I recently stumbled upon a piece in The New Yorker, European Science’s Great Leap Backward. The fact that Europe has begun to prefer politics to data wasn’t really a surprise nor a revelation, but it did provide some additional overtones to the nagging feeling that I’ve had for some time.
The Great Leap Backward is demonstrated by a job that is no more – the position of a science adviser to the President of the European Commission is history. Apparently/It seems/it has been suggested that Anne Glover, the last person to hold the title, stepped on too many Green toes. What were her sins?
The complaint against Glover was simple: when providing scientific advice to the commission on a range of issues, from nanotechnology to G.M.O.s, she invoked data rather than rely on politics or whim. Last year, at a conference in Scotland, for example, she said that there was “not a single piece of scientific evidence” to support critics’ claims that food produced from G.M.O.s was less safe than food grown in any other way.
(emphasis by Yours Truly)
Add the anti-vaccination movement, the “chemtrails community” and the increased interest in and practice of alternative medicine to the above mentioned issues and a trend emerges. One which will surely thrive in a Europe without a scientific adviser.
Don’t believe me? A few years ago the management of the University of Zagreb (sic!) hired an “bioenergy expert” to check their premises prior to interior decoration. Further to the West, Canada had a possible creationist serving as the Federal Minister of Science for five years. Meanwhile, creationism is gaining territory across the American school system. There are probably myriads of equally or more astonishing examples in everybody’s neighbourhood.
So, are we as a species really so diversiform, with smart people pulling forward and the stupid pulling back, that the best solution really is to separate? As in, divided we stand, together we fall?