Ten Points on Science (and) Diplomacy


On Monday, November 2, I addressed the conference ‘

Between the two ambassadors is a display with two shelves of objects with strong symbolic meaning. The lower shelf has earthly symbols, including a globe, a merchant’s calculus book, a lute with a broken string, and a Lutheran hymnal. These items represent earthly interests, and the disorderly disputes that accompany them.

The two ambassadors should overcome these earthly conflicts and elevate society to the upper shelf that symbolizes a stable heavenly order, represented by tools of the science of astronomy, evoking the optimism of the Renaissance era. The function of diplomats is to bridge these two ‘shelves’ – the earthly and heavenly ones. Although they relied on science and the power of human creativity, the presence of a skull in the painting is a reminder that pride in human knowledge and the power it gives, can be perilously vain.

1. Scientific arguments in global policy

Scientific arguments are used to support policy and diplomacy in at least three main ways. First, science provides a factual basis for numerous global negotiations on topics such as disarmament, environment, food, health, energy, and population. In fact, it is difficult to find a global diplomatic process without some involvement and influence of scientists. The best known example, climate change negotiations, centre to a large extent on scientific arguments about the causes of climate change.

Second, science becomes prominent in addressing core public issues. The recent WHO report on cancer risks and consumption of red meat has moved from the research labs to restaurants, talk shows, and families worldwide. The WHO, and its report, have become part of everyday conversation, especially in countries with heavy consumption of meat. Such high interest in the report will inevitably be reflected in the work of diplomats —> Read More