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Home > Newsletter > Issue no. 3 - 2005

Issue no. 3 - 2005

by Redazione FGB [1], 26 September 2005

Following the articles in May and June on the Precautionary Principle (see the "Topics" section archives for May and June), it emerges clearly that in the Bassetti Foundation website the Principle is treated as a variant on the theme of "Governance of Scientific and Technological Innovation". On this subject, a dialogue opened by Gian Maria Borrello was taken forward over the summer, with contributions from Daniele Navarra, Gavino Zucca and Luciano Butti. The discussion was sparked by the last three articles published by Navarra in his blog "Innovation, Risk and Governance", which was followed by a series of considerations by Borrello in his blog in the "Tout se tient" site (which in terms of the issues covered interlinks in many respects with the Foundation website).

All the comments made particular reference to political decisions, the involvement of scientific experts in such decisions and public participation in them. This gave rise to an article in which Borrello grouped together 33 press reviews published in the site from 2001 to date and summarised their content, with the inclusion of numerous quotations, with the aim of focusing readers' attention on the different perspectives on this issue that can be found in the newspaper and magazine articles examined by Vittorio Bertolini, editor of the Review.

Recently, Bertolini has also reviewed and drawn readers' attention to a number of books, journals and articles: the article by Ernesto Galli della Loggia on "Scienziati: un'opinione di troppo" (Corriere della Sera, 31 May); the articles by Silvio Garattini "Un terzo degli scienziati imbroglia" and Federico Mereta "Lavori truccati a causa del conflitto di interesse" (both in the 9 June edition of Il Sole 24 Ore); "Ti amo maiale", by François Schuiten and Benoit Peeters (Il Sole 24 Ore, 17 July); "Eresie ambientali", by Stewart Brand (Technology Review, July-August 2005); the journal Kos and the essay published in it by Giuseppe O. Longo, "Una pulce sottopelle"; and the books Verso l'immortalità, by Edoardo Boncinelli and Galeazzo Sciarretta and Nanotecnologie, ambiente e percezione del rischio, by Luciano Butti and Luca De Biase.
The review of Verso l'immortalità leads back to the issue -- a central one over the last twelve months in the Foundation's work -- of responsibility for innovation in the field of medicine: the subjects of life and death are addressed both in historical-anthropological terms and in the scientific-technical light of modern life sciences, where the prospect of extending and improving the quality of life can lead to diverse choices and radical decisions.
The review of Nanotecnologie, ambiente e percezione del rischio deals with a book whose subject is well known to visitors to the Foundation website: the new alliance between politicians and scientists that aims to see "the science of accountability sit side by side with the science of causes" (L. Butti, L. De Biase). The considerations made by Butti and De Biase in this book revolve around the Precautionary Principle and, taking up the points made at the beginning of this Diary with respect to the issue of Governance, the reasons leading us to review their essay are plain to see.
For the other articles mentioned above, please refer to the Reviews published in June, August and September and the Segnalazione of 31 August.

Another two reviews, this time edited by Claudio Tugnoli, concerned the book L'evoluzione della cultura. Proposte concrete per studi futuri, by Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza, and the collection of essays Antropocentrismo e biocentrismo. Due paradigmi a confronto, edited by Maria Antonietta La Torre.
The first demonstrates, among other things, that in Cavalli Sforza's opinion a double selection is operating in the field of innovation. In the words of Claudio Tugnoli: "Cultural selection takes place on two levels. The first is the decision to accept or reject a given innovation in relation to our values and desires. The second selection, however, is the one where natural selection intervenes and decides, on the basis of our survival and reproduction, the weight that the decisions we take will have on future generations. As far as the long-term behaviour of the species is concerned, it is natural selection that has the last word in choices and decisions. Indeed, it is only through natural selection that the disastrous nature of our current choices and decisions can be remedied".
In parallel with this review readers can find a dialogue between Gian Maria Borrello and Claudio Tugnoli, where the conceptual distinction between "invention" and "innovation" is underlined ("there is an interesting conceptual distinction between "innovation" and "invention": the former corresponds to a voluntary process, while the second responds to a mechanistic process. Innovation corresponds to will, invention to need. Mary Quant's mini-skirt did not respond to any "need' expressed by society, but gave rise to "relational' mutations in the social fabric" -- G.M. Borrello). On the subject of natural selection, the dialogue also touches on the question of free will, citing a passage from the online seminar held by Giuseppe O. Longo in the Foundation website in February 2003.
The review of the essays on anthropocentrism and biocentrism considers a number of works addressing the paradigm of the relationship between man and the biosphere: "A reflection on the environmental damage caused by the development of science and technology, and by the indiscriminate exploitation of the planet's energy resources, has contributed in recent decades to a revision of the relationship between man and nature and the search for a new paradigm". (C. Tugnoli).

Another review, this time by Cristina Grasseni in her blog on The Anthropology of Innovation, concerns the collection of essays entitled Audit Cultures, edited by Marilyn Strathern and examining the "culture of the new accountabilities, i.e. the introduction of standard protocols to make certain types of performance "accountable'" (C. Grasseni). The review makes ample reference to "assessment cultures" and their social repercussions. Both Giacomo Correale and Mario Castellaneta have submitted comments on the article.
An article by Valentina Porcellana was published recently in the same blog, on the subject of "Anthropology, Art and Social Responsibility". This is the first of a series of contributions that is intended to define the points of contact between "responsible" art and anthropology, and to provide space for inter-disciplinary exhibitions, events and books.

Also worthy of note is the fact that the latest items in the "Segnalazioni" blog ("LensManEnvironment: first international photography Biennale and debates between science and culture", "Nanotechnologies, Environment and the Perception of Risk", and "The UN on the Future: controlling technologies") share with the recent articles mentioned here the subject of the Environment, seen from the perspective of the problems posed by the Governance of Scientific and Technological Innovation.
Speaking of this blog, you may wish to note that it provides news, often based on reports sent in by the people directly involved, on events, initiatives, reviews and websites that may be of interest to visitors to the Foundation's website.

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