Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Precautionary principle destroys EU innovation

EurActiv.COM published a sensible yet pessimistic interview with David Zaruk, an environmental health risk consultant in Brussels.

He explains that Europe is not really becoming a knowledge-based society as people used to say but an influence-based society. And the influence is moving towards the eco-religious fundamentalists, cowards who are gradually replacing the presumption of innocence by the precautionary principle, i.e. the principle that researchers are held "guilty until proven innocent".

The scientific method as used in the EU policymaking.

The beauty of the precautionary principle is that "you can never be wrong" which is attractive for many people. But it's only true as long as you define "being wrong" as something else than "not being right". ;-) Indeed, the precautionary principle distinguishes these two situations while science (and logic) does not.

NGOs' lobbyists are becoming the most powerful force that shapes EU policies related to science and innovation is getting impossible. At the same moment, it is getting hard to hire good scientific experts for the EU's risk assessment process because they are increasingly fed up with the EU's being driven by ever strengthening non-scientific elements. Risk assessment is sadly being separated from risk management.

The reason why many Europeans are returning to the dark ages is that their view of the role of science has changed "from a force of good to protect us from the evils of nature to, suddenly, a [...] technological machine that big businesses brought in and which is destroying and polluting nature".

Nature is being pictured in an unrealistic, romantic fashion: we are talking about a new religion, eco-religion. This new religion has many irrational assumption, e.g. that "natural is good" while "man-made is bad". Zaruk knows a lot about the real life of EU scientific and technological policymaking. However, he looks excessively optimistic concerning America's future because he thinks that the very bad sentiments don't significantly affect America. I am much less convinced about it today.

Hat tip: Benny Peiser

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