Patrick Moore blows it, big time

By Phil Plait | May 8, 2007 2:12 pm

In England, there is a long, long tradition of public outreach in astronomy. The leader of this is beyond a doubt Sir Patrick Moore, a man who is the UK version of Carl Sagan. His show, "The Sky at Night", has been running for decades, and he has made the skies accessible to everyone.

So I am very disappointed by comments he made today:

British TV standards are deteriorating because the BBC is “run by women”, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore has said.

[…]

The presenter said: “The trouble is the BBC now is run by women and it shows soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days.”

[…]

“I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching.”

This kind of misogynism is truly shocking to read, especially from such a distinguished and respected gentleman. I won’t even bother debunking this kind of trash; if it isn’t self-evident to you, then I won’t waste my breath.

A couple of years ago I was invited to go on the show as a guest of Sir Patrick’s — he is a Moon hoax debunker as well — but we couldn’t work out the details. Now I won’t go on even if they ask me again. It’s a shame, really, but since he’s made his views public, I don’t see much of a need to endorse him, tacitly or otherwise.

Tip o’ the monocle to Teek — who is a strong woman and worthy of my respect.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Piece of mind, Rant, Science

Comments (133)

  1. seaducer

    Why is it that many older generations have those types of views, and insist on expressing them?

  2. Sarah

    I saw this on the BBC website but couldn’t bring myself to read it. I actually met Patrick Moore a few years ago and got him to sign his books for me. I don’t want to read too much into his comments (got to ask what has caused him to make them, and for them to be published) but I can’t help but have my respect for him be seriously diminished after hearing him say stuff like this.

  3. Jason Black

    I’m as appaled as anybody at such naked sexism in the public eye these days, particularly coming from someone who ought to damn well know that such viewpoints–whether privately held or not–are going to get you in hot water if you speak them.

    But at the same time, there’s a certain knee-jerk reaction going on here which has no place in science: “He said one thing in area A that I so strongly disagree with, that I will henceforth ignore him and everything else about him in all other areas as well.” I may totally disagree with his opinions about women, but if I had the opportunity to talk about moon-hoax debunking with him, it seems like I could probably learn something. I’d be a fool not to still consider what he has to say in areas un-related to the gender politics.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of defending or supporting misogyny in any form. But to damn a person’s entire body of thought because of one piece you particularly disagree with, well, that’s just cherry-picking in another form. It’s not in keeping with the scientific method.

  4. Annie

    Choosing not to *participate* in another person’s body of *work* (not body of thought, as Phil clearly indicates) is not cherry picking, it’s personal preference. And I hardly think scientists are required never to take things personally, i.e. to live the private part of their lives according to the scientific method.

  5. Ah, Annie, I was just about to post that very thought. I still think what Sir Patrick has done for astronomy is wonderful. But because of his attitude toward women, I have no desire to actually do anything with him on his show.

  6. captain swoop

    Please BA get over yourself, never had you down as such a Prig!

  7. Annie

    Thanks, Phil — as I try to do over at Cosmic Variance when these things come up, I just want to tell you that it really does make a difference when older scientists express the view that women belong in science/the world at large as much as anyone else does. It makes the days much, much easier!

    I’ve been reading Bad Astronomy since . . . before I started high school. It definitely made an impression & now I’m a graduate student in astronomy. So your efforts to promote scientific thinking have had a huge impact on my life!

  8. There are two sides to Patrick Moore:

    1. He’s a star. He’s been presenting “The Sky At Night” every month since the 1950s. It’s a great astronomy programme. He still does it in the clipped British presentation of the 50s, which adds to its charm. He’s incredibly enthusiasic about astronomy and conveys this to the audience.

    He’s also a good sport in other areas of broadcasting, having cameos in various comedies on television and radio and he even used to play the xylophone very well, before arthritis caught up with him.

    2. He’s an extremist right-wing xenophobe. He tends to keep quiet about this so that it doesn’t get in the way of his broadcasting (very sensible). In the 1970s, he was chairman of a political party which was basically a polite middle-class Nazi party, i.e. right wing extremist in views but totally against violence.

    His views about women are therefore understandable from his politics. On the other hand, his fiancee was killed during WWII and he never had any relationships with women thereafter because he thought he could never love another woman like her.

    I know how it must be for religious people to try to reconcile their belief in God with the facts of the universe. I respect Partick Moore endlessly as a broadcaster and despise his political views equally endlessly. It’s hard for me to come to a sensible conclusion about him. I always want to defend him somehow…

  9. Strange. Everyone knows that Voyager sucks anyways, although it’s not because of Janeway And last time I checked, Doctor Who is a man male timelord, as always…

  10. guy

    Not really down with the whole misogyny thing, but i have to say he has a point about the bbc going downhill.
    Hardly think its to do with women but still its becoming quite rubbish.
    He started sky at night 50th years ago and will certainly have witnessed many changes over the years, im not that surprised by views being rather backwards and i doubt many people will take him very seriously.

