Friday, September 26, 2008

Nobel prize winners who didn't sign the letter endorsing Obama

A group of 61 U.S. science Nobel prize winners has signed a somewhat dumb letter endorsing Obama as a visionary leader who will furthermore give more money to science, offer everyone a lot of energy, cure all diseases, and stop the climate from changing. In other words, a true Messiah.

The letter reminds me of some of the "anti-Charter 77" documents supported by scientists and artists who wanted to show how concerned and politically correct they were during communism, by endorsing the only progressive party in the country and by condemning the reactionary elements.

Well, I don't know whether Obama is a visionary. I don't know whether he will give more money to science. And I don't know whether it is a healthy idea to do so. But I am pretty certain that this letter won't mean much.

In democracy, it is a bizarre idea that Nobel prize winners should organize their own political parties and it is a childish idea to think that their Nobel prizes give them a special tool to influence political questions that have nothing to do with their awards.

In the real world, politics and science interact in many ways but there are good reasons to keep them as isolated as possible in many situations. And it is the 61 laureates, and not George Bush - who is squarely in the field of politics, not science - who have transgressed the protective boundaries between science and politics.

And by the way, it would be even more naive to believe that these winners really think that Obama - the famous footnote adviser to Laurence Tribe's crackpot paper called "Curvature of Constitutional Space" - is an intellectual giant above all of the winners as they kindly suggest. :-) They probably have other reasons to write these ludicrous things, don't they?

It might also be interesting to notice that several (alive) U.S. science Nobel prize winners haven't signed it:
  • Günter Blobel, medicine
  • Baruch Blumberg, medicine
  • Paul Boyer, chemistry
  • Thomas Čech, chemistry
  • Steven Chu, physics
  • Elias Corey, chemistry
  • Eric Cornell, physics
  • Hans Dehmelt, physics
  • Gerald Edelman, medicine
  • Andrew Fire, medicine
  • Robert Furchgott, medicine
  • Daniel Gajdusek, medicine
  • Murray Gell-Mann, physics
  • Ivar Giaever, physics
  • Roy Glauber, physics
  • Herbert Hauptman, chemistry
  • Alan Heeger, chemistry
  • David Hubel, medicine
  • Russell Hulse, physics
  • Jerome Karle, chemistry
  • Har Khorana, medicine
  • William Knowles, chemistry
  • Edwin Krebs, medicine
  • Robert Laughlin, physics
  • David Lee, physics
  • Tsung-Dao Lee, physics
  • Yuan Lee, chemistry
  • William Lipscomb, chemistry
  • Roderick MacKinnon, chemistry
  • Rudolph Marcus, chemistry
  • John Mather, physics
  • Kary Mullis, chemistry
  • Ferid Murad, medicine
  • Joseph Murray, medicine
  • George Olah, chemistry
  • George Palade, medicine
  • Arno Penzias, physics
  • Martin Perl, physics
  • William Phillips, physics
  • David Politzer, physics
  • Irwin Rose, chemistry
  • Andrew Schally, medicine
  • John Schriefer, physics
  • Phillip Sharp, medicine
  • Karl Sharpless, chemistry
  • Hideki Shirakawa, chemistry
  • Hamilton Smith, medicine
  • George Smoot, physics
  • Samuel Ting, physics
  • Steven Weinberg, physics
  • Carl Wieman, physics
  • Kenneth Wilson, physics
  • Rosalyn Yalow, medicine
  • Ahmed Zewail, chemistry
Nothing against the 61 authors of the letter linked above - but thanks to the people in my list. ;-) With 54 non-signatories, we still lost but the results in November can be different.

Among the 54 people, I have spoken to a couple of laureates, including Gell-Mann, Glauber, Hubel, Weinberg, and Wilson. In the list of the pro-Obama signatories, I have talked to Gilbert, Glashow, Gross, Ramsey, and Wilczek, if I haven't forgotten about anyone (which is very likely), so if this filter of mine is included, it's already a tie! :-)

Well, I don't want to claim that e.g. Steven Weinberg will inevitably vote for McCain/Palin but you can't rule out this hypothesis by looking at the letter only! :-) And I am convinced that many people on my list will vote for the GOP ticket and I could even tell you some names if it weren't ... politically incorrect.

Off-topic: Climate Wars, a propagandistic BBC program about the climate science, has led to ... well, Climate Wars: see BBC again.

No comments:

Post a Comment