We have previously discussed the optimism of intellectuals at the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century we would soon realize that we had only just begun discovering the world, its people, its life, its climate, earth’s place in the solar system, our solar system in our galaxy and our galaxy in the universe, the extent of which is yet to be discovered both in its macrocosm and in its microcosm. The Dalai Lama expresses the wonder of the convergence of nature with spirituality in his book, The Universe in a Single Atom. Joseph Campbell expresses it by the myth of Indra, as told by him in The Power of Myth a National Public Television series with Bill Moyers. Following is the transcription of that story which is found at pages 62 -63:
There is a wonderful story in one of the Upanishads about the god Indra. Now, it happened at this time that a great monster had enclosed all the waters of the earth, so there was a terrible drought, and if the world was in a very bad condition. It took Indra quite a while to realize that he had a box of thunderbolts and that all he had to do was drop a thunderbolt on the monster and blow him up. When he did that, the waters flowed, and the world was refreshed, and intra said, “What a great boy am I.”
So, thinking, “What a great boy am I,” Indr a goes up to the cosmic mountain, which is the central mountain of the world, and decides to build a palace worthy of such as he. The main carpenter of the gods goes to work on it, and in very quick order he gets the palace into pretty good condition. But every time Indra comes to inspect it, he has bigger ideas about how splendid and grandiose the palace should be. Finally, the carpenter says, “my god, we are both immortal, and there is no end to his desires. I am caught for eternity.” So he decides to go to Brahma, the creator god, and complain.
Brahma sits on a Lotus, the symbol of divine energy and divine grace. The Lotus grows from the navel of Vishnu, who is the sleeping god, whose dream is the universe. So the carpenter comes to the edge of the great Lotus pond of the universe and tells his story to Brahma. Brahma says, “You go home. I will fix this up.” Brahma gets off of his Lotus and kneels down to address sleeping Vishnu. Vishnu just makes a gesture and says something like, “Listen, fly, something is going to happen.”
Next morning, at the gate of the palace that is being built, there appears a beautiful blue – black boy with a lot of children around him, just a admiring his beauty. The porter at the gate of the new palace goes running to Indra and Indra says, “Well, bring in the boy.” The boy is brought in, and Indra, the king god, sitting on his throne, says, “Young man, welcome. And what brings you to my palace?)
“Well,” says the boy with a voice like thunder rolling on the horizon, “I have been told that you are building such a palace as no Indra before you ever built.”
And Indra says, “Indras before me, young man – what are you talking about?”
The boy says, “Indras before you. I have seen them come and go, come and go. Just think, Vishnu sleeps in the cosmic ocean, and the lotus of the universe grows from his navel. On the lotus sits Brahma, the creator. Brahma opens his eyes, and a world comes into being, governed by an Indra. Brahma closes his eyes, and a world goes out of being. The life of the Brahma is 432,000 years. When he dies, the lotus goes back, and another lotus is formed, and to another Brahma. Then think of the galaxies beyond galaxies in an infinite space, each a lotus, with the Brahma sitting on it, opening his eyes, closing his eyes. And Indras? There may be wise men in your court who would volunteer to count the drops of water in the oceans of the world or the grains of sand on the beaches, but no one would count those Bramin, let alone those Indras.”
While the boy is talking, an army of ants parades across the floor. The boy laughs when he sees them, and Indra’s hair stands on and up, and he says to the boy, “Why do you laugh?”
The boy answers, “Don’t ask unless you’re willing to be hurt.”
Indras says, “I ask. Teach.” (that, by the way, is a good oriental idea: you don’t teach until you are asked. You don’t force your mission down people’s throats.)
And so the boy points to the Hansen says, “Former Indras all. Through many lifetimes they rise from the lowest conditions to highest illumination. And then they drop their thunderbolt on a monster, and they think, ‘What a good boy am I.’ And down they go again.”
. . .
It is that same self-congratulatory mood that greeted the 20th century. In 1901 the first telegraph signal was sent, in 1903 the Wright brothers were successful in making a short flight with their motor powered airplane. In 1913 Henry Ford formed an assembly line for mass production of his automobile which he introduced to the American public, making it affordable to the middle class, by which he then built his fortune. There seemed to be no limit to the power of humankind’s power of knowledge and accomplishment. The first radio broadcast was made in 1920; in 1930 the British Broadcasting Corporation began its television broadcasts. In 1931, Ernest Lawrence invented the cyclotron to study subatomic activity.
