A Disquieting Refusal


WHILE NO ONE CAN FAIL to be concerned about the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative, we find both the substance and the principle of the arguments of the Harvard physicists who refuse to work on federally funded Star Wars research disquieting.

There is more than a little irony in the physicists' claims to the technical unfeasibility of the so-called Star Wars plan. After all, these are members of a professional elite that has placed a man on the moon and has harnessed the earth's natural powers to levels once impossible to conceive. The fantasies of yesterday's science fiction writers are today's scientific realities. Since when have scientists ever backed down from a challenge?

Perhaps it is the immorality of the President's plan that irks the professors' consciences. Rather than view Star Wars as an attempt to render the mainland invulnerable while we pummel our adversaries we see an opportunity to protect population centers in the event of a nuclear attack. While we are not about to heap hosannas on another level of the arms race, neither are we blind to the plan's positive potentials.

We also suggest a dose of professional humility to the physicists and remind them that they are scientists and not policymakers. If every corporate group, every technical elite refuses to cooperate with our elected and appointed leaders because of moral or technical objections, then democracy becomes weak and free government ineffective.