrol.ru] to even begin development on it. How probable would it be for a terrorist to get ahold of a long range ICBM? You can't just launch these out of your back yard. Missle defense would essentially nullif
      • This is wonderful if you believe in the absolute goodness of the US. You can say god blesses us all you want, but the proof is in the pudding. Look at all the wars in the last century, and who benefited from them. We benefited by being able to drive our SUV's around longer, but the people we "liberated," or saved from communism (if still alive) didn't benefit much. The rich became richer, and so on.

        List of some countries saved from Communism:

        Poland
        Hungary
        Germany
        Bulgaria
        Latvi
    • TV, radio, even the internet were all initialy military projects.

      Nonsense. Radio was invented by Marconi, and it was financed by the British Post (here [alpcom.it]). You can read about the development of television here [about.com], in which the military is conspicuous by its absence.

      There is nothing "bad", "evil" or "immoral" about it. In the end it's technology and the military power that came with it which allows this country to exist as it does today. How you see that, good/bad is your own opionion.

      Well, which is it? Is
  • Well, so? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k98sven (324383) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:04PM (#6914591) Journal
    Why would scientists have a different set of ethics than, say, workers in munitions factories?

    • How many scientists does it take to change a lightbulb. Answer: one, obviously.

      How many munitions factory workers does it take to imagine and invent the lightbulb? Answer: all of them plus one scientist.

    • As the country's intellectual community, they should know better... since the creative energy and intelligence required for research and development obviously far surpass those for a monotonous assembly line job.

      Although it can be argued that intellect and morality are completely unrelated and should be kept separate.
    • Re:Well, so? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jayteedee (211241)
      Interesting you should ask. There is a big split between scientist and workers in munition factories, and even between scientist (notably physicist) and engineers. This split happened around the time the A-bomb was being developed. From that time forward there has been a split in the scientific community, with a vast majority of the physicist refusing to work on high tech military equipment. The physicist even form groups (like the American Physical Society) which tends towards being pacifists and gener
    • by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:59PM (#6915217) Journal
      DANTE: My friend is trying to convince me that any contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when the space station was destroyed by the rebels.

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer... (digs into pocket and produces business card) Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs.

      RANDAL: Like when?

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.

      DANTE: Whose house was it?

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: Dominick Bambino's.

      RANDAL: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.

      DANTE: Based on personal politics.

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.

      RANDAL: No way!

      BLUE-COLLAR MAN: (paying for coffee) I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. (pauses to reflect) You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet.
  • by brarrr (99867) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:05PM (#6914594) Journal
    That is a load of crap. My advisor (just for a start) will not take any DOD $, although NIH, NSF, DOE money is fair game. I would say that only half of the advisors in my department ever have accepted DOD $, the rest refusing.

    It seems about the same with other departments/schools as far as I've spoken. The exception being $ coming indirectly (naval research lab and DOD paid for a trip to europe for me).

    However, any worthwhile advisor would allow a student to pursue their own funds, and if I want to apply for a DOD fellowship, my advisor will support me completely.

    But I think it is a bit foolish to say that most scientists are taking military money due to the perceived threat. If anything, their proposals are worded such to give the impression of being realted to homeland security while simply obfuscating within, the true research they want to do.

    put fark in the subject if you want to email me
  • Easy, its more fun. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:05PM (#6914597) Homepage Journal
    All the coolest technologies are bound to be developed by those who either have a need for them or have the cash for them.

    Combine this with a film industry and televsion industry that makes off with uber-fantastic items, usually military related, and it does tend to have an effect.

    Yes, there is lots of nastiness coming from this quarter, but a big portion of it does an ample job of preventing its own use. Nothing like making the scenario really really messy to deter others from abusing technology.

