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Correspondence

Letter from Barry Commoner to Linus Pauling. February 25, 1958.
Commoner writes to update Pauling on the status of a number of peace-related activities in which they share a mutual interest.

Transcript

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

SAINT LOUIS 5, MISSOURI

February 25, 1958

Dr. Linus Pauling

35OO Fairpoint Street

Pasadena, California

Dear Linus:

I have been meaning for several weeks to write you but the pressure of work and extracurricular activities have stood in the way. In any event I want to give you a brief report on the state of affairs as it seems from here.

1. With regard to the immediate issue of the amazing Teller article I should first like to express my admiration for your reply as printed in the current issue of I. F Stone's Weekly. About a week ago Norman Cousins called and asked for ammunition to be used in preparing a reply to the article. With the help of some of the physics people I got together a series of comments on the more or less scientific side of the Teller opus. The main burden of this material is the same as the point you made in your discussion, i.e., that Teller's arguments are wholly unworthy of a scientist. I am enclosing a copy of these comments with this letter. The Cousins group is preparing a reply which is to be signed by the several scientists that are on the committee (Hugh Wolfe, Paul Doty, C. C. Price). It is not clear what will be done with this article although they are going to make an effort to get LIFE to do something with it. I suggested to Cousins that he try to line up a group of three or four recognized experts in some of the fields encompassed by Teller's article and ask them to comment specifically on the veracity of key statements in the article. It seems to me that LIFE might possibly be persuaded to print something like that. One point about the article is that I have discovered that very few people in St. Louis have paid much attention to it. Apparently most people flip through LIFE and don't bother reading much.

2. Cousins also asked me for help with regard to the forth-coming program that Ed Murrow is going to have on fallout. I understand that Murrow has already asked you to participate. Cousins told me that immediately after Murrow decided to have such a program he contacted Libby. Libby then proceeded to more or less sell Murrow a bill of goods along the lines that we must go on with nuclear testing if missiles are to be of any use -- since testing is necessary to develop missile warheads. He also made a big point over undetectable underground tests, etc. In any event it was Cousins' opinion that Murrow's approach will be pretty much along the lines of Libby's viewpoint. Apparently Libby has given Murrow some exclusive news items to be used on the program According to Cousins, Murrow will depend mostly on Muller for the alternative viewpoint. This is too bad since Muller tends to take a rather restricted approach which is sometimes not effective as a rebuttal to the AEC position. Cousins himself has tried to educate Murrow's people concerning the situation and has tried to persuade them that the dangers from testing ought to be publicly acknowledged by the AEC so that the public can decide for itself what ought to be done. In order to convince Murrow that AEC pronouncements have not been wholly objective, Cousins asked me to prepare an analysis of this aspect of the situation. I am enclosing a copy of this document as well. In any event I thought it might be useful for you to have this information about the program. On the whole, Cousins is rather pessimistic on it.

3. You are of course aware of the plans that Rabinowitch has been developing with regard to another Pugwash meeting in April and a bigger meeting In Europe in September. He asked me to comment on the proposed agenda for the September meeting and I have just written him a letter about it. I am enclosing a copy of this letter for your information. The AAAS Parliament of Science (I am a member of the steering committee) may turn out to be a very effective way of dramatizing the importance of developing public policy that can turn the present power of science toward constructive uses. Although the meeting will not consider specific questions outside of the issues that are now involved in Congressional proposals regarding the stimulation of science, the general tone of the meeting will favor this point of view. The meeting which Rabinowitch proposes for September would be extremely important at this juncture because more than anything else the public needs to know what the alternative consequences of peaceful and destructive use of the enormous power of science will be. I hope that you will be able to attend both of the meetings that Rabinowitch is organizing. I expect to go to the Biochemical Congress in Vienna and might be able to stay on for the second of these meetings.

4. We are about to try to organize a local group in St. Louis which might be called something like The Citizens Committee for Atomic Information. The idea would be to provide a means for getting the facts about fallout — and probably about the consequences of nuclear warfare -- before the public so that people can decide for themselves what our policy on these matters should be. There is still a need for a national group along these lines. According to Cousins the actual decisions concerning activities of his committee are in the hands of yourself, Clarence Pickett and Norman Thomas. Such a group is obviously too narrow in outlook to serve the purpose of developing a broadly supported program. Ed and I hope to talk with Rev. Dahlberg here about this and perhaps something can be done.

Apart from the above I have been wondering whether you succeeded in contacting Mr. Eaton about the proposal to set up a working office in Pasadena. There certainly is a lot to do and it would be very good if you had some help in doing it.

When you get a chance I should be interested in hearing your reactions to some of these things. In the meantime, my very best wishes to you and Mrs. Pauling.

Sincerely yours,

Barry Commoner

BC :da

Enc

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