The aim of the school is to correct the errors of so-called ‘scientific’ popularisation and to bring Science into the hearts of the general public.
Fermi lived on his shoulders the cultural war that the dominant cultural figures of those times declared on him when, with his discoveries and inventions, he had become the focus of media attention in those years. Fermi realised in the 1930s in Rome that scientific culture was needed to avoid what – in the 1950s in Chicago – he called the danger of a cultural Hiroshima. Science,’ said Fermi, ‘has produced so many fundamental discoveries that have given rise to technological innovations unimaginable to our ancestors. Science has, however, been prevented from becoming Culture. And in fact – even today – Scientific Culture is not part of the cultural heritage of the so- called modern man. Science has been denied the power to be a source of values. And there are those who have gone so far as to classify us scientists as ‘vile mechanics’. When – in the 1930s – this devastating attack on science was perpetrated, however, it was evident that the ‘vile mechanics’ were able to discover truths that no one had ever imagined, such as that Space and Time could not both be real quantities. And there was no question that these truths became the source of technological inventions capable of expanding beyond all imaginable limits the power of the human species, for better or for worse. Yet, while the authors of these incredible new truths were not recognised as having the right to make Scientific Culture, others were given the door to communicate to the general public the achievements of science arbitrarily interpreted – as if they were the real scientists. He who has never discovered or invented anything cannot call himself a scientist, said Fermi. Well, during this last half-century since Fermi’s passing, the real scientists have been relegated to the ‘Ivory Towers’, while those who spoke of science (without ever having done any) have been allowed to ‘invent’ a certain type of popularisation of science, as if this were the only true and genuine voice of those who had dedicated their lives to doing Science, following Fermi’s teaching.
Scientific Culture has its roots in the Laboratories, in those ‘Ivory Towers’ demonised by politically committed popularisation. Towers’ that are instead the one and only true engine of all discoveries and inventions; the only sources, powerful and safe, from which the new horizons of knowledge are born, with ideas never before conceived by anyone and with instruments never imagined by anyone. So-called ‘scientific’ popularisation has its roots outside our laboratories and is often culturally linked to those who, having failed to discover or invent anything, give themselves over to popularisation because it represents their only source of intellectual satisfaction. Fortunately, there is a healthy part of popularising science that has as its reference point the intellectual honesty of those who devote themselves to it out of instinct and cultural passion, without complexes of political revenge on those who, in the ‘ivory towers’, have been able to make decisive contributions to the progress of science. It happens that, in popularisation, those whom Enrico Fermi rightly called ‘fake scientists’ and ‘failed scientists’ have so far prevailed. The cultural paradox in which we live arises from this type of so-called ‘scientific’ popularisation: man discovers Science but uses it against himself.
The so-called modern culture of our time blames us scientists for the planet being stuffed with chemical, bacteriological, and nuclear bombs. Enrico Fermi was accused of being the father of the ‘atomic’ bomb and Edward Teller that of the H-bomb. Teller used to say ‘I am only the father of my children’. Today, we scientists would be the culprits of Planetary Emergencies. As if that were not enough, popular science has sided with atheist culture, making its ideologies the exact opposite of science. Of all those that claim that Science must be the enemy of Faith, the one that has assumed a dominant role is scientific materialism.
If it were true that we are to blame for the nefarious use of science for political (bombs) and economic (unbridled industrialisation) reasons, it would be right to block any activity that could lead to new scientific discoveries. If this were to happen, goodbye progress. This is the goal to which the paradox caused by politically committed scientific disclosure leads. In fact, new forms of obscurantism have already arisen that want to fight Science. And the number one enemy of humanity once again becomes ignorance. That is why it is vitally important today to make the general public understand that the engine of technological, civil and social progress is scientific discovery. However, the use of science must be removed from political and economic violence so that progress can be in tune with the values of science itself, not in antithesis. It is necessary to explain clearly what the true achievements of science are, separating them clearly from the false truths imposed by that popularisation which, by confusing Science with Technology, has made people believe that the bombed planet and unbridled industrialisation were the ineluctable effects of scientific progress, rather than the consequences of political and economic violence. To overcome the paradox, it is necessary to dismantle its cultural origins. This task falls to us scientists, not to those who talk about science by hearsay. Popularisation ‘science’ has never distinguished Science from Technique (which is the use of science for good and evil). Nor has it ever said that the technological choice is cultural, not scientific: the choice between nuclear bombs and nuclear medicine is exclusively cultural. It was John Paul II who stood up for science. The so-called ‘scientific’ popularisation has not been able to explain to the general public the blatant lies that are presented as truths of an apparently ‘rigorous’, if not even ‘scientific’ nature, such as paranormal phenomena and horoscopes. It is necessary to seriously address those cultural forces – especially young people – who wish to engage in the dissemination of correct and truthful Scientific Culture.
The above represents the cultural objective of the International School of Scientific Journalism.