    Lastly, its probably a little easier to come up with new ways to blow things up, move things fast, and put it where you want it than mucking around in the human genome. (plus everyone expects you to fuck something up when the primary purpose of the invention is to go BOOM)

  • US Military Expenditures In FY 2004, the US spends: $759,145 on the military every minute $45,548,724 on the military every hour $1,093,169,398 on the military every day For Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, the US military budget is $400.1 billion, which is equivalent to approximately 47% of 1999 global military expenditures.* $343.1 billion (2002 US dollars) is the average amount spent throughout the Cold War from 1946 to 1989. The US Congress has direct control over $784.5 billion discretionary spending fo
    • Plus an unbudgeted couple of hundred billion (give or take, after all, who's counting [costofwar.com]?) in Iraq.
    • This is misleading, of course; most US Government spending is "Non-discretionary", which mostly means "cash money paid to voters that we don't dare touch."

      Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are about 40% of US Government spending; only about 16% of the US Federal budget is on defense. And even that is misleadingly high, because of the state and local spending (ie, primary education, roads) that is almost 100% non-defense. The US defense budget is a little large by world standards, relative to our ec
  • Advancing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luciq (697883) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:06PM (#6914603) Homepage
    Technology is always a two-edged sword, but developing new technology generally serves to advance us, regardless of the specific area it may happen to be in. If person A shoots person B, is person a not 100% responsible for his actions? Then how much responsibility is left over for the gun maker?
  • by Freeptop (123103) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:06PM (#6914616)
    DARPA funds a wide range of scientific projects, not all of which are even directly military, much less meant for weapons systems. Many of the kinds of projects they fund are related to data storage, communications, etc, which are useful, in some cases even vital, to the military, but are not weapon-related at all, and definitely help more than just the military.
    Don't forget, before the internet, there was ARPAnet.
  • They're working on technology that'll be used for the defense of their people, a very patriotic endeavour;

    They're making much more money than they'd make doing less "sexy" research;

    They get a security clearance, which is a very valuable thing these days;

    And, the work is probably a whole lot less dry than plain-old "basic research".

    Where's the downside?

  • Dual use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deanj (519759) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:08PM (#6914637)
    Everything's dual use. Box cutters that helped take down the planes two years ago were "dual use".

    Bottom line, if you don't want to be funded by any agency, no one is breaking your arm to do it, or requiring you to stay where you are. That's your right. It's also someone elses right to be funded that way if they choose to be.
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) * <(teamhasnoi) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:08PM (#6914639) Homepage Journal
    We sit back and let someone else make our decisions for us, and when we don't like something we mutter, post to /., or whine to our wife, girlfreind or hand.

    Why didn't airplanes have impermeable doors before 9-11?

    Because it wasn't cost effective. Common sense and basic security took a back seat to the bottom line.

    Until we are ruled by those who don't whore themselves out for the easy money of lobbyists and corporations, until the dollar takes a back seat to common sense, until we get off of our collective lard-asses, we have only ourselves to blame.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch reruns of Dukes of Hazzard.

  • by Vexler (127353) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:09PM (#6914646) Journal
    I would say that this is simply the result of looking at a particular piece of innovation in unexpected and creative way. While engineers would probably be content with designing a piece of machinery to perform only a set of functions *and nothing more*, someone else may step in and say, "I don't care what it was *designed* to do. I want to know just what it *can* do." In many ways this is turning "conventional" research and development on its head and turning it towards other purposes. True, some purposes are more dubious and nefarious than others, but much of the strength of this country was built on looking at things unconventionally.

    I do not mean to evaluate the moral/philosophical implications here. I am merely pointing out that this is nothing more than an exhibition of one strength of a free society where innovation is encouraged.
  • If I had the skills to work on defense contracts, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don't understand why I shouldn't work to defend the country I love.

    This is money that is spent on causes that are worthwhile. The government wastes lots of money on things that are just junk. However, defending our country from people who hate us and wish nothing less then taking away our liberties and even our lives is not one of those things.

    -Brent
    • Look at how far the military has advanced technology. Look at airplanes of WWI vs WWII vs today, both commercial and military. Look at computers. Silly putty was developed under a defense contract, the guy was trying to find a synthetic rubber due to the shortage!

