What has science ever done for us?

By Ken Perrott 02/05/2012

Lord Taverne. Credit: Wikipedia

Well, according to Richard Taverne it is at least partly responsible for making our society more democratic, more tolerant and more compassionate.

Lord Taverne is founding chair of Sense About Science and former Labour minister. He gave this year’s Sense About Science lecture titled: “What has science ever done for us?” (see Annual Lecture · Sense about Science).

The Guardian Science Weekly has made this lecture available as a podcast. You can download it at Science Weekly Extra podcast: What has science ever done for us? I have listened to part of the lecture and it is very thought-provoking.

Alokh Jha, on the Science Weekly blog, gives this introduction to the lecture:

Sense About Science was founded by Richard Taverne 10 years ago to further the public’s understanding of science and help scientists advocate an evidence-based society.

At the time many scientists seemed reluctant to take part in public discourse, now 5,000 have signed up with the organisation to do just that. There’s still some way to go in promoting the public understanding of science in the UK, says Taverne — alternative medicine and the national lottery are thriving, and only one of our MPs is a graduate scientist.

To mark his retirement from Sense About Science, Taverne delivered its annual lecture on Monday 23 April at the Royal Society of Medicine, which posed the question: “What has science ever done for us?”

He argues that … apart from making us wealthy, helping to feed the world, cutting infant mortality, explaining the origins of the planet and our species, letting us fly, watch television, expanding our lifespans, inventing anaesthesia … science has made us more tolerant, compassionate and democratic.

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