Thursday, February 03, 2005

God and man and fluid dynamics

Paul Nevai, a mathematician at Ohio State, complains that God got a good notice in an obituary:

If an article deals with some religious aspects of the life of a mathematician, I would see no problems with it since that is part of a person's total picture. However, if an obituary writer injects a sentence such as "God gave her an easy death" ... I find it offensive, just as many readers of the Notices would feel if I elaborated on my views on religion in this letter.

This astounds me on so many levels! The "offensive" authors are two prominent Russian scholars, Gregory Seregin and Nina Uraltseva. They were invited to write about their late colleague Olga Alexandrovna Ladyzhenskaya by a prominent publication, the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Surely they have earned the right to speak the truth as they see it. Not too long ago, that was considered the right and the duty of all scholars, even lowly Assistant Professors, and even undergraduates.

Is anyone surprised nowadays to meet college graduates who can't write coherently? Or do ninth-grade algebra? Is anyone really shocked anymore when a college invites a convicted terrorist to teach writing because she can offer students a "unique perspective"? Or when conservatives and Christians are excluded from academic jobs? Or when college course registrations have racial requirements? Or when dissenting freshmen at liberal campuses are hounded to suicide? Or when a student is thrown out of his dorm into a cold New Hampshire fall because he wrote things that an administrator disagreed with?

Unlike the obituary which so offended Dr. Nevai, these are all truly offensive situations with real victims. The letter-writer may be honestly offended by Seregin and Uraltseva's mention of the Almighty. But that doesn't make him a victim. Sadly, it simply makes him a bigot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's "fluid dynamics" ?