The Man in the Lab Coat isn’t all smiles and japes, oh no. He’s serious about science’s place in the world, and its perception. This was brought to mind today when I was asked if I was convinced by a book I was reading on evolution (Daniel C. Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, an excellent philosophical study of evolution, very well worth a read). I like the fellow who asked me, though I didn’t know – and still don’t, since we didn’t get to have much of a discussion – what his education, background or philosophical stance is, but it took me a moment to realise that I’d just been asked – for the first time – if I “believed in” evolution.
I told him truthfully that I was already very much convinced before I started reading the book, and that I was learning more about its philosophical implications. I was all ears to hear my friend’s story of his last trip to Turkey when he was offered a “visitor’s book”, produced in English and offered free to tourists (he told me charmingly that he’d asked in Turkish if he was still allowed one if he spoke the lingo), which advised them of the evils of Darwinism.
I’d never heard of such a thing – nor can I easily imagine why someone would spend all that time and effort to do it – but I readily agreed that some people had certainly misused Darwinism for evil purposes. Our discussion was cut short as we had to go back to work, but I learned something valuable: I’m ready for that kind of question. I know what I think, and why; and I was ready to listen, ready to be patient, and definitely not ready to try and destroy anyone’s beliefs, only to challenge them to think about what they believe and why.
But while this is all very serious and lovely and life-affirming in its own self-aggrandising way, I should say that I will still kick the arse of anyone who comes to my show and challenges me on home ground. I wouldn’t do the same to Father Bob, say, or even a nutter minister; it’s not cool. My show is, despite its content and message, still an entertainment, a one-man show, not a debate.
On the other hand, if you want to come to the bar afterwards and supply me with drinks, I’ll happily talk to you about whatever you want for as long as you like…