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Letter of February 12th 1986
By Maurice MAROIS addressed to Ronald REAGAN and to


Mr President, (or Mr. Secretary General),

 The summit in Geneva and subsequent developments give rise to Herat hopes for humanity. At this historic moment we feel that it is important to emphasize life, the radiant face of peace. Life is a theme that is politically new, universal, unifying, dynamizing and open to the future: we have been created not do die but to live.

During the ceremony that marked its twentieth anniversary that were presided by the President of the Swiss Confederation, the Institut de la Vie  launched before two thousand persons from twenty-two countries including five Nobel Prize laureates, an appeal for a joint action by the highest responsible political leader and science in support of life.

The material effort that will be needed will be very modest by comparison with the expected benefits. In order to lend contents to these, programs the Institut de la Vie will organize in Geneva in several weeks, before the new summit, a conference on “Science in the Service of Life : Global Problems”, the majority of whose members will be drawn from men of science of the United States and the Soviet Union. The results of their work will be immediately submitted, in the form of a general report, to the consideration of the Heads of States of the Earth’s two most powerful nations.

In concluding this presentation we wish to respectfully formulate three questions:

Within the Institut de la Vie science has chosen to enhance life’s chances.

We refuse to endorse the tragic affirmation of “a human history written by a mad God”. If history is only what it is, then indeed despair ma fill the world’s soul. We reject realism without horizon. We reject resignation. It will not be said that man failed to find solutions to problems that he has himself created. We are frightened by the dimensions of the forces of misfortune. Life has installed itself on Earth. Its policy is to remain there. Through a free initiative we wish to institute it again not only through a perpetuation of instinct but through a decision of the mind and the heart.

Is it too ambitious to hope that a few witnesses will incarnate the will to live, the taste for life, and the joy of life, that a few men o science at the highest level of lucid reflection may emerge as a fine point of creative and constructive thought, that a few men of faith possessing an intemporal vision may proclaim hope, and that a few great political leaders may accomplish, already today, here and now, the prophetic revolution of human happiness in the fullness of life?

Our motherland is not only national and earthly. It is life.

“On behalf of all men on Earth who share a will to live, on our own behalf, on behalf of human tenderness, we celebrate life and we propose it as the major stake both today and during millions of centuries to come” (extract from our message to Heads of States and of Governments).

The Institut de la Vie’s ideal, stated in this way, is nourished by the immense example of Louis Pasteur, a fighter and a man of hope: “I firmly believe that science and peace will triumph over ignorance and war, that peoples will join their efforts not to destroy but to construct, and that the future will belong to those who will have done most for suffering humanity. There is a law of peace, of work, and of science that only wishes to deliver man from the misfortunes that assail him… It places a human life above all victories… in following this law of humanity, science will have sought to push back the frontiers of life.”

I have the honor, Mr. President, (or Mr. Secretary General) to ask you to accept my very high esteem.

Maurice Marois


Answer of March 7, 1986

The Kremlin, Moscow

Dear Professor,

I read with great interest the letter you were kind enough to send me at the same time as to President Reagan.

I thank you for your information on the activities of the Institut de la Vie and on its projects. Reading your correspondence it is obvious that this Institut deals with very exciting problems of today which definitely rise concern – on way or another – for any reasonable human being wherever his country of residence, his ideology or his political ideas.  Food resources and nutrition, environment and the vegetal and animal kingdom, ethics and biological medicine, science, education, television and the future of mankind, all spin-off of modern technology impacting on human life, are as many problems, as those addressed by the Institute which weigh upon us from life itself and which urgent, sometimes serious and hot character increases continuously as time goes on. It may be that, today, some people still do not understand that situation, but it is pretty sure that tomorrow, at the rim of the third millenary, everyone will feel it and fully appraise the issue.

Here are my answers to the questions you put to me:

First question:
“Do you consider biologically, philosophically and politically, that the first and major goal of our times would be claim that life and especially human life is the supreme issue?”
To that question, I would be inclined to answer by “yes, definitely yes”, without comment. However I would like to add the following: the problem you address has been of deep concern for the best brains of mankind since, probably, the remote times where humans did generate their first thinkers. Even today, in this nuclear era which is ours, it has reached new dimensions and appears under a different light.

Fiodor Dostoievski wrote, in his time, quite close to us indeed in historical scale, “The enigma of the human condition is not to live, but, in fact, to know what are we living for”. Should we think it over, this formula – which, by the way, I would not object – has today in the atomic era, a new significance, I would say, that in our present time, life is worthwhile being lived if we make use of it to protect and save life itself on Earth. There is no more important target.

Never before, in its history, mankind did face such a major challenge. And, now in front of us this problem rises, cruel and merciless, in all its wilderness, in real down to Earth dimensions. No one can wipe it out and get rid of it since everyone and all of us are involved. This being said, I am convinced that it should be solved thanks to the joint efforts of our present generation. Either, in a forecastable future we are able to find an appropriate solution and eradicate from the life of our children and great children the terrible burden of an existence which is lived under the permanent threat of an almost instantaneous potential destruction of mankind. Either we fail and, in that particular case, even if the most dreadful issues can be avoided, it will be unbelievably difficult, if not impossible to reach a solution.

