Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

Archbishop speaks to Scientists at Sanger Institute

Archbishop visits Sanger Science Institute

Friday 22nd February 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams visited the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, part of the Wellcome Trust Genome campus, to view the work being undertaken and discuss the themes of science and the human person and current issues in bio-ethics.

The Sanger Institute was opened in 1992 with the aim to to further our knowledge of genomes, and in particular to play a substantial role in the sequencing and interpretation of the human genome. The Institute is regarded as a key player in the international research community and its main projects include the human genome project, the cancer genome project and the pathogen sequencing project and it is hoped that the information gained will increase our understanding of gene function in health and disease and to generate data and resources of lasting value to biomedical research. 

Speaking to scientists after a tour of the Sanger Institute, Dr. Williams said,'I've found it a very exciting few hours. It's not an area where I have more than a casual acquaintance from reading the press and reading the weeklies and so it has been genuinely very engaging to see what is actually being done. And a number of the problems that I see are precisely the problems that a community of researchers can't themselves resolve because there are social and political issues around which our population as a whole has to make some choices about. And my worry is not so much what is happening in research; it is what's happening to the capacity in that political and social culture to make intelligent corporate decisions. We spoke just now about the risk-aversion and the anti-intellectualism of our culture, and it seems to me that a lot of what you have been talking about is in the grip of those two things. Peoples inability to calculate what risk actually means in just the terms of what we were speaking about earlier and the general suspicion, increasingly and sadly, of science - science with this capital 'S' which is a kind of Frankenstein area for so many people - probably increasingly so and more perhaps than when I was a teenager.'

Back · Back to top