December 31, 2003
Nemo vs. the precautionary principle
Bewre the "precautionary principle." Iain Murray points out that this was a major theme in "Finding Nemo." Excerpt:
Many thousands of children and their parents were entranced this year by Pixar's excellent movie Finding Nemo, whose combination of inventiveness, comedy, and emotion made it an early candidate for the Best Picture Oscar (though given last year's precedent, Best Documentary should not be beyond its grasp). Yet it contributed something to the world besides making so many people happy. It is one of the most powerful statements in a long time against a pernicious and retrograde idea that has enthused regulators and nanny statists all over the world.
That idea is the so-called "Precautionary Principle," which, broadly speaking, says that no new technology should come into use unless we are certain that it will do no harm to life or the environment. The European Union is so enthusiastic about this idea that it is not only looking to enshrine the principle in its proposed constitution, but is even thinking of applying it retroactively, by testing chemicals that have been in everyday use for centuries to see whether they are safe enough by today's standards. A moment's thought reveals the Precautionary Principle to be an insidious idea: If applied throughout history, it would have left us trapped in caves, without tools or fire. It is a worldview that sees any risk as unacceptable, even if this condemnation costs us the chance to progress. ...
In the DVD edition, the film's director, Andrew Stanton, comments that "the movie is about the battle of hope versus fear, optimism over pessimism; it's half-full versus half-empty.... You can either hide in life or you can enter it, take your chances and engage." The philosophies of Finding Nemo and the Precautionary Principle stand in stark opposition to each other — which makes the movie's popularity very good news.