There has never been a time when 'following the science' has been more important for humanity. At no other point in history have we had such advanced knowledge and technology at our fingertips, nor had such astonishing capacity to determine the future of our planet.
But the decisions we must make on how science is applied belong outside the lab and should be the outcome of wide public debate. For that to happen, science needs to become part of our common culture. Science is not just for scientists: if it were, it could never save us from the multiple crises we face. For science can save us, if its innovations mesh carefully into society and its applications are channelled for the common good.
As Martin Rees argues in this expert and personal analysis of the scientific endeavour on which we all depend, we need to think globally, we need to think rationally and we need to think long-term, empowered by twenty-first-century technology but guided by values that science alone cannot provide.
1. Global Mega-challenges
2. Meet the Scientists
3. Science Comes out of the Lab
4. Getting the Best from Science
Martin Rees is Astronomer Royal, former President of the Royal Society, Fellow (and former Master) of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He sits as a member of the UK House of Lords.
"A judicious and timely presentation of nothing less than how to save the world, from one of our wisest scientists and public voices."
– Steven Pinker, Harvard University, and author of Rationality
"A few people come along in a lifetime who stand out because of their polymath skills and wisdom that spans cultures and ideologies. Such a person is Sir Martin Rees. This book distills this wisdom, gained over a lifetime of contributions to science and public service."
– France A. Córdova, President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and Former Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation
"Sane and sage perspectives on the past, present, and future of civilization, offered by one of the deepest thinkers of our times."
– Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
"Reading this book is like cozying up to a fireside chat where one of the greatest minds in science distills the complex interface between science and the welfare of society. Even better, no fire required!"
– Marcia K. McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences
"This is a powerful humane argument for science. Martin Rees draws on his long and wide range of experience to show how science works – and how it can be done better."
– David Willetts, President of the Resolution Foundation and Chair of the UK Space Agency
"Sometimes it can feel like we're stumbling from one global challenge to another. At the same time, we rightly worry about the pace of technological advances. But we cannot afford to turn our backs on science for, without a scientific understanding of our world, we are doomed. Rees puts the case for placing our trust in science compellingly and with a rare honesty."
– Jim Al-Khalili, University of Surrey and BBC broadcaster
"This timely and absorbing book issues a clarion call to scientists, policy makers, and citizens everywhere to join forces so that the extraordinary advances in science will be directed toward solving pressing global challenges. Whether we live in the best of times or the worst of times in the future is up to all of us."
– Shirley M. Tilghman, President Emeritus of Princeton University
"The future of humankind depends on science and on fully integrating that science into human culture and society. In this erudite yet accessible book, Martin Rees makes a compelling case for supporting science and making it an integral part of our democracy and political decision making."
– Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute
"Delight along with me as Martin Rees describes his world of science and what it will take to ensure that we not only survive but prosper in the Anthropocene Era."
– Charles F. Kennel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and former Chair of the NASA Advisory Council
"This lucid and compelling book by one of the world's foremost and far-seeing scientists shows why we ignore science at our peril. The book should be required reading for scientists and is an accessible 'must read' for everyone interested in the critical and existential challenges facing humanity."
– Ian Goldin, Director of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
"Martin Rees is unique in combining achievement at the very highest echelons of science, an almost cosmic perspective on humanity's risks and prospects, and the ability to communicate complex ideas in vivid ways. Here he shows how much we need science, in a tour rich in personalities and history, fusing comments on the frontiers of science with appreciation of their political and ethical dilemmas, giving the reader the pleasure of learning in the company of a sparkling intellect."
– Geoff Mulgan, University College London, and former Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts
"Is science and its organization fit for purpose as society faces 21st-century challenges, from climate change to dominance by AI? As clearly demonstrated in this masterpiece, no-one is better able to answer this crucial question than Martin Rees."
– Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford
"[Rees'] reasoning is sensible and down-to-earth, and the call for change refreshingly urgent instead of doom and gloom."
– Publishers Weekly
"This book is both pleasurable and essential – a guide to the worst that can happen by one of our best."
– Bryan Appleyard, The Critic
"The title of Rees's latest book – If Science is to Save Us – is an unfinished thought, possibly containing a fundamental ambiguity depending on whether you think of it as starting or ending a sentence. It can be read as a warning or a note of optimism, which seems to encapsulate the author's position."
– E&T Magazine