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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Head to head: Science
HEAD TO HEAD
The UK Prime Minister's speech on science is being seen by some as an attack on environmentalists such as the GM protestors.

In a speech at the Royal Society in London, he said science was vital to the Britain's future prosperity.

Mr Blair said science was "just knowledge and knowledge can be used by evil people for evil ends".

He said he rejected the view that "by supporting science the government wanted the world run by Dr Strangelove".

BBC News Online talks to two people on opposite sides of the debate.



Friends of the Earth's executive director Charles Secrett:

Tony Blair wants to portray environmental protesters as anti-science.

But in fact concern for our environment has been fuelled in large part by scientific findings, from climate change to species loss.

Unfortunately, governments ignore this science whenever it suits them.

If government science policy was governed by a real concern to find the truth, rather than by narrow business interests we would all be much better off.

The assumption from Downing Street and the Prime Minister is that science which supports business arguments and a business case is good.

But on the other hand there is the difficulty of scientific findings which are saying, "hang on a second, we shouldn't proceed in this case, there are dangers and difficulties".


Science minister Lord Sainsbury:

When you are looking at scientific problems, the first thing is to get the scientific facts right and then make the moral decisions afterwards.

And if you are having people pulling up trial crops, then what that does is deny you the facts on which you can make a sensible decision.

What [Tony Blair] is saying is that he is very persuaded of the huge benefits in areas like medicine and the environment, as well as in terms of jobs and the importance of science.

There is a big problem, not so much about the number of people doing science, as the fact that it has got very skewed towards particular areas of science, such as IT and biology, and we are losing out on people doing some of the harder subjects such as physics and chemistry.

And there are some serious weaknesses in the teaching of those areas.

There're not enough people with proper qualifications and I think that is a very serious issue.

We have to look at how we can attract more physics and chemistry teachers into those areas so that we can get some really inspired teaching of young people.

See also:

23 May 02 | UK Politics
22 May 02 | UK Education
28 Apr 02 | Scotland
20 Sep 01 | UK Education
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