Tuesday, April 29, 2003

In a gesture reminiscent of certain academic boycotts which are now starting against the state of Israel, an physicist at the University of Rome named Daniel Amit has refused to review a manuscript intended for publication in Physical Review E on the basis that he will no longer correspond with any American institution. From his reply to Dr. Martin Blume, Editor-in-Chief, American Physical Society:

"What we are watching today, I believe, is a culmination of 10-15 years of mounting barbarism of the American culture the world over, crowned by the achievements of science and technology as a major weapon of mass destruction.

We are witnessing man hunt and wanton killing of the type and scale not seen since the raids on American Indian populations, by a superior technological power of inferior culture and values. We see no corrective force to restore the insanity, the self-righteousness and the lack of respect for human life (civilian and military) of another race.

Science cannot stay neutral, especially after it has been so cynically used in the hands of the inspectors to disarm a country and prepare it for decimation by laser guided cluster bombs. No, science of the American variety has no recourse. I, personally, cannot see myself anymore sharing a common human community with American science. Unfortunately, I also belong to a culture of a similar spiritual deviation (Israel), and which seems to be equally incorrigible.

In desperation I cannot but turn my attention to other tragic periods in which major societies, some with claims to fundamental contributions to culture and science, have deviated so far as to be relegated to ostracism and quarantine. At this point I think American society should be considered in this category."

The standard liberal position has always been that intellectual freedom should transcend political disagreements, and that this kind of academic boycott, whether against an old pariah state like Israel or a brand-new pariah state like the United States, is counterproductive. The standard liberal position is that it is far better to keep the lines of communication open. On the other hand, there comes a point where it must be fair to say that such communication is hopeless, as sufficient of the people in the other country have so obviously gone completely mad that talking simply won't work anymore. If the thinkers in one country sink so deeply into the mire, they can't expect that thinkers in other countries should have to dirty themselves in dealing with them. There is a particularly interesting issue in the case of American science, where since such a high percentage of the American economy is now dedicated to expenditures for war, so also is at least as high a percentage of science, even so-called 'pure science', paid for by the military with long-term military goals. American science is increasingly the science of bloodshed, and the means by which the current insane hegemony is being imposed on the world.