No nonsense, no science

No nonsense, no science

Look at this coincidence. Turkey was, finally, taking action to encourage scientific and technological development with an integrated law; this was publicized with a meeting attended by the prime minister himself. But before 24 hours had passed, police raided the houses of dozens of academics early in the morning and detained them.

Turkey’s development will happen only with a formula that is simple to write but very difficult to apply: nothing else. First you will have science, then you will have engineers converting this science into technology and design; then you will have venture capital that will produce and market the products of these engineers.
When any of this three-phased chain is weak, then the system will not work. Only if your chain is strong, can you produce high value-added goods and sell them to the world and to your own people. You can exceed the current level of your welfare only by products with high added value. 

Otherwise, just as happened here last year, the price of the dollar goes up and we suddenly become poor.

The three links of this chain are all pretty weak in Turkey. There is no adequate venture capital. The engineering capacity is insufficient and there is not enough science. 

We have only a little bit of all these three fields; we are proud of what we have, but it is not enough. 

This bill that was announced by PM Ahmet Davutoğlu the other morning is an important initiative addressing the link in the middle, in other words, the technology and design link.

I was preparing to write about what could be done to strengthen the science link of this chain after reviewing the bill, but the police operation that has the potential of taking the science of the country way back started early Friday morning.

Well, I was about to write on the importance of international cooperation in science but as of yesterday morning, I had to go back to a much more elementary topic, the ABC of science. 

If in the universities of a country there is no scientific thinking, then there cannot be any science in that country. The practice of scientific thought is, at the extreme, the freedom of talking and doing nonsense. Yes, the freedom to practice nonsense. 

“Scientific thinking” is not limited to freedom of expression of thought. Ideas, works and research that look like nonsense are indispensable parts of scientific thinking.

If a group of academics in Turkey has signed a text that may look like rubbish or even ill-willed to some others and if that causes them to be “taken” from their homes early in the morning by police and leads to them losing their academic jobs in a short time, then how are we going to explain this situation to those who remain in universities and take over their work from them? What kind of a message are we giving to the remaining scientists who we expect to contribute to the development of the country and humanity? 

“Do not get involved in any kind of nonsense otherwise you will lose your jobs and freedoms…” 

As a matter of fact, science advances only with the involvement of some nonsense. 

Some scientists are involved in nonsense while others would say, “You are being ridiculous again; this is the right way to do it…”

Galileo was absolutely engaged in nonsense for his contemporary rulers. They tried to jail him.

Isaac Newton was a grumpy and quarrelsome man; if he hadn’t worked for years in the house that was allocated to him without even giving one lesson to one student, he would not have written his famous “Principia.” Even after he wrote it, he did not publish it for years. Edmund Halley, who has a comet named after him, forced Newton to get the book published. Newton’s university paid a salary to a man who never left his house, published anything or gave any lessons.

American physicist Richard Feynmann was working on the Manhattan Project but was secretly entering everybody’s room and opening their safes. If he had been fired and arrested, probably there wouldn’t be any Feynmann diagrams, which is one of the most important parts of quantum physics, and the incredible technology that came to our lives with it. 

If it is nonsense to ask for peace and blame the state while doing so, without uttering one word about the essential component, that it was the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that started the war, then let it be nonsense and let them do the nonsense. 

There will not be any science in a university where there is no freedom for nonsense.