All agree that an unprecedented situation has emerged with the power of nuclear weapons to execute unimaginable mass slaughter. New situations not only require but also tend to induce new forms of human behaviour. But appropriate behaviour does not follow automatically. New thinking is needed. Our present thinking is frightened and confused. Some want the new weapons banned. Others insist that the stalemate must be maintained because it has brought for the first time a precarious world security. Some say the only answer is world government. Some have been brought round to unconditional pacifism. Surely, the first step should be to get clear on what the real alternatives are and to face squarely their conditions and consequences.
In the past, peoples have defended and extended their vital interests by war and empire. These means, it is agreed, are no longer valid nor tolerable. But vital interests remain, and attempts to defend and extend them will go on. By what new methods can this be made practical? History shows several attempts to establish world order: by empire, by a concert of powers, by collective security (on the model of the Geneva Protocol or on that of the Locarno Pacts), and now by the precarious, perhaps dubious, stalemate of equally mighty opposites. What is to be learned from this history, and what are the types of world order which are and are not appropriate to the totally new arms situation?
New thinking directed to sorting out the problems and attaining a clear vision of the complex alternatives, is urgently needed. This must be world thinking and critical, not ideological, thinking. It must be the thinking of experts of the highest calibre in political, social, philosophical, and scientific fields drawn from the trained minds and wisdom of East and West.
We all have vital interests in the world to be defended and extended: how can it be done without wrecking the whole human enterprise? That is the crude question which demands a set of realistic answers.
World-wide thinking on these problems needs a focus and a lead. Let public opinion be roused to demand a conference of people well-chosen to give such thinking new impetus and competence. Let this Second Congress of the International Humanist & Ethical Union, as an outcome of its own perplexities and concerns, voice this informed demand.
The Geneva Conference of Atomic Scientists needs to be followed up by a broader conference of representatives of the relevant disciplines. This idea should be worked out. No conference of such a composition has ever been called. A new pattern of civilised behaviour can be induced by the pressure of world events if the way is made clear. To attempt to make it clear is a world-wide human responsibility that should no longer be postponed.
IHEU congress 1957
'Nuclear weapons (1957)', Humanists International, World Humanist Congress, London, United Kingdom, 1957