Last April, President Obama assembled some of the nation’s most august scientific dignitaries in the East Room of the White House. He spoke of using technological innovation “to grow our economy” and unveiled “the next great American project”: a $100 million initiative to probe the mysteries of the human brain. Along the way, he invoked the government’s leading role in a history of scientific glories, from putting a man on the moon to creating the Internet. The Brain initiative, as he described it, would be a continuation of that grand tradition, an ambitious rebuttal to deep cuts in federal financing for scientific research. “We can’t afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of the world races ahead,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to seize them. I don’t want the next job-creating discoveries to happen in China or India or Germany. I want them to happen right here.”
Absent from his narrative, though, was the back story, one that underscores a profound change taking place in the way science is paid for and practiced in America. In fact, the government initiative grew out of richly financed private research: A decade before, Paul G. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, had set up a brain science institute in Seattle, to which he donated $500 million, and Fred Kavli, a technology and real estate billionaire, had then established brain institutes at Yale, Columbia and the University of California. Scientists from those philanthropies, in turn, had helped devise the Obama administration’s plan. (1)
Some people call these billionaires “philanthropists”.
But how can someone caring for science be a “philanthropist” and not a “philoscientist”?
Sure some people believe science serve humans after all. But how many example have you seen of particle discoveries that help you? How many exotic invisible field discoveries improved your life? How many new cosmological theories helped you live a happier life?
We often confuse science (creation of prediction models) with philosophy (seeking the “truth”), with inventions (creation of things that help us in our lives by people who are usually not scientists and do not even understand how and why the things they make work) and with human happiness (are you happy because you have a computer? Have all your human problems been solved with the new 3G network?). Scientism-lovers love to feed this confusion for their sake. It is the duty of honest clearly-thinking men (and women of course) to destroy such illusions.
If all people had love, then they would be happy.
They would live happy. They would die happy.
Love is the best invention of them all. And it needs no funding at all.
Love humans by loving humans. Not by loving something else.
Simple truths, difficult to understand…