[OPE-L] Calls grow for withdrawal of Nobel prize in economics

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon Dec 12 2005 - 08:37:22 EST


Calls grow for withdrawal of Nobel prize
 Israeli group objects to award for 'warmongers'
 Game theory used for political bias, say critics
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Saturday December 10, 2005

Guardian
A group of Israeli intellectuals and activists has demanded that the Nobel
prize committee withdraw the award for economics to be made today to an
Israeli mathematician and his American colleague on the grounds that they
are "warmongers".
The economics prize is to be presented to Robert Aumann of Hebrew
University in Jerusalem and Thomas Schelling of Maryland University in
recognition of their "having enhanced our understanding of conflict and
cooperation through game-theory analysis", a mathematical study of how
individuals and governments react to other people's actions including in
war.
The awarding of Nobel peace prizes is often controversial but it is rare
for the scientific laureates to generate significant opposition. However,
a petition to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences signed by about 1,000
intellectuals and academics from Israel, Europe and America describes the
awarding of this year's prize to the two professors as "monstrous".
The critics accuse Professor Aumann - a member of the hawkish thinktank,
Professors for a Strong Israel, which believes the Jewish state should
retain the occupied territories - of using his mathematical theories to
promote his political views. "Aumann uses his analysis to justify the
Israeli occupation and the oppression of the Palestinians," the petition
says.
It describes Professor Schelling's theories as directly inspiring the US
military strategy in Vietnam, including the indiscriminate bombing of
civilians. "This strategy resulted in 2 million civilian deaths and was a
complete failure in realising its objectives," the petition says.
"Neither of these individuals has contributed anything that improves the
human condition; rather, they have contributed to the misery of millions."
The petition is signed by Israeli peace campaigners, economists,
academics, Holocaust survivors and leftwing politicians. Signatories from
about 50 other countries, including the US and several Arab states, have
also supported it. Those from Britain include academics at several
universities, members of groups such as Jews against Zionism, and
activists in the Respect party.
Shraga Elam, an Israeli writer among those behind the petition, concedes
that his objection is to Prof Aumann's political views and not to the
quality of the analysis on game theory. "Every person, including a Nobel
prize laureate, is entitled to his political views," he said. "But ... it
is not enough to say that politics does not enter in to it.
"Can a racist or a Holocaust denier receive the Nobel prize even if he is
very talented in his scientific field? Political views are relevant." Prof
Aumann, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and moved to Israel in 1956,
has described the removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip as an
"expulsion" and described it as "immoral, inhuman and stupid".
In a recorded interview with an American website after winning the Nobel
prize, Prof Aumann said game theory showed that prime minister Ariel
Sharon's withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip was a mistake.
"From a game theory point of view it was a very bad move. But if I didn't
study game theory, I would also say the same thing.
"It was a bad move because it sends a signal to the other side that if you
apply enough pressure then we will respond in a way that you're applying
pressure. It's a bad move theoretically. It sends the wrong signal," he
said. In another interview he was asked if, according to his theory, he
foresaw an end to the conflict in the near future. "It's been going on for
at least 80 years and as far as I can see it is going to go on for at
least another 80 years. I don't see any end to this one, I'm sorry to
say," he said.
The petition calls on the Swedish Academy to withdraw the prize. "You
should reverse your decision to reward Professors Schelling and Aumann. We
request that you find people who have truly advanced the health and
welfare of humanity, as has always been the intention of the Nobel prize,"
it says. The Swedish academy responded to the campaign by saying it "makes
its decisions based on the quality of the scientific contribution".
Prof Aumann, who was travelling to accept the award, was not immediately
available for comment but he was asked about the petition at a recent
press conference and said he would not dignify the petition by speaking
about it.
Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


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