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Science
SCIENCE IN THE MAKING
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Why should we trust science?
Mondays 30 June and 7 July 2008  9.00-9.30pm

For most of the time, scientists work away unseen and unheard. In Science in the Making, Stephen Webster explores the scientists’ world. Why should we believe what they tell us?

Image title
Dramatic evidence of coastal erosion in Dorset

Stephen Webster is a Philosopher of Science at Imperial College London. He is interested in how scientists pursue their craft. He wants to know how scientific “truths” are established. Above all, he wants to know why we should trust science.

In “Science in the Making”, Stephen questions two scientists about what they do and how they do it.

Dr Richard Wingate works at Guy’s Hospital in London. He leads a team of lab-based medical researchers who investigate the early development of the brain. Richard hopes that his work will eventually have practical application, but first of all he has to understand the basic principles that control cell organization.

At Southampton, Professor Carl Amos is investigating coastal erosion. With climate change high on the political agenda, this work has immediate application. If sea levels rise, Carl’s research might help us exploit natural defence systems to protect our coastlines.

The two research groups are very different. One is biological, the other geological. One deals with a tiny portion of the developing brain; the other looks at the wide sweep of the oceans. One is a fundamental project to gain knowledge of a hugely complex developmental process; the other has immediate application.

The scientists tell Stephen about their research projects. They describe their working environment and the tools they use. They stress the importance of accuracy and honesty.

But even when all the correct procedures and protocols are followed, can our trust in science be justified? Scientists are often under immense economic and political pressure. Is scientific method robust enough to withstand these strains?

Programme One - The Scientists

Stephen Webster explores the scientists’ world. Why should we believe what they tell us?

Listen again Listen to programme one
Migrating neurons in the embryonic chick brain
Migrating neurons in the embryonic chick brain

Programme Two - The Science

Science claims to tell us truths about our world. But even when all the scientific protocols are followed, is our belief in science justified?

Listen again Listen to programme two
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