    Anyone rember him on “Gamesmaster”?

  11. stayinganon

    I think he’s been noticed before for having some questionable views, but hasn’t had the publicity for it this latest round has.

    I hope they take the opportunity to encourage him to retire after his 50 years presenting his program. He is a British institution in many ways, but clearly an outdated one. Time we got a new face in. There’s plenty of great talent waiting in the wings I’m sure.

    That said, I would hope noone makes the mistake of thinking an elderly gentleman with distasteful views on certain matters is at all representative of the science, so we can at least that no damage has been done to anything other than his own reputation.

    I think if you turned them down if they approached you again then you’d be making the right choice, Phil.

  12. Sarah

    If this was a story titled ‘old guy says tv’s got worse’ I’d ignore it, because what old guy doesn’t think that (being entirely stereotypical here, I realise!). But the story begins “British TV standards are deteriorating because the BBC is “run by women”, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore has said.”

    I can’t help but read this as ‘women suck’. I may be overreacting, but I can only see this as detrimental to the view people have of sexism in science. Astronomy is already seen as the domain of men without having some of the most well-known popularisers of the subject show this level of sexism.

    And I’ve got to say I’m curious about the motivation behind this story. Going into complete paranoia mode: do the BBC want to cancel the sky and night and think it might be easier to do if public opinion turns against Sir Moore?

  13. Xenu

    Big deal, the guy is OLD, he is a man from another era, he doesnt like to watch startrek with women commanders or doesnt believe women can be good managers or bosses … so what. As i said, hes old and almost gone. Gee…

  14. Xenu

    and to be honest, I also prefer ST TNG with Picard or TOS with Kirk than boring Voyager with woman commander… those captains were man o action, newer series were kinda …boring.

  15. guy

    Janeway was a mich better captain than Archer.
    in fact i thought she was a bloody fine commander.

  16. Gilles

    When P. D. James (the crime novelist), now Baroness James of Holland Park, was a governor of the BBC (from 1988 to 1993), we didn’t see so many soap operas and cooking and quizzes and reality shows, that true.

  17. Troy

    Attitudes like that went out with the monocle, but that pretty much proves my point, let the codger have his monocle and his archaic attitudes about women. Attitudes change as new generations come and go but we should give a bit of leniency for people who grew up in less enlightened times. Try to educate them don’t dis them. In a way I know what he’s talking about, in a slightly different context. I notice AOL (which I happily quit last year) started out with a mostly (geeky) male population and very nice astronomy and science content. As the woman to geek ratio changed space became less and less prominent to the point it went extinct and was supplanted with astrology up the wazoo; except for “crop circles who made them?” and “what would you say to an alien?”. In reality it wasn’t so much women but the vulgar masses that ruined AOL and no doubt the same happened at the BBC.

  18. Xunil

    I guess the thing to bear in mind is that Patrick is the product of a by-gone age, with by-gone ideas and deep rooted opinions borne from an age where women were considered to be inferior to men. We now live in an age where in many places, women have a better deal and rightly so. It is sad to note that this is still not the case in many other locations, but those of us who value women equally have the opportunity to uphold our values and hope that these outdated ideas will dwindle along with so many of the wrongs people inflict on each other.

    I think that Patrick deserves our pity; that he has not had the opportunity or maybe insight to learn what we have – a shame given that for many astronomy is a shared (sharing?) experience, the spirit of which (sharing knowledge) Patrick has been keeping alive for decades.

    As always, we can sift out the chaff and keep the wheat – even if the chaff is particularly distasteful.

  19. slang

    This man grew up in a different age. From day one he was raised in a society that in every possible way favored men, except perhaps in ability to give birth. Does it make his statement acceptable? Of course not. It just gives it the proper background. It’s not all that different from creationists who have been raised the same way, setting their thoughts and beliefs in a way that is very difficult to alter later on.

    Still, sir Patrick Moore has done very, very much to advance the popularity of astronomy in Britain and other countries that carry the BBC, in over 50 years of television shows. Does he deserve to be snubbed that bad over an outdated, laughable view that barely anyone alive would take serious these days?

    Yes, his view on this particular subject is contemptible, outdated, insulting, and, wrong. But I don’t believe for one second that his respected status as an astronomer will lend credence to his views or beliefs on women. I don’t intend this to be a “the end justifies the means” post, but rather a “focus on what’s important, and ignore laughable opinions where they have no impact on what’s important”. There are other venues to deal with such attitudes, without destroying or degrading his scientific views and efforts.

