“If the French have such a positive vision of researchers, it is because they are positive figures in the collective narrative,” believes Jean Viard

The Nobel Prizes awarded last October are presented today in Oslo, Norway. Iranian journalist and activist Narges Mohammadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, still imprisoned in her country, was unable to be present, her family received the prize on her behalf.



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A photograph of Iranian journalist Narges Mohammadi, 2023 Nobel Peace Prize winner, still imprisoned in her country.  She begins a new hunger strike today.  (AFP / NARGES MOHAMMADI FOUNDATION)

The Nobel Prizes were awarded two months ago now. The awards ceremony takes place today in Norway in Oslo, and the 2023 Nobel Peace Laureate, lIranian activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi, imprisoned in her country, will observe a new hunger strike “in solidarity with the religious minority Bahai” starting today, while his family will receive his award on his behalf.

With the sociologist Jean Viard, who co-wrote and published a book on the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Chinese Gao Xingjian, we return today to the importance of these prizes, and to their exemplary value in France and around the world.

franceinfo: Are these prices still seen by the French as examples to follow?

Jean Viard: The Nobel Prizes are very important, because basically, it was the democratic world that started this. Alfred Nobel is the inventor of dynamite. His father was already a specialist in the subject, so it was a large family that made its fortune in dynamite. And Nobel said to himself: how can we create peace with something that seeks to destroy? And he put all his money there, so that it would indeed be a prize that values ​​humanism, peace, and it has become a reference for our democratic societies, it is a global prize.

The Nobel Peace Prizes and even the Nobel Prizes for Literature are generally people who defend the values ​​of peace and humanism, and we can clearly see the Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, (imprisoned in her country. Editor’s note).

And then this prize promotes science, because once again, this year, we had the second French woman after Marie Curie, the Franco-Swedish Anne L’Huillier who received thehe Nobel Prize in physics (for work on the movements of electrons, editor’s note). And so, that highlights things, including it allows us to say but wait, regarding the Nobel Prizes, there are only 61 female Nobel Prizes, 6.5% of the Nobel Prizes given to women, which means that we need to move. So this is something important.

So afterward, what importance does it have in public opinion? Excellence must be valued. work must be valued. It must be said that there are people who search and people who discover, this is positive in a society. And moreover, if the French have such a positive vision of researchers, since more than 80% of French people value them, it is because for them, they are positive figures in the collective narrative.

We have this role of model that must be put into perspective. I am thinking of Professor Luc Montagnier, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, for his role in the discovery of the AIDS virus, who then became a figure in the anti-vaccine movement. We are all complex beings…

Yes, but of all the Nobel Prizes, some have drifted, but it is not because someone is valued for their work that they are a little saint… That would be too convenient. The example you give is indeed very unfortunate, but I still believe that it remains. All societies have symbolic figures. Look at the Americans, they carved their first president out of the mountain. We have our republican figures from the revolution of 1789. We all need figures to construct a collective story. And I think that the Nobel Prizes are actors in this construction, and they are world Nobel Prizes.

And then let’s insist on one thing, the IPCC, these are researchers who set up the IPCC, thousands of researchers who networked and who became interlocutors of the climate revolution, very respected, very influential and that clearly shows how point promoting science is important, in the current period of upheaval that we are experiencing.

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