Well, I am the only southamerican in this board, so this could be boring for all of you… you are warned. (BTW if this forum is intended only to discuss US affairs, my apologies to the moderators and please move this to the appropiate forum)
In a few days a new goverment will take power here (in fact, not a big change because the new president is the current presindent’s wife). Today the new minister structure was announced, and it came with a big suprise: the science and tecnology ministery (a ministery is a entity similar to a state deparment in US). And the surprise was bigger when the name of the future minister: Lino Barañao, a molecular biologist, with a strong and solid career in the scientifc area.
Lino Barañao (the person who will have a state secretary level in the new structure) wrote this (in english):
Interesting essay, Barto. I find much to disagree with, and I think it is often quite superficial. But that is nothing compared to my awe that someone not only so clearly scientifically literate but willing to discuss the “biology of religion” and attribute political and moral opinions to possible underlying evolutionary adaptation could hold such a prominent government position. In the U.S. that would be, sadly, hard to imagine. It will be interesting to see how his scientific perspective informs his function in government. I’m a bit confused as to what exactly his job is. The “State Department” in the US is the equivalent of a “foreign ministry” in many other governments, involved in international diplomacy. We don’t even have a sience and technology cabinet level organization per se. Such science as government involves itself with at all is subsumed under other departments (Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, etc).
Brennen. Yes, you are right. The level of a minister is something like a head department. Here, the secretary of state is just another minister (called sometimes ‘chancellor’ and sometimes international relationship minister), as the head of education department. Well, the new is that there will be a science and tecnology department headed by a renowned scientist
We hadn’t had in the past forty years a serious public policy about science. Of course, this new minister doens’t mean by itself that the things will change, but it is a good first step. I think that the article itself is not brilliant, it presents a couple of speculative ideas as facts, it uses Desmond Morris as a source, but I liked to see a scientific approach to religion and morals held by a minister. I am waiting to see what the catholic church has to say about Barañao’s seculars views. A couple of month ago a catholic priest said that the health minister deserves to be thrown to the river with a stone tied to his neck because he wanted to discuss the legalization of abortion, so I can imagine they won’t be happy about it.
And regarding the posibility of such thing in the US, I think you are being over pesimistic . I understand that the last years could had left a bad taste, but I think that USA is the most powerfull country in the world because its strong and hughe scientific industry, and I believe it is strong enough to resist a few years of bad goverment.
Nice paper Barto. I particularly like the enthusiasm of the conclusion.
The knowledge of the biological factors that condition our behavior is essential in
developing politics that allow us to live in harmony. Science and new media are the most
recent products or our cultural evolution and allow us to be optimist in reaching this
I’d also love to see a science minister instated very near the top of the US government. Perhaps at the right hand of Plato’s philosopher ruler.
Maybe it is possible. It’s certainly an idea worth promoting in conversation.
Strong and sound recommendations, IMHO. I do wonder, though, if papers such as this would have more impact if endorsed or in some way supported by scientists. I could help notice the authors were all lawyers, which makes sense as it is a legislative proposal. But if the Natgional Academy or lobbying organizations and so forth that represented scientists, both in and out of government, could be associated with such efforts that might give them more wieght. Also, I wonder whetehr an affiliation of convenience, when appropriate, with business interests founded in science and technology (biotech, pharma, engineering, agriculture, etc) might have perhaps more clout with politicians than CGI alon or the science lobby? I’m no lobbyist, and I’m sure the folks at the CFI lobby know better than I, but I’m just brainstorming ideas for strnegthening our messages by broadening the support behind it.
In the U.S. that would be, sadly, hard to imagine.
Ain’t that the truth! Under the current administration, government officials have to believe what the President wants them to believe.
Well, one does not need optimism to find hope. We must struggle for our principles regardless of the odds. If I were to give up that easily, I would have given up on humanity long ago. But, you see, it’s not in me to.
Well, erasmus, I have a fondness for the old Scandinavian notion of courage—perservering in a struggle even with no expectation of success. So I won’t say I have hope, but ain’t no way I’m giving up either!