Letters to the Editor. SDI and scientific research

I was delighted to read John Hughes's article on the Strategic Defense Initiative [``Against research,'' Sept. 20]. Hughes effectively rebuts the arguments some scientists are using against participation in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). I would only add that the administration's plans are hardly expensive relative to the magnitude of what is proposed. The maximum spending in any one year would be less than 5 percent of the defense budget, and less than 0.5 percent of our gross national product . These are small amounts when the enormous savings in the cost of our nuclear arsenal, which a successful SDI would allow, are considered. Roland F. Hirsch Gaithersburg, Md. As one who has signed and circulated the petition discussed by Hughes, let me comment. The petition states that the signers, faculty, and staff in technical departments of American universities will neither solicit nor accept funding from the SDI organization.

Hughes's objections to the boycott demonstrate a lack of understanding of the current status and history of SDI.

Even at the pre-``star wars'' levels the US was spending huge amounts on ``star wars'' research. Such research remained obscure because, after 30 years of effort, it still showed little promise.

SDI merely represents a massive escalation in this area.

Hughes raises the issue of academic freedom and free inquiry. It is exactly this point that makes us want to avoid the militarization of campus research. Peter D. Meyers, Physics Department Princeton University Princeton, N.J.

There is relatively little objection to the basic weapons research carried out by the dedicated scientists who work in our national laboratories. However, there is a great deal of doubt about the future of US science when large fractions of our research effort and job openings available to our students are concentrated in SDI and other military applications.

Research directed toward defense applications should be carried out at national weapons labs. University scientists should concentrate on expanding our understanding of how nature works. Richard L. Kaufmann, Physics Professor University of New Hampshire Durham, N.H.

Pat Holt arrives at some questionable conclusions in his opinion article [``The balance of terror and nuclear sufficiency,'' Aug. 7]. He speaks of SDI as having a ``potential for destroying the nuclear balance,'' which he considers undesirable. Since the change would be in favor of the US, most Americans would be delighted with that result. One of the major advantages of a successful ``star wars'' system is that it would defend the US against all nuclear attacks. Anti-SDI proponents do not mention the p eace of mind that citizens would have if there were no possibility of a successful nuclear attack. Bruce A. Rogers Arizonans for National Security Inc. Tempe, Ariz.

While we like to think of scientific research as an unbiased search for the truth, the real situation is not so simple.

The $2.7 billion authorized for ``star wars'' research in 1986 is money that will not be spent on school lunch programs, wilderness protection, or Pentagon programs that yield more concrete benefits. Never before have American taxpayers been asked to foot such a large bill when even leading experts maintain the program is unworkable. April Moore Silver Spring, Md.

The arguments of cost, infeasibility, and the displeasing of Russians are used to dissuade advocates of SDI. But these are not the most compelling arguments.

The whole idea of SDI breaks the spirit of the 1972 ABM Treaty. The reasoning at that time remains valid today. Escalation of defense systems calls for escalation of countermeasures, and on and on. Fred Lloyd Manchester, Mo.

Concerning the expense of SDI, it should be noted that moneys for SDI primarily will not be added on to the current level of federal funding for basic scientific research, but to a great extent will be reallocated from current, nonmilitary research.

This is worrisome for many scientists because their current research projects may be jeopardized. Dean Churchill, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences University of Washington Seattle

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