THERE was an irony recognised by all that during Lord Winston’s talk on whether invention may not be to humankind’s benefit, he couldn’t find a single working microphone in the New Theatre Royal.
But the Professor, in Portsmouth as part of the city’s Festivities, overcame the obstacle to sound a rallying cry to the 350-strong audience at the theatre: take science back from scientists.
The message, delivered as part of a talk containing at least as many negative as positive results of human ingenuity, could have come as a surprise from a man famous for his scientific expertise.
But he explained: ‘I’m no luddite. Science has made us who we are. But every single piece of technology humans invent has a downside nobody sees at the time.’
He called for people to hold scientists to account, citing Nazi experiments, laser technology, genetic manipulation of mice, stem-cell research and IVF treatment in which he specialises.
The audience were delighted with what they heard.
Emsworth resident Jane Patten watched the show with 13-year-old son Eliot. She said: ‘I’m a midwife and parent and I think he’s fabulous. It’s wonderful to see him talk in a setting like that, fielding questions from the audience, too.’
Eliot added: ‘I enjoyed the piece on the mice. He brought it to life really well. We don’t normally come down here but it was worth it for this.’
Chloe Shaw, a 12-year-old Portsmouth Grammar School pupil from Waterlooville, said: ‘I like science and it was great to see a scientist like him talk. I enjoyed the things he did about cells because we’re doing that in biology at the moment.’
Festivities organiser James Priory said: ‘It’s wonderful to have Professor Lord Winston here and it was a good change to hear a scientist talk about the ethics of science, not just its progress and practicalities.’
Talking to The News after the event, Lord Winston said: ‘I’m here because we have a responsibility to communicate what we’re doing. What we do affects everybody, so we must be more modest and let the people decide whether what we do is right. To do that they must be scientifically literate.’