Thursday, October 12, 2006

Catholic League Denounces DePaul's Noman Finkelstein


October 11, 2006



Catholic League president Bill Donohue issued the following remarks today
about an incident involving a DePaul University professor:

.Catholics have every right to expect that Catholic colleges and
universities are free from bigotry of any kind. Unfortunately, a recent
ugly incident by DePaul professor Norman G. Finkelstein has betrayed that
trust. To be specific, an online column he wrote at suggesting
that Alan Dershowitz be assassinated, coupled with an obscene depiction of
the Harvard professor, is cause for alarm.

.Finkelstein has every right to quarrel with Dershowitz.s proud defense of
Israel.s right to exist, but when he compares him to a Nazi (this
despicable charge is made twice), then elementary standards of civility
have been shattered. Similarly, calling Dershowitz a .moral pervert. who
.missed the climactic scene of his little peep show. is the language used
by street propagandists, not academicians. Make no mistake about it,
Finkelstein wrote this to illustrate the vicious cartoon he commissioned:
Dershowitz is depicted masturbating in glee over dead Lebanese civilians.
It doesn.t get much lower than this.

.There are plenty of arenas in and around Chicago where those who want to
rant can go to express themselves, but a university is not such a venue:
the university exists so that the truth may be pursued. That is what a
liberal arts education is expected to provide, and it is nothing but a
travesty when the rights afforded faculty members are abused in the way
Finkelstein has done. This is doubly true when it happens on a Catholic

.The time has come for responsible Catholic leaders to hold up a stop sign
to this kind of ad hominem assault. Robust free speech should be welcomed
on campus, but if it is to have pedagogical value, it must respect logic
and standards of evidence. Character assassination of the kind Finkelstein
engages in does not meet that test. He has abused his rights as a faculty
member and he has defamed Catholic education..

2. An excellent column worth following:

3. Another Professor for a new Holocaust:

4. Suppressing free speech at Columbia Madrassah:

5. Leftist churches for North Korea:

6. Pseudo-scientists with a political agenda:
October 6, 2006

Under the Microscope
October 6, 2006; Page W13

This was a banner week for American science. The Nobel Prizes for
medicine, physics and chemistry all went to Americans. The awards
underline the universally acknowledged fact that the U.S. is the world
leader not only in its aggregation of talent but in its ability to nurture
that talent. First-class universities, along with copious private and
federal funding for research, are often cited as key enablers. But few
would deny that money can't buy the most important element: a society that
encourages independent thinking, open debate and an unbounded spirit of

That is one reason why it is always dismaying when scientists -- of all
people -- suggest that on some subjects there must be no questioning
because debate is closed. And on one level, at least, this would seem to
be the implicit message of the newly formed 527 political organization
called Scientists and Engineers for America, or SEA.

In announcing its launch last week, the group said that it is concerned
about how the Bush administration has "compromised the integrity of
science" with, among other things, its policies on global warming and
stem-cell research and its (alleged) support for nonscientific
"intelligent design" theories of evolution. SEA members have also cited a
delay in making the "morning-after" pill, sold under the name Plan B,
readily available over-the-counter as another example of a sustained
government "assault" on science and scientists.

Such complaints have been heard before from scientists and others. What's
new is that SEA is explicitly dedicated to defeating political candidates
nationwide who support policies that SEA members oppose. Although the
organization describes itself as nonpartisan, its known targets are
Republicans. (A broader description of SEA goals can be found on its Web
site at www.sefora.org1.)

Whether SEA will become a science-themed version of or
something more catholic is not yet clear. One of the most visible SEA
members so far is genetics Ph.D. Michael Stebbins, whose personal Web blog
(at sexdrugsanddna.com2) includes a poem asking Jesus to make sure that
Ohio's disgraced Republican Rep. Bob Ney gets sodomized in prison.

On the other hand, there are the softer tones of SEA member and 2003 Nobel
laureate in chemistry Dr. Peter Agre. He told us that although he is a
life-long Democrat, his driving interest is in promoting sound science. He
added that he also hopes to help repopularize science and its leading
figures -- as in earlier days, when children thrilled to see people like
Jonas Salk and Wernher von Braun explain medical and rocket science on TV.

Although SEA clearly is not nonpartisan in the way most people understand
that word, it is of course free to have a point of view: Political
activism is a hallmark of a democratic society. The more disturbing
disingenuousness here involves the suggestion in some SEA statements that
there is such a thing as absolute, accurate science -- a body of facts --
that is beyond further investigation. And that certain subjects or
findings are not open to interpretation or discussion by nonscientists,
including policy makers. In other words, when Americans raise questions
about the moral implications of, say, stem-cell research, they are
trumping science with "ideology." Presumably, those who disagree have no
ideology or political agenda, only factual knowledge on a case that is

In truth, the best science flows from eternal questioning. Interestingly,
Dr. Agre, who supports broadened stem-cell research, also told us that its
promise as an avenue to new cures may be "overhyped."

His frankness on that sensitive topic might alarm some fellow SEA members,
who will worry that such an admission could be used as ammunition by
"ideologists" of the other side. Yet he is speaking like a true scientist
here: eager to press ahead in exploration and yet unafraid to admit that
nobody can be sure which is the best direction.

That's the sort of thinking that produces Nobel Prizes.

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