is nuclear war certain?

Here’s an argument that seems pretty simple.

P1. There is a non zero chance of accidental nuclear war breaking out. This has been documented by many think tanks. See here and here for two examples of arguments for this possibility.

P2. time is infinite

Conclusion: we will have a nuclear war. Game over.

Of course, the argument is not just simple, it may be deceptively simple. How to resist the conclusion? Well, one could deny premise 1. Maybe there is 0% of an accidental nuclear war. I doubt that.

Also, the time is infinite premise does not necessarily secure the conclusion. We may die before our nuclear number comes up so to speak. Especially if the chance of accidental nuclear war is really low to begin with.

But, other than those two maneuvers, I’m not sure what to say. Maybe we will reduce the admittedly low risk of nuclear war down to zero sometime in the future so that if we survive an extremely rare possibility for another 100 years, then the possibility will vanish altogether (U.S. and Russia won’t even exist?). But even if the political landscape changes, the argument above requires only that two countries, whoever they are, have nuclear weapons pointed at each other. Absent total disarmament, that seems pretty likely.

Not sure what to say against this simple little argument, thoughts?


1 Response to “is nuclear war certain?”

  1. 1 mengster
    August 12, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    this seems a bit weird in that the first statement doesn’t have a temporal aspect. doesn’t it have to? what if nukes become obsolete in 100 years due to missile shields or satellite/laser defense systems? if weapons technology improves so much that all nukes are scrapped because they’re too costly relatively speaking to maintain?

    i was trying to think of another analogy for this, and the best one i could come up with is if someone in the 1970s said there is a non-zero chance of a smallpox outbreak in the U.S. sure, okay, but then along came 1979 and smallpox was completely eradicated. not a great example i know.

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