The key challenge or opportunity: how to get to truth regarding societal and technological risks?

Covid is not alone -Climate, Extinction, GMOs, Pesticides, Vaccines, Modular Nuclear Power Plants, and 5G ‚’ what is true about their risks, performance, impacts, vested interests, costs and consequences? Government ministers are faced with these issues and all of them involve science and technology at levels way beyond average understanding. Hence the need for advisors. The problem is that all scientific and technical advisors have a paymaster, a career and a loyalty to an institution or corporation. Serious errors in the process of divining truth are not uncommon: for example, x-raying pregnant women, sea-dumping of nuclear waste, incineration of toxic chemicals at sea, plutonium discharges, acid rain and the licensing of PCBs and CFCs. Correcting these errors has usually been made under great resistance from established interests, all of which defended their own version of ‚’the truth‚’. In forty years of public policy work I now see a dangerous polarisation developing where contradictory analysis is labelled as fake and excluded. There is a growing denigration and branding such as ‚’denier‚’ or ‚’conspiracy theorist‚’ used to blanket the debate, a refusal to engage, to avoid discussion and maintain some simple message for public consumption. ‚’Truth‚’ in these complex realms cannot be absolute ‚’ it not a definable entity. To address this complexity, I believe that Truth is emergent and can only exist as a process. This process requires dialogue and policy needs to be subjected to robust examination through critical review. If this process is absent, truth cannot emerge. Only by withstanding such review can effective policy emerge. Thus, the key challenges of 2021 present an opportunity to enhance dialogue in the face of forces that would simplify and propagate a unified but potentially false media message.

 

 

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