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Letter from Chauncey Starr to Joshua Lederberg



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES . . . . . .- BERKELEY * DAVIS - IRVINE * LOS ANGELES * RIVERSIDE * SAN DIEGO - SAN FRANCISCO i j SANTA BARRARA l SANTA CRUZ OFFICE OF THE DEAN SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND APPLIED SCIENCE LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90024 January 16, 1970 Professor Joshua Lederberg Department of Biological Sciences Stanford University Stanford, California 94305 Dear Professor Lederberg: I have received several copies of your article of January 10, which appeared in the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle and which quotes my publication in Science. My solicitous friends believe that you misconstrued my paper, and after reading your column, I must unfortunately agree with them that you apparently missed the key points of my study. Although it is of some importance that your readers have been mislead, it is more important that so influential a commentator as yourself might be missing a constructive move toward our common objective. In my Science paper, I made no attempt to establish or advocate social value criteria nor, as implied in your article, to advocate nuclear power based on these analyses. My principal objective was to describe as analytically as possible the historical balance between social benefit and risk in some of the applications of technology, and through this means to obtain an insight to the value criteria implicit in the trade-off which our society makes empirically in these areas. I believe if you read my paper thoroughly you will see that I have emphasized the approxi- mate and exploratory nature of the analysis. With specific reference to the comments in your column, you indicated that I was using the statistical fatalities associated with fossil fuel electric power as a target for nuclear power plants. As a rereading of the paper will make evident, the principal objective of that exercise was to indicate that "the economic requirement for the protection of major capital investments

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