Edward Teller is a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. A physicist born in Hungary, he is most widely known for his contributions to the first demonstration of thermonuclear energy; in addition, he has furthered our knowledge about quantum theory, molecular physics, and astrophysics.
What is true? What is right? What is beautiful? Science considers what is true, starting out with almost unimaginable ideas (The earth is moving! The future is unpredictable!). The job is to understand these ideas and fit them into a broad and logical picture of the universe. Politics considers what is right. This requires broad understanding and eventual consensus of points of view that often appear incompatible. Art is the development of what is beautiful--whether through words, a musical note, or architecture.
Truth, morality, beauty. It has been humanity's persistent hope that these three ideals should be consistent with each other. Yet successful activities in science, politics, and art diverge greatly, and I believe the three activities can be pursued initially without regard to each other, or without reconciling the possible conflicts that may arise. Today there is perceived to be a strong contradiction between the results of science and the requirements of morality; for instance, the application of science has led to the development of nuclear weapons, while international morality seems to demand that such results never be applied--and that research leading to them should be stopped. I hold a position radically different from the general point of view, believing that contradiction and uncertainty should be embraced.
Contradiction and uncertainty. Niels Bohr loved contradictions. He would not tolerate the idea that quantum mechanics might some day supersede classical physics. For Bohr, classical physics had to remain in permanent contradiction to quantum mechanics and the tensions between them retained as a part of science. In the same way, the impacts of...