Fighting Patrick Moore

At least one reader of this blog will remember that I once had a fight with Johnny Ball. For those who didn’t grow up in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Ball was a BBC children’s television presenter with a fondness for mathematics. He fostered a generation of geeks while their parents were out at work, and it widely considered a coup that the Balliol College Mathematics Society was able to invite him to be their keynote speaker one christmas. Mr Ball’s thoughts were, sadly, not all I’d hoped them to be. He’d been correctly fingered as “a man of science trusted by the British people” by British Nuclear Fuels Plc, who had recently retained him as one of their key spokespeople. Ball – Johnny, he’ll always be Johnny to me – decided to use the occassion to sing a song about prime numbers, to ecsatic applause, and then hymn the virtues of nuclear power. I took exception to this, and rather drunkenly and loudly told him so. This is why Johnny’s inclusion in this who is mistakenly enrolled in list of heroes of the revolution is entirely undeserved.

Which is a rather long-winded way of introducing the fact that today, I had a fight with Patrick Moore.

Again, this is a British Thing; Patrick Moore is the monacled British eccentric who has been presenting the BBC astronomy series “The Sky At Night” since 1957. Apparently, the series still runs, even if all you can see from most of the British sky at night is the dull orange glow of streetlamps.

This isn’t the Patrick Moore I had a fight with. But it’s the reason I was thinking of Johnny Ball. In fact, today’s Patrick Moore is a dull Canadian, a founder of Greenpeace who has since discovered that corporate environmental consulting is more lucrative.

No, wait, that’s not fair. Patrick Moore genuinely believes that genetically modified food will save the world – someone purely avaricious would not have taken to the streets to defend their position against . He even told a story of his friend, the tweeded Swiss man who invented golden rice. Soon, golden rice will be given away free to everyone in South East Asia who earns less than $10,000. This is a lot of rice farmers. Of course, the reason that these people earn considerably less than $10,000 is because the price of rice is so low. What, we might ask Cde Moore, will happen when golden rice (of which several pounds per day need to be consumed in order to remedy the Vitamin A deficiency it is engineered to treat) is dumped in massive quantities, for free, into a subsistence rice economy?

Well, I’m not sure what Cde Moore would say, because he ran away before I had the chance to ask him. But I’m hoping the five o’clock news is a little kinder to me than I was to him…