Several people have already responded to the philosophical arguments in Rahmat Muhammad's March 9 column on the Veritas forum at MIT. Rather than continue the discussion on meaning, I would like to respond to Ms. Muhammad's characterization of the Veritas forum and her suggestion that such forums are inappropriate for the MIT community. I applaud Ms. Muhammad for bringing awareness to the possible pitfalls that might occur at the interface of science and religion. However, I feel that Ms. Muhammad's article misrepresented the nature of the Veritas forum in several ways that must be addressed.
I'm going to be quick and I'm going to be blunt: I support Lauren Oldja and Steve Kelch for President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Association. Why? They are best positioned to get the most done. End of story. You do not need to read further unless you want to know my basis for this opinion.
Over the past few years, the paean to the rapid expansion of emerging economies has reached a crescendo. The excitement is palpable and everywhere. And unlike the similar frenzy about “Asian Tigers” in the mid-90s, this seems to be no swan song. The fate of the first world is now inextricably linked with these countries. The debate if the world is, or should be flat is passé. The more interesting question concerns our impact in this world.
I would like to respond to Rahmat Muhammad’s letter entitled, “In Search of Meaning: Beyond the Veritas Forum.” Ms. Muhammad correctly states that the Veritas Forum on Science, Faith, and Technology sought to address whether religious belief, specifically a belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity, can exist in intellectual harmony with scientific pursuit. I am writing this letter because Ms. Muhammad affirms that resolving “the need for a meaningful life and a career in science” is an important issue. In addition, she welcomes critiques of her definition of “meaning,” which I will attempt to offer.
The March 6 article "CME Being Funded Another Year" mistakenly stated that applications for the Cambridge-MIT Exchange "are due in the next few weeks." Actually, the deadline has already passed and the evalution process has been started, although interested students can still contact their departments or the Study Abroad Office to submit an application, according to Malgorzata Hedderick, assistant dean for the Study Abroad Office.
Raffaela L. Wakeman's letter to <i>The Tech</i> ("Responses to Controversial Forum are Misleading") is, itself, misleading. Her letter was the latest in the ongoing debate over the event "Foreign Policy and Social Justice: A Jewish View, A Muslim View," at which an anti-Semitic Imam and an anti-Israel Rabbi were chosen to give the Muslim and Jewish views. Many people on campus feel that it was inappropriate to give that title to the event, as neither speaker has the support of the community he was held out as representing. Some also take issue with MIT-funded groups like the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences providing funding to an event for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speakers. Others, including Ms. Wakeman, the VP of the Forum on American Progress (which co-sponsored the event), support it. She made six points to which I feel the need to respond.
Last week, MIT hosted the Veritas Forum on Science, Faith, and Technology, purportedly to address whether religious belief can be effectively reconciled with scientific pursuit. Veritas began with a Harvard group on a "quest for a life with hope, meaning, and purpose." The event's speakers (and its parent Web site) argued that the individual can and should believe in Christ, and did their best to convince non-religious but "meaning-seeking" members of the scientific community (and to reassure the religious) that belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity can satisfy both the need for a meaningful life and a career in science.
Ali S. Wyne’s Feb. 27 opinion article, “Defending Free Speech at MIT,” misses the point made by numerous students and alumni who protested the event “Foreign Policy and Social Justice: A Jewish View, A Muslim View.” Mr. Wyne states that “we cannot claim to support free speech if we only invite individuals whose views fall within an acceptable continuum.” While it is true that Dovid Weiss’ views fall far outside the views of any member of the MIT Jewish community — and indeed more than 99 percent of the world’s Jewish population—that is not the reason for opposition to Weiss speaking at the event. The MIT Jewish community so greatly opposed Weiss because he was brought under the guise of presenting a Jewish view, not the skewed, radical view he presented that is condemned by nearly every sect of Judaism worldwide.
My name is Noel (Noah) Elman, I am a post-doctoral associate at MIT. My wife and I recently moved from Israel to do research at this famous institution about 7 months ago. I am compelled to write this letter as I see it as my moral obligation to convey my deepest ever possible disappointment at MIT after the Forum titled “Foreign Policy and Social Justice: A Jewish View, a Muslim View” was held in this prestigious institution.
Who should be allowed to lecture in public forums? Rabbi Dovid Weiss and Imam Muhammad al-Asi spoke last Thursday at "Foreign Policy and Social Justice: A Jewish View, A Muslim View." Given that their opinions are so contentious, should the event's sponsors have hesitated before inviting them?
The organizers of the recent event entitled “Foreign Policy and Social Justice: a Jewish View, a Muslim View” abused their academic right to free speech to spread horrible lies, hurting the MIT community and staining the good name of the Institute. As Jewish alumni, we are disgusted that Dovid Weiss was invited to present a “Jewish” view, despite the fact he is rejected across the Jewish spectrum for his unethical politics and his disgraceful warping of the history of the Holocaust.
Upon finding a group of hackers in the MIT Faculty Club after hours last October, the campus police reacted by filing charges of felony breaking and entering against the students. In the subsequent four months, MIT's administration has remained callously uninvolved in the situation. Not only is the police's Draconian reaction to a minor infringement by members of our own community wholly unjustified, but the administration's lack of response to the charges is deplorable.
Prof. James Sherley's hunger strike and charges of racism against MIT have catalyzed a welcome public dialogue on race relations. We must be careful, however, to ensure balance as we take advantage of this opportunity to improve community standards and understanding: in addition to examining the extent and effect of racism, both within and beyond minority populations, we must also be willing to discuss the problematic role of race-baiting and hyperbole within the public realm.