Friday, November 23, 2007

Science is now terrorism

The "war on terror" has always included a strong element of suppressing science and technology, as 9/11 caused various intelligence agencies to freak out over just how easy it was to kill people in a modern technoligical society. So we've seen the US government stripping Iraq of medical isotopes to prevent them from being used in radiological weapons (which means Iraqis get to die of cancer in the name of American security), and the SIS spying on New Zealand universities in case students learn anything "dangerous". But it's now reached its ultimate absurdity with a British man who has been forbidden to take high-school-level science courses because he is a suspected terrorist:

The man, referred to as A.E., is contesting the decision in court, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind. The preliminary hearing over whether A.E. should be allowed to take AS-level courses in human biology and chemistry took place on 16 November at London's High Court. The UK Home Office, which has an order restricting A.E.'s actions and affiliations, argues that such coursework could be turned towards terrorism. His solicitors counter that the knowledge is public, and that the furthering of A.E.'s education poses no threat.
(To see what's in the courses, try here or here).

This is Orwellian in the extreme. The idea that the government should be able to vet what people read and learn is utterly totalitarian. What next? Banning people from reading the Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia because they might learn something so simple as the germ theory of disease or the basics of enthalpy? Bombing high schools and universities to prevent the spread of dangerous knowledge?

What's even more absurd that this is stuff he already knows - the man is a trained doctor, wanting to brush up and continue his medical education (his qualifications naturally being unrecognised in the UK). But science is apparently terrorism, at least if you're from the Middle East.

(Hat tip: Scruffydan).