Letter: While Willie promotes, his 'wicked goblin' denigrates

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The Independent Online
Sir: Deep concerns about the inability of the UK to profit from scientific knowledge as effectively as our main competitors date back at least to the last century, when we failed both to back Babbage's pioneering computers and to realise the industrial significance of Germany's early lead in organic chemistry (it took the First World War to wake us up to that one). I don't think Bryan Appleyard should therefore lose too much sleep over being personally responsible for National Science Week.

I do worry, though, about his obsessive portrayal of scientists as hell-bent on undermining the values of civilisation. There is a wide variety of views in all walks of life on the philosophical questions he, rightly, sees as important. Why, then, does he not refer to those scientists who do acknowledge the role of the humanities, and openly argue that science alone cannot resolve many of the ethical issues raised in a technological society?

It is not as though we have been silent. Only as the newsprint on his article was drying, I was discussing exactly these issues on BBC Radio 2, arguing, as was William Waldegrave himself, for an integration of our scientific and humanistic traditions.

Yours sincerely,

DENIS NOBLE

University Laboratory of Physiology

Oxford

23 March

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