LETTER: Blinded by science

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Once again we have a distinguished scientist promoting science as a Good Thing (John Gribbin, "Why bother with science?", 29 July) as though the best path to honesty, integrity and morality lies in the methodology of science. If we use the words "science" and "scientist" in the same ill-defined, generalised way as he and other commentators do, we can quite forcefully say that science usually leads to technocratic arrogance. Scientists can be as venal as any other professional for they will go where the big money is. Science is increasingly commercialised and likely to be less open.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that science produces nice clear- cut answers, which of course it does within a certain domain of study. In the real, messy world of human affairs, hardly anything is clear-cut. It does not need the "honesty, integrity and morality" of science to see through meretricious advertising or political double-speak. Think of any recent controversy and you'll find one lot of scientists promoting a certain course of action with an equally qualified lot against it. What can even the moderately qualified layman make of it all? Science is synonymous with its applications: one technical fix produces unforeseen side-effects which in turn need another technical fix, and so it goes on. Let us have a more balanced debate and less of the unwarranted triumphalism surrounding science and its achievements.


Stockbridge, Hampshire