Science and war



Publication Details

Martin, B. (1983). 'Science and war', in A. John. Birch (Eds.), Science Research in Australia, Who Benefits?: Papers from the ANU Public Affairs Conference, June 23 and 24 (pp. 101-108). Canberra, ACT: Centre for Continuing Education, the Australian National University.

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ANU Public Affairs Conference


Since its earliest days, science has been associated with war. The inventors Archimedes and Leonardo turned their talents to the problems of fighting, and since the rise of modern science many individual scientists have steered their investigations towards military purposes. But the orientation of science to war was relatively sporadic until the rise of professionalised science under the auspices of the state beginning in the late 1800s. The process of incorporation of science into the war system was greatly accelerated by the two world wars this century, and especially since World War Two science has become an essential part of military races.

In this article I examine the connection between science and war in current circumstances. I focus on the importance of the large scale of military funding of science, the impact of this funding on the direction of technological change and on the assessment of important scientific problems, and the influence of war and the state system on the structure of the scientific community. With this background, the question of whether science is a servant or a part of the war system is addressed. Finally, I discuss the influence of military-related perspectives on the activities of antiwar scientists, and comment on what a truly antiwar science might look like.

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