Press, science and politics

Kepler 22b Comparison with Solar System
Kepler 22 diagram. Photo credit: NASA

I remember very well my very first lesson about politics when I was a child. When I was at the school, all the children went to visit the journal “El Pais” as an extra scholar activity to learn things about the real way of working of our society. The person who guided the visit explained why under the name of the newspaper appears a sentence defining it as “the independent diary in the morning”. He explained us that the word “independent” meant economically independent instead of politically independent. The journal has got a certain group of political ideas, and it tries to create opinion around those ideas. That is its social function.

This was the naked truth shown to a group of children: Press can be searching for the truth in some matter; however, this truth always will be analyzed under the perspective of certain political ideas that are unquestionable for any mass media.

Bertrand Russell thought that press was a mean to provide uniformity in the society, in other words a mean to get the all people at the society had the same thinking about any important social matter. As people at El Pais were teaching to me, a generalist journal can be innovative from the economic viewpoint but it will never be innovative from the philosophical one. Science, on the contrary, is not very innovative from the economic viewpoint because its processes are well defined but it is very innovative from the philosophical one.

Science is the social process opposite to press. True science always is questioning its own philosophical basements and the true scientist always tries to change his own model about reality when the data do not fit it. Science process is not providing uniformity to the society, but trying to destroy it in order to advance, in the sense of Schopenhauer’s creative destruction. In Galileo’s story, press would have been with the Church and the political power instead of Galileo’s model of reality.

Uniformity of thinking and adaptability to new events are characteristics required in order that a group of people can act as a group and it can survive in a changing environment. A healthy society requires that press and science coexist doing their own social functions. This is possible nowadays because science is much less linked to politics than in Galileo’s time. The authority of the rulers is not now a divine (and natural) right. Science, politics and religion are considered uncoupled.

However, there is new situation that interfere in the relationship between press and science: economy.

Not as fundamental science, applied science is very linked to the economic development and then it is linked to current politics. Great political models of the previous centuries as liberalism and socialism are mostly economic doctrines, and current political models proceed from them. If applied science have a strong influence in the economic development, its value will be analyzed at the press filtered through the own political ideas of mass media.

A typical case that we can see now, is AI development. For scientists, it is only a technical advance that will provide knowledge about how to improve productive processes, however, some journalists are enthusiastic about the economic benefits and other ones are worried about possible losses of jobs.

If we look at a scientific perspective like Galileo’s or an economic one like Schopenhauer’s, we will be able to understand that the result of any scientific development cannot be seen with the eyes of a certain model of social organization because any important scientific advance changes the models that people have about how a society must be organized and finally the social organization. Copernicus’s and Galileo’s heliocentric models put the man out the center of the universe and AI can put the man out of another place. AI advances are providing a cure of humility for mankind day by day about its ability of mastery.


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