Sunday, 24 June 2012
A Happy Prospect
In the latest edition of Prospect, a book by the immensely distinguished sociobiologist Professor E. O. Wilson is very unfavourably reviewed by a man whose published scientific work stopped at a doctoral thesis no fewer than 46 years ago, and who has filled in the intervening decades by releasing, to enormous commercial gain, essentially the same illiterate work of philosophy over and over again. In so doing, he has become a source of tiresome little aphorisms for teenage boys, and the moral guide in the life of Jimmy Carr.
The top and bottom of the latest bother is that Wilson's scientific account is incompatible with the basis of his reviewer's atheism or, as it recently turned out to be after all, agnosticism. So, according to the reviewer, the science has to yield. Wilson is himself an atheist, but clearly of the wrong kind. Presumably a rather more secure kind, in that, like many people's very secure religious faith, it does not require that the findings of science be tailored to suit it.
The reaction has been, shall we say, refreshing. The reviewer has had it coming for many years. By the end of this one, it looks as if know-all adolescents are going to have to look elsewhere for their annoying one-liners, while the tax-dodging entertainers of such student Trots as the producers and the commissioning editors of comedy on Channel 4 and the BBC are going to have to look elsewhere for a "worldview" in which such behaviour makes any sense even to themselves. Good luck to both of them with that. Very, very, very good luck, indeed.