Les promesses de la génomique

VIENNE – Pour la plupart des gens, toute promesse suscite une attente, un espoir fondé et raisonnable. Science et société sont en ce sens liées par une promesse : l’opinion publique fait confiance au progrès scientifique et technologique en tant que guide sur le chemin d’un monde meilleur, dans lequel elle espère que les générations futures pourront vivre plus longtemps, en meilleure santé, et plus heureux.

Cette promesse est née il y a environ 400 ans, avec l’institutionnalisation de la science moderne. Après avoir découvert que les mathématiques pouvaient s’appliquer à la compréhension du monde physique, un petit groupe de penseurs en philosophie naturelle se sont orientés vers un empirisme expérimental axé sur des objectifs concrets. Emmenée par cette minorité, la révolution scientifique s’est étendue à l’Europe, avant de gagner le reste du monde.

Dans son œuvre « Instauratio Magna, »Francis Bacon, l’un des partisans les plus éloquents de la science moderne, fait valoir la vision d’un monde nouveau, qui progresserait grâce à l’étude systémique des phénomènes naturels. En imitant et en décomposant la nature, considère-t-il, ses secrets pourraient être dévoilés, et exploités dans le sens d’une amélioration de la vie humaine. C’est cet objectif pragmatique formulé par Bacon, consistant à utiliser la compréhension scientifique des causes naturelles afin de « réaliser toutes les choses possibles » – ce que l’on appelle aujourd’hui l’innovation – qui a constitué la promesse originelle de la science auprès de la société, laquelle s’est inscrite au cœur du siècle des Lumières.

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