THE LONG DARKNESS: Psychological and Moral Perspectives on Nuclear Winter by

THE LONG DARKNESS: Psychological and Moral Perspectives on Nuclear Winter

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of interdisciplinary essays from scholars which grew out of a symposium presented in 1983 by the American Psychiatric Association. The names here are impressive. Carl Sagan's terrifying portrayal of nuclear winter in the leadoff essay (a quarter of the book) acts as the focus for comments by Erik Erikson, Stephen Jay Gould, Robert J. Lifton, Henry Steele Commager, and others. Sagan's description of climatic catastrophe hews to those popularized by such as Jonathan Schell in The Fate of the Earth, and leads him to urge a long-term policy of dramatic reductions in nuclear armaments. Erikson delves into the problem of ""pseudospeciation""--the churlish propensity of mankind to divide itself into ""us vs. them."" Gould takes off from this, showing the futility of pseadospeciation. Why should one group of men think themselves superior, when ""neither long. term and widespread geographic separation nor intense hostility between pseudo-species in contact has ever led to any detectable degree of reproductive isolation between human groups?"" Lifton shows, albeit somewhat long-windedly, that the image of nuclear winter threatens man's concept of his sequences of life, by undermining and instilling ""fear and doubt in our sense of moving safely through ordinary steps in the life cycle. ""John Mack bemoans the fact that our knowledge of how dreadful nuclear winter might be has not altered policy-makers' thinking about war, deterrence, and defense. Jerome Frank refers to policy-makers' attitudes as a ""prenuclear mentality."" Mack decries also the fact that there are economic, political, career-professional, and technological vested interests in keeping the nuclear race going. Hans Morgenthau wrote that ""moralizing about politics or international relations has never produced any significant result."" However, these eminent thinkers add much to the contemporary discussion about a looming nightmare.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1986
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press