In a one day event featuring a line up of leading scientists and government figures, the International Science Council celebrated its founding with a public event characterised by lively debate on the values of science, the importance of science, how science is being endangered, and much more.
The event started with a series of welcoming remarks from representatives of the host French Académie des sciences, the French government, and an address by the newly elected President of the Council.
“Two world learned societies representing the two cultures on which humanity has built its intellectual history decided to merge and settle in Paris,” said Thierry Coulhon, Advisor for Education, Higher Education, Research and Innovation to the French President. “The importance of deliberative scientific understanding to society has never been greater,” he added.
“The challenge for this Council and for our academies as well is to make the voice of science heard by those taking decisions, to promote reasoning, logical systematic analysis, quantitative evidence and rigorous thinking in place of emotions in a world dominated by opinions, beliefs, ready-to-think ideas and off-the-shelf solutions,” said Sébastien Candel, Président of the Académie des sciences.
Craig Calhoun, former president of the Berggruen Institute, gave a wide-ranging talk on the need for a voice for science in today’s world. Ismail Serageldin, founding director of the Library of Alexandria, pointed out that freedom and science were indissociable. “History shows that scientific progress and freedom always walk together,” he said, adding “There is no science without freedom and no freedom without science.”
Esther Duflo, development economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), spoke about science against poverty, and deconstructed multiple poverty myths such as “giving away money is bad”.
Cédric Villani, a member of the French National Assembly and the French Academy of Sciences, gave a closing keynote which focused on insights from his perspective of moving from science into politics. “Often what seems to be debates about technology turn out to be debates about the shape of society.”
This event marked the close of a three-day sequence of events, hosted by the French Academy of Sciences, to officially launch the International Science Council following the merger of the International Council for Science and the International Social Science Council.
The launch event was supported by the French Académie des sciences, Institut Océanographique and Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle; as well as by the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), Centre national de la recherche scientifique-Institut national des sciences de l’Univers (CNRS-INSU), Fondation Del Duca, Fondation Mérieux, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), Fondation Daniel Iagolnitzer and Fondation la Ferthé.