A chilling free speech crisis has wrecked any chance of a sensible Covid debate

Although it seems a tad too hyperbolic to contend that the West’s commitment to intellectual freedom officially died in 1991, the date was symbolic. In the same year that the Soviet Union collapsed, the most brilliant theoretical physicist of the day resigned from the American Physical Society. Nobel Prize winner Prof Julian Schwinger had made the mistake of turning his attention to cold fusion – the theory that the process powering the Sun can be replicated at room temperature, promising abundant cheap energy. Physics journals refused to publish a theoretical analysis that challenged their received wisdom.

“The pressure for conformity is enormous,” he wrote in a resignation letter that warned that censorship threatened “the death of science.” Whether he was right or wrong…

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