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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Science, power and commerce


Among the misconceptions about science, the most pernicious is that which confuses scientific knowledge with power and money, considering that science as a method and scientists as professionals are for sale and participate in deliberate strategies. of the powerful. The success of systematized science and technology in providing weapons and economic power to the countries and the tempting prestige of scientific claims as a propaganda tool justify the suspicion that any knowledge contributed by the scientific method. When science is financed with public money, and much worse when it is private, suspicions grow and conflicts abound. Confusion, when it is not interesting,

The objective of the countries when it comes to creating scientific structures is clear: to increase the economic and military power of the state and (secondarily) their prestige in the international scene. For companies, the goal of doing science is to create new products or increase the sales of those already created by taking advantage of the prestige of science as a claim. Both states and companies can be decisive when it comes to marking the career of a scientist, or research capacity of a laboratory or a center; Through these mechanisms they can press for certain things to be investigated and not others, and they have the ability to influence (even determine) which hypotheses are tested and which are not. As historians of science have demonstrated with numerous examples scientists, as people who are, they are not immune to economic pressures or to the culture of their historical moment; often the hypotheses that are created are marked by the socioeconomic and political reality surrounding the scientist. In this way, political and economic interests can determine the questions that science asks.

What they can not do is modify the answers, for a lot of power or money that is at stake, and this is the basic error. Neither the pressures of power nor economic interests can change the reality of the universe. They can hide, for some time; they can obfuscate and create confusion, often a lot and too widespread over time. But they can not change reality or knowledge of that truth, no matter how hard they try. Because the interest of science as a social construction is not the advance of the careers of scientists or their economic growth, but the understanding of the universe and its functioning. The hypothesis can be biased and the results can be hidden or even falsified, but in the end, the truth will be discovered.

With all its power and resources the tobacco industry could not suppress the link between its product and lung cancer as Stalin failed to make Mendelian genetics disappear; The conflicts that arise between scientists and those who support their work at most can delay knowledge of the facts, but not make them disappear. Some scientists may be for sale, but science as a whole understood as a collection of knowledge about the cosmos is not. Because the universe does not care what the powerful think about its functioning, and ultimately to science as well. Hypotheses can be deformed, scientists can become corrupted, but in the end, their errors will be discovered with certainty.

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