Expert Testimony

When we want to know something, we ask an expert.

It is useful to be reminded that experts are sometimes wrong.

Leo Szilard was the University of Chicago physicist who had helped persuade FDR to initiate the efforts which would lead to the development of the first atomic bomb. He later came to question the wisdom of using the weapon whose development he had initiated.

In his efforts to prevent the use of the bomb, he spoke with J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man directing the work on the project at Los Alamos, NM. We would consider at this point Oppenheimer to be an expert, not on the morality of the bomb’s use, but on its viability and capacities.

Szilard quotes Oppenheimer as saying at this time, two months before the weapon was actually used with devastating effect, “The atomic bomb is s***…a weapon which has no military significance. It will make a big bang—a very big bang—but it is not a weapon that is useful in war.”

Experts are, as I said, sometimes very wrong.

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