Professor Stephen Curry – “Half-Arsed” Dumbing Down of Science

The modern “dumbing down” of British science is well demonstrated by the inept efforts of Professor Stephen Curry on his Nature “science” journal’s blog.  Curry was incensed by a well written UK Guardian newspaper article by professional journalist Simon Jenkins and responded childishly with abuse.  Worse still Curry’s efforts were defended in The Guardian by physicist and Vice Dean Professor Jon Butterworth of London University in a style bereft of literary and intellectual merit.

Jenkins argued that the planned £600 million UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation for 1250 “scientists”  as Europe’s proposed largest biomedical research facility was justified by faith and not reason.  This was a money-throwing exercise justified by use of the hallowed mantra of the  “science” word against a history of previous failure.  Jenkins pointed to the failing teaching of science in schools – one of other more justified recipients of such largesse: “Martin Rees makes a religion out of science so his bishops can gather their tithe” The Guardian 24th June 2010.

Curry, as a London University based research biologist of Imperial College [known by some as “Glaxo University”]  no doubt has one eye on what was in it for himself.

So what was the best Curry could do when faced with arguments on spending choices between more on science in schools or on his “cathedral of science”?  In his blog piece Urgent new priority for UK science – Nature blog – 28th June 2010 he wrote a supposed spoof which was childish and little more than pejoratives and abuse:-

“We have to …. address the urgent problem of recovering the missing half of Simon Jenkins’ arse.”

Jenkins expressed huge relief …. “I love science and sciency stuff. ….. But every time I try to write about it, I come out with this half-arsed crap. ….. Complete twaddle!”

Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, announced that …. “… Jenkins’ scientific half-arsedness is like a virulent cancer …. all we need to do is to locate Jenkins’ left buttock ….. Though we suspect the half-arse to be quite big, we know from looking at his newspaper column that it became detached some time ago.”Physicists speculate that Jenkins’ half arse may be source of anti-Dark Matter. Professor Stephen Hawking explained*, “In it’s absence the dark matter of the other buttock appears to overwhelm his grey matter, leaving the poor man incapable of rational thought.”

Ian Sample, Guardian science correspondent ….. speculated* that the arse may also be location of a mysterious entity known as the Higgs bozo.

But Mark Henderson, science editor at the Times, sounded a note of caution*: “It may in fact be dangerous to re-unite the two buttocks because that could make Jenkins a complete arsehole.”

Police forces around the country will also be involved in the search for the missing buttock. When asked about Jenkins’ arse, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said*, ‘We are looking into it.’

But Curry was not alone.  A University College London Professor of Physics Jon Butterworth who is also Vice Dean in Mathematical and Physical sciences was allowed to publish a defence of Curry in The Guardian: “Impromptu Simon Jenkins spoof rallies the defenders of science”  28 June 2010.  This was after Butterworth posted his own incredibly boring answer to Jenkins in self admitted “bollocks” in a state of inebriation.  This was on Butterworth’s own blog as “uncategorized, rambling”: “A Mammoth of Research“.  “Inebriation” [we explain for the benefit of the likes of Curry and Butterworth] means “had drunk too much alcohol”.

In his Guardian piece Butterworth suggested that “ridicule was perhaps an appropriate response” and the entire scientific world was behind Curry. Aside from more disparagement of Jenkins, Butterworth failed to answer any point Jenkins had made or to make any informed contribution.  Dumbing down has reached Vice Dean level in London University it seems.

Ironically, elsewhere in a Guardian science blog, Butterworth laments the problems of communication in science [whilst simultaneously engaging in personal disparagement of another critic of science]:

On communication: There is clearly a problem with the public perception of science. The criticism that Maxwell makes about too much “specialised gobbledygook” may be hilarious, coming from a philospher, but it is a fair criticism in some contexts.

Come on ‘philosophers of science’, you must do better than this

It seems no one has had the heart to tell Butterworth that a “scientist” blogger he quoted in his Guardian piece [as an example of the entire scientific world and in defence of his pal Professor Stephen Curry] is in fact none other than the former unemployed barman and administrator and well known internet “troll” James Cole [aka jdc 325 and 325 jdc].

If this were a Nature science journal blog, Curry and Butterworth would probably be described as “complete tossers” but as it is not, they aren’t. [Aren’t described as such, that is.]


One Response

  1. Just noticed this – sorry I’m so late to the party. Oh wait, I’m the only one here…

    “supposed spoof”? How dare you – it was 100% spoof. 🙂 Did you not get the #spoofjenks meme that was passing around twitter on the same day.

    Jenkins article was poorly researched. The response was not serious and deliberately so because I found from earlier experience that a serious response to Jenkins (see here – had no effect. We can debate the merits and demerits of the spoofing approach but it was a bit of fun and did at least serve to show Jenkins that some in the scientific community are no longer prepared to take his diatribes lying down.

    Chillax baby!

    [ED: Hi Steve,

    Sorry but the Grauniad piece is not up to scratch [and the comments to it are from usual suspects reinforcing pre-existing prejudices and belief systems]. The usual boring stuff.

    The quote below from you [from your Grauniad piece on Jenkins] shows a certain lack of grasp on the value of and extent of contribution of “science” to modern society. [But then we can already see that in the quality of your other writing].

    You say:-

    “Science offers us the best hope of informing society’s difficult choices in an uncertain world …”

    Twaddle. Scientific method has been very successful in the pure sciences but not elsewhere. It is wholly unsuited to addressing the broad questions we all have to answer on a daily basis in all areas of daily life. In the soft sciences [like economics, political science, sociology] scientific method can too often prove a disaster.

    But don’t let that put you off. After all, just like the American dream, everyone in all walks of life gets the chance to experience a feeling of intellectual superiority from your writing.]

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