Henry Porter: we choose to ignore scientists

Henry Porter’s article in yesterday’s hardcopy Observer was headlined It’s scientists who make Britain great and yet we choose to ignore them . . . A harsher assessment than the toned-down title of the on-line version, but pertinent to a common-enough state of affairs.

He listed the achievements of many in the 350 years since the Royal Society was established, from Isaac Newton to today’s John Sulston, Tim Berners-Lee and James Lovelock. Of their discoveries, Porter says

Many of these discoveries would no doubt have eventually been made, but the point is that Britain’s contribution to civilisation [ . . . ] incalculable and, when 2012 comes, it seems worth reminding the world not only of these leaps of understanding, but the conditions that allowed them to occur, principally freedom from religious and political persecution and a society that permits individuals to challenge orthodoxy.

Henry Porter concludes his article with a quotation from James Lovelock who said “I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle as complex a situation as climate change” before going on to say

He may be proved to be right but one hope of survival in the 21st century is surely much greater understanding of science and, therefore, our dependency on a very delicate system. The arts and sports are all very well, but what better time than the Olympics to promote these ideas of the world’s first great scientific nation after Greece?

I’ll be sending him a copy of The New Optimists.

One response to “Henry Porter: we choose to ignore scientists”

  1. Tim Grant says:

    So very devastatingly true, the sciences are really falling out of the public eye, and the only things reported seem to paint in a negative light. As a country [the UK] should be proud of our achievements and advancement of society, but it’s all too often left by the wayside..

    The most important aspect of science to the general person is that it teaches and reinforces critical thinking, something that can be applied in all situations. It’s such a shame that scientists aren’t in the public eye as rolemodels.

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