Not a Guest Post and not by Simon Jenkins

Today, I’m sure that you, like me, are appalled at the moved to besmirch my good name through the medium of twitter. No other person in the land will start their working week with a campaign by “science citizen journalists” to parody and smear their views in this callous and amateur way. Linked only by, I am reliably informed, the “hashtag” (hash indeed!) #spoofjenks. This “Spoof Jenkins Day”, my friends tell me, is apparently the result of this post by scientist Jon Butterworth on his personal website in response to this article, written, proof-read and presented on a national. After such an attack, I feel it is my right to defend my credentials and my views. If I hear of the attack getting any worse, I have friends who will wire me the offending articles and “tweets” and I shall consider my options after reading the matter.

Let us begin with my own credentials. I began my editing career in 1976 and have worked through such titles as the Evening Standard and The Times, as well as a few supplements here and there and also holding the political editorial of The Economist. I also worked on two great national institutions of international importance – the Millennium Dome and the National Trust. Adding in my work on Country Life and my many publications such as “The Times” English Style and Usage Guide, I believe I have demonstrated quite a breadth of knowledge no ‘specialised’ scientist can match. I have seen most of life from behind my newspaper desk and have commented on it for more than four decades in the virtually unregulated media of print newspapers. Some may say my earlier editorial positions have given me free reign to say what I like irrespective of the quality, but I would dispute this. It is my uncanny ability to reduce seemingly complex matters to their irreducible facts that allow my colleagues to refer to me as Simple Sir Simon.

I also have a great depth of knowledge, having engaged with science on a number of occasions. In my post at the head of the National Trust, our publications have turned to such routinely ignored matters as ley lines and where to find them. When I was at The Times, I was similarly able to promote theories ignored in mainstream science, such as the views that there was no link between HIV and AIDS, something political and religious leaders in the developed world still use to prevent the soiling of their land through the disposal of non-recyclable rubber products.

This brings us to the heart of the matter with science. Yes, it brings us all kinds of gizmos and wonders – ever clearer photographs of God’s Creation great and very small – but we already know of the complexity and beauty of the Creation. Rather than studying the Rosette Nebula on taxpayer’s time, why do they not simply enjoy the beauty of nature’s Rose in their own time? If they want to study mathematics and statistical sciences, why do they not go into economics and learn numbers the way I did? The more than 14% of GDP that comes from the financial sector needs a lot more help than the about 30% of GDP that comes from the UK science base. And remember it is the financial services that foot the bill for the 0.3% of GDP spent on science. I shudder to think what the receipts from science itself are spent on. It must be something truly disgusting for the defectors with doctorates from science to come over to use their training to produce the computer programs on which the financial sector now runs. They do try to bring over their science with them – an understanding based on cold ‘rationality’ and ’empirical evidence’. Fortunately, we economists are made of sturdier stuff and resisted that to create the financial stability we see today. They are helped by the BBC, providing a state funded pulpit from which they may preach their gospel, unlike economists, who are reduced to relying on the daily shows the BBC produce, news correspondents and an annual direct visit from the Government in their Mansion House speech.

I ask what rationality is there really in the practise and philosophy of science? To reject that which we know in order to then be able to study it again and again, which I presume is what they’re doing. The idea that if an infinite group of monkeys were given an infinite number of typewriters, one would produce all the works in the British Library is sometimes ascribed to Arthur Eddington, a scientist. If that isn’t angels dancing on the pins of needles, I don’t know what is – and that was an actual scientific experiment. Looking up things like whether the aether blows onto light, these things speak of ephemera. Consider instead the unsullied beauty of the arts, which ask the questions we need to answer, or the certainties of the Bible and great works of literature, which are our guide to the answers we seek. They involve no such musings.

Democritus, the father of science in ancient Greece, used to muse on their being two types of knowledge, the Legitimate and the Bastard. The Legitimate is the knowledge of the intellect. It is beautiful, unsullied and above all true. The Bastard knowledge is that which comes to the intellect via the imperfect senses. It is the Bastard science of materialistic empiricists that attacks me now. It is Legitimate knowledge that I use to defend myself. Not the knowledge derived by men in lab coats looking through telescopes, but knowledge passed on from the Eternal Mind through the Bible. Whoever needs to use their own mind when that one supplies all we need to know?

I do have friends, some of whom I have actually spoken to, who have in their time been practising scientists. In many cases, it was a brief flirtation – perhaps they were birdwatching late at night and their spotting scopes drifted onto the Moon for a moment – but scientists they were and so scientists I know. When I look at the full gamut of their profession – nurses, astrologists, others – I see that in every field there is something very common. Words. Made up words not found in the works of the great writers. Words that have no meaning I can discern and no meaning I feel I would want to waste time working out. Words that keep up the barrier between those who have entered the priesthood and those who remain the ley, sorry, layman outside.

