Strange as it may seem, my dissociation from the Association results from the call to renew my membership. Not from its simple substance, which is donating money to some science-related activities and staff supporting them, but from the form. And from the results of my discussion of that form with individuals who are responsible for it - Mr. Ian King, the AAAS Director of Marketing, and Dr. Alan Leshner, the CEO of the AAAS. The contents of that discussion are presented below. I wish my concerns were shared by the community, but I see no reason not to believe Mr. King, the marketing director, who said I had been the only one to raise them. Nevertheless, don't hesitate to comment this way or another.
Notice anything out of order? Perhaps you can't clearly see the image I scanned. The renewal certificate offers an incredibly attractive deal: in addition to Science, some bonus subscriptions and member savings on the AAAS annual meeting I've never attended, I'd get - for 2-year membership - a "FREE Darwin T-shirt!" I cannot know if Darwin would be thrilled by knowing that his likeness serves as a marketing tool, even though his known modesty makes that doubtful. We can, however, safely guess that he, who considered belief in G-d "ennobling" and connected the Golden Rule as the "foundation of morality" with natural human social instincts (see The Descent of Man), would not want to be associated with the bloody revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
11/23/2010 7:33 PM
The response that followed was prompt:
From: Alan Leshner <email@example.com>;
To: Michael Vanyukov <firstname.lastname@example.org>;
Date: Nov 24 2010 - 2:13pm
We can certainly understand and sympathize with your perspective. We in
no way meant for this t-shirt to be construed as an endorsement of the
policies or practices of Che Guevara. Indeed our human rights group here
at AAAS is well aware of the oppressive nature of the former communist
regimes, a practice which we know continues in those remaining communist
countries today. As you may know we no longer distribute this t-shirt.
We believe to call attention to this product on the web site now and
revisit the "Che" symbol would be counter-productive to your overriding
concerns. It is our belief that the t-shirts, like the "Che" character,
are best left to fade away.
We hope you will reconsider your membership as we value your opinions
and unique point-of-view
With best wishes,
Obviously, I disagree that somebody should know better what better serves my "overriding concerns" while I am still sane. This is especially so when this judgment is offered by people who have been willing - for two years, by Mr. King's admission - to use an image of a mass murderer who has long been a symbol of communist regimes. Despite the AAAS human rights group's alleged awareness of communist oppression. One of those overriding concerns of mine is exactly that my point of view is considered "unique". In fact, the image of Guevara is so popular in the US universities that the AAAS decided, in the words of its marketing director, "to play off of the Guevara T-shirts that one often sees on college campuses and other places. It was intended to parody that piece of pop culture while serving as a statement of support for the continued preeminence of Darwin's theories." The AAAS's mindless willingness to employ the Guevara chic and laissez-faire attitude to its meaning will contribute to the perpetuation and rise of his popularity, with his and Darwin's images now merged thanks to the AAAS t-shirt.
No wonder the evolutionary theory - the guiding light of biology - scares those who have not got a chance to get higher education. Education does not make one immune from moral confusion, and sometimes is associated with arrogance preventing timely correction of moral lapses. Neither this confusion nor "the 'Che' character" are likely to "fade away" soon.