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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 6. May 28, 1958

Nuclear Tests

page 2

Nuclear Tests

"If you give one man cancer or cause one child to be born an idiot, you are a monster; but if you do the same injury to 50,000 you are a patriot."

—Earl Bertrand Russell.

The moral implications of the testing or use of nuclear weapons are quite startling. Archbishop Godfrey, a distinguished English cleric, has stated quite categorically that the use of these weapons against civilians can never be justified. "Nobody" he says, "can subscribe to the thesis that it would ever be morally lawful to use indiscriminate nuclear weapons on centres of population which are predominantly civilian." But he also states that "in theory, one cannot exclude the possibility of a war with controlled nuclear weapons, restricted to military targets". But—and this is a big but—these words are subject to the words of the Pope that "should the evil consequences of adopting this method of warfare ever become so extensive as to pass utterly beyond the control of man, then indeed, its use must be rejected as immoral." Consequently, if there is a sufficient amount of scientific opinion which holds that the consequences of nuclear power are in fact passing "utterly beyond the control of man" the conditions laid down by the Pope have been already met, and the testing or use of nuclear weapons are immoral under all circumstances. What I hope to do is to show that there is ample scientific evidence to justify my drawing this conclusion.

Recently, a prominent German child specialist, Dr. Karl Beck, connected congenital deformities in Bayreuth, Bavaria, with atomic tests. In a period of seven years—1950 to 1957 —the number of deformities, mostly in the spine, among children born in the Bayreuth Children's Clinic increased nearly 300%—from 1.1% to 3.7%.

Dr. A. S. Fraser, a principal scientist of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said in Sydney recently that radiation effects on pregnant mice had produced water on the brain, a domed head, eyes, ears and tails missing, spinal cord shortened, and injuries to internal structures. According to him, effects of radiation will produce "horrific abnormalities in future generations" but it is not known what the exact abnormalities will be.

Just as revealing is the second annual report from Columbia University's Lamont Geological Observatory. This laboratory collects the bones of recently-dead humans from all over the free world and averages their radioactivity and the results of Strontium assays. Why Strontium 90 is so feared is that the bone forming tissues of the body cannot distinguish between it and ordinary calcium. Thus any Strontium getting in the body is deposited in the bones, and as it disintegrates causes cancerous changes in the surrounding cells. Leukemia results. The findings of the three scientists working on this project are firstly, that since their last year's report—i.e., in the small space of one year—the world average content of Strontium 90 in human bone has increased by 30%; secondly, that the increase in young children was as high as 50%.

As one writer in "Critic", the paper of Otago University, has pointed out, it is significant that the most remarkable changes by far in disease incidence over the last ten years have been the increased incidence of lung cancer—and of leukemia.

It appears then that the evil consequences of nuclear power are in fact passing "utterly beyond the control of man". Whether one prefers to accept the Christian standard enunciated by the Pope, or the humanist appeal of Lord Russell, the evidence seems to suggest that the testing or use of nuclear weapons in any way whatsoever is grossly immoral.