Editor's note: This is the last in a series of seven collaborative reflections by students and faculty in the Honors College at Southern Oregon University (SOU) participating in the The Democracy Project (DP), a comprehensive international examination of democracy that includes its historical evolution, the role of minority groups, and concepts such as citizenship, cultural assimilation, equality, freedom, imperialism, nationalism, security and sovereignty.
In his address to the Anniversary Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy noted, “recent scientific advances have not only made international cooperation desirable, but they have made it essential. The ocean, the atmosphere, outer space, belong not to one nation or one ideology, but to all mankind, and as science carries out its tasks in the years ahead, it must enlist all its own disciplines, all nations prepared for the scientific quest, and all men capable of sympathizing with the scientific impulse.” These prescient words ring true today as they did when he spoke them.
The Southern Oregon University Democracy Project (DP) is a comprehensive study of democracy involving students, faculty, and interested community partners. Participants compare and analyze constitutions around the world on various jurisdictional levels, keeping in mind questions such as, “What is the proper role of government?” and, “In a democracy, what is the appropriate balance between individual liberties and collective human rights?”
Today, science and technology play a major in all aspects of our lives — from healthcare to environment to national security. Governments, particularly democratic societies, are increasingly relying on science and its products in making sound policy decisions. Toward this end, there is an urgent need for engaged, reflective and responsible citizens to be scientifically informed, in order to navigate through the many complex and challenging issues we face.
As part our Democracy Project 2016 tour of Europe, we visited CERN, which exemplifies international cooperation and scientific progress. The name CERN is derived from the acronym for the French "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire” or European Council for Nuclear Research, a provisional body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organization in Europe.
CERN is a collaborative institute dedicated to the advancement of scientific knowledge. Twenty-two member states and several observer states provide equipment, money and manpower that goes to various research projects carried out in CERN’s particle accelerators, which go by the names Alice, Atlas, CMS, and LHCb.
CERN is unusual in that its primary objective is not application, but rather it to produce and expand knowledge (pure research). The only products created are ideas — valuable, but not tangible. This doesn’t stop entire nations from providing resources, to peer into the depths of the universe and find out what still lies hidden from us. The international collaboration and cooperation at CERN encourages scientific research that is devoid of any political agenda. CERN operates like a democracy. It is led by a director-general who oversees the organization and a council of approximately 44 delegates made up of both scientific and governmental representatives. The council aims for unanimity in every decision, giving equal influence to each council member.
Why does CERN organize itself this way, and why do member states provide so many resources when no tangible product is given in return? It’s simple; democracy is good for science. Democracy allows for collaboration, discovery and the advancement of knowledge. From this knowledge come new medicines, technologies and a deeper appreciation for human life.
Our species is curious. It’s that very curiosity that put a man on the moon, inspired us to smash protons together until a Higgs Boson emerged, and might one day tell us how we all got here. Science is not an ideology; it’s a process. CERN takes that process to an international level, and accelerates it (pun intended) to produce the most underrated commodity; pure discovery. CERN exemplifies the ideals of democracy and offers a model for how we can understand and approach the many complex challenges we face today, and will face in the years ahead.
This is the seventh and final reflective essay in the “Dispatches from Europe” series, written by professors and students in the Honors College at Southern Oregon University, and published in the Ashland Daily Tidings. We have covered:
• “Encouraging Global Citizenship Through International Travel,” by Dr. Ken Mulliken (Tidings, Sept. 27, bit.ly/soudpe1):
• “The Architecture of a Modern Crisis,” by Samara Diab and Dr. Lee Ayers (Oct. 5, bit.ly/soudpe2);
• “What Americans Can Learn From Europeans,” by Cole Barnes and Dr. Bill Gholson (Oct. 14, bit.ly/soudpe3);
• “Both Switzerland and Oregon Practice Direct Democracy,” by Brynne Webb (Oct. 21, bit.ly/soudpe4);
• “Youth Participation in Democracy in an Age of Social Media,” by Micaela Saling (Oct. 25, bit.ly/soudpe5), and
• “From Homemaking to Policy Making: European Women in Political Leadership Roles,” by Dylann Loverro (Nov. 3, bit.ly/soudpe6).
The experience of comparing European democracies with the structures and processes in the United States, was a rewarding educational experience. Perhaps more valuable, was the opportunity to reflect on how democracy is understood, implemented, and promoted around the world. Thank you for the opportunity to share our reflections with you.
Sara Antonuccio is a freshman math major and Honors College Scholar at Southern Oregon University. Dr. Prakash Chenjeri is a professor and philosophy program chair at SOU.