    Lastly, I read (but am unable to find a link) that these remarks are to be aired in a show that’s based on people having strong but possibly (probably?) controversial opinions. All this outrage does nothing but 1) make one feel good for having different views and 2) gain viewers for when the show gets aired.

  20. Perhaps he should go back to playing the xylophone…

    http://www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/patrick+moore/

  21. TheBlackCat

    He may be a man from a bygone era, he may be on the way out, he may have had a beneficial impact on astronomy, but that does not mean BA has to support him. BA just doesn’t want anything to do with people with those sorts of attitudes. I wouldn’t either. That are certain sorts of people I don’t want to interact with if I can avoid it, even if they may have made great contributions as scientists. Ultimately the role BA would interact with him in would be not as a scientist per se, but as a publicizer of science. And you cannot divorce the publicizing of science from the one doing the publicizing, no matter how much you may want to.

  22. skeptigirl

    I so hate to condone or contribute to sexism and it has been a while but I have to report an observation in college that as a woman was embarrassing to see. In the Health Sciences building at the University of WA there were (maybe still are) a couple of alcoves with televisions. Every lunch hour every day I passed by for 5 years, there they were, all women except an occasional lone male watching soap operas.

    Of course on the other TV would be mostly all males watching some sports event. Somehow the soap operas have a more lame connotation than the various ball games and I’m not sure it is a valid distinction. There are many men and women who are just not intellectually curious. Daytime TV programming reflects that fact and since women are the prime consumers of daytime TV (leaving out kids for the moment), you can’t deny women are watching those soap operas.

    But in perspective, who’s to say daytime TV is worse than the evening sitcom or the formula murder/detective program with the obligatory pretty girl and chase scene? So men’s junk TV might be different from women’s junk TV. It’s all disgusting. And an awful lot of men and women are just not like me and most of you.

    Of course, women running the programming has nothing to do with who consumes the programing so as far as the blog entry, Sir Moore’s comment was as ignorant as they get.

  23. tacitus

    My father, just a few years younger than Patrick Moore, regularly tells people he’s been married once, but had two wives. The first wife was the traditional, obedient, stay-at-home mother of the fifties and early sixties; the second was the liberated, independent, working mother of the seventies and eighties. (Both, of course, were my mother.)

    Times change, and most people’s attitudes change, but not everyone’s. Patrick Moore’s attitude, for whatever reason–perhaps because he never married a woman like my mother–is stuck back in the fifties. I guess it’s probably a little too late to expect the old codger to change his ways now, but in any case, his legacy as a popularizer of astronomy is likely to remain intact.

  24. skeptigirl

    Typo above, that was 3 years, 2 were spent at a different college.

  25. skeptigirl

    seaducer Says:
    Why is it that many older generations have those types of views, and insist on expressing them?

    I’ve got news for you, there are a fair number of younger men who express the same ignorant attitudes. I’ve run into plenty of them.

  26. JSW

    this stupied they never landed on the moon billions of people think we did when we didn’t this suck ur guys are ruid people and what u guys are talking about make me fall asleep

    Does anyone know what language this was written in? Is it one of the ones that Babelfish can translate?

  27. Phil

    If he had left women out of his comments he would have been 100% right. The problem is that he is from a different era, where women were expected to basically sit down, shut up and look pretty.

    Although I can’t help but think that if the tables had turned and a woman had said that about a man, we would all have had a bit of a laugh and moved on. I don’t respect Sir Patrick any less than I ever have after these comments and to be honest I think if everyone got off the political correctness wagon just a bit, we could all let these comments (which frankly aren’t going to hurt anyone) go without making an enormous fuss about it.

  28. Wow! As a woman who has made my career in TV, it saddens me, but it also doesn’t surprise me. Television and video has historically been a “boy’s game” and I definitely felt that to some extent when I worked on the production side for many years in San Diego. It is generally the “old boys” that hold that school of thought, the last generation or two always treated me as an equal, and actually liked having a “chick” around the production game. I wonder if he would care that I never worked on soap operas or cooking shows? Phil, you are one of the many good ones! Thank you!

  29. slang

    My grandmother had similar opinions, despite the fact that she was one of the first women to attend a local university. Should I have refrained from interacting with her? Of course not. I learned early on to give her views on particular subjecs the merit they deserved, none, to recognise them as outdated, and instead valued her for the sweet grandmother that she was otherwise. Usually :)

    All I’m saying is that he does not deserve a crucifiction of sorts over a view that, laughable as it is, matters not one bit. Sure, it deserves negative feedback, no question about it. But a complete shun? Advocating a boycott of his television shows, either as viewer or participant? I think not.