The armament race has already brought mankind to a critical level beyond which one can wonder whether man will be able or not to control the situation, knowing the technical performances of new advanced land and space weaponry.

Once this limit is crossed, life on Earth will be hanged by one single wire which can rupture any time.

It is quite evident that, in order to survive, we need to live and act otherwise, in a new way. This applies in the first place, to coexistence between States. Indeed it is from those relationships that international life derives its “anatomy” and “physiology”. Relationship between States can only be based on mutual respect of respective interest, essentially security, and should be guaranteed by material, political, legal, moral and psychological instruments and result in a close cooperation to develop means to save life and settle a large set of global problems which condition the quality of said life.

In other words, this past ‘international) order which dealt with national security only through technical and military means and by brute force, that order which made our world a hostage of the nuclear death, that particular order, indeed, should be replaced by a universal security system merging together all the different spheres of international relationship. Mankind may – and should – live in good harmony with nature, but, in order to succeed, mankind should first be in harmony with itself. It is precisely along those lines that this problem has been addressed at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union.

This brings me to your second question:
“Would you be ready, in the best interest of the establishment of a peaceful life on our planet and for the blooming of each individual and of all men, to incorporate our programs “Science to the Service of Life” within the perspective of future cooperation and meetings between the two superpowers as well as for international cooperation a whole?”
Before anything else, may I stress that we have never claimed in the past – and are not driving at claiming it today – to play a “superpower role. Moreover, we strongly feel that nobody should be driving at assuming such a role should we wish to rebuild a new and efficient international life and preserve life on our planet.

Modern sciences and techniques give us the opportunity to improve the beauty of life on Earth – in its real meaning – as well as to collect the necessary conditions for a harmonious development of everyone’s personality. However, the nature of things is such that the same intelligence and efforts of men can also challenge the very existence of mankind. What a dreadful contradiction! We solemnly claim that science should not service two masters, life and death, but should only sustain life.

In their very nature, the ideas incorporated in the program “Science to the Service of Life” are such that in order to reach a good solution, they request the pooling of the efforts of both Soviet Union and United States, as well as of mankind as a whole.

In that form, it is easy to understand our positive answer to your third question:
“Would you be prepared to review the proposition – program that the Institut de la Vie will decide during its next international scientific conference which will be essentially attented by scientists from the two superpowers?”
We are quite ready to consider these propositions and make use of them – as a function of their nature – in the field of concrete politics.

Wishing you every success in your activities, I remain, Dear Professor, yours very sincerely.

Mikhaïl Gorbatchev



Answer from Ronald REAGAN

April 29, 1986
Dear Professor Marois,

I greatly appreciate your consideration in writing to inform me of your proposed conference on « Science at the Service of Life: Global Problems ». I applaud your efforts to advance the cause of a just and lasting peace.

Last October, before the United Nations General Assembly, I said: “There is no purpose more noble than for us to sustain and celebrate life in a turbulent world. And that is what we must do now. We have no higher duty, no greater cause as humans. Life – and the preservation of freedom to live it in dignity – is what we are on this earth to do.” The United States commitment to preserving life and enhancing the quality of life throughout the world is fundamental to the very existence initiatives of the Institut de la Vie toward these goals.

The United States has made clear many times its willingness to support scientific cooperation in pursuit of the enhancement of the quality of life in the world. We have always welcomed the prospect of international cooperation in furthering peace and understanding, and we continue to welcome all proposals which advance these interests.

Enduring peace requires openness, honest communications and opportunities for the American and Soviet peoples to get to know one another directly in order for us to pursue the many avenues where we can cooperate fruitfully for the benefit of mankind. At the conclusion of my discussions with General Secretary Gorbatchev in Geneva last November, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a General Exchanges Agreement, in which we commit ourselves to addressing common problems through the expansion of bilateral programs for sharing expertise, data and resources in education, medicine, law, radio and television. We have much to learn from each other.

The U.S. Soviet Exchanges Agreement augments a number of scientific cooperation agreements previously established by the United States and the Soviet Union. These include agreements in agriculture, medical science and public health, artificial heart research and development, atomic energy, environmental protection, world oceans, and housing construction. There are also numerous private scientific exchange programs, many of which are facilitated by our two Governments. I want expanded contacts between the United States and the Soviet Union wherever there is mutual interest, and remain convinced that peace will be found only through debate, discussion and cooperation.

Allow me to conclude by emphasizing another point I made at the U.N. Pressuring lives is the fundamental goal of peace. While there are great obstacles before us, we must continue to pursue this goal. Furthermore, the peace we seek must be a real peace, based on freedom and respect for human dignity. This is why we are committed to achieving global respect for human rights; real and verifiable reductions of nuclear and other arms; and peaceful resolution of regional conflicts on the basis of respect for the freedom and independence of the nation concerned. Americans will always talkies the extra step to ensure that such a peace is possible.                                            Ronald REAGAN


International conference,1987 : Science in the service of life, global problems : read the document in pdf

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