Science

Sir Patrick Moore is an ass.

It’s always sad when someone you respect and admire for contributions in one area publicly shows himself to be a complete idiot in another area, and this instance is no different. The British host of astronomy-themed TV show “Sky at Night” recently announced that the dumbing down of the BBC in recent years can be blamed on women — not just the specific women running the network, but the entire gender’s proclivity for soap operas and cooking shows. The evil vagina-people have even ruined Moore’s beloved sci-fi shows by writing roles for female starship captains when we all know that you can’t run a spaceship while birthing babies and having dinner ready on time.
In case you were worried that Moore was merely being a whiney old misogynistic codger, take heart — he also provided real solutions. Like, for instance, the splitting of the BBC to cater to the different audiences. Say, BBC For Girls and BBC For Ignorant Jerks.

I suppose this is the same lesson we learn every time a celebrity does something boneheaded: nobody’s perfect. It just sucks a little more that this is a man who, unlike Mel Gibson or Michael Richards, has built a career focused on educating the public about science. How many little girls watched his show and were inspired to become astronomers when they grow up? How many would be discouraged to learn from the same man that women can’t explore the stars?

I take heart in the belief that Moore is part of an endangered species: the ancient white guy who desperately clings to the dated, barbaric rules of a bygone era. At the delicate age of 84, Moore probably won’t inhabit his ivory tower for long. His inevitable death will mark a very sad day in science history, but a very propitious one for science future.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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18 Comments

  1. Hmm. Interesting. I grew up near where he lives and as a teenager I was a member of the local astronomical society. Moore often came to speak and once gave us a sneak preview of photos from the Voyager mission before they were released to the UK press. I talked to him multiple times and he was never anything but supportive of my wish for a career in science (I'm female). He also used to present with Heather Cooper quite a lot and seemed to have respect for her.

    I think this recent view is probably a result of him getting old and crotchety and intolerant as he didn't used to think like that – or if he did he hid it very well. The reactionary old fool stage has happened to several of my relatives as they aged, previously lovely people have suddenly started declaring that all immigrants are scroungers, or that Britain should cede from the EU and so on. It seems to be as much of a phase as adolescent idealism.

    Caveat: I can't read the Times article as the site is currently not letting me in.

  2. >I take heart in the belief that Moore is part of an endangered species: the

    >ancient white guy who desperately clings to the dated, barbaric rules of a

    >bygone era.

    Wow, you read my mind. I have been thinking this about a lot of grey headed white guysin the US governement for the past several years.

  3. The evil vagina-people… I have encountered these creatures on many accounts. I actually have a few friends that are vagina-people. Haha. I laughed when i read that. All i could think of was South Park's crab-people. Craaaab-people, craaaaab-people… Yeah, nevermind.

    Wait… would that make me a penis-person??? I am not cool with that!

  4. Personally, I'm quite fond of both "Vagina People" and cooking shows, so that's two strike against him from me… This sort-of reminds me of that whole women can't do math or aren't as good as men in math bit a few years back.. Ignorance has no bounds does it?

    Cherrio…

  5. Yeah, that's a great picture! He might really be ok with woman scientists but With that monocle he looks like he's still out of sorts because those darn Suffragettes finally got their way…

    And what about Molecular Cooking?!?

    Haha, I can't wait to try this: "hey you, penis-person!".Oooh, I just snorted hot tea through my nose…

  6. I have used this article for my friday blog post. Thank you for providing me with the asshattery of the week. So is this only a syndrome of crotchety old men, or what?

    (Funny also: when I tried looking for '70s ratings for BBC shows to see what the genius-level shows topping the charts back then were – and if anybody knows a site where I can get these numbers, please post – I ran across this wonderful quote:

    "The BBC Television Service (renamed BBC tv in 1960) showed popular programming, including drama, comedies, documentaries, game shows and soap operas, covering a wide range of genres and regularly competed with ITV to become the channel with the highest ratings for that week."

    Sounds positively different from nowadays… [quote from wikipedia btw])

  7. I quite like soap operas, cooking, quizzes, "kitchen-sink plays"(?) and Doctor Who (with the exception of soap operas).

    At least he didn't celebrate your bicentennial in 1796… or did he?

  8. Umm, since when is Star Trek a BBC production? Weird.

    Clearly, the reach of the evil Vagina People who ruined the BBC is long, reaching into every television studio necessary to cause inconvenience to Sir Patrick Moore.

    Seriously, I was wondering the same thing.

  9. Sadly, a lot of people seem to agree with him, presumably they're actually agreeing that TV is crap now but haven't worked out that it's because it's responding to the demands of the audience. And frankly, in the UK, more women are at home during the day watching TV than men, and they've become the powerful audience. The issue is not that Patrick Moore holds these opinions – after all he can think what he likes – the issue is that he doesn't keep his mouth shut. If you are in a well-respected broadcasting position you have an obligation to respect your influence on the public.

  10. Wouldn't it be funny/ironic if his palliative care nurse was an evil-vagina nurse? Sort of like Elle Driver from Kill Bill crossed with Ann Druyan and a little dash of extra monocle-wearing vagina. Just for the evil-ness. It is my firm belief that a monocle adds evil regardless of where it's applied.

    Maybe that could be the woman's atheist badge logo – a vagina wearing a monocle. Think about it.

  11. You know, I was about to jump in and agree that he's asshat of the week, but then maybe there's a seed of truth to what he's saying. Of course he's being a dumb sexist old codger. But at the same time, this site is called Skepchick and is specifically aimed at addressing the issue of women in skepticism. We know there's a problem there, that skepticism doesn't appeal to women. So maybe less sexism in the staffing of BBC has led to less rational thinking on the telly.

    The guy's still a total jerk tho, especially for the Star Trek female commander bit, it's kinda funny really I suppose.

  12. I don't think it's a lack of rational thinking that PM was complaining about, but more a supposed pandering to a particular kind of audience, and such pandering can easily be done by people who know exactly what they're doing, even by people who don't particularly respect the audience concerned.

    I'd *guess* he was comparing a possibly rose-tinted view of the BBC of old (basically male, certain kinds of accents and public-service educate-and-inform ethos) and comparing it with the current BBC, not liking what he's seeing, then finding a simplistic reason for the difference, maybe added to by extrapolating from the odd personal difference.

    When it comes to women commander figures, one thing I would say is that they maybe have a slight risk of being badly written/acted in a smug or knowing way ("I'm a woman and isn't it groundbreaking that I'm in charge") rather than ("It should be more important to you (as it is to me) that I'm in charge than that I'm a woman").

    If anything, in past decades it was possibly *easier* to do a woman leader well in a sci-fi context than it was elsewhere (police series, etc), since it could be left as an assumption that there already had been some kind of long-term equality, whereas in a contemporary situation, it was/is easier for hack writers to drop back on using 'woman in a man's world' as a significant component of the content.

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