29 January 2020

Hans-Christian Pape: “Tolerance can be trained.”

President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation calls upon researchers and society to engage in a dialogue based on trust.

Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

Wortart Ensemble
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

New Year’s reception of the Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

Barbara Hendricks, member of the German Bundestag; Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

New Year’s reception of the Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

New Year’s reception of the Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

New Year’s reception of the Humboldt Foundation
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

Speaking at the Foundation’s New Year’s reception in Berlin, Humboldt Foundation President Hans-Christian Pape pointed out that such a dialogue requires not only willingness on the part of researchers to explain their actions but also willingness on the part of society to trust science and its complex facts. Pape began his speech at the New Year’s reception on 28 January with a quotation from Humboldt: “The unveiling of truth is unthinkable without the divergence of opinions.” 

In his address to some 450 invited guests from the science community, the political sector and industry along with Humboldtians, Pape underscored that science is obligated to pursue truth on this basis. “The divergence of opinions is our way of searching for truth; ambiguity tolerance is the approach we use to get to the heart of scientific issues. And it is the search for truth alone to which we are committed. It is the essence of the freedom of science, which we must champion”, said Pape. However, it appears that society has not been practising the ability to tolerate ambiguity - in other words, the ability to cope with and negotiate ambiguity and inconsistencies or contradictions - very much in recent years, Pape continued, referring to growing intolerance and the resultant radicalisation of societies around the world. 

However, it is possible to practise and train the ability to tolerate ambiguity, he added, noting that this requires a trustful dialogue between society and the science community. This dialogue will continue to present one of the biggest challenges facing research and science once again in the coming year, Pape stated. 

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