Within the scientific activities carried out by the Palestine Academy for Science and Technology, the Academy held a plenary meeting on 21 February 2008 entitled “Theoretical Physics and Ethics of Science” on the premises of the PRCS Building in Al-Bireh.
The Academy hosted scientists from France, Italy and the United States of America who, along with scientists from universities and institutions in the Palestinian Authority, gave lectures on science and ethics.
The Academy was extremely honored to have the honorary member Professor. Gerard Toulouse, Professor at Paris University and former Chair of the Standing Committee on Science & Ethics of All European Academies (ALLEA), in addition to being Chair of the Committee for Exact and Natural Sciences of the French National Commission for UNESCO. The focus of his work has been on theoretical physics, moving from studies of matter (condensed matter, phase transitions, and disordered systems) to studies of life (neural networks and brain theories) and higher functions of the mind (cognition and ethics). Prof. Toulouse has received several international distinction awards such as the British-French Holweck Prize (1983) and the European Cecil Powell Memorial Medal (1999).
The former Academy secretary general, Dr. Imad Khatib, welcomed all keynote speakers at the meeting, in addition to the rest of the participants from the different universities and institutions and gave a brief outline regarding the work and current activities of the Academy.
During the first session, Dr. Imad Al-Khatib welcomed Professor Gerard Toulouse, honorary member of the Palestine Academy and the Director of scientific research at Paris University in addition to being an eminent scholar on the subject of scientific ethics and society.
Professor Toulouse then presented the evolution of the concept of scientific ethics from the perspective of science and its relationship to peace and war, in addition to the ethics of Biotechnology that concern human beings and other organisms, and finally outlining the subject of scientific ethics and its relation to sustainable development. Professor Toulouse reviewed the efforts done by the International Foundation UNESCO on the subject of scientific ethics. In the same session, Dr. Gabi Baramki reviewed the concept of scientific ethics and the duty of scientists in areas exposed to war and conflict. He then moved to the specific and unique Palestinian arena, where it is obvious that since no Israeli scientists or scientific institutions oppose the repressive practices of the Israeli occupation, scientific ethics oblige Palestinian scientists to have no academic or scientific cooperation with Israel. Only when the repression and occupation end, cooperation between the aforementioned scientific institutions becomes more feasible.
During the second session, Dr Gabi Baramki, who has served as a member of the General Council of Pugwash, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Assembly opposing nuclear weapons and war, gave an overview of the Assembly and shed light on some controversial issues in the region of the Middle East. He specifically emphasized the fact that Israel views itself being above the law, since it is the only country in the region that possesses nuclear weapons therefore posing a threat on the entire region without having any objection from the rest of the world, while other countries in the region are prevented from having similar initiatives and programs, which is morally wrong.
As for the third session, Dr Imad Al-Barghouthi welcomed Dr. Yali Amit, professor of computer sciences and specialist of system development (identifying image components) at the University of Chicago. Dr. Amit pointed out that a lot of the scientists who work in the region refuse job offers that have to do with the research and the development of systems for guiding missiles as they are in direct contradiction to scientific ethics.
Then Professor Miguel Virasoro from the University of Rome, former director of the Abdul Salam Center of Physics in Trieste, Italy, presented the Centre, which was established by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Salam, and reiterated that the center hosts many scientists from all over the world, including Palestine. He also talked about the work of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in Italy, and the availability of scientific research grants for Palestinian scientists. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Sami Jaber, Dean of Scientific Research at An-Najah University regarding theoretical physics.
At the end of the meeting, the Academy welcomed the significant ideas and suggestions made by the distinguished participants and hoped to follow them up aptly in due time. Moreover, the Academy also took the opportunity at the end of the meeting to hand over an award to Professor Gerard Toulouse as a token of recognition to his work in the field of scientific ethics.