"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Muster the Courage and Wisdom to Vote"

Faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University recently endorsed the Reproductive Health Bill. The professors signed the endorsement as individuals making it clear at the end that they are not representing the views of their other colleagues, the university, and the Society of Jesus. As an institution of higher learning, I am confident that the Ateneo will continue to respect intellectual freedom. Without such, a university crumbles. At one level, it is easy to see how one's way of thinking can succumb to pressure. There are punitive actions that can be taken by an authoritarian administration. In various blogs, the Catholic Church has been equated to an antiquated institution bent on punishing its members who do not follow the marching orders handed down by the bishops. The fact that proposed Reproductive Health bills in the Philippines have not moved forward in Congress has been blamed fully on pressure and influence from the Roman Catholic Church. It has been more than one hundred years since the friars of the Spanish empire had full control of the archipelago, yet the people of the Philippines still think that the tyranny is still present. The Catholic Church is accused of meddling with politics although for so long, there really has not been a "Catholic vote". Marcos, after all, stayed in power for twenty years in spite of Catholic priests being openly against his administration.

Without doubt, the Philippines indeed had its share of imprisoning intellectuals. These are political prisoners. They get jailed simply for what their beliefs and views.

But there is a different type of tyranny that exists. To the intellect, what is really scarier is to go against the trend. Among intellectuals going against the flow requires one to muster the courage and wisdom to think. Straying away from what is fashionable can mean isolation. It can mean being ignored.

Human nature begs for an audience. And not only an audience, but an audience that claps their hands in applause. It is probably one reason why Facebook has the "Like" button.

So the argument goes; The Philippines is among a less than handful of countries that have only ten years of basic education. The country is being left behind by other nations and is not meeting current global standards (even though there is really no global standard for basic education). But the threat of the "fashion police" is real. And it is the threat that can truly kill an intellectual. Who would want to be labeled as being against the Philippines becoming at par with its neighbors?

Scientists at times have managed to rise above "Argumentum Ad Populum", although in most cases, funding could still be influenced by what society dictates. Society does pay taxes so it is reasonable that society must retain its voice in terms of research funding and priorities. On publications, however, science does not recognize the "argument by what is popular". Scientific publications are peer reviewed and are backed by data and evidence.

Issues such as poverty, climate change, population growth, and basic education have a science dimension. Intellectuals need only to muster the courage and wisdom to be sincere and honest. Still, the "fashion police" are out there. You really would not want to be ignored and have "0" likes on Facebook....

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