“The trouble with Natural Selection is that everybody thinks he understands it.”
I turned on Saturday Live on Radio 4 this morning as I had heard that Rob Newman was one of the guests. I used to love The Mary Whitehouse Experience and even Newman and Baddiel to a point. I especially loved when he turned his back on huge fame and went off and did something different and interesting. I like his Politics. His History of Oil was good stuff and his TV show History of the World Backwards was one step away from pure genius so I was interested to hear what he’s up to now. Unfortunately what he’s up to now is a stumbling, badly researched and ultimately false critique of Dawkins and Neo Darwinism. It was a genuine car crash of an interview during which Richard Coles did his best to find out what his point was but he completely failed to demonstrate any real grasp of the subject at all.
He didn’t even seem to grasp the basic point that selfish genes do not necessarily lead to selfish organisms. He totally misrepresented Dawkins. Unfortunately he has form for misunderstanding or misrepresenting such as in his Guardian article about Population where he disagrees with David Attenborough and tries to argue that overpopulation is not something to worry about because the rate of increase is going down! (Population continues to climb of course.) He can of, of course, make any claims he likes about Neo Darwinism but if the sum total of his education on the subject is a couple of books and lectures he can’t expect people to take him seriously.
Fortunately I don’t have to agree with everything someone says to like them. I like Richard Coles although I am not Religious. I even agreed with the most recent article Rowan Williams wrote in the Guardian about the marketisation of Marriage. I don’t disagree with someone because part of their Worldview differed from mine or they are unqualified but being unqualified in Biology makes it much more likely that your views will be utter rubbish. This doesn’t change my view that Rob Newman is a thoroughly decent man who cares about both people and the planet but hopefully he comes to realise what a foolish, misguided quest this is and gets back to bashing the powerful, amoral elites on our fragile planet.