      "Dual use" is another buzzword that's supposed to convey something sinister. Virtually anything can be considered "dual use".
    • Did you get the memo that the Cold War is over? Nobody cares about whatever liberties USians still believe that they have, they just want to kill you and stop you taking their oil. Liberties. Phwah.

  • This sounds funny, but it is not a joke. I just graduated from a University with a strong physics program, and whenever anyone needed funding, the first thing they did was gather everyone up to brainstorm on how thier project could be turned into a weapon or defense against a weapon. Because once they had made that link, there was a far better chance of receiving government funding.

    Sometimes they would even think of potential weapons of the future that their research might defend against.

    There was no r
    • "That board with the nail in it may have defeated us, but the humans won't stop there. They'll make bigger boards and bigger nails. Soon they will make a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"
      - Kang & Kodos

      Hey, that gives me an idea for a grant proposal...then again, so does my .sig.
  • It's ironic that the usual opt-out clause for American universities who don't want to participate in morally bankrupt government research is that they wish to protect their academic staff's right to publish freely. (Which is intself an important concern, but still... they're shutting themselves out from multi-million dollar contracts on the basis of ethics, which should be applauded.)

    Berkeley, for instance, maintains very strict standards [berkeley.edu] about the kind of research it will and won't get involved in.

  • by meldroc (21783) <meldroc @ f r ii.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:10PM (#6914660) Homepage Journal
    This professor was my computer graphics and computer vision teacher. He was given offers to work for the DOD and for military contractors, but turned them down, not because he didn't agree with them, but because if he took the job, his work would be classifed and he wouldn't be able to publish.
  • dole (Score:4, Interesting)

    by convolvatron (176505) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:10PM (#6914667)
    i've worked in various capacities for contractors of the dod (primarily darpa), for my entire technical life (> 15 years).

    only because there is no other place to do interesting research and advanced development. there are plenty of positive things that can be done with my work, but no one else has the money to allow me to pursue it.
  • by krb (15012) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:10PM (#6914669) Homepage
    I think there's a fine line here which we should probably give at least some attention too. Is the scientist who's working under a DoD contract to develop a system to see through smoke really rationalizing his work by saying "Well, it won't ONLY be used to kill people."

    Isn't it more likely that they're saying something more like "Yes, this technology will be used to increase the effectiveness of our military to kill other soldiers, but if i do a good job and it's useful, maybe it'll save more people than it helps kill."

    I'd like to think at least some of them feel that way, and i wouldn't hold it against someone for taking the funding they can get to work on a technology with broad non-military use, in addition to the specific ideas the DoD has in mind. As the article says, there are vast areas of gray, in fact, it's mostly gray, so it comes down to people making ethical decisions on the specific details at hand. Sometimes that'll lead you to not develop a technology, if you sway towards non-militarism, and so, great, one less way to kill, but sometimes you'll develop something that kills sometimes, but saves in other contexts, or pushes our comprehension of basic science, the universe, etc.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:41PM (#6915022)
      > Isn't it more likely that they're saying something more like "Yes, this technology will be used to increase the effectiveness of our military to kill other soldiers, but if i do a good job and it's useful, maybe it'll save more people than it helps kill."

      A glance at the casualty and collateral damage figures (tonnage of munitions dropped per target, civilian casualties per square mile per day, basically any metric you want) from wars fought in the 1940s, 1960s, 1990s, and 2003, leads me to conclude there's no "maybe" about it.

      More efficient and effective ways of killing people has reduced the amount of killing that needs to be done.

  • Stupid dope-smoking hippies
  • It's a well known fact that many industries in the US are dependant on military spendings for survival. It's a way of subsidising economical growth that's always been favored by republican governments.

    Scientists, as a subset of the american workforce are subject to the same realities that govern the american economy.

    If the government decided to spend all that money (hundreds of billions each year) towards more noble causes such as renewable energy or solving humanity's problems, that dilemma wouldn't exis
  • robots that peer through smoke in apartment fires to rescue victims

    Who do think started the fire in the first place?
    87% of all arson fires in the United States are started by robots. 63% of all cattle mutilations. 6% of 7-11 robberies.