    As for divorcing science from the one one publicising it, I was under the impression that the science was what counts, not the background, qualifications, opinions, or beliefs of a scientist. Maybe with the exception where endorsing a scientific view of a person automatically means endorsing his world views, but again, I believe in this case the issue is so archaic that it matters not one bit. At least from a European point of view, maybe it’s different across the pond.

  30. Cindy

    Yes, this guy is from a previous era and is holding typical attitudes (reminds me of a graduate professor I had who didn’t approve of female grad students because we should get married, stay home, and raise the kids).

    However, comments like that can add up and it can be demoralizing to women in Astronomy (and other sciences). It’s the constant little things – the “death by a thousand pin pricks” that can just add up.

    I teach high school now and sometimes little comments can have a big impact. A comment like that could discourage a British teenage girl from pursuing science (though hopefully she would think that Patrick Moore is an old blowhard).

    Thanks, Phil, for speaking up and saying that Patrick Moore’s comments are wrong. That small gesture does help because a woman can feel less isolated because she’s not the only one who is uncomfortable.

  31. Drbuzz0

    I don’t know how you can “debunk” this. It’s his opinion basically that the BBC has become too stereotypically girly. I suppose that his equating less substantive TV to women being the ones behind it is really the issue. I suppose maybe he was not being entirely serious (I hope). But yes, it is something which is a bit ignorant and makes him come across as an ass. It just takes a few words to make an otherwise respectable person look very stupid. I do hope he will at least apologize for injecting gender into something it has nothing to do with,.

  32. I think that the quotes may have been taken out of context and without emoticons (I don’t know how I was expressing myself before :-), the real message is probably that he thinks that the scale have tipped too far to the other side in favour of women.

  33. Frank Ch. Eigler

    How about we agree that the BBC is becoming effeminate?

  34. Grand Lunar

    I know its been done to death already, but I agree with the others which point out that the man was raised with different beliefs than most.

    Indeed, one doesn’t have to look too far back either; I have a friend that’s 41 now. I recall he said that he felt sorry for this one mother he knew that only has daughters. For the life of me, I (at 27) have no idea what his qualms are.

    I’m not sure how one can debunk Patrick Moore’s belief. I’d just say to agree to disagree.

  35. Quiet Desperation

    >>>How about we agree that the BBC is becoming effeminate?

    Well, BBC2 *has* been going out with men.

    (For the easily appalled: That’s a Monty Python reference)

  36. old amateurastronomer

    It’s strange that Sir Patrick would be so down on women when two made a large contribution to astronomy in their days. I type specifically of Annie Jump Cannon and Cecilia Payne who made the necessary changes in stellar classification to make it more meaningful than it was before their work.

    Ms. Cannon took the classification as it was and showed that a more correct ordering would be based on the stars temperature. She also measured 2500,000 stellar spectra to determine the stars’ temperature.

    Ms. Payne showed mathematically that a star’s spectral class is determined by its temperature.

    And I know there have been other women astronomers who have made great strides in the field. But, I must confess I can’t remember their names at present.
    :-(

  37. Folks-

    I know he’s from a different era. Criminy, he’s 84 years old!

    But I don’t accept that as an excuse. I would accept it as a reason for his sexism, maybe 50 years ago. But it’s not like the revolution was last week, and as oldamateurastronomer pointed out, even back in the day women were making important contributions to astronomy. Today, well– they are still not on equal footing as men, but they’re doing a fine sight better than even 20 years ago. It’s impossible — impossible to overlook their contribution now.

    And you know what? I don’t care. His attitude may be because he was raised in a different time, or it may just be that he’s a silly old crank, but it doesn’t matter. Today is today, and that attitude is just plain wrong.

    Some things are just wrong, objectively, and saying things like that about women is pretty well near the top of the list. Any culture or cultural attitude that would subjugate women — or any "class" of person — or relegate them to some sort of subclass is just wrong.

  38. Jon H

    As others have pointed out, he is the product of a bygone age, and he’s quite old – which is not something to ignore.

    My father’s almost 10 years younger that Sir Patrick, but has been becoming increasingly less inhibited, due (we think) to early onset vascular dementia. He’s also experienced periodic loss of large amounts of memories, and doesn’t retain new memories long-term. (For example, he doesn’t remember an operation he had just last fall which involved a rather difficult recovery.)

    On the other hand, he’s always working on something, like wiring up a doorbell to a birdfeeder so he can scare them away from inside the house. In some ways it’s like a second childhood. He still retains a pretty high level of mechanical and technical proficiency.

    We’re somewhat concerned that he’ll do something he sees as harmless (and which is harmless) but which is no longer acceptable in society. For instance giving a small child candy at a Wal-Mart, which could result in suspicion or accusations of being a molester. Or, that he’ll do something physically dangerous like working on the roof.

