As Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Announce Doomsday Clock at 90 Seconds to Midnight, They Unknowingly Push the Dial Even Closer


Diane Perlman, Ph.D.  | Substack - TRANSCEND Media Service

“The splitting of the atom has changed everything except the way we think. Thus, we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
— Albert Einstein

28 Jan 2023 – On January 24, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by Einstein, Oppenheimer and scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, unveiled the 2023 Doomsday Clock, now at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been. This year, they cite new nuclear threats from the Ukraine war, the climate crisis and pandemics.

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Siegfried S. Hecker, Daniel Holz, Sharon Squassoni, Mary Robinson and Elbegdorj Tsakhia stand for a photo with the 2023 Doomsday Clock in Washington, DC, on January 24 – Image credit: the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Ironically this took place:

These peace initiatives are more constructive responses to global existential threats. While the Doomsday Clock functions as an alarmist wakeup warning, the BAS does not offer viable solutions that address causes. BAS comments were conventional, superficial, simplistic and uncreative, although understandable and expected. Their recommendations for the Ukraine war, nukes and the pandemic might in fact escalate tensions, make each problem worse and set us back.

(Scroll to bottom for Pushing the Dial Back if you don’t want to read the whole piece)

More on that below, but first …

The Doomsday Clock

In 1947, BAS co-editor Hyman Goldsmith asked artist Martyl Langsdorf, married to Manhattan Project physicist, Alexander Langsdorf, to design a cover for the June edition of the Bulletin. Feeling a sense of urgency, she drew a clock to show that we didn’t have much time left to get atomic weapons under control. The Doomsday Clock is a “timeline of conflict, culture, and change.”

“The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet.”

Here is a graph of the movement of the Doomsday Clock, marking changes in the level of global threats since1947.

The farthest the Clock has been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991 at the end of the Cold War when the US and the USSR signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (SALT), the first treaty providing for deep cuts in strategic nuclear weapons arsenals.

US-USSR Nuclear Arms Race Peak, 1986: 65,056 Nuclear Weapons
US = 23,254; USSR = 40,723; UK = 300; France = 355; China = 425

In 2007, Nelson Mandela started a group of Elders, including Nobel Prize winners. Mary Robinson, formerPresident of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is now Chair of The Elders.

Doomsday Clock Move to 90 Seconds, January 24, 2023

This year, BAS members elaborated on global threats. The speakers are decent people, but not transcendent visionaries. They are immersed in the predominant global mindset of official narratives characterized by old, hollow, conventional thinking, characterized by a concrete, black-and-white, us/them, zero sum, win/lose worldview that offers no way out of the conflicts, no endgame.

There was much blame, without self-reflection or awareness of cause and effect. Russia was the primary focus, with some for China, Iran, India and Pakistan.

Their claim that Russia’s invasion was “unprovoked,” lacked knowledge that the US, NATO and others rebuffed Putin’s initiatives over decades, and sabotaged opportunities,  to prevent this war, including requests to join NATO after the Cold War and attempts to stop the war. For historical, dynamic analyses see

Provocations and broken promises include waves of threatening NATO expansion and the US pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran Nuclear Deal, with which Iran complied, and a deal that Russia collaborated with us for years in forging.

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to recognize that humiliation, encirclement, backing into a corner, threats, and fear might bring us closer to midnight.

“The madness that is carrying the world closer and closer to nuclear war has at its core a psychological explanation: Each side, though fundamentally afraid, misperceives the nature of the danger it faces. Each side imagines that it faces an inherently, implacably aggressive enemy, when it actually faces an enemy as fearful as itself – an enemy driven mainly by fear, to do the things that lead to war.  Ralph K. White, Fearful Warriors.

Doomsday Clock Announcement. January 24, 2023

Dr Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist said this time “Requires newfound vigilance and focus from leaders and citizens alike.” Putin’s “thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention or miscalculation is a terrible risk” which could spin out of control.

After calling for global denunciation of Russia, Bronson said, “The US government, its NATO allies and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue. We urge leaders to explore all of the to their fullest ability.” For the first time, the BAS issued its statement in English, Russian and Ukrainian.

She incorrectly called claims of bioweapons labs in Ukraine disinformation, despite evidence to the contrary.

There were no calls to reduce tensions, to stop sending weapons to the Ukraine, to hold peace negotiations, to invite help of third party mediators, to stop rebuffing initiatives, to de-escalate or to enforce a ceasefire. There was no analysis of the causes of the conflict.

Dr. Steven Fetter acknowledged that Putin’s threats might be intended to deter the US and NATO from attacking, that Putin might escalate if faced with defeat, despite becoming a pariah, and that “he might make desperate moves if no other options are available.”

So logically, why threaten, humiliate and back Putin into a corner, while rejecting and foreclosing options?

Fetter blames Putin for upsetting 6 decades of the international order, disregarding the US role in undermining hard won progress in building an effective nuclear security architecture. In addition to broken treaties, the US invasion of Iran and the betrayal of Libya, both without nuclear weapons, does not instill trust in the US’s word, nor does it inspire motivations to disarm.

Only the NEW START Treaty remains, set to expire in 2026. Fetter said that if Russia prevails it could “undermine the nonproliferation regime.” If Russia does not prevail, it could do the same.

Fetter blamed Iran for increasing stockpiles of enriched uranium, predicted and expected after Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, the Iran Nuclear Deal that Iran complied with and was harmed by its abrogation, insulting years of negotiations by P5+1 (permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany)  and the European Union.

Disregarding US and South Korea’s regular threatening military exercises, Fetter said, “efforts to constrain the North Korean nuclear threat are moribund.” North Korea fired more missiles last year, “including an ICBM and a flight test over Japan and many are anticipating a resumption of nuclear testing.” What do we expect?

