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To MIT Administrator on Nuclear Weapons Education Project

(Speaking of the Mass Peace Action Nuclear Weapons Working Group where we met Sunday, I write to Robert Redwine)  The generosity of this group is truly amazing. I admire deeply this well-spring of connection, and have in the years since attending Boston College in Theology, only a few times attended, despite reading every email, and I almost mean that literally, not every email from MAPA. It's a daily deluge!

The question, or rather, your project was new to me. I was surface critiquing the project as if to say how complimentary to my background which has been dispositionally into the humanities and specifically faith-activism akin to the Kings Bay Seven group. To be clear I am strongly biased by "the older, legalist model of moral theology that leaves an impression that Papal condemnation of the possession and threat to use nuclear weapons means 'Stop what you are doing now!'" But as I understand it "his method of accompaniment and discernment is in fact the antithesis of blind obedience. He  invites (self-) education, accompaniment by a spiritual adviser, prayer, discernment, and exploration of and deliberation on alternative courses of action for responding to the call of conscience. It is a mature exercise in moral responsibility...It is open to the appeal of the greater good. It marks 'the progress of a soul' in response to God's grace. There will be many ways to fulfill the demands of conscience. The question is not what must everyone do, but rather what must I do, in my circumstances, with. my possibilities and my talents?"

--Drew Christiansen, SJ Introduction to A World Free from Nuclear Weapons: The Vatican Conference on Disarmament. Eds Drew Christiansen and Carole Sargent. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2020. xvii.

My blunt question was whether it was the intention of the project to at all orient visitors into the moral responsibility aspect. If there were even a one percent increase desired in content that catered in this direction, and if I could help gather such resources--that would interest me. 

Now I've bungled the question. I understand that Aron Bernstein communicated the intention and guiding light for this project, and you may want to swat me and say the whole site works toward this direction. I'm only saying that my impetus to connect came when I read a document from the site during our meeting yesterday, the only that pinged when I searched "moral," and it begins with equations and graphics descriptive of the nuclear physics of a nuclear weapon? It sketched a debate in pro and con--and from where I'm coming from it's-I won't say there isn't a moral vacuum, I don't understand that metaphor--it seemed to me it left the moral responsibility to the moral philosophers. 

Consider me as a brash unpaid intern. I walk into a science lab in building ten looking for someone to notice with me on the wall, that here on the third floor is a wall-marker of Dudley Allen Buck. Now everyone might understand but me that this former professor who invented the Cryotron was perhaps a victim of the Cold War. The politics isn't only barely present, so to is the question of who in the history of technology interprets the significance of Buck's invention. The sign means somebody thought it important. My parable is to say that a moral philosopher will have no evidence to infer meaning. A politician, a historian will find some, if anything. When it comes to your educational project I would ask with what signs and what curation do you invite a viewer to a deepening moral agency? 

I am grateful for your attention. What I believe you have in audience intention has led you successfully to your result. Whether your project sees an intersectionality, I am afraid to keep using metaphor, that the aperture setting on its camera has not emitted enough light to expose the film. The result is that the image comes through but leaves little of the observable field--the discourse of disarmament is profoundly moral--but how, I can only guess my reaction needs greater testing, probing, but my quick impression for what its worth is that we do not know from this project that moral inquiry deserves other methodological inputs, so to speak, beyond the realm.

I said, if I could help gather such resources--that would interest me. I have been wondering if I could find others with whom I could offer a basic course in nuclear weapons. Last August I attended a five week class that drew on lay-experts and the model was empowering to address different aspects of nuclear weapons, their design and history as a technology is one that your project warrants the greatest respect for, while the political, including the grassroots political dimension, and moral suasion in the evolving international concern of our times, merits intersectional pedagogy.

What do you think? Is this a short spit in a fire? Or a downhill snowball that could go somewhere? What could be done in three-six months and what in three years?

Hello C-,

     Thank you for your detailed message.  I will say that I believe the moral aspects of the destruction that could be caused by nuclear weapons are obvious to anyone who has any connection to morality at all.  I do not see how including more concerning this aspect would be helpful.




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