Alain Lamassoure, Member of the European Parliament for the south-west of France
It is a privilege and honour for me to welcome this Next Generation Internet Summit here in the European Parliament on behalf of the President Jerzy Buzek and all my present colleagues in this room. We are very proud as members of this Parliament to have played a role in the setting up of the Atomium European Institute which is very important and influential network for the most prominent European scientists. If you allow me a few comments from my part to compliment and elaborate on what has just being said by Commissioners and I am very happy to contribute to their work.
Science is now living through a Golden Age. Progress of fundamental knowledge in the infinitely small as the infinitely large. Explosion of technological applications upon communications, materials in daily life. Scientific and technological evolutions by the interconnectional disciplines.
For example, the so-called boson of prof. Higgs, dark matter, exoplanets, sequencing of human genome, hybridisation, human machine, stem cells, nano materials, artificial intelligence which has been already mentioned are some examples.
This expansion of science in the meaning of the expansion of the Universe, requires from us, the policy makers three types of moral duties:
The First is to give its right place to science in politics, in our decision making. Too many political decisions are still based on incorrect, partial, biased, untreated(?) information.
Example: I was very strict when I was in charge of the budget in the government in my country some time ago. To note that economic policy lies to less reliable data then the meteorology for their forecasts does. We do not know what the weather will be tomorrow, that’s clear, but at least we do know if it is raining now or if the weather is nice today. Well, we have learned only last week what the accurate rate of growth of French industry was three years ago. Don’t let ourselves be deceived by the big data mirage. It all depends on the quality of the data. When it comes to the economy controversies between new Keynesian and the supply – side theories, still reminds us too often of the theological debate between heliocentrism and geo- centrism three or four centuries ago.
Nobel Prise winner Jean Tiroles’ book “Economics of common good” makes a good assessment between what the contemporary economy contains – of science and ideology.
The Second duty to give science all its place, but nothing more than a right place. Science is means, the wellbeing of mankind is the purpose. However, whether is big data, genetic medicine or weapons still to be invented, science gives us an unprecedent power on life quality, on death, but also on biological and social identity of the people of our time.
JFK has been quoted, I will quote him again. In its wonderful inaugural address, JFK quoted Samuel Pisar’s words: “Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life”. It was 1960. He would add today – and the power to choose and change all forms of life.
It’s not for scientists to decide on collective use of their research, it is indeed for policy makers, democratically elected. It took us centuries to make science independent of religion. The Brazilian flag reminds us of the glare of positivist philosophers for whom science was a substitute for religion. Scientism was a wrong way. Carried away by the enthusiasm of their discovery, today California researchers pretend that their science is able and it is allowed to prescribe the future of man kind. It is a current debate now between transhumanism and post humanism. But Europe is birth place of humanism and it must remain so. Science will never be able to give the answer to the fundamental question of human anguish – the meaning of life.
The Third and last duty for us politicians, policymakers – the fight against the new obscurantism. It is the opposite risk of overestimating the role of science. In all of our societies, a form of resentment has been developed against progress and against science.
Originally, where the fight of the researches themselves upon the possible consequences of their works. Let us remember the prof. Oppenheimer reciting to him famous words of the Indian wisdom book Bhagavad Gita in front of the first nuclear explosion in Los Alamos in 1945: “Now I become death, the destroyer of worlds”.
Within the public opinion, the mixture of remorse about 20th century tragedies, but the resentment without the capacity of science to cope with the most serious diseases and kind of giddiness about too rapid progress, leads to prejudice against science or which is worst, to a classification of what’s good and what’s bad morally in the progress of science, or even in categories of science.
For instance, all forms of chemistry of nuclear physics, of nano science are demonised as such. Not the outcome, but as such. Their scholars or specialists are considered as sponsored by lobbies. Somehow it is civilisation regress.
For the good use of science, we do need elective ethics. It is probably one of the most urgent serious issues of this century of globalisation. How to work on it, whom with, how to define common rules, how to make this rules work.
This network is the prefiguration of how to approach this major issue of our time.
We thank for this, Mr. Chairman and all of you, good luck, thank you.