    Anyway, the point is, at Sir Patrick’s age I’m willing to cut him some slack because his brain simply may not be able to provide enough adult supervision these days, even if it can still perform admirably on scientific topics.

  39. Jon H

    Oops…

    “On the other hand, he’s always working on something, like wiring up a doorbell to a birdfeeder so he can scare *them* away from inside the house.”

    *them* should be *the squirrels*

  40. tacitus

    BA, I don’t think anyone is claiming that it’s okay for Patrick Moore to spout his sexist rhetoric. I think people are willing to go easier on him since (a) he’s not a political figure, (b) he’s not commenting on a major political event, controversy, or institution (not that the Beeb is a stranger to criticism from all sides), and (c) yes, he’s an old, but widely respected, codger.

    Yes, what he said is wrong, but it doesn’t have the same impact or resonance as if, say, Prince Charles or Tony Blair had said it. A comment like that would ruin the careers of most major political figures in the UK, but because Moore is not one of them, he will suffer little fallout from what he said. That’s life.

    Now, if it became known that he has been guilty of similar, potentially damaging, outbursts about his female astronomer compatriots throughout his career, then his stock would plummet in spite of his reputation as a British institution.

  41. niin

    It look to me like, Moore doesn’t like BBC, because woman tastes are dominating.
    He then calls for a balanced approach with two channels, so we get equal amount of each. Sounds reasonable to me.
    Woman commanders being PC, can be argued.
    Maybe it has been his experience that women don’t want to be leaders as much as men. That women don’t like to fight. That women are different than men.
    Hard to know his reasons, when he don’t state them.

  42. Kutsuwamushi

    Phil:

    “I don’t respect Sir Patrick any less than I ever have after these comments and to be honest I think if everyone got off the political correctness wagon just a bit, we could all let these comments (which frankly aren’t going to hurt anyone) go without making an enormous fuss about it.”

    Excuse me?

    These types of comments, and the attitudes that they reveal, *do* hurt me. No, you can’t measure the effects of his comments alone–but you can measure the effects of the sexism they feeds on and feed into, by looking at the pay gap, the underrepresentation of women in the science and positions of power, and so on.

    People *should* make an enormous fuss when a famous person makes such a blatant display of bigotry. Tolerating it sends the message that it should be tolerated–and it *should not*.

    But then, I’m a woman–and one who intends to go into the sciences at that. Maybe I have a different perspective… unless that’s short for “Philomena”?

    And it’s ridiculous to compare sexist remarks against women to sexist remarks against men. One is disparaging an oppressed group with the same attitudes and beliefs that have been used to justify their oppression, and one is disparaging a privileged group. They are very, very different things.

  43. Points of information:

    From the BBC website this is from an interview in The Radio Times A TV and Radio Listings magazine associated with the BBC. I intend to get a copy of that magazine, as i get it each week, so I can see this in context, and not cherry picked quotes.

    Phil, if you are willing to go up against Ralph Rene who is also Plain Wrong, what makes this different if it is plain wrong as well?

    It is disappointing you won’t go on the Sky At Night because of this. Anyhue, Patrick is being sidelined if you had not noticed, with that whipper-snapper being used as well.

  44. Apologies for the duplicate post as my first one seems to be awaiting moderation for some reason

    Points of information:

    From the BBC website this is from an interview in The Radio Times A TV and Radio Listings magazine associated with the BBC. I intend to get a copy of that magazine, as i get it each week, so I can see this in context, and not cherry picked quotes.

    Phil, if you are willing to go up against Ralph Rene who is also Plain Wrong, what makes this different if it is plain wrong as well?

    It is disappointing you won’t go on the Sky At Night because of this. Anyhue, Patrick is being sidelined if you had not noticed, with that whipper-snapper being used as well.

  45. Jon

    Get over yourself Phil.

    So he has some stupid attitudes.
    This does not negate all the good he’s done over the years in publicizing astronomy.

  46. Jess Tauber

    Perhaps the old coot can get the astronomy gig at Don Imus’ next venue…

    Seriously though, I don’t know where he gets the idea that females have somehow sissified the airwaves and other places; after all, it is safe to say that clearly women are responsible for all the wars in the world (hear THAT Mel???)- if they hadn’t given birth to and raised all the men who started them, the world would be safe for misogynists and evolution-denying Republicans alike.

    Hey Sarah- are you the same as on CN’s bino discussion?

    Jess ‘Patience of Job’ Tauber

  47. Man

    get over yourself. He may actually be right here. Woman must go back to the kitchen, instead being on TV.
    Common! don’t you guys see that all great scientists are men. Men are smarter than women in many ways.