“The Chinese nuclear arsenal is rapidly expanding with more than 300 missile silos under construction. Some believe that China is developing a force comparable to that of the US and Russia, perhaps to deter the US from aiding to the defense of Taiwan.”

“The US, Russia and China are all developing large scale programs to modernize their nuclear forces and are developing hypersonic weapons setting the stage for a 3-way arms race.”

Nuclear Narcissism

“Never fight evil as if it were something that arises totally outside of yourself.
–St Augustine

Since 1970, nuclear weapons states failed to keep our part of the nuclear bargain, stated in Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In exchange for all countries agreeing not to acquire nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states committed to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Article 6 is a dominant bone of contention at every NPT, challenged by most countries and all civil society representatives, including me.

Violating the NPT, the US “Spending $2 trillion on new nuclear weapons is a risk to more than just your wallet.” According to my friend Bill Hartung from The Center for International Policy, in Profiteers of Armageddon: Producers of the Next Generation of Nuclear Weapons,

At a Glance

The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are ramping up a three-decades-long plan to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines and missiles, along with new warheads to go with them. The price tag for operating existing weapons and building new ones could reach a staggering $2 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that, in the next decade alone, the cost of nuclear weapons deployment, development, and procurement could reach $634 billion. The major beneficiaries of these expenditures will be the prime contractors for new nuclear delivery vehicles and the operators of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons complex. “

BAS members showed no thoughts of:

They are not worse than everyone else. Their responses are common sense. But using common sense, being right, righteous and reasonable usually makes things worse.

Dr. Suzet McKinney addressed the biological threat landscape and increases in infectious diseases, half zoonotic. only superficially the need to predict, detect, and limit the scope of disease outbreaks. Russia, North Korea and Iran have biological weapons programs for offensive use, an existential threat to humanity.

She called for investments in public health, eliminating biological weapons programs, and the “ability to identify outbreaks before they become epidemics and pandemics if they invest in disease surveillance systems, share data, analytics and intelligence on biological events and develop the ability to identify and attribute biological events quickly. Disease knows no boundaries. Debilitating illness, widespread death, and disease-induced disaster can be avoided if countries around the world cooperate on global health emergency strategies and make investments in science, technology, research and develop in the biosecurity sector.”

There were no calls to investigate lab origins of pandemics, gain of function research, to analyze causes or transform conflicts, as threats create asymmetrical dynamics that motivate “warfare of the weak.”

A singular emphasis on germ theory, ignores knowledge about terrain theory and host resistance. Superficial public health ignores metabolic health, immune boosting and nutrition, resilience, developing natural immunity and building herd immunity which ends epidemics in a much shorter time. Vaccines and lockdowns promoted immune escape and mutations which prevented herd immunity which the Amish acquired in months.

Mary Robinson remarked that when the Doomsday Clock was last set at 100 seconds to midnight, she did not imagine the “gathering storm” that now includes a pandemic and war in Ukraine. We now have “extinction level threats, interlocking crises, unwillingness of leaders to work in the long-term interests of their people.”

“We need bold ethical leadership as embodied by founder Nelson Mandela.”

In addition to renewed focus of leadership, ending fossil fuel subsidies, working towards net zero carbon, and more, Robinson called to support and strengthen the WHO’s push for new pandemic treaty and equitable access to vaccines, unknowingly endorsing their scheme for global surveillance and social control.

Again, no calls to investigate origins, or awareness of manmade origins of pandemics which are exceedingly rare, preventable, and many responsive to early treatment, immune boosting, and old-fashioned natural and herd immunity.

Pushing the Dial Back

While the Bulletin of Atomic Science is doing the important job of alarming us, they offer almost no strategies (they did call for investment in renewable energy), to push the dial away from midnight.

Most of the world is stuck in the old, unsustainable, perhaps unsurvivable paradigm of First Order Change. It’s long past time for a paradigm shift. The answer is in our relationships.

“There’s been a quantum leap technologically in our age, but unless there’s another quantum leap in human relations, unless we learn to live in a new way towards one another, there will be a catastrophe.”  — Albert Einstein

A picture containing text, book Description automatically generated
One of my favorite cartoons by Tony Auth, from Philadelphia Inquirer, who let me come to his office to go through his files to use cartoon in my writing and slide show. He always captured the psychology very well.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

The dominant paradigm is simplistic, politically immature, concrete black-and-white, us/them thinking, focused on “first order change,” aimed at treating, suppressing or defeating the symptom, oblivious to cause and effect.

Few are aware of the phenomenon of “second order change” from general systems theory, which I learned in family systems therapy training in the 1970s. It addresses and corrects underlying causes, relationships and systems.

FIRST ORDER CHANGE                                  SECOND ORDER CHANGE 

Old way of thinking                                                   New way of thinking

Addresses symptoms                                                Addresses and corrects causes

Quantitative change                                                  Qualitative change

Change in behavior                                                   Change in relationship

Change within a system                                           Transformation of the system

Linear, partial                                                            Multidimensional, multi-level

External                                                                       Deep

Transactional                                                             Transformational

Continuous change                                                   Discontinuous leap

Conflict resolution                                                    Conflict transformation

Compromise                                                               Create new reality, win-win

Unstable, unsustainable                                          Enduring, stable


Diane Perlman, PhD   is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce terrorism, reduce enmity, and to raise consciousness about nonviolent strategies for tension reduction and conflict transformation. She is a visiting scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, is active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and on the Global Council of Abolition 2000. Some of her writings can be found on her websites,  and Email:

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