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Atomics and Law: Looking Ahead

William A. W. Krebs, Jr., Proceedings of 2nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1956)

The fashion these days in talking about atomic energy, automation, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the like is to speak darkly of the threat to civilized life posed by technological change. It is refreshing therefore to hear, as I did recently, an interpretation of the role of science applied to the problems of man as that of the liberating, as contrasted with the liberal arts. The notion is that man's spirit is the prisoner of his physical environmentbe it body, space, or time and that one way to read his history is as the record of his struggle to break these bonds. In such a view his technical toolsapplied science, engineering, medicine may properly be considered the liberating arts.

To this list of the liberating arts, with all professional humility, I am sure we who are lawyers would add one other: the law. In the sense of applied social science, law, too, is a liberating art, handmaiden in man's ceaseless struggle to break free from the limitations imposed by his social environment. It may indeed be argued that the liberation achieved by science, engineering, and medicine will end only in a more exquisitely miserable enslavement of man's spirit unless law keeps pace with technology. It is from this point of view that I wish to survey with you the role of law and lawyers in subduing, and turning to liberating usefulness, the great new powers over the phys