  48. Foggy

    In the UK, Patrick has assured status as a National Teddy Bear and is thereby granted the indulgence of saying the unspeakable without being taken too seriously (presumably on the grounds that he is a loveable old crank who we needn’t take seriously because he will soon be dead).

    Even though Patrick Moore is the most appalling old snob, he is right on the ball when it comes to the “dumbing down” of science on television.

    The BBC’s Horizon programme is a good example. It purports to be about science, but consists of 20 minutes of material stretched to fill 50 minutes with touchy-feely images and no hard information whatsoever. By contrast, the The Sky at Night is packed with real information, real scientists, and genuine enthusiasm. You get the impression that they could have filled their time slot twice over.

    What Patrick so clumsily expressed was a desire to see television that makes you think, as opposed to television that makes you feel. Whilst the senses are titillated on all channels nearly all the time, anything remotely intellectual is relegated to obscure channels in the midde of the night (like The Sky at Night itself, where the 50th anniversary program was shown on BBC4 at 1.30am!)

    It is a shame that he couldn’t make this point more adroitly. By attacking women, he has triggered widespread (and entirely proper) indignation and completely obscured his message.

  49. Tigran

    I’m reading all these comments and can’t stop asking one simple question:
    How many of you have been interviewed by BBC journalists? Are you sure that you can stand the ground during the interview?

    I’m sure that if you become famous every broadcaster would love to interview you on matters “interesting” not to you but them. Yes, Sir Patrick Moore has his views and it’s his views and yes he is a TV outreach legend, but he is also an old man who can be impatient with always annoying questions from a journalist. You see you might intent talking about the “flowers” but you will end-up talking about war and history.

    From my own experience: Years ago I participated in a media training conducted by BBC journalists. I was giving an interview about computers and their need in science and you know what I end up talking? – About dooms day when a powerful meteorite will wipe us all and I was “so angry” at the journalist that I shouted that “it’s coming right now and we can’t do anything about it!”. That was just a media training and not a real interview.

    Now I’m so happy that I was not a serous scientist or a famous person … but imagine what would have been the headlines if I was :)

  50. blf

    Moore, besides being a well-known and knowledgeable presenter (esp. on astronomy), is also a known (but not that well) and ignorant xenophobe. The Wikipedia article on him doesn’t go into too much detail. From an interview he gave to The Independent newspaper in the UK (28-Feb-2005, Sholto Byrnes):

    There is another side to Moore, however, one that’s not evident to those who only associate his brisk, Pathe-News-type diction with discussions of supernovae and asteroid belts. Moore’s views are those of a brazen patriot and xenophobe, who thinks that “abroad” is a beastly place and, in the words of Flanders and Swann, “the English, the English, the English are best”. In his newly published autobiography, he writes: “I have been to Borneo (no cannibals)”, while Egypt is “all in all, a fascinating place, even if it is rather a pity about the Egyptians”. And, when challenged, Moore remains staunchly unapologetic about his judgments. “Don’t forget,” he chortles, “I belong to the generation that was in the war, and therefore I know what they’re like.”

    There’s already at least one response worthy of The Onion, Sir Patrick Moore Speaks From His Uranus.

  51. CS

    In this case I don’t feel that age can justify this sort of mentality.
    No matter of what his cultural background was, if he was able to accept and respect the progress that science has made in the course of his life, he should have also been able to endorse the social progress that changed the way in which women are considered, at least in some parts of the world.
    But – and in spite of all evidence – he chose to cling to a primitive mentality, which I find very sad.

  52. The thing is, by refusing to appear on the only serious British television programme on astronomy because one of the presenters, (there are two now although the other guy’s name escapes me), has been goaded into revealing an anachronistic attitude to women by some oik interviewing him for some listings magazine, our BA comes across as being petulent.

    I still have not found that interview in the new edition of the Radio Times so when I get home I will look in the current one.

  53. Some years ago I was interviewed by the CBC… an interview that was supposed to be about the internet/fidonet and technology. The “journalist” showed up, recorder in hand… but all he wanted to talk about was network porn. He hammered on the topic of porn until I told him that if he didn’t want to stick to the agreed topic, he could leave. So he left.

    I did stand my ground, and as a result, I didn’t get my segment aired. Instead, I sent him to someone else who was much less knowledgeable about networks and technology, but a lot more knowledgeable about porn. That person got the segment.

    And I lost all pretty much all respect for journalists.

  54. And it’s ridiculous to compare sexist remarks against women to sexist remarks against men. One is disparaging an oppressed group with the same attitudes and beliefs that have been used to justify their oppression, and one is disparaging a privileged group. They are very, very different things.

    That’s bollocks. If a sexist remark is bad, it’s bad irrespective of which gender it’s made against.

    In that statement, you just justified prejudice.

