Slow to criticise

January 19, 1996

It transpires from Sir Michael Atiyah's 1995 presidential address to the Royal Society (Perspective, THES, January 5) that the society has at long last awoken to the dangers of anti-science. What a striking contrast with ten years ago.

Arguably the worst (and most damaging) single anti-science item ever to feature in the British media was the Science . . . Fiction television programme broadcast by BBC2 on February 17 and 22, 1986, (and the related article "Dismantling Truth: The Fallacy of Scientific Objectivity" published in The Listener on February 20, 1986). Did the Royal Society object? No. On the contrary, Science . . . Fiction was a Horizon programme, and the Royal Society obligingly co-operated in its making.

The Royal Society's (quite ambiguous) definition of science in Science Education 11-18 in England and Wales (1982) was subjected to a devastating critique in a letter by H. Ramage published in September 5, 1986, issue of The THES. The Royal Society never replied to this serious criticism.

In his address Sir Michael also said: "We need some humility . . . We have to examine our own position and see whether any of the criticisms levelled against us are valid." It is never too late for one to practise what one preaches.

T. S. HARRISS London SW18

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