Progress of Science, Past Present and Future
Abstract: Scientific orthodoxy based on the acquired authority of some scientists has seriously hampered the progress of the natural sciences in the past and continues to do so today because of new societal influences, such as directive funding and political interference in the setting of research objectives. Enhancing the progress of science must continue to be an important priority in order to meet the future needs of mankind. Yet priority setting between different branches of research is currently controversial because of the limited availability of funds and the political interference. For sound priority setting, an adequate level of scientific literacy is required among policy makers, a subject that will attract attention throughout this paper. The “introduction” gives an overview of the issues at stake. Prevailing pessimistic views of the future of our complex society are viewed as being similar to a medieval doomsday syndrome. Pathways to a new renaissance and age of reason are suggested. Three major recommendations are made: (i) Freedom of inquiry must be protected; (ii) The political misuse of potential environmental scares needs to be investigated before doomsday predictions alarm public perceptions and hence shape policies; (iii) The search for excellence in the leadership of science should be emphasized because it should not be based largely on acquired authority. The current controversy over possible impacts of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on climate is analyzed as a case study.
Arthur Rörsch, Former vice president Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO); Professor (emeritus) Molecular Genetics, Leiden University, Pieterskerkhof 40c 2311 ST Leiden, The Netherlands; E-Mail: email@example.com;