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Ethical Responsibility to Prove Technology Is Safe

GOURLEY: Going back a little bit, I found a speech that you had given in '57 to the Public Relations Society of America. The quote that I pulled out of it said, "There [is] no proven harmful effect of radiation due to testing.…"
GOFMAN: That's right. Have you ever seen a little book that I wrote called "Irevvy and Irrevant," an illustrative view of nuclear power?
GOURLEY: No, I haven't.
GOFMAN: Remind me to give you a copy before we break up today.
GOFMAN: In that book, [which] was written in '79, I said, in this talk about things that are done in violation of Nuremberg principles, [that] I thought I was a good candidate for [the] Nuremberg trials.
GOURLEY: Oh, really?
GOFMAN: I suggested that on these grounds: I said in the mid-'50s I had been such an enthusiast for technical development that I resented anybody who wanted to stand in the way of technical development until they had proved there was something bad about it. That talk was during that period, and soon thereafter I gave a lot of thought to it. My God, that's the worst possible position I can imagine! I said [that] I thought that giving that talk and the position I took-that you don't interfere with technology, unless you can prove the opposite-it was a good basis for having a Nuremberg trial.
GOURLEY: Do you think a lot of scientists [during] the '70s or even through today, still have the view-
GOFMAN: Absolutely, absolutely. They virtually think that it's the public duty to prove they're being harmed-not their duty to prove it's safe. And I think just the opposite. But I [have] thought the opposite from late '57, after that, but you're absolutely right about that talk. It was the most senseless position to have that I can imagine. That's why I wrote about it in 1979, as the basis for a Nuremberg trial. I've given talks on that subject, too. The place where I've been stupid; it's just really amazing.
GOURLEY: Are there any other places where you've been stupid?
GOFMAN: Probably, probably. I can't imagine all of them but there must be some others. You know, there was no big flack about that. The regents were worried about that and I did talk to the board of regents. I said, "Look, I don't believe a case has been made." You don't really realize that things were not coming along very fast at Hiroshima [and] Nagasaki. Leukemia had come along; they were already pretty sure in the '50s about the excess of leukemia.

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