In the early part of the 20th century, two physicists revolutionized the way that we look at the world: Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Each of them was a theoretical physicist, and each of them was an accomplished and avid musician. Of special interest to me, their scientific theories did not originate in experimentation. Rather, recognizing the fundamental mathematical correlation to all action within the universe, a notion first introduced to western civilization by Pythagoras, each developed his scientific theory, not through experimentation, as gave rise to the scientific method during the Renaissance, but rather through mathematical manipulation of already established laws of motion.
By way of demonstration, in high school I took a physics class which was based upon experimentation and mathematical formulas; In my first year of college, believing that I had a good foundation in high school physics and not wanting merely to get by, I took a physics class for science majors. There, experimentation and application of mathematical formulas had no place. Rather, the focus of the class was the mathematical derivation of the physical laws of nature, which required calculus. I had not learned calculus, so I had to do the numerous additional algebraic functions to arrive at the same formula which calculus yielded in a few steps.
Whereas we associate the name of Albert Einstein with theories of space – time, precedent to the formalization of quantum theory, Max Planck, in 1900, proposed what is known as the Planck postulate relating to the properties of energy associated with atomic structures. In 1905, Einstein, unknown in the scientific community, published his paper on the special theory of relativity, “On the Electr odynamics of Moving Bodies.” At that time, he was not even employed in the scientific community; rather, he was employed in the Swiss patent office, which left him with the mental energy to work out his theories after his work day was finished. As part of his special theory of relativity, Einstein had proposed that light exhibited characteristics of both wave and particle.
The notion of bodies in the universe being relative to other bodies was not new. Galileo Galilei had recognized that there was no absolute point of rest, but all was in motion relative to the motion of objects about it. Einstein’s special theory of relativity recognized a constant: that of the speed of light. His notion of relativity was more limited, i.e., in special relation to particular objects, and therefore known as the special theory of relativity. All is in motion relative to the motion of other objects about it; any appearance of rest is only from the perspective of the observer. It is within that context that he posited the mathematical equation for which he is popularly known, which describes the mathematical relationship of energy to mass and the speed of light: E = mc2.
Knowledge in the fields of science, medicine, and technology mushroomed in the early 20th century, as was expected: that humankind was about to discover all that was to be known of world. In 1901 human blood types were identified, and in 1909 Paul Ehrlich found a cure for syphilis. Vitamins were identified, notions of the earth’s core were developed, genes were recognized as relating to chromosomes, the atomic nucleus was identified, superconductivity and cosmic rays were identified, the notion of continental drift was raised and nerve impulses were identified with chemical transmission by neurotransmitters.
Before Einstein would publish his general theory of relativity in 1915, the world would become embroiled in World War I. There were a number of social conditions that contributed to it. At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain had been the “world’s policeman,” but its power was rivaled by national interests, or, as Nietche would describe it, the will to power. Various countries of the world became associated with one of two opposing alliances. The ostensible event to trigger the war was the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. However, societal contributions to it were increasing militarism, nationalism and imperialism. The American Civil War saw the advent of the machine gun, which wreaked havoc upon opposing soldiers. However, in the First World War the potential for mayhem on a mass level increased dramatically with the development of more lethal machine guns, tanks, grenades, aircraft, and chemical weapons. A great arms race between the various European powers was also a contributing factor to the war.
In 1915, Einstein published his general theory of relativity, which extended his special theory of relativity to include the force of gravity. Under that theory, he predicted that light passing a large gravitational field would bend toward that field. Again, he made that prediction based upon his mathematical computations; and that prediction was later to be confirmed in an experiment which showed that light passing by the sun was bent by that large gravitational field.
America entered the First World War, joining “the Allies.” On Number 11, 1918, Germany agreed to an armistice which ended the war. By its end, the German, Ottoman, Austro Hungarian, and Russian empires were dissolved. Stalin and the communists were to take governance of the Russian, and Germany was humiliated by the terms of the armistice, known as the Treaty of Versailles. That humiliation was to contribute to the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War.
