La présente édition est conçue pour les navigateurs sans soutien CSS suffisant et s'adresse en priorité aux malvoyants. Tous les contenus peuvent également être visualisés à l'aide de navigateurs plus anciens. Pour une meilleure visualisation graphique, il est toutefois recommandé d'utiliser un navigateur plus moderne comme Mozilla 1,4 ou Internet Explorer 6.
Début secteur de contenu
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Commissioner Figel,
It is a pleasure to be with you today at the opening ceremony of this first symposium dedicated to the dialogue on world knowledge.
I am convinced that this topic is among the most important we have to address in our society.
And I hope that your discussions will be very successful. Not only at this, your first meeting, but also at your future meetings which are already being planned.
For generations western civilisation has been confronted with the question of the relationship between science and meaning.
I quite like the image of a philosopher who once said that when water flows, some quite reasonably try to explain how it moves and how to control it. Others, also quite reasonably, trace the source of the water to understand where it came from and where it is going.
Humanities and exact sciences speak different languages. But these languages also complement each other.
Today, the question we need to address is how the dialogue between the natural sciences and humanities can help to get the relationship between science and citizens back on track.
Modern Switzerland was confronted with these questions from its very beginnings. In 1848, the founding fathers of our modern State asked themselves how they could introduce a more modern vision of life into society.
Some were tempted to confront and challenge the universities directly. At the time they tended to favour the traditional subjects of philosophy and theology. The aim was to establish a federal university which would act as a "beacon of modernity".
Ultimately, the founders of our modern State avoided a confrontation with the existing universities. Instead they set up complementary institutions dedicated to technology.
The Federal Institute of Technology was born, first in Zürich, then in Lausanne.
Since then, these two federal institutes of technology have been training engineers, physicists and biologists who have shaped the economic development of the country for the last 150 years.
On the other hand, the cantonal universities developed arts, humanities, sciences and medicine.
This pragmatic separation worked out very well for Switzerland: we build tunnels, bridges, roads, railroads and turbines. And we are still highly competitive in fundamental research on the international level.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Science and technology, are very powerful, but they do not, by themself give meaning to humanity.
Today, many citizens are anxious about the latest developments of science and technology. Some people would like to have certainty that all the risks are eliminated. This is of course impossible.
On the other hand, most of us simply want to better understand how new and complex knowledge can be integrated into everyday decisions and strategies.
People want to be able to assess the benefits of these new types of knowledge.
Take medicine: many people are interested in more evidence-based medicine. They want sound discussions with doctors and health specialists on the best treatments they can get at a reasonable price.
Take energy: people are waiting for a mature debate on the possibilities to develop new sustainable technologies in a reasonable period of time.
They also want to discuss, beyond ideologies, how long and under what conditions nuclear power might be continued to be exploited in form of a “transition energy”.
Why? because they are aware that probably this type of energy will still be necessary for a couple of decades.
The same is true in other fields such as nanotechnology or stem cells. People want to understand what these complex changes mean.
These examples show that with the increasing complexity of technologies, a renewed dialogue between culture, politics, and exact sciences is absolutely necessary.
This relationship can be improved if human sciences help us to bridge the gap between the new frontiers of knowledge and the everyday life of a normal citizen.
It is my experience that citizens are able to grasp complex issues, especially in a direct democracy such as Switzerland. Complex scientific issues can be discussed publicly.
In 1998, the Swiss people supported genetic engineering and in 2004, again supported the use of human embryonic stem cells for research purposes.
This clearly shows that direct democracy is a powerful instrument to guarantee the dialogue on world knowledge.
Democracy, and especially direct democracy, overcomes the asymmetry of information between scientists and citizens. Citizens feel empowered since they know that they will have the last word.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my belief that we won’t make it through the challenges of the 21st century without science and its benefit. However, we will not make it trough the century with science alone.
If science remembers that human knowledge is larger than scientific knowledge, it can win the hearts of our citizens.
And a good dialogue between science and humanities is a must to a more fruitful democratic debate on complex and modern science issues.
To improve this dialogue is the purpose of your meeting, here in Crans-Montana.
Somebody said “Light helps us to see things, but most of us think better in the shade”.
Montana can provide the shade and silence necessary to think better on the possible features of a “new humanism”.
Outside of special meetings, this shade is traditionally provided by the universities. In fact they are the place par excellence where this necessary shade is provided.
Our contribution as policy makers is to give the Swiss universities the autonomy and the capacity to act and to think about what they require.
Beyond institutions of higher learning, our society must also continue to defend freedom of speech and freedom of thought.
Human nature is our best ally in this effort.
At the beginning of his Metaphysics, Aristotle states that all men by nature desire to know.
If mankind desires knowledge, science is an essential part of that dream.
I hope that this symposium will contribute significantly to make this dream go on, thanks to a better dialogue between exact sciences and humanities.