Friday, February 10, 2017

Mathematician Tao rants about visa ban

Australian citizen, UCLA professor, and mathematical genius Terry Tao writes:
Mathematical research is clearly an international activity. But actually a stronger claim is true: mathematical research is a transnational activity, in that the specific nationality of individual members of a research team or research community are (or should be) of no appreciable significance for the purpose of advancing mathematics. ...

With the recent and highly publicised executive order on immigration, many of these fundamental assumptions have been seriously damaged, if not destroyed altogether. ... This is already affecting upcoming or ongoing mathematical conferences or programs in the US, with many international speakers (including those from countries not directly affected by the order) now cancelling their visit, either in protest or in concern about their ability to freely enter and leave the country. ...

Of course, the impact of this executive order is far, far broader than just its effect on mathematicians and mathematical research.
His post has dozens of comments agreeing with him.

I kept looking for some sign of tangible harm, but skipping a conference in order to protest President Trump is not.
For instance, right now I am at MSRI, together with about a hundred other mathematicians, for semester-long programs in Analytic Number Theory and in Harmonic Analysis. ...

It was already a painful decision for us as organisers to turn away many qualified applicants due to lack of space; in the future the problem will be exacerbated by applicants being unable or unwilling to attend due to travel uncertainties that did not previously exist. ...

Such opportunities may now be denied to many promising young mathematicians, simply by accident of their country of origin.
So Tao is having a wonderful at a USA tax-funded research facility, and qualified Americans are being turned away in favor of mathematicians from hostile Moslem countries.

Tao's argument doesn't even make any sense. If fewer mathematicians can come due to visa difficulties, then that would reduce to need to reject qualified applicants.

Every position offered to a Syrian means one more rejection to a qualified American.

I understand that Tao may have no loyalties to America or to those who pay his 6-figure salary. And if Donald Trump were not the President then he would not have to listen to his fellow professors complain about him. That is about all I get out of his post. American mathematics is not dependent on visas from the 7 hostile Moslem countries.

American mathematics would probably be much healthier if American post-docs and others had better opportunities, instead of facing a system that rewards foreigners. If those Iranian mathematicians are so great, maybe they can stay in Iran and persuade their govt to stop trying to make bombs and support terrorists.

A comment says:
Council of the Australian Mathematical Society wishes to express their support ...

We are concerned in principle about any discrimination that interferes with the free exchange of mathematical ideas across borders.
No one is interfering with sending mathematical ideas across borders. Just use email!

There will not be any objective evidence of any travel ban (if enforced) on mathematics production. Maybe Americans will get better educations because their professors will speak English.

Mathematicians like Tao have been brainwashed by far-left anti-American interests. He is just lying when he pretends that Trump's order is going to cause mathematics to suffer.

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