Take the same ethics poll that Manhattan Project scientists did 65 years ago

Illustration for article titled Take the same ethics poll that Manhattan Project scientists did 65 years ago

65 years ago, 250 scientists working on the Manhattan Project were asked how atomic weapons should be used in the war with Japan. Now you can take the same poll, and compare your answers with theirs.


For the 65-year anniversary of the poll, whose results were published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, JF Ptak has reproduced the poll online here. Once you take the poll, you can see how many people answered the way you did, and compare today's public sentiment with that of the scientists who took this poll before the US dropped two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

JF Ptak writes:

In July 1945, Arthur H. Compton asked Farrington Daniels (Director of the Metallurgical Lab section (at Chicago) of the Manhattan Project) to poll the 250 or so scientists at work under Farrington on the coming immediate use of the atomic bombs . . . Of the 250 asked to take the poll, 150 responded. The results of the poll were widely interpreted, and seemed to fit the needs of whomever was stretching the statistical canvas. On the one hand, for example, 87% of the anonymous respondents favored some sort of military use of the bombs, though just 15% of all of the scientists thought that the bombs should be dropped straight-away. Almost half thought that the bombs were best used in demonstration to the Japanese first, followed by renewed negotiating efforts for unconditional surrender, before the bombs were employed on targets; another 26% felt that the Japanese be invited for a demonstration in the US of the weapon. So even though 87% believed that a military use was prescribed, 72% felt that the military use was best first as a demonstration device. 2% (3 of the 150) felt that the bomb should basically be buried and not used at all.

Take the poll here.

via Ptak Science Books


Annalee Newitz

I think it's so interesting that almost twice as many people today, knowing what the atomic bomb did, chose the option to drop it without further ado.