During the First World War, in 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution (also known as Red October) initiated the Russian Civil War against the regime of the Tsar. Whereas the United States had recognized the government of the Tsar, President Wilson refused to recognize the Bolsheviks and he seized American property in Russia at the time of the outbreak of that civil war. The United States government refused to recognize the Bolsheviks, even when they successfully concluded that civil war and established a new state, the Soviet Union, according to the communistic views and doctrines of the Bolsheviks and Lennon in 1923. President Roosevelt initiated negotiations with a representative of the Soviet Union. Two of the obstacles to resolution of that conflict was the unpaid debt owed that by the Soviet Union to the United States and the Soviet union’s restriction of religious freedom and other civil rights of U.S. citizens living in that country. President Roosevelt and the Soviet Union representative or able to come to a tentative agreement, but there remained unsettled relations between the two countries. That mutual distrust and fragile relationship continued until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union during the Second World War. That friendship in common cause was brief and ended at the conclusion of the war against Germany, and the rift deepened when Korea was divided north and south.
In 1918 Fischer, Haldane, and Wright published their neo-Darwinian work which associated genetics with the theory of natural selection. In 1921 insulin was isolated. In 1923, Hubble publicized his determination of the nature of galaxies beyond our own. In about 1926, the theory of quantum mechanics was formulated. Einstein was unable to accept that theory, dismissing it because “God does not play dice with the universe.” In 1927, the wavelike nature of matter was shown. Penicillin was discovered from a mold found on a cantaloupe. In 1929, Hubble announced the universe was expanding, and in that year a geological timescale of the earth was established.
In 1929, the American stock market crashed, leading to the Great Depression. There were a number of causes, including consumer purchase on credit, stock market speculation, bank failures, drought in the Great Plains, and a general collapse of the economy. Roosevelt instituted various social programs to alleviate the human impact of the depression, including Social Security, and many other laws and programs that remain with us today. Steinbeck wrote his book, The Grapes Of Wrath, which was set in The Dust Bowl. In 1931 nylon and plastics were invented.
Despite the economic challenges of the Great Depression, science continued its march forward. In the 1930s, Pauling developed his theory of chemical bonding; and the scientific study of animal behavior, particularly as a related to human behavior, developed. In 1931, radioastronomy began to develop, and the electron microscope was invented. The neutron was discovered by Chadwick in 1932, in which year the positron was also discovered and the notion of antimatter particles developed. In 1935, technology had developed to the point that earthquakes could be measured on the Richter scale, and in that year the theory of nuclear energy or force was proposed. In 1938, nuclear reactions were observed in the stars. Nuclear fission was discovered in 1939.
The political scene had also changed upon the close of the First World War. Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated to the Weimar Republic, which was established as the new German government. In January, 1919, the German Workers Party was formed. Adolf Hitler had been sent by the German government to spy upon it in September, 1919. Hitler became enticed by that party, became a member of it, and in early 1920, it was renamed the National Socialists and German Workers Party, or, in short, the Nazi party. The next year, Hitler became its leader and took the title of Fuhrer. In 1921, the party formed the storm troopers, called brown shirts. In 1923 Hitler and his party attempted to overthrow the Bavarian government, which attempt failed; and the leaders of the insurrection were arrested and charged with treason. Hitler served 10 months in jail, during which time he wrote his book, Mein Kanpf. In 1926, the Hitler Youth was formed. In 1930, the Nazi party gained seats in the Reichstag, and in 1932, it became the largest single party in the Reichstag. Enticed by Nazi idealization of the past, many German Protestants, most notably Lutherans, voted for the Nazis. The Nazi notion of the German superman race was appealing to the German people, in part because of the humiliation of defeat in the First World War. But the Lutheran church was further prepared for Naziism by the anti-Semitic beliefs and writings of Martin Luther. Exerting political pressure upon the German Christians, Hitler was able to woo those of the Lutheran church that sought his favors, and to punish those that did not. In 1933, the state – associated Lutheran church adopted the Aryan Paragraph, which prohibited from the priesthood those clergy of Jewish origin, excluding even those who were married to non – Aryans. On November 13, 1933, German Christians held a rally at to the Berlin Sports Palace, at which numerous swastikas were displayed and the unity of German Christianity with the Nazis was proclaimed.
