19 years ago
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. Their work on new technologies has also reduced civilian
deaths. 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.
And then there's the fact that no other funder has such deep pockets and a
long-term view as the Pentagon. Should one dare turn away military support, a
competitor might instead accept it, use the money to assemble a lab that's
better equipped and staffed, and walk off with the glory.