    And deep down, you know they're just plotting to either overthrow us entirely or hook us up as batteries. No thanks, I'll pass. That's why I shoot Roombas on sight!

    • Who do think started the fire in the first place?
      87% of all arson fires in the United States are started by robots. 63% of all cattle mutilations. 6% of 7-11 robberies.


      I would like to point that, while the ratio of robot responsible cattle mutilations is depressingly high, that of those robots, only 8% are owned by humans, the rest being split more or less evenly between extra-terrestrials and giant squid...
  • Yeah. (Score:2, Funny)

    You woulda thought the scientific community would have learned it's lesson after building that government-funded menace the DARPAnet. Which of course led to more flame wars than any technology to date.
  • Pentagon money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zenyu (248067) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:13PM (#6914701)
    I was until recently paid out of a military grant. It bothered me, but basically over the course of two years I did maybe a month of work to that I wouldn't have done without the grant. The major impact of the money was that I directed them to my papers and may give them a paper that didn't pass peer review in the final report. It'll get published eventually anyway, either rewritten as two papers more likely to be sent to the right reviewers, or as a tech report should we give up on it.

    For those asking why not take the money if you are going to do the work anyway, you still legitimize military spending by accepting the money and, in so doing, lending your name to them. But if you accept the money and then speak out about how you think basic research should be funded directly and not via the military budget, their giving money to you might lend you some legitimacy in the eyes of congress members too.
  • Grow up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FeloniousPunk (591389) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:13PM (#6914704)
    "I would rather the military run out of reasons to keep existing, and I don't want them to have any credit for something I have accomplished--which they clearly would if they gave me the money," says Steve Potter
    It's amazing how people so clever in one field can exhibit appalingly naive and childish thought in other areas. I would rather scientists like Potter grow up and face the realities of the world outside their labs than have their silly views pandered to by an indulgent press.
    "Surprise, surprise, it is different," he says. "Not different enough for me. Just think about the sheer magnitude of what hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on military efforts could do if spent on, for example, building schools in countries that need them, or creating diplomacy centers like the Carter Center, or informative research and practical solutions like those of the Union of Concerned Scientists."
    Surprise, surprise, we do spend loads of money on countries that need schools and agricultural help and so on, but as anyone who has looked at the sad history of development aid in, say, Africa, knows, it is no use to build schools and whatnot if endemic violence destroys those schools and kills the people who would attend them. But like so many naive bien pensants, it's all 6 degrees of Dubya to him, and every evil that is is traceable back to the Pentagon.
  • bo o o o o gus! (Score:3, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:13PM (#6914705) Homepage Journal
    That's not true in the United States, yet American scientists who refuse military work are exceedingly rare today.

    Look, there are all sorts of issues involved with performing military and defense research, particularly if it is classifed. I've had more than one resume come across my desk where the Ph.D. has a blank space for a couple of years or more on their CV. If you perform classified work, it tends to lock one into industry as these are periods where you often cannot publish in the peer reviewed journals.

    God help you if you are interested in an academic career and say.....invest yourself in doing sleep research and find out how to induce sleep remotely via say trans-cranial stimulation. Stuff like this, particularly projects that apply to non-lethal weapon systems are hot right now.

  • What's really "exceedingly rare" is a technology that has absolutely zero military application.
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) * <(teamhasnoi) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:14PM (#6914718) Homepage Journal
    Become a Biogeneticist! I hear about those guys disappearing all the time.

    I'm guessing you only have to show an interest and Darpa will give you a good job on some tropical island somewhere, your needs attended by hot island ladies.

    At least, that's what the guy told me when we set up our meeting in the middle of a cornfield. hmmmm....

  • by jafac (1449)
    Hammers that pound in nails, AND crush skulls of puppies.

    People are building tools. Weapons can be tools for deterrance, or they can be weapons of agression.

