The Society Trusts Humanity; Nuclear Science has been a Force for Good

Weekly Debates

The Society convened on January 26 for the third debate of the semester and the first Merrick debate to examine the question Resolved: Nuclear science has been a force for good.

Mr. Jacob Arber spoke on the affirmation.  Ms. Allison Melendez spoke on the negation.

Mr. Arber began the evening by defining nuclear science as changes in or manipulation of the nucleus of an atom and reminding the Society that the debate is not contained to the theoretical world. Nuclear science has enabled man to understand the universe and defend his world, making new discoveries everyday. While he acknowledged nuclear weapons as dangerous, he pointed out that there exists “nuclear taboo” that discourages us from launching them. If we look to the future and wish to see progress, we need to affirm. Then Ms. Melendez clarified that the negation is not saying nuclear science is evil or should be eradicated. She argued nuclear science amplifies everything, including our flaws, our looking for a quick fix. She also pointed out that nuclear disposal is extremely slow and flawed and will harm us. “Driven by our vices, this sheer power will only bring about our destruction,” she concluded.

During the floor speeches Ms. Wood spoke on the affirmation pointing out that while we can think of a few prominent incidences where nuclear science has been negative, think of how many bombs we didn’t set off; think of how often we have in fact restrained ourselves. Mr. Spagnuolo responded that we stopped dropping bombs because we saw how horrible the effects are. He continued that nuclear science will enable us to change the fabric of the universe but asked how long will it be before we push too far and irrevocably change the universe. Convincing many, he noted that this science will soon be accessible to more, even “people like me!” Speaking on the affirmation, Ms. Green asked “What is the purpose of science? What is the Good? How does science help us achieve this?” She answered that science helps us to understand all the unknowns in our world and thus makes our time here on earth a little more bearable, making science a force for good. Mr. Henderson countered that when we set out to judge which sciences are good and evil, we veer into moral judgment. Harkening back to the Enlightenment he reminded that we want to divorce knowledge from the “stranglehold of religion” and trying to argue science brings about the Good brings us back to that. Mr. Dulik responded that nothing is actually divorced form morality and that this debate is the question of Pandora’s Box: do we want blissful ignorance or truth with terror? He concluded that knowledge in and of itself is good. Chancellor Iacono argued that knowledge is always good but science implies development and nuclear weapons, which are one development of nuclear science, have only one purpose–destruction. He described the situation of the world during the Cold War, a time when one out of four families had a fallout shelter in their basement, and concluded that he did not want to live in this fear when he had a family. On the affirmation, Mr. Manchester argued that the dangers are overblown and countered by deterrents and he disagrees with the notion that there exists some knowledge that we cannot handle.

Ms. Melendez concluded that the negation does not negate nuclear science; it rejects the beautiful clean lines of the affirmation. She reminded the Society that we don not live in a utopia and to affirm would be to deny the imperfections of our world. Mr. Arber countered that science moves us forward and while it is both good and bad, the good pushes us further, to beyond anywhere we have been in the past. He posed the question, “Do you really believe man is evil?” then concluded that the negation fears humanity. Ultimately we need to move past fear and affirm that man will make the right choice in using a science that can propel us forward.

The Society voted 29-19-0 to affirm the resolution.

The following outstanding speakers were awarded Merrick points:

  • Mr. Henderson—5
  • Mr. Dulik—5
  • Chancellor Iacono—3
  • Ms. Green—2
  • Mr. Manchester—1
  • Mr. Medina—1


Emily R. Coccia

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