some scientific causality, but...

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Fri Feb 15 12:58:51 MST 2002

>  Raven: Scientists should help change conditions that promote
>  terrorism

it seems to me that the majority of the articles on this topic in
science journals lately run about 30 to 1: that is, for every one
article detailing __structural__ problems with the existing economic
system, there are 30 articles discussing how scientists need to add
their knowledge base to the grand endeavour to make the world's towers
safe from flying airplanes (and the US' gov't offices safe from small
powdery substances).

so the signal to noise ratio is the inverse, about 1:31

> BOSTON - Scientists bear partial responsibility for shaping a world
> in which resources are more evenly divided between rich and poor
> countries

Nature ran a letter to the editor last week on this topic, from Steve
Drury, a marxist, incidentally someone who was on this list briefly a
few years ago.

that was the '1' in the '31'.

les schaffer


Nature 415, 575 (2002) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

World hasn't changed for the dispossessed

Sir - Understandably, following the outrages of 11 September 2001, the
main scientific periodicals have covered its impact on aspects of
science and the response of scientists to the fears that it
generated. The annual News reviews in Nature (Nature 414, 836-841;
2001) and Science both headline its aftermath, in terms of the impact
on security and the economic downturn that the attacks have helped to
accelerate. Their central theme is that the world changed on that
day. It did not.

For two thirds of the world's population, 'business as usual' involves
an ever-widening gap between hope for the future and expectation of
any relief it will bring from poverty, disease and disaster. Fear of
falling victim to natural calamities - and those generated by the
lifestyles of a highly privileged minority - remains as strong as
ever. Despicable as the perpetrators and those who motivated their
actions were, the attacks arose from the growing powerlessness of
hundreds of millions of dispossessed people. Global communications
ensure that they are confronted daily by what they lack, leading to a
deep sense of unfairness and victimhood.

Scientists, whose work is enmeshed with emergence of the possible,
should dwell on how they might help close that growing human fault
line, as you discuss in your Opinion article "Timely messages for the
South" (Nature 415, 1; 2002), rather than raging at or cringing before
the monstrosity that they have helped to nurture. Assisting the
dispossessed to secure safe, dependable water supplies; to improve
their agricultural yields; to rid themselves of endemic disease; to
gain access to cheap energy and transport; and above all to acquire
knowledge and the ability to solve their own problems is not a problem
of cosmological or genomic proportions. It is a simple, human duty.

Steve Drury
Department of Earth Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

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