Other than those who did not give their minds blindly to their beliefs, understood the importance of science and technology in our lives after the break of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Physicians, statisticians suddenly started to give direction to our lives. We witnessed that factories designed to manufacture refrigerators, autos, or UAVs have started to produce medical ventilators and protective visors with small shifts in their production lines by able engineers. Thanks to digital technology, video-conferences became the main channel of global political, administrative- and scientific sharing. We as journalists and political commentators also benefit that. Among questions I’ve been asked in such national and international meetings to forecast what is ahead of us, I there is the one in the headline: will science dominate from now on or authoritarian and populist regimes?
In my opinion, this question is not suitable for getting the right answer.
First of all, this question is based on a basic and false assumption. It is the assumption that administrations that do not care about science will be oppressive, and those who care will be rational and democratic. This assumption includes the proposition that oppressive administrations do not attach importance to scientific thinking and technology production. This assumption is that scientific thinking and technological development have declined since the 12th century in Muslim societies and the 14th century in China, with the dominance of dogmatic thinking, as well as the rise in European-based Christian societies with the Renaissance. However, this perception is a reality in today’s exact date, neither close nor overlap.
Whose benefit is it used for?
Nazi Germany is the most disastrous example of how scientific and technological development has developed with the support of the regime, leaving all countries behind, but caused terrible human destruction. Crematoriums in which six million Jews, Roma, gays, communists, socialists, and the disabled people were poisoned to death and burnt were among the outstanding scientific and technological inventions of the era. Under the Nazi administration, medical practitioners experimented on living human bodies. It was Nazi scientists who built the first jet plane, the first military rocket. Those physicists who escaped from the Nazi rule, mostly Jews, provided the construction of the first atomic bomb in the USA, and then the development of the Soviet nuclear program. It was the German scientists who worked on the Nazis rocket program, which led the first the Soviets and then the Americans into space; the Americans named the (almost) same rocket as Saturn-V and Russians as R2.
Today, the USA is the leading world power in the field of economy, as a military force, and in science and technology. Moreover, it is a pluralistic democracy based on the separation of powers. Silicon Valley has changed the course of the world. But in the Covid-19 pandemic, it was seen that financial and technological superiority has not been used for the benefit of the masses, ordinary citizens. China, the second-largest economy in the world, is ruled by the Communist Party, there is no pluralist democracy, but in science and technology, it is competing with the USA.
There is a strict dictatorship in North Korea, where a dynastic regime under the name of communism is in power, which uses all the income generated to make the longer-range missiles, not for example in agricultural technology to feed the people better. The Islamic Republic of Iran invests its oil and gas revenue almost entirely into weapons and into its nuclear program. Those are among the worst examples of giving utmost importance to science and technology, but not for the benefit of their people.
“The real guide in life is science”
This has been one of the famous quotes Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after declaring the Turkish Republic, ending the six-century Ottoman Sultanate; that was a manifestation against dogmatism. But science and technology need to be valued in the hands of governments which care for people; science and technology alone are not enough for real human progress.
Therefore, it is not right to consider the reappraisal of the value of science due to the corona epidemic as an antidote alone to the strengthening of more authoritarian or populist regimes in the world, following the pandemic. Sönmez Köksal, a former Turkish intelligence chief wrote that future scenarios include a “techno-authoritarian capitalist” rule.
Scientific and technological development may be the subject of our dreams as well as our nightmares. Science and technology gain value as they are bonded in terms of justice and welfare needs of people; it depends on whether the governments at work truly believe in the concepts of justice, rule of law and pluralist democracy.