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Internal News - 14 May 2007

Science Café on public’s suspicion of science

A distinguished politician and science communicator will talk about the public’s “dangerous mood of suspicion towards science” at the next Bath Science Café (7.30pm, Monday 14 May 2007).

Dick Taverne – a former government minister and now a life peer – will focus on the precautionary principle – a moral and political argument that is often applied in considerations surrounding new technologies.

The principle says that in the absence of a scientific consensus over whether a new technology might harm the public, the burden of proof falls on those advocating the technology to show it would not cause harm.

“The precautionary principle is more often invoked than defined,” said Lord Taverne, founder of the charity Sense About Science which promotes ‘good science and evidence in public debates.’

“When closely examined, the precautionary principle is either so vague it is meaningless, so obvious it is useless, or simply an excuse to prevent reforms which those who invoke the principle want to stop.

“It is part of a dangerous mood of suspicion towards science and retreat from the rational values of the Enlightenment.”

Lord Taverne, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, was a Labour treasury minister, helped found the Social Democrat Party and was influential in the negotiations that led to the creation of the Liberal Democrats party.

His book, The march of unreason: science, democracy, and the new fundamentalism, was recently published in paperback by Oxford University Press.

The Science Café is an ongoing series of monthly events where some of the country’s leading scientists will talk informally about their research over a pint.

The event will be held in The Raven pub in Queen Street in the centre of town. No tickets or reservations are required - just turn up at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start.

Organisers will ask for a small voluntary donation to cover travel costs for the speakers.

The next Bath Science Café will be Fusion: powering the future by Chris Warrick from the Culham Science Centre on Monday 11 June.

To register for email alerts about forthcoming Science Café events, contact Melissa Spielman.