A First Word on Sputnik

A First Word on Sputnik

It is a bitter fact concerning our time that a scientific development so remarkable as the launching of sputnik should have evoked responses of fear and dread. Let us be candid: these were responses shared by all honest and sensitive persons, no matter how long-range an “historical” point of view they might try to cultivate. For no one considering the nature of the society that controls sputnik, or of the society that will soon launch competitors to it, can simply regard this scientific achievement as unambiguous evidence of human progress. It is all very well to say that scientific work is morally neutral and can be put to either good or bad use; but when one knows in advance the kind of use to which it is likely to be put, a response of fear and dread has an authenticity that no political analyst can afford to disregard. What new way of murder will the rulers of the world now devise?— this is the first spontaneous human response. And it is right.

Perhaps it is not enough; but it is right. And it raises once again, with a sort of chill familiarity, the inevitable reflection that the two dominant power blocs—they form the two dominant societies as well—prove themselves incapable of coping in a humane or imaginative way with the essential problems of mankind. This is not exactly a novel thought, but we dissenters dare not allow it to wither in our minds, or to fade from our speech. Especially is this true for those of us who may be a bit discomfited when the realpolitickers mock us as “moralists.” Why should one not want to be a moralist?

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