A number of Protestant theologians of the time, among them, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Wilhelm Busch, saw that the Nazis imperiled the moral and theological principles of the Lutheran church. They believed that the Nazis were usurping the position of God. In response to the assault of the Aryan Paragraph upon Christian doctrine and ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others established the “Confessing Church” and established their own seminaries. However, the mass of German Lutherans remained loyal to the state church and would ignore the overwhelming evidence of Nazi horror and genocide that would lead to the Second World War and escalate during it.
The Confessing Church, however, had its limits. The great majority of its members opposed the Nazi intrusion into religious matters, asserting that such matters belonged only to God; but most maintained their anti-Semitic views and ignored or tolerated the mounting evidence of Jewish persecution, confinement in concentration and extermination camps to be revealed to the world only at the end of the Second World War.
However, there was a significant number of the Confessing Church that was sensitive to the signs of antii-Semitism and ethnic cleansing. As early as 1935, Karl Barth wrote, “For the millions that suffer unjustly, the Confessing Church does not yet have a heart.” In that same year, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Marga Muesel condemned the failure of the Confessing Church to adequately resist the persecution of the Jews and confiscation of their property, or to alleviate their suffering. Margo Muesel wrote,
Why does the church do nothing? Why does it allow unspeakable injustice to occur? . . . What shall we one day answer to that question, “Where is thy brother Abel?” The only answer that will be left to us, as well as to the Confessing Church, is the answer of Cain. (“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9)
By 1933, Hitler had established his notion of the German super race among its people. In 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany and the Nazis took control of the government. Within the month, fire broke out in the Reichstag building; the communists, second largest party in Germany, was banned, and a month later the German government passed the Enabling Act which gave Hitler the power to make laws without consulting the Reichstag. The Gestapo, secret police of the Nazis, was formed the next month. In yet another month, trade unions were banned, as were thousands of “un – German” books, which were burned. By 1935, Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles and established his air force, known as the Luftwaffe. In that year he began conscription into the German armed forces, and in September of that year he established the Nuremberg Laws, which defined German citizenship, specifically excluding from it all Jews and non-Aryans. The next year, 1936, contrary to the terms of the Versailles Treaty, his armed forces took and occupied the Rhineland between Germany and France. That year, the Berlin Olympics were held. Later that year Germany formed an alliance with Italy, referred to as the Axis Alliance. In November, 1936, Germany also entered into an alliance with Japan. In December of that year, the Hitler Youth, previously a volunteer organization, was mandated for all boys. In March, 1938, Hitler annexed Austria. In September of that year, the Allies agreed to the Munich agreement by which it agreed that Germany could take the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in exchange for “peace;” and British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, returned to England to proclaim that famous proclamation, “I have returned from Germany with peace in our time.”
Meanwhile, in 1939, the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan were in the third year of the Second Sino – Japanese War. In December of that year, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, led by its Luftwaffe. Germany quickly defeated Poland, and Britain and France declared war on Germany. The Germans took Denmark and Norway in May of that year, the next month it took the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and even France. Two months later, in July, Germany began its Battle of Britain, seeking to destroy the Royal Air Force and the will of its people to fight. As part of that effort, it sent crude, bomb laden missiles in the direction of London with fuel calculated to hit that city. Allied with Mussolini and the Italians, the Axis powers took Yugoslavia and Greece. Germany then invaded Russia with the intent to quickly take Moscow. However, its choice of time for that invasion was disastrous: its armies were harassed by the severe Russian winter, its supply lines were disrupted by both severe winter and counterattacks by the Russians; and Hitler and the German people met their first failure of the Second World War.
The German war machine was, by standards of its day, technologically advanced. Not only did it introduce missiles into warfare, but it had a nuclear program by which it intended to make a nuclear bomb. It was close to doing so. Fortunately, at least from Western democratic perspectives, the Allies were able to disrupt those plans.
Whereas the airplane had some significance in the First World War, it played a major role in the Second: massive aerial bombing. During the war the Germans were also able to develop a jet airplane, but were unable to get it into production before the end of the war in Europe.
