Just listened to Chris Packham on Desert Island Discs. We have a lot in common, I’m maybe 4 years older, our interests in science and music had very similar origins and early trajectories, but I have to say he came across as a gross self-parody of the worst kind of scientistic media-celeb scientist. Nothing personal, just the stereotypical archetype of much that is wrong with modern science, and why the way it is promoted as teaching knowledge through the media is potentially so damaging to humanity.
His “red in tooth and claw” description of the Sparrow Hawk shredding the Greenfinch, suggesting any “repulsion” is tantamount to closing one’s mind on the true beauty of the process [*]. No, it’s the human response acknowledging that there is far more to Darwinian evolution than the individual vs individual life and death competition. His infatuation with the joyous predictability of his “dogs and other animals” is precisely because he – on his own admission – rejects human beauty as too complicated for his taste.
Proudly sceptic, like any good scientist, rejecting authority, the rebel (rebel rebel, punk to be different) always questioning authority. As he says, authority needs to be earned (yawn, this is news?) but having earned it, I ask, does it not deserve any respect ? Simple Darwinian principles are levels of “fidelity” and “fecundity” – predominantly copying established precedent – upon which to play the exceptional mutant games of new opportunity. Conservative authority must be respected or we have no progress. Anti-establishment rejection for its own sake gets us nowhere, the special – destructive – case of falsification testing [or Sparrow Hawk eats Greenfich] is only a small part of the whole enterprise. Difference must be an exception from a norm.
I’d mentally drafted most of the above during the programme, but he caps it all …. the Bible and Shakespeare as “fuel”. Oh how we laughed. I’m often impressed how Kirsty manages to skip over those two without attracting anti-religious comment (take it or leave it being left unsaid as not the point of the program) …. but no, he had to take the fight to the religious (and the literary in the same breath). What a closed-minded, bigoted, scientistic stereotype. Talk about missing the point.
And the final “pick one” choice-of-choices of this book-burning bigot?
The refrain from Penetration’s Shout Above the Noise.
“Don’t let them win.”
Truly the scientistic neurosis in Maxwell’s terms. A scientist paranoid about them. We should be teaching the next generation to acquire knowledge in the application of wisdom, not neurotic paranoia against those nasty humanities / humanists.
[(*) Post Note : coincidentally, posted on Facebook last year witnessing from my office window a Sparrow Hawk take a Chaffinch from our garden feeder in classic over-the-hedgerow smash-and-grab ambush mode last year. More interesting, early this year, we stood and watched a Kestrel stoop in full view just ten feet in front of us at Portland Bill, gradually dropping and hovering in careful stages as it kept eyes on its prey the opposite side of a 2 metre high wall in front of us, only to pop-up instantly to sit with the vole in its claw on top of the wall in front of us. It proceeded to tear and swallow strips over the course of maybe 15 minutes, as we and a growing crowd of maybe 6 or 8 passing walkers paused to watch. Fascinating.When it got to some of the more gruesome entrails it contemplated disdainfully whether to swallow before discarding and moving on to tastier morsels, eventually flying off to somewhere more private to finish its meal.]