John Polanyi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1986. He was the organizer of the statement by 100 Nobel laureates on the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes last December.
ferocity of the September attacks led Americans to believe that the attackers
were insane. However, it came to be recognized that sustained terrorism
has its causes and purposes. The question of rationality or irrationality
is important, since what lies (to a large extent) within the realm of
reason can (to a large extent) be countered by policies grounded in reason.
Of course, threats are as much from states as from non-state groups, threats
of mass-destruction as well as conventional threats. The dominant setting
for conflict in each case is a world in which the rich and the poor live
in full sight of one another. If in addition the poor are voiceless they
may well be induced to speak through violence. Particularly so if their
predicament is aggravated by the environmental carelessness of the rich.
It is a peculiar folly, under these circumstances, for the rich to seek
greater riches by selling weapons to the poor. Even without this, the
prosperous grow ever more vulnerable. Advanced societies are complex and
fragile. They operate efficiently by being open, not guarded. Like any
complex mechanism, they are, therefore, vulnerable to the wrecker's ball.