Sunday, June 11, 2006
Science and Civilization
BBC 4's In Business Podcast this week (available for a week from 8th June) talks to James Martin and Steve Rayner of the James Martin Institute of Science and Civilization of the Said Business School at Oxford University.
Peter Day: Now, the trouble with science is that it is reported as a quest for absolutes. The reporting of science is a real problem for science isn't it?
Steve Rayner: Well it is, although I think perhaps in some cases scientists protest a bit too much about the flaws of the media in this direction. Very often they complain, for example, that they carefully nurture relations with science journalists, and then when an issue becomes a very public issue with a lot of exposure, it moves to the news pages and people who don't understand science and have no scientific training, take over. My response is , 'Well, of course, that is exactly right, because it is no longer a science issue; it is now a public policy issue. And the kind of discussion that is going to take place around it isn't simply structured by science'. And this is I think one of the difficulties...
Science is one of the few areas of human endeavour, where we don't have publicly recognised non-practitioner experts. If you think about it, music, food, wine, all of these have connoisseurs; you have sports commentators who are experts on sport: none of these people could do the activity to save their lives. We don't have that actually as a category about science; and I think in some ways, one of the things that the James Martin Institute wants to do is to actually to (sic) become the non-practitioner expert who can facilitate the public discourse about science and about scientific controvities (sic), about GM crops, and nuclear power and these kind of things.
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