This is the important point with science. It has these truths hidden behind these words that those inducted into it are told of. What else could they spend seven years of a medical degree or the first and postgraduate degrees of other fields learning at our expense? There can’t be that much to get their heads around. I have never had to stray beyond the science nor the mathematics of my schooldays in all my various careers and nor, I suspect, have they. For all the knowledge they seek we already know. Going back to Democritus, he developed an atomic theory thousands of years before Newton. His atoms had hooks and eyes, ball joints and sockets and when I look at those funny models of molecules that scientists ram down our throat through science programs every second of the day, I realise nothing has advanced since that time.

From my time at Country Life magazine to my stewardship of the Natural Trust, I have seen the agrarian nature of life. I make my toilet in the bushes that require such fertilisation and sleep under the stars in rugs my staff prepare from the wool of my own sheep. That’s fieldwork. That is living life as it was meant to be lived with the unchanging knowledge passed down from generation to generation. No Large Hadron Collider is going to change that however many Larges or Hadrons they collide.

But would they ever accept this kind of knowledge into their church? No, it is not a broad church this science. Mathematics and such techniques are well known to be human constructs, but there are other human constructs of equal importance, such as democracy – and I feel the latter is a far more noble and legitimate calling than the former. One and one make two only because the people will it to be so. When there are governments legislating on the status of the Planet Pluto, who are scientists to argue against them? They didn’t put Pluto where it is.  Similarly, when ideas are presented to scientists on internet fora or through the electronic mailman, who are they to insist on peer review and then choose amongst their own to be the peers. As a democrat, I am happy that I provided the platform for views that were unable to pass through peer review to get a wider audience with equal legitimacy. Scientists have their journals read by a select few in which papers are reviewed for so called accuracy, whereas all we have is a multimillion pound media empire reaching every corner of England, in which articles are proofread to improve their spelling. I did what I could to act responsibly and help correct this imbalance.

Even when scientists do talk to the media, it is difficult to get any sense from them. They use all these long words and then when we ask them to replace every single science term with a little box, drawing or sentence that the ordinary layman can relate to, they came back with these reams of stuff that we have to fit into two hundred words with a snappy title. They might have spent ten years preparing this press release (what do they do in that time?), but it is someone such as myself who has to present it to the public.

Even when the message is a little clearer, they have to mess things up. When a safety review of the Large Hadron Collider was carried out, there was a note saying there was a possibility that some such interaction or other (I think a Large hitting a Large) would create a black hole. The scientists talked about possibilities versus plausibilities and big numbers, but we can’t fit all that in. Now  the public know what a black hole is, so to be kind to the scientists, the media, when reporting on the LHC, pointed to that sentence and when it seemed to catch on in the people’s minds, repeated it over and again until everyone was talking about the LHC, just as the scientists wanted. Then some innocent little girl killed herself over fears arising from the matter, showing how irresponsible science is. There are many other such stories of the message peddled by science harming the public after we package it properly and present it. Perhaps it would be better if they said nothing at all.

Finally, I would like to speak of the contradictions of science. The person who runs this blog speaks of his own research into the Northern Lights. I know other scientists who are apoplectic about light pollution. It is times like this that I give thanks for the unerring Word delivered in the contradiction free Bible, the third volume of which is presently with my agent. For there is one story that stands out to me in the Bible, it is that story in Genesis, when the Lord has given Adam and Eve all they could ever want and all they could ever need. Through her acceptance of knowledge through the actions of that snake, the devil, Eve condemns the human race to exile outside of Eden. As the last Government was coming to a close and Peter Mandelson extolled the virtues of women in science, I was much minded by that eternal Truth. Not one that needs to be found, but that which has been given. That which can be found in the writings and artwork of yore, study of which can reveal all we ever need to know, all we’d ever want to know and all we ever can know. That isn’t to say we don’t need scientists at all. Occasionally a clearer look can be enlightening. One night in my field, I looked out to see these orange glows moving just below the cloud base. I had my man wire a scientist he knew to ask what they were. The scientist described something that rose aloft on the warm air released by a candle, a Chinese Lantern. But what about other possibilities, I mused. The use of the imagination rather than reasoning and so called ‘facts’, which are ever in dispute. This is how journalism and economics works. I therefore suggested to the scientist that he may have erred. That these orange glows were the presence of an alternate intelligence following and monitoring the energy of ley lines to deliver a message to Earth. I asked him whether an ancient voice from beyond, overly concerned with ley lines, could truly be repeatedly delivering esoteric messages the Earth doesn’t want to hear. He replied that at that moment the possibility had occurred to him.


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