Report of the 16th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting

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Report of the 16th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting

by J.A. Gross

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 4, July 1972, p. 25

At the 16th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in Toronto, Canada, February 24-27, attended by some 1200 scientists in the area of biophysics, biochemistry, biology and medically related disciplines, one of the special symposia of major significance was that on the Social Responsibility of Scientists. This symposium drew an audience of more than 250 scientists to hear a panel on the subject of: Scientists, the Anti-draft Program and Repatriation. The discussants were Professor Lee Lorch of York University, Toronto; Jack Colhoun, editor of AmexCanada, a publication of the exiled American draft-resisters residing in Canada (incidently, Amex-Canada subscriptions are available from Amex-Canada, P.O. Box 198, Station D, Toronto 165, Ontario, Canada); Earl Nestman, a graduate student at York University who himself is an expatriate; and Rev. John Morgan of the First Unitarian Congress in Toronto and Paul Copeland, lawyer. These men spoke of the problems and hardships faced by American youth who, because of their convictions of the immorality of the Vietnam War, are self-exiled in Canada and other countries of the World; they spoke of the injustice of denying these expatriates the right to return to the country of their birth to live or to visit; and they described like injustices against their Brother draft-resisters who chose not to leave the United States and are now wasting in this country’s jails. The point was also made that deserters, like draft-resisters, are deserving of the same consideration since deserters generally come from lower economic levels than resisters and therefore did not have the educational background to permit them to solidify their ideas prior to accepting enforced military service. Furthermore, these individuals had neither the resources nor the counsel available to permit them to make alternative decisions at the time they were selected for induction. Present amnesty laws never take the deserters into consideration and are therefore another example of socioeconomic discrimination; it is a sad reflection of the bigoted thought patterns of our social system.

At the end of the session, in order to determine audience sentiment, Dr. Alfred Strickholm of Indiana University, chairman of the symposium requested a show of hands to signify agreement with the principle of amnesty for these young Americans. Almost 100% (vote was 200 yes to 5 no’s) of the largely American audience of scientists attending that session raised their hands in the affirmative. Yet when a resolution recommending amnesty was presented to the body of biophysicists at their business meeting, the motion was tabled before discussion could be heard. This says little for the social concern and sensitivity of this group.

It is now generally agreed that the United States intervention in and conduct of the Vietnam War is immoral and should never have occurred. If so, then all that these draft resisters can be accused of, in the words of the cartoonist, Jules Pfeiffer, is “premature morality”.


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