    Whose fault is it if some psychotic leader gets his or her slimy hands on the football? Not the scientist. The voters are at fault for listening to the lying pandering sociopath. And the psycho is guilty of whatever mass murder he commits.

    If you take away the weapons of mass destruction, he'll just use old fashioned methods of killing, like tarri
  • Nice Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by vandan (151516)
    I assume most people will disagree with it, but ... well done whoever posted it.

    A question which comes to mind after reading this is:

    Why is it illegal for North Korea or Iraq to supposedly have a nuclear / chemical weapons program, when US-Israel have the most enthusiastic nuclear & chemical weapons programs on Earth with full, offical government funding, and no-one bats an eyelid?

    I know the answer that the right-wing will produce: that the US-Israel program is for defense only - to protect the innoc
    • Re:Nice Article (Score:3, Informative)

      by vondo (303621) *
      Why is it illegal for North Korea or Iraq to supposedly have a nuclear / chemical weapons program, when US-Israel have the most enthusiastic nuclear & chemical weapons programs on Earth with full, offical government funding, and no-one bats an eyelid?

      Simple. Both Iraq and North Korea have signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The USA has also signed, which binds it to make progress towards giving up nuclear weapons on an unspecified time table.

      Israel, India, Pakistan, and some other countries

  • by ChrisHanel (636741)
    Even if a lot of our technology being developed is for nasty icky warfare, doesn't 75% find its way back into the private sector for practical uses? Isn't there some kind of figure for this?

    Also, if someone can help remind me, there's a show called "Tactical to Practical"... Discovery channel, maybe? (shrug)

  • Scientists and Engineers build tools. How you use them is up to you.

    Don't blame us for building a mega death ray just because your government happens to want to use it for terror, it could just as easily be used for keeping the peace instead.
  • Knives kill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kfg (145172) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:27PM (#6914872)
    They also do a dandy job of slicing onions.

    I never have, and never will, work on weapons systems, nor will I ever overtly teach others to how to do so.

    However, if the tracking systems I'm working on now for sporting events, or the electronic controls I'm working on for civilian marine use ever get turned to military purposes, or someone I've tutored in calculus uses that knowledge for ends I wouldn't myself, what do you expect me to do?

    Cruch onions with a rock?

    Well guess what Sparky, that's a military technology too.

    There's no such thing as a strictly peacetime tool so long as people themselves aren't peacable.

    KFG
  • by Apuleius (6901) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:29PM (#6914901) Journal
    The 1994 genocide in Rwanda required only one invention: the machete. Preventing the genocide would have required very quick deployment of enough troops to put the whole country under occupation, something no military had at the time or has now. (Special forces troops can't occupy a whole country, and the rest of (e.g.) the American miltiary is a slow behemoth.) Maybe more miltary tech will enable timely action in the future. Or not. Only one way to find out. So, I would not have any compunctions against working on military tech. (Got that, Rumsfeld? Call me up, man, I'll send you a resume.)
    • by JoeBuck (7947)

      Actually, radio played a huge role in the Rwanda genocide, with many talk radio broadcasters not only urging that people be killed, but telling people where and when to meet, and where large groups of refugees were hiding.

  • obvious answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frostalicious (657235) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:30PM (#6914915) Journal
    scientists who refuse military work are exceedingly rare...may be in part because...the U.S. is facing dangerous foes

    Or maybe because if you just completed a PhD in nuclear physics, you aren't going to apply those skills working in the research department of Toys R Us.
  • 40 Years Ago (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:31PM (#6914923) Homepage Journal

    President Eisenhower warned us [yale.edu] of the problems with the military industrial complex that had been created in response to the Cold War.

    The "War on Terrorism" has simply become the new justification for spending.

    Not that there aren't genuine security needs for the U.S. government. It's just that an accurate picture of those needs is clouded by misinformation from those who stand to gain.

    • Re:40 Years Ago (Score:3, Informative)

      by PureFiction (10256)
      Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad. ...