  55. And it’s ridiculous to compare sexist remarks against women to sexist remarks against men. One is disparaging an oppressed group with the same attitudes and beliefs that have been used to justify their oppression, and one is disparaging a privileged group. They are very, very different things.

    That’s bollocks. If a sexist remark is bad, it’s bad irrespective of which gender it’s made against.

    In that statement, you just justified prejudice.

  56. Alice

    Plenty of people were born in an era before microwaves, computers, and cellphones. They managed to make the adjustment. Being old is no excuse. He was wrong then and he’s wrong now. And yes, it does tarnish his halo.

  57. Will

    What if his comments had been racist, and he was decrying black influence on television? Would the people defending him now still excuse him because he was “raised in a different time”? Would you all still expect Phil to go on his show?

  58. Prospero

    Have you ever had that thing where one of your best friends says something controversial, then your other best friend has a go at him, then you don’t know who to be friends with and you just wish everything was how it was before, but you know it can’t be, and you feel you have to take sides? Then you think, well what the first friend said was definitely wrong, but we don’t know all the circumstances, and he seems a pretty sound person apart from that, and the second friend was right to criticise the first, but he has his faults too, like being a bit self-righteous sometimes, so you decide you can still be friends with them both and it’s not so bad.

    Phil, you would have made a great guest on “The Sky at Night”. What Patrick Moore does is invite professional astronomers (men and women) on to the programme. They talk with great enthusiasm about astronomy, really in-depth, but in a language that ordinary people can understand (just like you do on the BA site). Real science. People appreciate that.

  59. Selina Morse

    Sir Patrick was interviewed on BBC radio last night about these remarks. As usual, many people are jumping on a bandwagon having not heard what was actually said. His comments were strictly off the record, overheard by a journalist wanting to make a name for him/herself and his phrase was that there were too few men working as TV announcers. The tabloid press changed that to the headlines that everyone is reading.

    For goodness sake, don’t assume everything you read in the papers is true.

  60. Zachary

    This man is only from 50 years ago. It’s amazing! That’s only about two generations. What kinds of bigots are WE going to seem like 50 years from now?

  61. Ruth

    I took O Level Astronomy based on his book and passed so I’ll always have a soft spot for PM, BUT he is in most respects totally daft and to be pitied. A crazy old man who smells odd and lives alone with his thoughts. BTW I didn’t get that from recent press attention, I heard stories about 20 years ago. He hasn’t just recently gone batty and I do not for one second think any journalist made anything up or misrepresented his views, if anything what you’re reading is tame.

  62. Phil

    Kutsuwamushi:

    “These types of comments, and the attitudes that they reveal, *do* hurt me. No, you can’t measure the effects of his comments alone–but you can measure the effects of the sexism they feeds on and feed into, by looking at the pay gap, the underrepresentation of women in the science and positions of power, and so on.”

    One has to think, how do these comments change anything related to what you mentioned? What Sir Patrick said is wrong, but it is not going to change a thing. It’s not going to make the pay gap wider and it’s not going to stop women from getting jobs in a position of power.

    “But then, I’m a woman–and one who intends to go into the sciences at that.”

    Point proved.

    “And it’s ridiculous to compare sexist remarks against women to sexist remarks against men. One is disparaging an oppressed group with the same attitudes and beliefs that have been used to justify their oppression, and one is disparaging a privileged group. They are very, very different things.

    As Evolving Squid said, “That’s bollocks”. You are saying a woman can’t be sexist.

  63. Selina Morse

    Sorry for intruding once again, but if these views were so well known 20 years ago:

    a) why are they “news” now; and

    b) why didn’t you all castigate him then?

    Really! We all know he’s a nutter – but he isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before. It’s just that political correctness has reached the levels where people feel able to speak out against the sort of comment allegedly made. Is there not enough happening in the world – war, famine and global warming – that should be commented on? Leave him with his (alleged) views alone and start thinking about stuff that affects 100% of the population.

  64. thatdevguy

    I would just like to point out that if a woman said the exact same thing, but with the sexes reversed, nobody would have a problem with it. So, maybe you should all take a step back and think about the bias and sexism that YOU are showing.

    Imagine a woman saying this:

    There is a TV channel called “Spike TV” and I feel that their standards of programming are very low because they are “run by men” – that is to say, most of the executives are men.

    […]

    The trouble with “Spike TV” now is that it’s run by men and it shows Die Hard movies all day long, and I find that boring. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days.

    […]

    I used to watch intelligent programming like Doctor Who, but then Spike TV went commercialist and now they only show programs that appeal to rednecks. I can’t watch it.

    So here’s my point. The above is THE EXACT SAME COMMENTS but for some reason, we don’t have such a visceral reaction to it. I think that’s also evidence of sexism – but it’s the good kind of sexism that makes us feel warm and superior to others, right BA?

