Ethical Reflection on the Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project is the code name for the US government's secret project that was established before World War II and culminated in the development of the nuclear bomb. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers. It employs more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (roughly equivalent to $25.8 billion as of 2013). Over 90% of the cost was for building factories and producing the fissionable materials, with less than 10% for development and production of the weapons. At that time Hitler was building an atomic bomb obscurely and would use it in the war against the allies to turn the tables. The necessity and ethical responsibilities are clear cut. If the allies didn’t develop the nuclear bomb before Germany, they will suffer heavy loss and casualty in view of the huge destructive power of nuclear bomb. Hitler can even threat the allies to use the bomb on the civilians to force the allies to compromise to reach his strategic target. In 1945, two atomic bombs produced by the project were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, which accelerate the pace of Japan’s haul down their flag and prevent the meaningless and desperate resistance of Japan. The project is proposed by many prominent physicists including Albert Einstein to the US government at that time. It is considered as a fast and efficient method to end the catastrophe and avoid even more loss and casualty to the human being as a whole. From this aspect, it is deontologically righteous. However, it is difficult to decide it from the aspect of consequentialism and virtue ethics because we need a long period to judge the consequence or reflect on ethics. It is controversial both at that time and in the future. It accelerates the ending of the great calamity with the expense of destructive environmental impact and the...
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