      In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisiti
  • by zorgon (66258) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:43PM (#6915042) Homepage Journal
    Since the Navy basically invented the practice of public funding for basic scientific research, it's a tad hypocritical of scientists (disclaimer: I am one) or anyone else to blindly reject DOD bling. Much significant environmental and technological research has been done under the aegis of DOD grants. You can argue that defense research has done more for peaceful causes... etc.

    But, that is history. The problems now are manifold, but there are some specific ones that bug me. First of all, much of the Federal money that goes into science is earmarked for pet programs or facilities of important members of congress or senators. These tend to be boondoggles in the sense of being inefficient, and are often not subjected to the same rigorous peer review that an independently-originated proposal may have. You can include anything that can be classified as "Star Wars" research and just about anything named after a senator in this category.

    Second, the highest levels of the agencies and the Congress and the administration are pushing science in directions that are not wanted either by the public or by scientists themselves. Same sort of boondoggle. Ask someone on the street what they think scientists should be doing in the national interest (you might be surprised at the thoughtfulness of their answers btw). Then look at where Federal science money actually goes. Yep. Not there. Ask scientists what important research they think should be done. Same deal. I'd provide specifics but this post is long enough.

    In a real sense the Federal government is out of control with regard to the use of the public's money for scientific research. Which is a shame, because the possibilities are tremendous. Despite the problems, the US still has a fantastic system set up for doing science. But it's underfunded and underappreciated.
  • by PureFiction (10256) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:47PM (#6915080)
    This whole thread seems to express a kind of "if we had no weapons there would be world peace" mentality.

    Think about this for a moment. If we eliminated weapons research could we expect other countries to do the same, and if not, for them to leave us alone? I don't think so.

    If we greatly reduced weapons research such that it was only performed in time of war, could we assume this would be adequate protection against those we are fighting? I don't think so.

    I'm sure there are a million reasons why scientists work on weapons systems, but I don't think many of them have this crisis of conscience as presented.

    If we had been slower in development of nuclear weapons, or long range bombers, or other such instruments during and shortly after the great wars, would we (USA/EU) still be here to contemplate the evil of military technology? Who is to say some facist regime without scruples would not have walked all over democracies far and wide two decades ago?

    I detest weapons and instruments of death, but I also accept the fact that the world is a harsh mistress; far too often people and nations find themselves in a kill or be killed situation.

    I'm not going to work on weapons systems, but I am glad that some very smart people are working on them, and employing the technology to protect my country.
  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @05:06PM (#6915324) Homepage
    There was a military project funded by the government for transporting information. They wanted to be able to transfer information in the event that sections of the US's infrastructure was blown up by nukes. The scientists working on it said it could be used for other uses, but they just said that to get the funding. It was really just for the military. I think it was called the "Internit" or something like that.
  • by Rhinobird (151521) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @05:17PM (#6915452) Homepage

    This paragraph show a wierd sort of rationalization that these guys do:


    Potter's team at the Laboratory for Neuroengineering, shared by Emory University and Georgia Tech, might be best able to deliver on that wild vision. He's already created the Hybrot, a machine controlled by rat neurons sealed in a patented dish spiked with micro-electrodes. You can actually see those cells growing more complex and hairy with dendrites as they learn and interact with the outside world. The work could spawn an entirely new class of adaptable robot combatants. But there's a hitch: Potter won't take a penny from the military. Sure, the Department of Defense might crib from his published research, but Potter wants to grasp new knowledge without bloody hands.



    He won't take money from the military, because it's "blood money", but has no problem ripping apart living breathing rats to get at neural tissue. Sure it may be cultured now, but even that culture had to come from some once living rat. This isn't even medical research here, he's using the neurons to control robots. Why not take a neurel net chip and use that, if your so concerned with the morals of your research? I personally don't care, I eat meat, I wouldn't have any problem taking money from the DoD for research, and don't give a rat's ass (ahem) for dead rats, but I'd like to point out some inconsistancy in his moral outrage.


