Daily Archives: January 18, 2012

Beware the Spotlight

It has been sometime since I posted a blog rather than simply a link to some article or media clip related the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. The lectures were a great success with some of the best audience viewing figures both for the lectures and for BBC Four over the festive period. In fact, the lectures are being broadcast again next week on BBC2 which generally has a much larger audience, though with a time slot of 11.20pm, I doubt there will be many families staying up to watch. That said, it is the first time the Xmas lectures have been re-broadcast and everyone involved has been delighted.

So now I am receiving lots of emails, lots of enquiries and a few criticisms. Why did I dumb it down? Why did I not have more female scientists? How can I possibly say on national television that supernatural powers do not exist? People are interested in my opinion.

Today the Guardian newspaper asked me to write a commentary on the reports of the Italian captain who abandoned his ship before the passengers and generally behaved in a way that most would regard as cowardly. I was not there. I do not know this captain. I simply pointed out that if he panicked (and it sounds as if he did) then it is not too surprising that he was unable to control his urge to flee. That’s the definition of panic. I simply stated that panic is difficult to reign in with reason.

I agreed to write the commentary so that readers could reflect upon what they would do in the same situation. I have a book coming out on “The Self Illusion” – the narrative we all generate about who we are. Most of us have beliefs about how we would react but my point is that these beliefs are part of the self story we tell ourselves which may or may not match up to reality.

Anyway, the commentary has attracted a lot of mixed opinions. Most of the negative criticisms seem to think that I am condoning his actions. I am not. But it does make me question whether it is wise to place one’s self in the public light to face the brunt of criticism and focus of prejudices and grievances.

The trouble is that when you become a public figure, you become fair game. Guess I was asking for it.

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