Scientist talk canceled at Harvard after “threat” to Dershowitz

This seems to be the “gift” that keeps on giving. Now a prominent evolutionary biologist, Robert Trivers had his talk canceled after publication of his letter in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in which he wrote:

Regarding your rationalization of Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians, let me just say that if there is a repeat of Israeli butchery toward Lebanon and if you decide once again to rationalize it publicly, look forward to a visit from me. Nazis — and Nazi-like apologists such as yourself — need to be confronted directly.”

Dershowitz claimed that he thought this was a physical threat and reported it as such and did nothing to try to get the lecture canceled. From the Boston Globe:

“Robert Trivers said he had been invited to speak at Harvard to celebrate a prestigious international award he recently won. He planned to discuss his research on self-deception, including how self-deception factored in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last year.”

There is, of course, a back story here that concerns the Norman Finklestein/Alan Dershowitz imbroglio regarding Finkelstein’s tenure application. Trivers, in the WSJ, was denying that his criticism of Dershowitz had anything to do with Finkelstein. Although Dershowitz, in the WSJ, said that Finkelstein “encouraged radical goons to e-mail threatening messages.”

This situation is generally unseemly, the hyperbolic and demonizing language of Trivers and Dershowitz, combined with Dershowitz’s disingenuous need to involve the police makes for a less than pleasant scenario. This being said, does any of this really justify an academic lecture being canceled?

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