A Mammoth of Research

You know, there’s so much science on TV and in the papers these days.

I mean, I share in the glory of science every bit as much as people who actually work at it. I certainly know much more than they do, after all, I used to edit the London Evening Standard. But all you people who think science is interesting, fun and useful; well, yes. But, you know, it costs money. Money that the BBC could be spending on other things!

I mean, instead of a “mammoth of research” behind St. Pancras, with all those arrogant scientists making smells and stuff, we could build a big circular tent and fill it with crap. Though I wouldn’t let that Brian Cox play there this time. “Things can only get better” – I don’t know! You’d think he owns the solar system, whatever that is. Personally I think that Giordano Bruno fellow was hugely overrated. Really, he turned cosmology into some kind of religion. He was probably after some funding.

Anyway, you people, listen. Science is just one of many wonderful areas of human endeavour. I mean, we have classics, fine art, English literature, journalism, drama, economics, accountancy, film, politics, philosophy of many different kinds, tiddlywinks, tennis (lawn and real), and science. We should get the balance right. I mean in a cultured society, when money is short, why should real tennis or merchant banking get less public subsidy than science? Martin Rees is just a bishop, and here in the Guardian I have an absolute license to bash the bishop in public.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have had the third brandy. Still, the editor is bound to be able to sort this bollocks out. Or he can use the last one I wrote, I’m sure no one will spot the difference.

[With, at least so far, no apologies to or from Simon Jenkins.]

[But with a follow up in the Guardian.]

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About Jon Butterworth

UCL Physics Prof working on LHC, dad, dodgy guitarist, Man City fan in exile.
This entry was posted in Rambling, Science, Science Policy, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to A Mammoth of Research

  1. Pingback: For richer for poorer « Where the Sun hits the sky

  2. crosswordbob says:

    One of the irritating downside to advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic is, of course, that idiots can and will bemoan time and money being spent developing the very tools that enable them to do their moaning.

    Worse, though, (IMO) is the practice of throwing utterly nonsensical arguments at scientists, then accusing them of closed-minded “faith” when they dismiss those arguments as the nonsense they are.

    I write as someone who had to leave a post-graduate degree course in pure mathematics owing to health problems; one could argue that there is a separation between pure maths and science, but there is certainly some common ground. Either way, I hope it will make your day a little brighter to know that it was in part your TV appearances discussing the LHC that gave me the resolve to take a small step back to academia by challenging myself to learn in detail some of the essential 20th century (21st might be overly ambitious ;-) ) advances in physics.

    If, for every vociferous half-wit that rants about science being of secondary importance, we can get one person to recognise its “beauty/necessity duality”, we will be on the right tracks.

    Anyway, preaching to the choir and all that (hmmm—was this the right place for that metaphor?); I just thought you might like to know you and yours are making a difference.

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  4. James Hayton says:

    Nice spoof, you missed out the references to Nazi Germany, the Spanish inquisition and Pol Pot though.

  5. Sophie says:

    Brilliant!
    That article was so infuriating but the backlash makes it almost worth it.

  6. Synchronium says:

    Tbh, science is just one of many equally valid worldviews.

    David Tredinnick 4 Dictator!

  7. Andy Russell says:

    Excellent work on getting a guest post from the big Jenk! All the usual reasoning and clarity I’ve come to expect his work.

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  9. Thanks all! (especially crosswordbob)

    I wrote it simply to turn annoyance into amusement, which seems to have worked for quite a few people. I’m kind of stunned by the monster unleashed. It’s certainly an incomplete take-down, but I’m sure the ground will now be covered: http://blogs.nature.com/ue19877e8/ :-)

    The danger for me is that while the level of debate is set by bitter, ignorant and high-profile trolls, it’s hard to move on. A natural response might be either to disengage from public discussion, or to respond with a blanket hostility that can appear to justify the initial nonsense.

    So ridicule is IMHO the best response in this case. I’m pretty confident it’ll make exactly zero distance to the man himself, but if this a mutual support group, then so what? Everyone needs support now and then, especially when under public and unjustified attack. We can save the more reasoned discussion for people who are willing to engage in it.

  10. phayes says:

    I think the funniest Jenkins article ever was his “I studied advanced maths to 16” article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/06/maths.alevels

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