INTERROGATING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

Friday 14 July 2000, The Royal Institution of Great Britain

Many have criticised Prince Charles' recent pronouncement that we should "restore the balance" between traditional "instinctive wisdom" and that of scientific rationalism. Nevertheless, concerns about global warming, mobile phones and genetic engineering, to name just a few examples, suggest that society is increasingly nervous about the harmful consequences of its own actions. The idea of precaution and risk avoidance is at the heart of debate about the future of society. At 'Interrogating the Precautionary Principle', eminent scientists, social scientists and writers will question the premises of the "precautionary principle", justify their views about its applicability to modern society, and consider what it is that society has become so afraid of.

DATE: Friday 14 July 2000, registration 10.00-11.00am

VENUE: The Royal Institution, 21 Albermarle Street, London, W1 >>

TICKETS: 25/20 (phone the RI box office on (020) 7670 2986) >>

CONVENED BY: Tony Gilland, Professor Susan Greenfield and Dr Helene Guldberg

SESSIONS

11.00am-12.30pm FROM GM FOOD TO GLOBAL WARMING: PRECAUTION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

Speakers: Lisa Jardine, author, Ingenious Pursuits: building the scientific revolution
Norman Levitt, professor of mathematics, Rutgers University; author,Prometheus Bedeviled: science and the contradictions of contemporary culture
Professor Anthony Trewavas, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh
Professor Brian Wynne, research director, Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University
Chair: Dr Helene Guldberg, former publisher, LM magazine

Scientific discovery was once celebrated for enabling greater prosperity, health and knowledge. Now it is criticised for exposing us to new risks with potentially catastrophic consequences. Are the uncertainties involved in modern science of a new order of magnitude or has society lost its nerve?

2.00-3.30pm GOVERNMENT, BIG BUSINESS AND CAMPAIGN GROUPS: WHO DECIDES?

Speakers: Simon Best, CEO, Geron Bio-Med Ltd
Professor David Cope, director, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
Dr Douglas Parr, chief scientific adviser, Greenpeace UK
John Vidal, environment editor, The Guardian
Chair: Anne Furedi, director of communications, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

How can public confidence in science and innovation be rebuilt? In a world of political apathy, where governments are viewed as sleaze-ridden and >> multinationals as greedy profiteers, who should decide what risks society should take? Does the deference to consumer campaigns and media coverage reflect an abdication of leadership, or an enhancement of the democratic process?

4.00-5.30pm A CULTURE OF CAUTION?

Speakers: Carl Djerassi, professor of chemistry, Stanford University; recipient of the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive)
Dr Frank Furedi, reader in sociology, University of Kent at Canterbury; author, Culture of Fear
Judy Larkin, specialist in reputation risk management and partner of Regester Larkin
Michael Willmott, co-founder and director, Future Foundation
Chair: Professor Susan Greenfield, director, The Royal Institution

Risk and safety have become buzzwords for our time. They permeate discussions of everything from child-rearing and personal relationships, to economic development and new technologies. Is there a connection between these fears?

This event has been organised in partnership with the Royal Institution as part of THE INSTITUTE OF IDEAS: a Summer 2000 series of debates around the themes of freedom, culture, science, thought and morality: THE INSTITUTE OF IDEAS An Intellectual Map for the 21st Century 16 June to 16 July 2000 For further details on INTERROGATING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE contact Tony Gilland on 07970 658 979 or via email: tgilland@easynet.co.uk. For more information about THE INSTITUTE OF IDEAS, please call Tiffany Jenkins on (020) 7269 9227 or visit www.InstituteofIdeas.com