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Former M.I.T. weapons designer abandoned war and now offers a plan for peace

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Milton Raymond was a weapons designer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during World War II. Raymond's thesis, while a student at M.I.T., was "A Radical Approach to Machine Gun Design" and landed him a job at his alma mater working on War Department contracts.

"I never got to build the gun; I got put into the chemical engineering department and worked on flamethrowers, they were needed to clear the Japanese out of island caves in the Pacific."

After flamethrowers, Raymond was assigned to work on torpedo propellants. That led to other heat transfer projects and the young engineer found himself experimenting with liquid fuel aviation rockets. Then Raymond was transferred to the Detroit Tank Arsenal and worked on stabilization of 6-ton gun barrels.

When Hyman Rickover was building the Navy's first nuclear submarine, he asked M.I.T. to measure meltdown conditions inside the new sub's power plant. "I was one of the school's hot-shot problem solvers and was assigned to work with Rickover. To solve his problem I had to build the world's fastest mechanical switch. I was working in micro-seconds; I think it is still the world's fastest mechanical switch."

Raymond was back to studying rocket technology when the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite in 1957. "Sputnik made me think. We humans had now developed the capacity to deliver atomic weapons anywhere on earth or would soon have it. I could not get the idea out of my head. Sputnik intruded on my everyday life."

For two weeks, Raymond was in a meditative cloud preoccupied with the problem of technology run amok. "I call it my period of self-examination. Most of the philosophy I have lived with this past half-century was developed in that two weeks. I realized I had made a mistake with my life. I had worked on weapons of war believing that would make peace. I now realized that the weapons are enemies and can never bring peace."

"Sputnik changed it all for me. I couldn't get out of my mind the realization that everything I ever stood for could be destroyed. That realization opened up everything, put everything on the table. I was an engineer; I never examined philosophical issues before. I realized I was on the wrong path making weapons. I learned that nuclear war is the real enemy of all. I had misplaced my trust in American leaders to prevent war.

Suddenly Raymond found himself isolated. All the researchers, scientists, and professors he had worked with shunned him. "They just didn't get it. They were only interested in the fabrication of weapons; they didn't want to hear about human behavior."

Raymond's unique self-examination caused him to be studied in a Johns Hopkins Hospital research study in 1964 about nuclear war and behavioral change. Dr. Jerome Frank was looking for "determinants and sustainers of behavior change" and targeted Raymond for attention. "Frank thought I had a psychotic break but I really found sanity."

Raymond began his study of the root causes of war and would eventually develop a peace philosophy he would call Social Reason because it employs the use of reason to solve social problems. The core of the philosophy centers on applying a universal question to all human activity, 'Is this really better for all?' Raymond believes that humans are essentially neutral and if we could avoid negative learned behaviors the world would be without war.

"I don't believe that people are basically depraved. Babies aren't depraved. Bad behavior was taught and learned. We just have to learn a new way of thinking; we need to adopt a worldview that puts the betterment of all at the heart of decision-making. The golden rule should not be a command, it should be a question."

"The reason people don't apply the universal moral question is because of a mass belief in the basic depravity of human nature. The tyranny in the world is the result of authoritarian decision-making. Authoritarianism is enabled by a false belief in the depravity of human nature. Adults won't ask the universal moral question because of their depravity beliefs so children must."

"I have given up on adults. The only hope for a world without war is with children. They should not follow our example, we have war. Children should not listen to their elders without questioning. Social reasoning puts a concern for human welfare at the core of decision-making. That is a change in the status quo adults will not make."

"Break the cycle of violence; abandon belief in depraved human nature. Apply the moral standard of social reasoning to all behavior, large or small, public or private. To achieve a better world without war we must first quit denying that it is possible."

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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Many prominent people before Mr. Raymond kind off... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jan 12, 2007 at 10:28:45 AM
Michael, as you are the author of this article but... by Liza Persson on Friday, Jan 12, 2007 at 3:09:26 PM