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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

January 31, 2003

Is a scientific boycott ever justified?

This article in the reputable magazine Nature offers guidelines and suggests that only under the most egregious of circumstances ought scientists depart from the universality of science.
...If, in extreme circumstances, the principle of universality of science has to be weighed against conflicting imperatives, it is all the more important to spell out the reasons why scientists hold it to be precious. We suggest that they include the following:
1) The advance of science is potentially of benefit to all mankind, and therefore avoidable obstacles to its pursuit are undesirable.
2) Since the value of a given contribution to science ought to be judged on its own merits rather than on the basis of any characteristics of the person making the contribution, the exclusion of a particular group of people from the scientific enterprise for reasons that are irrelevant to the science itself (for instance, citizenship) is a perversion of the objectivity that science demands.
3) With humankind dangerously divided by race, citizenship, religion and so on, the continued ability of scientists to cooperate in a way that transcends these boundaries is an important symbol of, and impetus to, the breakdown of such divisions.

And that suggests that to bar Israeli scientists from attending science conferences is not merely counter productive but a violation of the standard of the universality of science and an expression of personal likes and dislikes.
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