Should the knowledge of new scientific discovery be the property of the discoverer—or is it intended for the good of all humankind? This dilemma in today’s modern world, which is sharply divided into wealthy nations and poverty-stricken nations, prompted the creation of a group to address the issue. Switzerland’s foreign minister says a new “think tank” will seek to enact the proper distribution of future advances and developments in science—so that the whole world can benefit, not just rich countries.
Ignazio Cassis delivered a video message for the inaugural summit last week of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator, or GESDA. The Swiss government-backed project aims to bridge government policy and science in an international city known for both.
“There is a growing feeling that a new Cold War is about to be fought over science and technology,” Cassis says. GESDA will bring together hundreds of scientists and policymakers worldwide. If operated according to its stated good intentions, the group would serve as an “honest broker” that helps spread the benefits of science to countries rich and poor, he says.
The idea for GESDA was conceived in 2019. But responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caught many governments off guard, prompted many scientists and leaders to consider its need more urgently. Uncertain, changeable, and unclear responses from health policy makers like the Geneva, Switzerland, based World Health Organization exposed gaping inequality in health options between rich and poor countries. Access to good information as well as remedies and supplies—medications, oxygen, personal protective equipment, and vaccines, for example—vary dramatically based on affluence.
Dr. Jeremy Farrar is the director of the Wellcome Trust charity and a key player in international health policy. He supports the formation of GESDA. Dr. Farrar says that while science has made great strides, action must be taken to improve sharing of knowledge globally. Otherwise, “scientific advances will increasingly be available to a small elite in the world—and not to everybody.”
GESDA will bring together hundreds of United Nations officials, Nobel laureates, academics, diplomats, advocacy group representatives, and members of the public to achieve its goals for the world.
The intentions sound good. It is a noble effort to want to improve health and quality of life with new discoveries for all people. But in many ways, the world’s science community has abandoned the notion of an all-wise Creator God who designed all the scientific laws and their implications. And it is His very character that gives equal dignity to all of humankind. So how might a secular, science- and government-based organization hope to solve problems of equality and human health without acknowledging the One who made all, rules all, and sanctifies the life He created?
(Swiss Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis onscreen in a recorded video speaks about the first Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipation Summit 2021 (GESDA) during a press conference at the Campus Biotech in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 7, 2021. Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)