Roberto Burioni: "Italy is in bad shape, always oscillating between science and superstition"


He also learned a lesson from the populists: "When I talk to people on social networks, I put aside the cold language of academic publications and try to involve them. Demagogues are masters in this. Of course, it's easier for them, because they don't have the obligation of truth. However, if scientists do not learn to take hold of people, nobody will listen to the things they have to say ā€. The mission of Professor Roberto Burioni, an apostle of the Enlightenment in a country still "attracted by superstitions", began when he became a father, at the age of forty-eight: "The birth of my daughter made me realize that many children like her they risked their lives due to the misinformation in Italy of vaccines. This is what made me feel the need to commit myself and do something to combat falsehoods ".

The last battle of Burioni, born in Pesaro, doctor and ordinary of Virology at the Vita-Salute San Raffele University of Milan, is against homeopathy: "Is he crazy perhaps? I have never used homeopathic remedies. It would be like drinking fresh water. I may have made spells when a Lazio player shoots a penalty. But I never read the horoscope, I never got my hand read, I never drank a love filter. The use of homeopathy is more or less in the same category of things ".

To this "belief" that "unduly" wears the clothes of "science", albeit an alternative one, Burioni has dedicated a book two hundred pages long – Homeopathy (Rizzoli) -, telling the pioneers who gave it life, the principles that have it supported from the nineteenth century to the present, the care he has developed, with a dedication that borders on masochism: "Everyone is free to take care of himself as he wishes, provided he does not endanger other people. I have studied thoroughly, to provide the tools I need to make conscious decisions ā€.

But what harm does it do to those who care with homeopathy?

In many cases, none.


So, it's not good for me that the state is wasting public money to finance the deduction of homeopathic medicines.


Because she is free to turn to a fortuneteller to find out what will be in her future. But it is not right that the costs of this visit are charged to the national health service, as if it were an X-ray.

Is the homeopath like a fortuneteller?

As for me, he is a doctor who deceives his patients.

But puts them in danger, like who is against vaccines?

Those who do not vaccinate their child, put their child and those around him at risk. Those who resort to homeopathy, in the most serious cases, can only hurt themselves.

And aren't they your business?

If he is an adult, and is properly informed, of course yes. The problem arises when a little girl – as happened in Pesaro a few months ago – dies of an otitis treated with homeopathic medicines. At that point, it becomes a more general issue, which concerns the degree of awareness of the risks to which one is facing.

Is it just an Italian problem?

No, but Italy is one of the worst countries. It does not seem to me that there is another western country in which, within a hospital of the national health service, a concoction was administered elaborated following the criteria of the Stamina method.

Why did it happen right here?

Because Italy has a state that oscillates between science and superstition. It is the country where the Di Bella therapy trial was approved. Where courts have issued judgments on vaccines contrary to any claim of science. It is the Republic in which some parliamentarians said that it was possible to treat the Xylella by embracing the poor trees that were affected. Faced with such a state, it is clear that a citizen can feel disoriented.

For years she has tried to get him back to the compass.

More than anything, I try to inform properly using social networks too.

There is an objection that I would like to ask you.

You are welcome.

You sometimes use hard language.

If a father puts his son's life at risk, to follow a belief that has no basis, I believe that there is only one word to define it: donkey.

However, he wondered if the "donkeys" convinced them or pushed them further away from science?

I am a scientist and my statements are always based on data. I do not have numbers that show that a certain number of people who first thought all the possible evil of vaccines then convinced themselves otherwise. But I don't even have numbers that prove the opposite. I'm sure of one thing: that everything I write is scientifically flawless.

Is that enough?

It is enough for me to know that, before, social networks were dominated by those who disinformed. Now, I'm also a tool for those who do the opposite. That is, it informs, making itself read by many people.

Did you ever feel like you were in a bubble?

The bubbles were not born with the internet. They exist in life. When I was a boy, for example, the Communists went to the PCI section and read only what the Unit wrote. They had their world. Their certainties. Their dogmas, too. But at some point, even their bubble broke. Why shouldn't the bubbles that exist on Facebook break?

Do you ever get out of the rational part of yourself?

You see that science is not just numbers: it is passion, it is creativity, it is fantasy, it is the ability to imagine the world.

Are you saying that even the scientist is an artist?

The difference between a scientist and an artist is that the scientist is not enough to have an intuition, he must also have the humility to demonstrate that what he has thought is true.

The artist must create, however.

Of course, and I am admired by their creations.

What, in particular?

I love music, above all. And I venerate who composed it.

Who in particular?

My favorite is Gioacchino Rossini.


Because yes. There is no reason. It's just that. Moreover, most of the important things in life do not have a reason. People live without asking questions. When I hear The Cinderella, I feel only a boundless pleasure.

And what happens to his reasoning?

I lay it down. And it only passes through pure feeling, complete irrationality.

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