  • by reallocate (142797) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @06:30PM (#6916027)
    Well, I know that when I want to read biased unsubstantiated propaganda packaged as journalism, I turn first to the Villege Voice.

    Where is the reporting to back the claim that U.S. scientists that don't take Pentagon money are "extremely rare"?

    What we have here is a few anecdotal reports about a few people who apparently think that all weapons are evil and have chosen to preserve their unsullied souls by opting out of the Pentagon money pump. Well, good for them. Let's hope that they occasionally recall that they're able to act in this selfish fashion because other people are willing to use weapons (and give their lives) to defend their right to make their own choices.

    Since the Voice makes its money by catering to the prejudices of country-loathing snobby wanna-be leftists. I'm not surprised to see them carry this little piece of phony muckraking.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @07:22PM (#6916382)
    Honestly, virtually all R&D in this country is financed by the government, usually by the military (often using defense contractors in the process). Internet? Yes. Aerospace technology for Boeing aircraft? R&D paid for by Pentagon defense contracts. Biotech, pharmaceuticals? Basic research funded by government. I've become interested in this topic recently...very little of R&D can not be traced back to the government. The one big private sector R&D success that towers above all others is Bell Labs - transistors, UNIX, C, you name it. But they were a government-granted monopoly! It's interesting because the economy really goes along on GDP growth, and that is mainly pushed by R&D leading to increased productivity. And the source of this is almost always the government, and usually through the military.
    • by mesocyclone (80188) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @12:56AM (#6918708) Homepage Journal
      Don't forget that many inventions in computer science were funded by NSA, including the first real mainframes and supercomputers. The integrated circuit was invented for the Minuteman Missile guidance system. A lot of AI research has been funded by DARPA.

      My father is a retired university professor who did NASA and DOD sponsored research almost his entire career. That research has led to improved monitoring of the environment, among other things.

      Furthermore, except for people who are a bit clueless about the need for a military to protect their right to not support the military, most scientists and engineers have no moral objection to doing work for the military.
  • Difference (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HuguesT (84078) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @07:49PM (#6916515)
    Stating the obvious, there is a difference between actively working on a piece of technology (say vision) used to diagnose say skin cancer and actively working on a piece of technology used to guide missiles, even though they might be the same underneath.

    In the former researchers make all the effort to adapt their thought process to the medical problem at hand. They might talk to doctors, patients, etc. If they are successful they might save some lives. In the latter they might think about accuracy, speed and whatever, but they know it's all about detonating that bomb at the right time and in the right place. They might talk to generals and strategists. If they are successful they might more accurately kill the people the military wanted to kill.

    In science and technology, R. Feynman famously said that the prime problem is not to fool oneself, because Nature cannot be fooled. If you work on weapons development of any kind and you are rationalizing that you are helping your country defend itself and that maybe your technology might be used for pacific uses as well, who are you fooling?

    There is also the argument that better technology kill fewer people because it is more accurate. This always assumes that the users of that technology are both wise and cautious. It's up to you but I don't trust anybody with weapons in hand even if they are the `good guys'.
  • But who benefits? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by csguy314 (559705) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @09:20PM (#6917161) Homepage
    In all this talk about ethics and dual use and whatnot, the whole point about the military funding private weapons manufacturers is shot to hell. Just skipping over the whole ethical arguments about the terrorism of western governments and their militaries, there is a whole other can of worms.
    The american government is pouring billions upon billions of dollars into the hands of private industry for research and production. That's taxpayer money that goes directly into the hands of private corporations and is never seen again.
    Yeah, the US gets some more weapons out of it; but really... the US is already beyond the military capacity of virtually all the developed countries put together. And yet billions are still spent on constant renewal of military equipment. But new high tech missiles and sattelites aren't going to stop a guy with a box cutter determined to take out an airplane.
    The massive misappropriation of funding has been going on for centuries really (well 200 years I suppose). There has always been massive government support for private industry at the expense of common citizens.

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