1 MAY 1992, Page 21

Sir: As one who has just found himself under the

wing of John Patten, the new Secretary of State for Education and Sci- ence, I read with some attention his recent Spectator article. The whole drift of the argument was worrying, but, in particular, anyone who writes that 'Scientific thinking means that all things must be proved before they are' gives cause for grave concern. For, if true, it means that nothing is — nothing except mathematical abstractions. Scientific theories are no more than current best guesses, and they always will be.

Such a howler is likely to get the consid- eration it deserves when uttered casually by the inmate of a Basildon pub, but when written (and apparently believed) by some- one in charge of the nation's education and science — well, words fail me. He's totally wrong, but, of course, I can't prove it.

Derek Partridge

Professor of Computer Science, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter