“No one likes the messenger who brings bad news,” Sophocles already wrote in Antigone. Today, the members of the Swiss scientific task force are having a bitter experience. During this year of pandemic, they were regularly brought to relay worrying information on the virus and its possible consequences; some now reproach them for expressing themselves too much and being pessimistic.
This Thursday, March 4, parliament will vote on a puzzling amendment requiring the Federal Council and parliament to be the only organizations able to inform the population about the pandemic. A request which, it seems, has little chance of succeeding. But she is worrying in what she says about the report of some politicians to science.
“We cannot ignore reality”
Why do you want to silence scientists? Because sometimes they tell us things that we don’t want to hear. This is true in the current pandemic, with its procession of mutant variants, as in other subjects such as the fight against global warming, which requires in-depth reforms of the economy and society.
But we can’t ignore reality, twist it to match our desires. It is lost in advance, and unconscious when one claims to govern. You might as well ask MeteoSwiss to only announce good weather days. Another amendment emanating from the Economic Commission of the National Council asks that the date of reopening of restaurants be written into the law, therefore without taking into account the evolution of the pandemic. To bend the virus by a legislative text? It would be fun if it wasn’t dangerous …
The scientific method has its limits, which no one disputes. The epidemic simulation models only deliver scenarios, they are not forecasts. Experts do not always agree with each other and their sticking points are sometimes difficult to understand. But science alone remains capable of providing an assessment of a situation based on facts and not on opinions. In this, it is essential in any democratic society.
Like it or not, the coronavirus is here and we need to face it. Refusing to hear the scientists’ message is to pursue an ostrich policy that is not compatible with public action. In times of pandemic, science is more valuable than ever. The role of politicians should be to protect it rather than attempt to discredit it.