The EU referendum ticks ever closer, and as wit anything that could have a profound impact on my (and your) entire life, the nerves are getting high. If someone asked me to write a list of things I am, number 1 would be a scientist. It isn’t a choice I, I was born this way. The scientific case, in my opinion, is the most compelling reason to remain in the European Union. You might ask yourself, by what has science done for me? If you do then shame on you! Science is everything, the television you watch, the transport you use, the drugs you need to get better – just about every single thing that allows you to live a life better than the neanderthal can be traced back to a scientist (and indeed a Physicist, but today I choose my battles!).
I have decided to simply list out the scientific case for remaining in the European Union. Some of these are more “classic” ideas and some have originated from my brain and I have yet to see them written elsewhere. Together I hope you will find them powerful, if you are still on the fence.
- Co-operation and science; There is a picture portrayed of Albert Einstien that he was some sort of social recluse. The kind of man who locked himself up in his study and didn’t come out. In actuality this could not be further from the truth, he was playful and deeply sociable and made many of his advances working with the greatest scientists of the day. Whilst nobody in their right mind would say that it is impossible to cooperate without the EU (we do so with America and Asia regularly) it is a large facilitator of cooperation. The European Union removes massive restrictions to travel that we have in other areas of the world, which has allowed thousands of scientists to move, collaborate and share ideas more easily. It is all to easy to point scientific achievement before the EU and use that as an argument for why it isn’t necessary but we are not in the past, we are in the present and the problems we face today are far too complex to limit our chances. We need to move and think freely.
- Plate tectonics: What actually Britain, this country that leave campaigners continually state they “want back”? It is a small piece of continental crust. And no matter how much you want your little bit of crust, there is someone who is going to take it from you – and no, I do not mean migrants, I mean the Earth. Crust is continually recycled with old crust destroyed and new crust born. So when you really give it some thought there is no permanence to a continent, it is a temporary label given to the transient position of land. Life is simply too short to romanticise over something so trivial. Don’t get me wrong – I love Britain, it is truly wonderful – but I do firmly believe you cannot own a temporary piece of continental crust. Yes it makes sense to divide them up for certain administrative functions but we should leave it there.
- The fee barrier: Scientists are humanitarians. They choose a life of very little money, continual work, spending all their life not really knowing what they want to do, often being unable to settle in one place having almost no stability, and why? Two reasons – the selfish one because it feeds our inner desire to know why, and the virtuous one – because it reflects our outward desire to improve life for the human race. It is really really important that people are allowed to do this and one of the biggest barrier to doing this is the fees, and boy are we swimming against the tide. When my mum went to university it was free. Then by the time my older friends went it was £1,000. When I went it was £3,000. By the time my brother got there it was £9,000. Keeping financial barriers to education as low as possible isn’t just to make my life better – it makes everyones life better. You have no idea who has been deterred from education because of the barriers that exist, you just have to hope they didn’t have the information you needed most, coded in their brain. One of the most beautiful successes of the EU is that you can study in any country and pay fees as if that was your home. We must not destroy this.
- The funding: There is an inherent difficulty in science in that a lot of it isn’t commercial. It is very easy to get funding to work on an app that people are going to get hooked onto then it will charge them to use, that’s an investment. Go on Dragon’s Den and tell them you need £50,000 to sustain yourself while you think about string theory and if it goes amazingly well then you will have given mankind a richer understanding of the universe that cannot be sold for any discernible profit. Getting funding is really hard and a lot of it is pooled at an EU level. This is the most efficient way of doing things for two reasons – firstly it means projects can be tackled that are larger than any one country could tackle alone and secondly it means that the competition is higher, meaning the funds have a tendency to favour brighter brains. We simply won’t get our fair share of the EU pie if we don’t help to bake it.
- The projects: Very similar to the above, but think of CERN, think of the ESA. These are amazing organisations. I recently met one of the most intelligent people I have ever met in my life, who has a role working for a project backed by the ESA to try and give access to developing countries to data from space. It’s amazing, collaborative and forward thinking – and something of which I am immensely proud. We must make sure we are included in all endeavours of CERN and the ES, they are vital to our existence.We cannot expect to be given the preferential treatment in these projects that we would get if we were a home scientist – and that is what we are in the EU, we are home scientists even when the project is elsewhere.
- Homo sapien: That’s what you are – it means “thinking man”, an arrogant and slightly sexist proclamation but the point is our brains set us aside from the apes. We have this wonderful gift of thinking – and more specifically pattern recognition. Human spots pattern, human explains pattern. Honestly that is all science is, it is how for example Halley worked out that it was the same comet seen at regular intervals, not different ones. This has been repeated over and over again in history, it is an undeniable fact. So why, when it comes to our history do we ignore this? Time and time again it has been proven that the only way to prosper is together. It breaks my heart the amount of suffering and difficulty there is in the world, and the EU is the best example of a project to bring good to the lives of people that transcends countries. Human spots a pattern that works – human applies it. Homo sapien.
So my friends, we come to an end. I could go on and on – this is a very emotive subject for me but I shall not. If you haven’t realised by now why it is so important to stay together then sadly you may never. I just hope that you will join with me and vote for the EU on the 23 of June, for the good of us and all the homo sapiens of the future.