The prime task of 2003 and beyond is to re-define and re-discover the intellectual and moral roots of science. For science has become bound with wealth and power into a positive feedback loop from which it cannot escape: its perceived role in the present age is to provide high technologies of the kind that generate capital which in turn supports more science, of the kind that will provide high technologies to generate more capital and so on and so on. It becomes more and more difficult to finance science that offers no obvious short-term commercial or military reward. Worse: an entire generation of scientists and politicians has grown up that takes it to be self-evident that science should accept its role as the handmaiden of commerce and power. Hence the present uncritical enthusiasm for GMOs, with no clear vision of how they might benefit humankind, and for the industrialisation of agriculture in general, with no knowledge of, or respect for, all that is destroyed along the way.
So we need above all and as a matter of urgency to re-state what science is, and what it is for, and to re-discover the political means by which it might again promote the perennial human causes of justice, human rights, and cultural and biological diversity. We need of course to revise the teaching of it: to present science not simply as a vocational pursuit, a means to promote wealth and power, but truly as one of the world's most valuable cultural pursuits: not as the royal road to omniscience, which it decidedly is not, but certainly as an indispensable source of insight and enlightenment.
All the rest is detail.
Three-time winner of the Glaxo/ABSW Science Writer of the Year Award.
Author of The Time Before History; The Variety of Life; and coauthor of The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control.