Adam Bly is the founder and editor-in-chief of Seed Magazine and the Chairman/CEO of Seed Media Group. Seed is a bi-monthly science magazine based out of New York and is distributed internationally. The magazine looks at issues located at the intersection of science and society. In 2007, Seed was nominated for two National Magazine Awards.
At 16, Bly was the youngest researcher at the National Research Council of Cancer, where he spent three years studying cell adhesion and cancer. Bly has received many international prizes, including being selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007, and has also received the Jubilee Medal. Bly lives in New York City.
Question: Does science explain everything?
Adam Bly: Does it? No. Should it? No. Do I want it to? No. No. I do think that there is a place for . . . Again I think it’s also about viewing . . . Again it comes back to that fundamental of, “What is science?” I think that science does have surpassing powers in terms of its utility as a lens. It does cure things, you know? It does have actual great functional value. I’m not sure we could deal with the catastrophic impacts of climate change simply through the arts. I don’t mean that flippantly. I mean there is great value actually to the arts now in making people emotionally invested and even better citizens when it comes to these issues. But you know fundamentally you do need a scientific lens to actually deal with these issues. And so do I think it has surpassing value? Yes. Do I think that it . . . it can be a complete, full worldview? For some yes. For some no. For society at large, I don’t know what that means. There is no such thing as one global lens. So I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that. I do think that there are greater many . . . There are many more forces acting against science than there are forces acting against some of those other lenses. I do think that science is a more certainly progressive . . . It almost seems a copout to say “better”, but better lens than religion at a high level through which to view the world and its problems. Because I think that we as a planet, as a population are better when we know things, when we question things, and we’re capable of understanding the foundations for decisions. And I think that that’s generally true. I would struggle with how to incorporate that into the challenges that a country like China faces today in achieving political reform. Because on one hand those are somewhat democratic ideals that I’ve associated with science. And I think that science and democracy do go very nicely hand-in-hand. And I think if you’re sort of pro-science, you’re pro-democracy. If you’re pro-democracy, you’re pro-science. Or you kind of should be fundamentally, which is why it’s non-partisan. But as you look at, you know, emerging economies and you look most importantly at China right now and its profound place in the world; and on, you know, the next, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of our lives, on one hand I still believe in the power of science; but the way we view democracy . . . the way we view all those kind of institutions I kind of laid out as being analogous with science, somehow all of this needs to be rethought in the context of . . . in the context of China, which is what I was saying earlier about kind of rethinking science in the context of both the eastern and western perspectives. Because some of those same ideas may not hold true for what is ultimately in the best interest of China going forward. So I . . . That would be an interesting, you know . . . That’s something I don’t know yet. I’m not sure how that all mashes up with the rise of science in China.
Recorded on: 10/17/07