The United States attempted to remain neutral in that war, however, it aided Britain with the supply of weapons and resources. Its ships were attacked by German submarines, and then on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Upon the entry of the Americans into the war, it and the British defeated the German army in North Africa; Russians defeated the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad; and in 1943, the Allies began both discriminate and indiscriminate bombing of German cities, with the same intention that the Nazis attacked London: to disorient and discourage the public will to fight. In June, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy. The next month, certain Germans planned an attempt to bomb and assassinate Hitler. It failed. Among them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and, just days before the end of the Second World War in Europe, May, 1945, was executed.
The Allied forces of the United States and Great Britain had attacked Germany and Italy from the south; at the same time, the Soviet forces attacked Germany and Italy from the east and north. With the tide of the war changing in Europe, England and the United States agreed with Stalin that upon the defeat of Germany, that country would be divided east and west, with Berlin, located in the east, divided likewise, east and west. The German and Italian forces surrendered, and the division of Germany was accomplished: east to the communist Soviet Union, and the west to the Allies, who helped establish democratic government in those occupied territories.
See http://rnzncomms.org/2011/03/11/the-best-map-ever-of-world-war-ii/ for an interactive map of the progress of the Second World War in Europe.
It had been rumored during the War that the Nazis had established concentration camps where it tortured and slaughtered large numbers of Jews and other “undesirables.” At the end of the War, the Allies discovered the terrible truth of those rumors; the German people professed ignorance of the conditions in their own backwards, and it denied the apparent significance of the smell of roasted flesh and falling ash that became the normal part of their lives during the War. Not only were the death camps discovered at the fall of Germany, but the Allies also discovered that many of its victims were used for scientific experimentation (giving rise to nutritional standards that determined the minimum amount of nutrients required to maintain life), and others were forced to do the work of the holocaust and ethnic cleansing of the German people. One group of victims that is less recognized was that of the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped, deemed to be unfit to receive the benefits of the Aryan race.
In the Pacific Ocean, the United States led an Allied advance upon Japan. With heavy fighting in the Philippines and Pacific islands, and a dramatic engagement of opposing armies, the United States was successful, with great contribution from defecting German physicists, in developing an atomic bomb. It detonated the first atomic bomb in New Mexico, and one month later dropped one on Hiroshima and another on Nagasaki, bringing the Japanese to surrender.
At the end of that war, the Allies had come to realize that the humiliation imposed on the German people at the end of the First World War tended to dehumanize those people, planting seeds for even more severe and extensive atrocities. This time, led by the United States and the Marshall Plan, the Allies dedicated themselves to rebuilding West Germany, leaving its sense of integrity intact despite the defeat.
It has been argued by many whether it was necessary to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, some arguing that the United States should have been satisfied with the progress it was making against Japan in the Pacific war, and others arguing that Japan was committed to fight to the last person and that the atomic bombs were necessary to convince Japan that it was not invincible as against the power of the Western Allies, more particularly, saving many lives. Altogether, it has been estimated that the war cost 60,000,000 lives.
In response to the First and Second World Wars, the Allies formed the United Nations, which included all recognize nations of the world; and it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States occupied Japan and its former islands in the western Pacific. That occupation led to the establishment of a democratic government in Japan. Korea had been occupied by Japan, and after the war, in 1948, Korea was divided north and south on either side of the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Union occupying the North and the United States occupying the South.
After World War II, two opposing superpowers emerged: the Soviet Union and the United States. Various countries of the world became aligned with one or the other. The “People’s’ Republic of China began to develop its own form of communism, distinct from that of the Soviet Union. The prior Republic of China was forced from East Asia to the island of Taiwan. In June, 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea. Russia objected to the United Nations’ recognition of the Republic of China among its national representatives, and it a boycotted the United Nations Security Council in protest. Although Russia was represented in the Security Council and it had veto power of any action proposed by it, in Russia’s absence during the boycott, the Security Council authorized military intervention in Korea. The United States provided approximately 90% of the international soldiers and military hardware in defense of South Korea. The North was expelled from South Korea, when the People’s Republic of China entered the war on behalf of North Korea. The Korean War saw the introduction of military jets into “the art of warfare.” Ultimately, with Russia and China joining forces to support the North, and “U.N. forces” representing the South, the 38th parallel established the division between the two with a two and a half mile demilitarized zone between.
