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Science in society – politics, development and social justice.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Don’t fear dirt!

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An etching caricature of Faraday giving a filthy Farther Thames a card

The Great Stink of 1850s London was a pivotal moment in sanitation in the city, precipitating the building of Bazalgette's sewer. But have our lives become too sanitised?

A watershed moment in our perception of disease came with the discovery of penicillin. All of a sudden we had the power to beat infections which would have killed the strongest.

The wonder drugs that are antibiotics beat back the deadly microorganisms. With such a weapon in our arsenal it was assumed that at last we would rid our world of pestilential microbes.

William Stewart the Surgeon General of the USA in 1967 said:

“The time has come to close the book on infectious diseases. We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.”

This could be seen as emblematic of how our attitudes to science and nature have changed. In the 1960s we assumed the automobile economy was the wave of the future; we saw nature as something to master; we thought we could wipe out all infections.

As we moved from the twentieth to the twenty-first century however we have developed a more conservationist approach. Biodiversity, sustainable development and halting climate change are the recurring themes of current popular discourse. Read the rest of this entry »


Truth, uncertainty and belief – Edge Magazine’s big question of 2011

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The days of the New Year drift by; I tick off one more birthday in my ever dwindling years before I succumb to the cold embrace of the grave; February trundles into sight with the horrors of Valentine’s Day. It is therefore time to dive head first once more into the world of all things sciencey to dredge up a tasty morsel or two.

Not two days ago your tragically aged author dids’t converse mightily for over an hour with his long suffering girlfriend about science and its place in the world. An anthropologist (don’t hold it against her), said girlfriend offered many an interesting point on the nature of belief, the arrogance of science as a discipline and the faith that is put in science by lay individuals. Following this intellectual contretemps I did retire to lick my wounds and it is with surprise and satisfaction that over my morning victuals I open my Saturday Guardian to see the very point I set as a foundation for my defence against the marauding social scientist being held aloft by some estimable men of science. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by nascenthack

January 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm