Smith, Francis N., May 1, 1948
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Francis N. Smith Bristol Road Damariscotta, Maine
May 1, 1948
Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists 118 Nassau Street Princeton, New Jersey
One of the main troubles with the human race is that it has nowhere near enough wisdom to properly use all the knowledge your scientists have dumped in its lap. Your former policy of ignoring the possible and even probable implications of the knowledge you poured out is largely responsible for our troubles. If you had only realized the supreme importance of striving to build a more co-operative society, we might not now be in the fix in which we find ourselves today.
I remember writing an essay a good many years ago in which the following passage occurred: "Civilization has been founded upon too small a base and has grown upwards and outward with such astounding velocity that it now resembles an inverted pyramid. A pyramid that totters dangerously and threatens to come down upon the heads of all of us.
That base was competitive individualism. Had it been co-operative instead, our material progress would have been much slower but it would have been much, much safer and surer. And our spiritual growth would have been immeasurably ahead of what it is today. If our civilization survives, it will be because you have finally learned that lesson. We ordinary folk look to you to study the possibilities of improving the individual as well as the society in which he moves. Through education, through heredity and even through the mechanical workings of the hormones within our bodies.
Leave no avenue unopened. Rapt, tragic Man who plunges Through universal law; Who no "Don't' s" and "Can't's" expunges -, Where are you headed for? Pause in your fevered labor, Stop on your siren career, Think of yourself and neighbor: You both are forgotten here. It will take vision to do it? Of course, and there still is time But make a beginning or rue it: A nothing less than sublime Will unwind the tangled pattern, A heritage from the past, Where our Civilization, the Slattern, Has traded the fine for the fast.
Time passes::: the picture changes... We build anew... we plan. And we run through a scale which ranges From the atom up to Man.
We optimists are pretty scared. Put we're still optimists. And we're hoping that you fellows will finally put your weight into the balance and in some measure at least, tip the scales toward that forcast.
Sincerely yours, Francis N. Smith
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