Meanwhile, science progressed after the close of the Second World War, both in the horror of its power to destroy and its power to discover the wonders of nature and to build upon that knowledge for the benefit of humanity. Having introduced the world to the atomic bomb, the superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, used the technology and uranium resources to build more and ever more powerful bombs. Soon, both superpowers had an immense array of nuclear bombs, with missile delivery systems, that, if ever deployed could destroy all human life on the planet several times over.
The first computer was introduced in 1945. It was huge and required immense amounts of electrical energy to operate. In 1947 William Shockley invented the transistor. The big bang theory was proposed in 1948, and in that same year the world was introduced to the principles of quantum electrodynamics. In medicine, Percy Julian introduced the use of chemotherapy to fight leukaemia; and in 1952, Jonas Salk developed an effective vaccine against poliomyelitis. In that same year, chemical treatments for mental illness were introduced. Great strides were made in the early fifties to understand amino acids as a fundamental structure in living material. In 1953 the structure of DNA as a double helix was introduced. In 1956 the discovery of the neutrino was announced. In 1957 superconductivity, which had its beginnings during the Second World War, was better understood and described.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite to orbit the earth, Sputnik. At that time I and my family were visiting relatives in Kansas. It was easy to identify Sputnik because it was the one “star” in the night sky that one can see moving across the stellar canvas. At that time, the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union was ratcheting up. The fact that the Russians could put a satellite into space, when the United States could not, frightened the American public. American scientists realized that they had lost to Russia the cutting edge of technology that it had enjoyed since the end of the Second World War. The United States, under the presidency of John F. Kennedy, resolved to put a man on the Moon within 10 years of the launch of Sputnik. Then the Russians put the first astronaut into orbit around the year if in 1961. Nonetheless, the United States soon caught up with the space mission of the Russians, and landed Apollo astronauts on the moon, there to walk and returned safely to the United States.
In the 1960s, to Stephen Hawking accomplished what Einstein only dreamed of: a Grand Unified Theory of the origin of the universe. In the 1960s, Leakey and others were discovering prehistoric human fossils and Africa. The nature of genetics was better understood during the mid 20th century. In 1963 and Chaos Theory was being developed, which proposed the notion of the “Butterfly Effect.” Quasars were discovered in 1963 and in the next year the existence of quarks was proposed. In 1964 it was suggested that animal social behavior might be attributed to genetics. In 1965 cosmic microwave background radiation in the universe was discovered. In 1967 it was first proposed that the burning of fossil fuels could create a “greenhouse effect,” which could lead to destructive global warming. In geology it was proposed that the then the existing continental features on earth were the result of plate tectonics. In 1967, the Electroweak theory was proposed. In that same year, geneticists were beginning to see a link between ancient free – living bacteria and present cellular structures. Pulsars were discovered in the universe in 1968, and in that same year, a theory of random molecular evolution was proposed. Gamma-ray bursts in outer space were discovered in 1973, which also saw the development of the earliest concepts of genetic engineering. Magnetic Resonance Imaging was introduced in 1973 and has developed quickly into MRI imaging which is prevalent today. In 1974 scientists began to recognize the destruction of CFC pollutants to the atmosphere, causing holes in the ozone layer. In 1977 the understanding of DNA sequencing as the basis of life was becoming better understood. In 1988 the “cancer gene” was identified. In 1981, Superstring Theory was proposed up. In 1983 the AIDS virus was discovered and identified. Two years later, in 1985, the basis of genetic fingerprinting was established. The understanding of genetics, of basic cosmic structures, including antimatter, and of the subatomic structures of the universe was mushrooming. In 2001 the sequencing of the human genome was accomplised.
In the 1970s, computerized tomography (CTscan) enabled doctors to examine soft tissue. In that decade not only were computers developed, but they were able to connect various universities of the United States to form a computer network. In 1971 and the first commercial computer microprocessor was developed. In 1990 the World Wide Web was formed, not by thepresidential candidate, Al Gore, but by other scientists and software engineers. In 1990 the Hubble space telescope was launched, only to find that it was nearsighted; in short time its vision was corrected. In 1996 “Dolly”, the sheep, was cloned from a single cell of her mother. That’s suggested that human beings could also be cloned, and various people with financial means and sufficient ego suggested that cloning could be a way for them to achieve immortality. In 1997, scientists predicted the El Nino effect associated with floods and droughts in various parts of the world. By that time, satellite communications had become common, not only increasing communications throughout the world, but also enabling enemies to spy upon each other. Prior to that time, high flying aircraftwas relied upon for such spying activities, until Powers were shot down in his high flying, U-2 to Russian soil. That created an international crisis which was not soon alleviated.
