Adviser Dr Edi Bilimoria drew my attention to an article by the President of the Royal Society, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan (pictured on the right), about the potential and limits of science to inform decision-making during the current pandemic in which he notes that “considering science advice is not the same as simply ‘following the science’.” In the context of our work, I was struck by the following paragraph:
At the frontiers of science, there is always uncertainty, and to pretend otherwise would be foolish. What science does is to try to gather evidence to reduce the uncertainty, but this happens only gradually as data are gathered and hypotheses tested and discarded until some idea of the truth emerges. But even those “truths” can fall by the wayside in the face of new and contradictory evidence. The entire process is based on honesty, openness and transparency, in which the evidence is published for all to see and argue about. It is no coincidence that scientists are highly trusted.
Do truths ‘fall by the wayside in the face of new and contradictory evidence’? By no means always. The economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith (picutred on the left) wittily observed: ‘Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.’ This reaction will no doubt ring only too familiar with many readers, resting as it does on a defence of implicit metaphysical assumptions that the Galileo Commission Report specifically calls into question.
Galileo Commission Community Call – June 24
We had about 40 advisers and professional affiliates on a community call last month and had hoped to make this available to the whole mailing list of nearly 400 people. However, a weather-related Internet glitch interrupted the session and the recording of the first part was not converted and it now seems very challenging to do so, even though the file is actually there.
We will be holding another such call from 5-7 BST on Wednesday June 24. The theme will be reaching out to the academic world with contributions from Dr Joan Walton and Dr Athena Potari with comments from Dr Vasileios Basios.
Other dates for your diary include a European meeting in Athens and Epidauros from 13-15 September, contingent on local conditions and to be confirmed during July. Then the SMN annual Beyond the Brain conference will be streamed online from 6-8 November – see www.beyondthebrain.org. In the meantime, we have an extensive programme of webinars on www.mysticsandscientists.org. We are also planning an online summit with the authors of the two books being published by The Academy for the Advancement of Post-Materialist Sciences – more in the next issue.