The European: Should scientists be more vocal in the public sphere?
Heuer: If they have right things to say, yes. When we make important decisions, we should be able to rely on sound premises and statements. Just babbling isn’t so good. I also believe that science can really provide an example for cooperation that works. “Diversity” is such a nice word, such a nice mix of different ideas and characters. We can show that diversity enriches us.
The European: In the middle of the Eurozone crisis, you head a European institution that has worked rather seamlessly for almost 60 years. Is basic research possible on a strictly national level?
Heuer: Our research would be impossible without a collaborative element. The infrastructure necessary for basic research has gotten so big – at CERN but also e.g. in the case of electron lasers. You need many brains and hands to build it – that’s impossible on a national level. CERN was founded in 1954, when a bunch of scientists and politicians got together right after World War II and said: “we will only be successful together.” The decades since then have confirmed that approach. I think that we will even have to go further in the future and cooperate globally.
The European: The re-nationalization of Europe is the wrong way?
Heuer: I think it goes in the wrong direction. We need something that we can work on collaboratively. And we also need projects that we can pursue individually – often, those are smaller projects. Take food as an example: it’s good to introduce certain standards, but we should not give up regional cuisines. We need to strike a balance between international large-scale projects and smaller, national or bilateral projects. You won’t get very far if you only pursue lighthouse projects.
I emphasized 4 claims from this except:
1. Science can really provide an example for cooperation that works.
- This seems obviously true.
- This also seems obviously true, so long as "our" is indexed to a group of scientists working on a large scale project, requiring large scale equipment/infrastructure/man-hours, etc.
- I put three and four together because I wish to evaluate them in tandem. (i) is a normative claim typical of the idea that the pursuit of scientific understanding of the world will naturally promote harmony and understanding. (ii) also seems trivially true so long as "individual project" just means finding some purpose for your life through a collection of goal-oriented activities. I currently have a watch-all-the-Breaking-Bad-episodes project, in addition to my get-a-phd-in-philosophy project. The interesting thing to do here is see the four possible permutations of (i) and (ii). Heuer claims both are true, and this sounds like a reasonable balanced position, Aristotilian virtuous and all that–the mean between extremes. If one claimed (i) as true and (ii) as false, one would have a radically communal view of human life. On this view, belief is collective all the way down. One could claim that (i) is false and (ii) is true and have a sort of radical individualism–perhaps a sort of romantic-Nietzschean–existentialist view whereby we only find meaning in life through overcoming the herd and grasping one's ownmost finitude and making a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. Rejecting both (i) and (ii) seems almost like Pyrrhonian skepticism–a cautious abstention from putting too much stock in any one surefire view of human value or teleology.