Rosetta project’s success can be considered as the best achievement of space exploration in European history, a victory for the mankind and for anyone supporting European unification, as I do. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to appreciate, or to understand the scale of this event.
What I am going to report, it’s just shocking. The Italian channel Rete4 played a crucial and cussed role in the rise and establishment of Berlusconi’s 20 years long rule. Owned by the Mediaset group, the news channel used to faithfully and slavishly spread the conservative propaganda, with a long list of mystifications, and continuous attacks to minorities and homosexuals. As Berlusconi turned his foreign policy into a deeply anti-European and pro-Russian action, his media followed him with unjustified and false attacks to the European Union. They never dealt that much with Science too, supporting very often creationism and funding cutoffs to research. After Rosetta landing, Rete4 decided to give its opinion. What it follows is the literal translation of the Rete4 commentary.
If we had ever found a truly fascinating celestial body, even more than the moon, that would be a comet, with its shiny tail, visible during the day too. (…) Even if almost nobody knew that, from 2004 the ESA (European Space Agency) is working to waste us this image. Ten years ago, Rosetta probe was launched, and after a very long and lonely voyage, has now reached the 67P comet, more than 800 Kms away from the Sun. Here’s the pictures, the crude pictures, of a big dusty stone. On this rock, a robot will land down in a few hours, and it will make an hole on the surface. It almost hurts to know that the drill was built in Italy. A stone, nothing more than a stone, not even with the dark fascination the terrible comet had in the movie Armageddon. Scientists are most likely the only ones to get excited for this. They explain that Rosetta mission will bring us insights on the origins of life, that probably came on the Earth right on the tail of a comet. The mission costed, until now, more than 100 millions euro. Honestly too much, even to retrieve an archaeological relic of the universe.
If you understand Italian language, here’s the full video.
There are three main things I want to point out about this creepy comment. The first is evident: the low cultural level of the person who wrote this. The superficiality with which the whole fact is reported, and the poor language, are proving that the editorial staff just ignores the basics of Science that are expected at a School level. The second point is also relevant, even if not very evident. The commentary highlights the difference between the beauty of art and religion, and the cruel realism and rationality of Science. This is, unfortunately, very common in Italy. For historical reasons, Science has always been deemed as a minor culture, respect the dominating humanistic culture. The third thing to underline, is about the money. They point out that the project costed more than 100 million euro, but they “forget” to mention that the amount has been spent in ten years and, doing the math, any european payed 3.50 euro to get this extraordinary result.
I understand that if I keep reporting all the defects of my country, readers will run into bore, but I think there are some points of interest in this story. The “war on Science” is a common feature of conservative policies all around the world, and Sarah Pailin’s awkward statement on Drosophila research is just one of the many possible examples. In any context, the war on Science proceeds with the same strategy. The trust in Science is weakened in public opinion, by diffusing misconceptions, superstitions and conspiracy theories. This effort is reinforced by a systematic cut-off policy in public education. This provides the suitable ground to decimate the public funding in research. The ultimate aim is to kill the critical thinking, in order to better control the public opinion and be eased in populistic and racist campaigns.
Differently from the US, where the importance of research funding is still well understood at government level, in Italy this attack worked a lot. Schools are in the red, public research funding just ceased to exist, our school students are the most ignorant in Europe, and racism is spreading out with alarming rapidity.
Luckily, things are changing as the Berlusconi’s rule went belly up. The most of commenters on social networks are literally rising up against the Mediaset’s TV channel, whose comment didn’t killed the interest in Rosetta project historic achievement.