Letters to the Editor

Oppenheimer's Advice on Boycotts: Don't

August 07, 2011

To the Editor:

For any of us who are tempted to support academic boycotts, please consider carefully the advice given by J. Robert Oppenheimer in his 1962 lecture "War and the Nations":

"Whenever we see an opportunity, we have the duty to work for the growth of [an] international community of knowledge and understanding ... with our colleagues in other lands, with our colleagues in competing, antagonistic, possibly hostile lands, with our colleagues and with others with whom we have any community of interest, any community of professional, of human, or of political concern.

"We think of these activities as our contribution, not very different from those of anybody else, but with an emphasis conditioned by the experiences of growing, increasing understanding of the natural physical world, in an increasingly tangled, increasingly wonderful and unexpected situation. We think of this as our contribution to the making of a world which is varied and cherishes variety, which is free and cherishes freedom, and which is freely changing to adapt to the inevitable needs of change in the twentieth century and all centuries to come, but a world which, with all its variety, freedom, and change, is without nation states armed for war and above all, a world without war."

Todd Silverstein
Professor of Chemistry
Willamette University
Salem, Ore.