Not really a successful discussion programme: too short, too many guests and too broad and therefore shallow. You can watch it on iPlayer here. I’m spoiled now by (good) blogs as far as debating goes, I think. Dinner with Portillo is probably the best that telly can do.
But it was quite rib-tickling from the point of view of a Thought Experiments reader with experience of the Way of the Yard. Bryan made about four utterances each of which fell stillborn into baffled silence. The other guests plus Portillo appeared to be suspicious of him; and rightly so since the Yard was starting from a position in which he took it as read that describing science as ‘amoral’ is meaningless because apart from a very narrow series of actions, eg. in the lab or at the computer, everything about any kind of science – from the rationale for the research and the justification for the funding through to the use of the results – is moral. Therefore all the obvious rhetorical points which you might expect to hear in a sixth-form debate about science and morality can be skipped. The rest of the guests listened to him, nodded warily and proceeded to make all the obvious rhetorical points which you might expect to hear in a sixth-form debate about science and morality. The Yard looked tired and picked the carbs out of his dinner.