What gives anyone the right to define what others can and cannot say? This is a question one inevitably has to think about when looking at the tragedy that took place at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. The entire Western concept of justice is based on the rights of the individual, while not forgetting our democratic decision-making and social systems. I’ve been baffled by some of the recent comments looking at the terrorist attack in Paris from the viewpoint that it was “self-inflicted”, a result of publishing provocative pictures. Under no circumstances is the killing of defenceless people justified, not even if their writings or drawings might leave some room for stylistic critique.
It’s a short way from limiting the freedom of speech to limiting the freedom of science. All one has to do is to look back on the early days of the scholars advocating the heliocentric model in the Middle Ages, for example, and what happened to them. However, it’s the very freedom of science that has given birth to the society we live in today. Unlimited thinking, unlimited research and unlimited publishing of research findings are the only way to create new things that, at best, can benefit the entire mankind. We can’t let anything or anyone stop us from doing what we think is best in the fields of science and communication, just as long as we remember our own ethical obligations.