YORKSHIRE — A speech scheduled for yesterday at The Royal Society, promising to discuss 'The importance of Science', was never going to set hearts afire, even if given by the Prime Minister. But, as the event was heralded with a few carefully placed news stories hinting that Tony Blair would square up to animal rights extremists and protesters against genetically modified crops, perhaps a few more people paid attention than would have done otherwise.

Those who do read the speech will be surprised. The controversial issues are discussed, but in the context of a speech that takes as its main thrust the relationship and relevance of science to society. Admitting that science poses hard questions of moral judgment — old chestnuts include how to apply the invention of nuclear fusion; new ones such issues as cloning — Blair argued that "The answer is not to disinvent nuclear fusion. The...

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