Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, and Joseph Osmundson:
As we face threats to humanity ranging from continued violations of Native American sovereignty and anti-Black violence, to anti-refugee policies and the denial of global warming — a phenomenon that promises to displace more and more people — now is the time for scientists to ask:
What is our moral duty as scientists?
As scientists, our funding swells on the fortunes of commercial, governmental, and military spending. It can shrink just as easily. Many scientists view their work as objective, operating outside of the realm of the political; ostensibly, facts are facts and shouldn’t be subjected to opinions. History has shown us again and again, however, that science does not exist in a vacuum, but will be exactly used — as a constructive tool or a weapon — to impact ideological, political, and socioeconomic goals. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see that politics, ethics, and science have always been inextricably entwined.
Attacks on those at the margins — both within and without the scientific community — are attacks on human knowledge, on the very advancement of our society.
They are attacks on all of us.
Already we have heard our scientific colleagues murmur about trying to keep our work and ourselves “apolitical.” We even saw an early, now-retracted statement from the American Physical Society (APS) that sought to capitalize on Trump’s racist dog-whistle slogan “Make America Great Again.” While APS eventually recanted their statement, we understand that it reflects a deeply flawed, but broadly held belief among scientists that bipartisanship is always the answer, even if that means power-sharing with an administration that intends to cause financial and physical harm to vulnerable members of society — many of whom are scientists, the very people doing the work they claim to want to protect.
There is no island in the center here. There is no safety in our silence. Professional standards and ambitions are not a substitute for morals, political or otherwise.
Beyerchen acknowledges that physicists like Nobel Laureates Planck and Heisenberg were people of conviction, but they were overly concerned with following the rules — cowardly obedience — rather than creatively and strategically resisting a fascist regime. We must not replicate their mistake.