Knowledge is Power, very much so

But power to do what?

Here’s a quote from Jeremy Pearce’s piece, “Konrad Dannenberg, 96, Top Rocket Scientist, Dies”

“For his part, Mr. Dannenberg, who was not a member of the Nazi party, said that the Peenemünde team had not been involved in the factory brutality, that the rocket science was pure, and that the German ‘army was the only rich uncle with enough money to pay for the things we wanted to do.’”

As a “pure” scientist myself, I find that quote to be quite typical and not restricted to the scientists of Nazi Germany.  Of course in this day it’s almost impossible to be successful in science without devoting all your energy purely to the science.  There is no time to keep up with personal obligations, much less to worry about how your results might be used in the areas of technology, big business and big ugly politics.

Some do.

The question is discussed.

But not enough scientists or citizens recognize their obligation to the potential power, for good or ill, that is generated by their research.

The Power of Knowledge

Up to now I haven’t mentioned what I believe is the most important source of power, and that is knowledge.

Dot Earth is a very good site for keeping up to date on current knowledge about biology and other sciences that are relevant to the political issues we face. Today’s report very neatly describes why conflicts within countries are seldom solved when the “root cause” of the problem is scarce natural resources. You would think that would be obvious, wouldn’t it? Not enough to eat, people fight over what is available, but now we know from both the obvious and from the statistics and from the United Nations Environment Program. So why haven’t we solved the problem?

Probably because we need more than knowledge to solve problems. We must also exercise the power of our own choices, first to listen to factual reality and think about it as it is (not as we are), and then to do something. And that’s when we get all wound up in the political problem of trying to decide which is more important — the politician or the long-term welfare of the people.