During World War II, the lives of millions of Americans lay
precariously in the hands of a few brilliant scientists who raced
to develop the first weapon of mass destruction. Elected officials
gave the scientists free rein in the Manhattan Project without
understanding the complexities and dangers involved in splitting
the atom. The Manhattan Project was the first example of a new type
of choice for congressmen, presidents, and other government
officials: life and death on a national scale. From that moment,
our government began fashioning public policy for issues of
scientific development, discoveries, and inventions that could
secure or threaten our existence and our future. But those same men
and women had no training in such fields, did not understand the
ramifications of the research, and relied on incomplete information
to form potentially life-changing decisions. Through the story of
the Manhattan Project, Neil J. Sullivan asks by what criteria the
people in charge at the time made such critical decisions. He also
ponders how similar judgments are reached today with similar
incomprehension from those at the top as our society dives down the
potential rabbit hole of bioengineering, nanotechnology, and
scientific developments yet to come.
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