(Scroll to bottom for Official SpoofJenks blog aggregate!)
Those of you not immersed in the UK science media scene are missing out on a national treasure. I mean, of course, none other than the Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins who, although he clams no special expertise or experience in science, feels free to denounce it on a regular basis. No area seems exempt from his scorn: whether scientists are involved in analyzing climate change, ash clouds, BSE or swine ‘flu, they are probably up to no good.
On Friday, Jenkins was at it again, issuing a confused and diffuse attack on the institution of science. He slammed the outgoing President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, for defending the Large Hadron Collider and the importance of science to society in his Reith lectures. He heaped vitriol on the new UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation building going up in London because it is apparently a “cathedral of science, justified by faith, not reason”. He actually said scientists, and I quote, “just want money”. Money, folks, is the only reason why we’re in the science game. (Someone just told me how much Jenkins earns for writing his columns, and I can assure you that it’s far more lucrative than my post-doctoral stipend.)
And most bizarrely, he lavished scorn onto the BBC for “cramming” its airways with too much science content. When I tweeted this, Nicolas Fanget helpfully googled up the BBC iPlayer’s factual category items that day: Art, culture, media=122, History=49; Science & Nature=70. If you keep in mind that “nature” is not really science, including as it does stories about pandas being born in zoos and the like, then accusing the BBC of doing too much science is pretty baffling. I listen to Radio 4 a lot at random times and the chances of hitting anything about science is pretty slim – it is almost all drama, history, news, literature and the arts. In other words, the stuff Jenkins thinks is most important.
So I’ve been thinking to myself, can I really let Jenkins get away with painting me and all my colleagues as no-good, money-grubbing evil boffins? In the relaxed Saturday morning Twitter stream, some of us talked about how we might, yet again, try to rebut. Stephen opined that humor might be the best approach, building on the wonderful spoof post of UCL physicist Jon Butterworth. I then proposed making Monday “Spoof Jenks” day, with bloggers taking the opportunity to write an anti-science post in the style of Simon Jenkins. And I’m pleased to report that the idea has taken off.
So take a look at the original offending Jenkins post, as well as Butterworth’s reply. If you’re a blogger and fancy having a go, please do so and then deposit your link in my comment stream, or otherwise let me know, so I can aggregate the responses. If you’re not a blogger but think it’s a good idea, please spread the word. The official hashtag is #SpoofJenks; if you link to this post at the top of your spoof, it might help stave off any confusion about your state of sanity.
We don’t have to take this lying down. Let’s see if Jenkins can take what he so much loves dishing out.
Official aggregate (last updated 29 June 08.14 BST)
Get over it, scientists: your cushy days are numbered by me! – UCL cell biologist Jennifer Rohn
Urgent new priority for UK science by Imperial College structural biologist Stephen Curry
A Mammoth of Research by UCL physicist Jon Butterworth
Jenks from tectum to rectum by UCL biologist Steve Moss
Perpetual Poetry in Motion by “resident New Age values proponent and spiritual thinker” Boris Cockpop on the skeptics webzine The Twenty-first Floor.com
Not a guest post and not by Simon Jenkins by student of astrophysics Philip Stobbart
Simon Jenkins collects his tithe by science writer Brian Clegg
A day in the life of Simon Jenkins by blogger Martyn Norris
We know too much by “full-time nerd” and blogger John Kennedy
Cancer: Scaremongering ‘Scientists’ Ramp Up The Fear by blogger jdc325
Bloody scientists think they know everything by blogger Rantarama
Dictatorial scientists want us to marvel at their “magic” by post-doctoral astronomer Niall Deacon
Please help Simon by blogger Telescoper
Whicker’s world by science communicator and Nature Network blogger Richard Grant (I knew it was only a matter of time before someone brought cheese into it!)
Journalists, you are fallible. Get off the pedestal and join the common herd by statistician and Nature Network blogger Bob O’Hara
The mammoth in the room by Matt Parker at StandUpMaths
Fifth column by University of Manchester physiologist and NN blogger Austin Elliott
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Lord Paul of Oberhausen FRS by Imperial College London particle physicist Tom Whyntie
The trouble with science by skeptics blogger The Heresiarch
That’s why I am in it, for the money by Kings College London biophysicist Sylvia McClain
I am giving up science by Queen’s University Ontario neuroscientist Carl Jackson
Science education? Humph! by blogger Sonia Furtado