Science as a Global Village

Bert Gold bgold at ITSA.UCSF.EDU
Wed May 29 20:00:12 EST 1996


Alex and Scientific Community,

The past several months have seen a breakdown in the fabric
of scientific community.  Reports about peer review and
scientific misdeeds which would in other times have had enormous impact on
our ways of doing science are widely being
supressed and misreported.

Money has become god: Those who have it, are empowered, and
can do, say, and get away with anything.

Those without it, can do nothing right!  The results of the
disenfranchised masses of scientists must be bad, their reasoning flawed,
their science dishonest, because,
were this not true, they would have all the funds they want!
(In this, the best of all possible worlds... -Voltaire).

Yesterday, I sat and heard the Director of the National Institute
of Neurological Diseases and Stroke tell me that NIH appropriations
are largely based upon diseases currently afflicting Congressmen's
and Senator's families (and those afflicting rich lobbyists,
who have started small non-profit organizations to lobby for
the appropriation of government funds).

When I suggested the need for us to rethink our ways to allocate 
research funds, with several Nobel Laureates in the room,
there was silence...

When I suggested that wrongdoers in Science need to be punished,
and that the weak need protection from the strong and powerful,
there was again silence...

There is NO belief in the wisdom of the common people among scientists.

Our morals are under siege.

Many in the Scientific Community will say or do ANYTHING to
secure their position.

Most will keep quiet, keep their heads in the sand, play dead,
in order that they may avoid being injured by the enormous and powerful
forces which rule.

Some, like me, may choose to protest.

Alex, you have lived through Glastnost, and so you believe that
enormous changes can happen here.  But you appear to forget that most
people on this side of the Ocean came to escape persecution.

Those who came here to escape religious and cultural persecution, 
themselves created a religion of Law, Politics, Science and Government,
which I believe is now crumbling.

If we do not replace the crumbling edifice with a belief in ourselves 
that there is a higher calling, we will not have much left after
the edifice crumbles.  Our higher calling may be any vision bigger
than ourselves, and it is no doubt different for each one of us.

When Roosevelt was told that the german jew, Einstein, wanted to come to
this country and opposition in Congress mounted because it was thought
Einstein was an athiest, Roosevelt telegrammed Einstein, 'Do you believe
in God?'.  Einstein telegrammed back: 'My God is the God of Spinoza'.
And Einstein was allowed to emigrate.

I tell this story because, Alex, I believe that you and I will need the
wisdom of Einstein in his retort to Roosevelt, to make even a minor dent 
in science policy in the next few years, given the prevailing power
dynamic.

 Bert Gold, Ph.D.                         "Seeing much, Suffering much,
 University of California, San Francisco   and studying much,
 School of Medicine                        These are the three pillars
 Program in Medical Genetics               of learning." -- Benjamin Disraeli







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