During the mid to late fifties, I recall in elementary school that we had drills specifically for an atomic attack, wherein we hid beneath our desks or other “safe structures.” I recall in the late fifties and into the sixties that many of those who could afford to do so built bomb shelters underground, and stocked them with crackers, water, and other food items to sustain them for a brief time. Looking back on it, those efforts were more an expression of the fear of atomic bombs from Russia than realistic, considering the mass destruction about the bomb and the intensely lethal affect of the radiation that would be spread across, not only the United States, but the entire world.
In the sixties, President John F. Kennedy was baptized with the failure of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. However, he learned from that fiasco to stare down the Russians who had been emboldened by that disaster to install nuclear tipped missiles in Cuba which were aimed at the United States. I recall the immense fear that spread over the country at that time, and I recall following radio accounts of the Kennedy administration’s response. Only five other events so riveted my attention in later years: the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that near disaster of the Apollo 13 space mission, the collapse of the Soviet Union with the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, the telecast of laser guided missiles in the first Gulf War which quickly paved the way to expulsion of the Iraqi troops from Kuwait; and the second lightning strikes against Sadam by the second George Bush with even greater precision that propelled the United States through Iraq, resulting soon in the capture of Sadam Hussein.
The Second Gulf War, initiated by George W .Bush was the most concerning to me for several reasons. First, the Bush administration misinterpreted its satellite images of Sadam Hussein’s Iraq to concluded that Hussein and the Iraqi army had weapons of mass destruction, contrary to the terms of the agreements imposed at the conclusion of the First Gulf War. Even more concerning to me was that General Colin Powell, a man of high distinction, was used by the administration to present its satellite images and its interpretation of them to convince the United Nations to authorize U.S. and international military intervention in the Second Iraq war.
As I perceive it, with the increase of technological surveillance capabilities, and increasing drone activity directed at a great distance from the field of battle, and the misuse of that technology presents a great threat of to human rights which are in the Amendments to our Constitution for the protection of each citizen of the United States. As I have written previously in this blog, we are presented with new demands for justice, requiring a concerted effort of all political powers to assure that everyone in the world has enough provisions and means to thrive, and that each enjoys the assurance and protection of life, property, and liberty.
In contemporary life, the atomic bomb continues to be a risk: the United States still has its many missile laden atomic bombs, which we presume will be wisely protected or wisely used as a “last resort.” With the collapse of the Soviet union, the stability of that government and of its abilities to protect its nuclear weapons from terrorist or other intrusion by those who feel powerless in society, or are stuck in retribution, have great power, previously unknown.
In contemporary life, one does not need an army to cause great destruction and to disrupt the social fabric of life of others. Part of the power of terrorists is in exploiting natural, social notions of safety to destroy that sense of safety and to instill great fear. The dirty, imprecise power of terrorists first demonstrated in the failed bombing attack upon the support pillars in the basement of the Twin Towers was not effective, but the events of 911 exploited the common sense of safety in air travel to turn four seemingly harmless passenger planes into weapons of mass destruction. They were meticulously planned to take advantage of human nature and the expectations of the common people in the United States. The first three planes to attack their targets, the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, succeeded because of the popular view that if one cooperates with terrorists, some resolution short of death may be negotiated and the natural expectation, and that even terrorists will seek to preserve their own lives. After the first three hijacked planes struck their targets, killing all on board, including the terrorist pilot and accomplices and killing many in the aftermath of the initial strikes, passengers on the fourth plane were able to establish contact with the outside world by cell phones and to discover the apparent intent to make of their plane a bomb for yet another target. That knowledge empowered them to give their own lives to save the lives of others by the overcoming the terrorists, armed only with box cutters, and to disrupting terrorists’ operation of the plane, driving it into the ground, to sure death of all on board, but saving the lives of many more. It has been asked many times: “What causes an individual to risk his or her life to save another?” The selfless, salvistic acts of the courageous passengers on the plane that crashed near Altuna, Pennsylvania, speaks volumes to me of the human spirit.