The relationship between science (if we mean the knowledge and study of things by science) and power (such as ability, power, and therefore the power to act, exercised for personal or collective purposes) is as old as man. To talk about this relationship, it is customary to refer to Galileo and the sentence that was appended to him, but we can also find examples in everyday life. But what is the accusation against Galileo? It was published by the Dominican Friar Tommaso Caccini, on December 21, 1614 from the pulpit of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.
The monk launched against some modern mathematicians, in particular against Galileo, the accusation of violating the Bible with their astronomical concepts inspired by Copernican heliocentric theories. The trial began in Rome on 12 April 1633 and concluded on 22 June 1633 with a conviction of “strong suspicion of heresy” and forced abdication. Galileo had to submit to the power of the Church.
In our time, and precisely in the first months of 2020, while in countries such as Italy and Spain the Covid epidemic restricted many individual freedoms in an attempt to stop it, Boris Johnson’s government adopted a herd immunity strategy, based on the fact that a large number of infections are among the least exposed population. Danger can act as a shield for the entire population. So places open to the public such as bars, restaurants, sports facilities, theaters and cinemas are not closed. As infections increased, scientists began to give credence to the recommendations they retracted between March 14 and 20. Fortunately, the authority had to yield to the knowledge that the scientific community had produced and made known.
But this was not always the case. Between 1997 and 1998, the treatment of oncology with the so-called de Bella method garnered much attention not only for the hopes it held for patients but because it promised a radical alternative to chemotherapy. The case imploded in December 1997 after Magli (Apulia) Magistrate Carlo Madaro signed an emergency clause ordering the local association to provide treatment free of charge. Even then, the Single Medicines Committee and the Supreme Council of Health gave a negative opinion regarding this remedy. In 1999, an experiment was conducted on the so-called de Bella method by the Ministry of Health, which confirmed the ineffectiveness of the treatment. The survival curves confirmed that these patients experienced no increase in their survival from this treatment. The day after the announcement of the ineffectiveness of Professor Modinez’s anti-cancer treatment, despite this overwhelming evidence, a right-wing party reaffirmed its decision to support de Bella in the name of the patient’s freedom to choose treatment despite the scientific evidence. This was the first time and I hope it will be the last time that a political party has challenged the scientific evidence to claim the outlandish notion that in treating oncology everyone should be free to choose how they treat themselves. Times have changed but the idea of having one’s own opinion, as with Covid, is leading us to be more careful and fight for a society that believes in the value of science.
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