There was a time, round about 2008, when I was a regular reader of Henry Gee’s blog. He’s a senior editor of Nature, and I found his blog writing amusing enough. After a while though, I found I became somewhat disenchanted with his views, and stopped reading him.
He popped up again this week with an opinion piece in The Guardian where he set out his case that Science is a religion that must not be questioned. I found it mostly to be a load of old bollocks, and it served as a reminder as to why I stopped reading him. The one point where I found myself half-nodding in agreement was his charge that:
TV programmes on science pursue a line that’s often cringe-makingly reverential. Switch on any episode of Horizon, and the mood lighting, doom-laden music and Shakespearean voiceover convince you that you are entering the Houses of the Holy – somewhere where debate and dissent are not so much not permitted as inconceivable.
But even here, my argument would not be because the programmes are reverential, but because they are bad. I’ve said in the past that Horizon has been simultaneously both dumbed-down and jazzed up by the programme makers to an almost unwatchable extent. With rare exceptions, the programmes are not made by the scientists themselves, but by non-scientists who seem to prefer (questionable) style over substance.
For a proper rebuttal of Gee’s piece, I refer you to Jerry Coyne, who takes it apart in a most satisfying manner.