  65. Paul

    Hey BA,
    Ask your wife for your balls back. Its sickening that men have to act like women these days just to get along. I ‘m sure my comments will be unwelcome however I’ve had enough of this PC crap. Let Men and Women be the way nature intended.

  66. Nolwe

    Even if one is from a different era, which may include a society with totally different views, isn’t the type of critical thinking, reasoning and observation involved all of paramount importance, especially to a scientist? I agree that one should not discredit all he says due to his rather outdated and, arguably, unthinking/unfounded views on the genders, because that would be a bit of poisoning the well and cherry picking, wouldn’t it?

    I must say, though, that this extraordinarily damages my opinion of him as a fellow living being. Where is his evidence to show that women have caused the decline of the BBC? How can he show that, if it were run by men, it would be any different? I believe he has, unless he can clearly demonstrate otherwise, confused correlation and causation. Is it the women running the BBC or is it the demands of the society?

    The U.K.’s version of Carl Sagan? Well, perhaps he ought to spend some more time reading Sagan’s work. Something like The Demon Haunted World ought to do something beneficial for him.

    I admire his love and enthusiasm for science, as well as his efforts to share it with the public, but he needs to learn to apply the methods of science to his own thoughts and life.

    He’s a bit like the composer Richard Wagner. He was an atrocious person, but he did good work.

    I’m feeling a bit disappointed in Sir Patrick Moore right now, to say the least.

  67. Nick R

    When Patrick Moore was a guest on the BBC TV series Room 101 a few years ago, one of the things he wanted to banish was “tinny-voiced female radio presenters” – mostly, I think, because he couldn’t hear them properly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_101_%28TV_series%29

  68. Gary Ansorge

    So, he’s a misogonist.

    This is why nature invented programmed DEATH,,,
    To clear the old dead wood!!!

    Darn, I’m so glad I’m still green and growing,,,

    Gary 7

  69. Quiet_Desperation

    I agree with many others here. I just can’t get worked up over this one.

    >>> What if his comments had been racist, and he was decrying
    >>> black influence on television?

    And what if he beat up a child and stomped some kittens? What’s the point of this strawman? Some would react differently, some wouldn’t. What’s your point? Where does the speculative extrapolation end?

    Have you ever gone 70 in a 65 zone? What if you were going 100?

    Even if the guy had made racist comments, I think it’s still a safe bet he’s not the local UK equivalent of the KKK Grand Dragon. There’s orders of magnitude here covering a full scale from ignorant to evil, and being a rational person I try to temper my responses accordingly.

    Also, a lot of the yammering after someone makes a statement such as this tends to come across not so much as “that was wrong” as “Look at me! I’m not evil like that guy!”

    This whole idea in our culture these days that if someone says ANYTHING non-PC they should have their lives and careers utterly destroyed is sicker than any casual racism/sexism by some old fart, IMNSHO. I was almost expecting the FBI to place Imus over Osama on the most wanted list.

    >>> Would the people defending him now still excuse him because
    >>> he was “raised in a different time”?

    It’s not my place to defend or excuse. He’s a big boy, now. He can handle his own defense.

    >>> Would you all still expect Phil to go on his show?

    It would be Phil’s decision. If he went on to discuss astronomy that would be fine by me.

    One of the creators of the transistor had racist views. Should I not use transistors?

  70. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> So, he’s a misogonist.

    This is what I mean by not seeing the grayscale.

    What he said was silly, but I really don’t think “misogynist” is called for. I don’t see any actual *hate* in his statements. The first part was simply, “the channel is being run by women who put on shows geared more to women”. Wow. The hate in that statement is just blistering my monitor. So he would probably like Spike TV better than Lifetime here in the states.

    The thing about the women commanders is where he crosses the line. It seems to imply he does not think women can be good commanders.

    Although I agree in the case of Captain Janeway. :) The horror… the horror…

  71. RAF

    Alice said: Being old is no excuse.

    Agreed…my Father is (about) the same age as Mr. Moore, and I can’t think of a more thoughtful, open minded, and rational individual on this planet.

    Wrong is wrong no matter what your age…

  72. Just to be clear: this is NOT the same Patrick Moore who founded Greenpeace, is it not?

  73. And what the HELL is wrong with Doctor Who??? What, just because the companions are doing other things than showing their bosoms and screaming? The fan favorite was always Sarah Jane Smith, the strongest female companion. And now with Martha Jones, it seems the Doctor’s met his match!

    Ah, well…too bad this guy isn’t American; all he’d have to do is check into rehab…

  74. CS

    “Just to be clear: this is NOT the same Patrick Moore who founded Greenpeace, is it not?”

    No, it’s this one http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/spaceguide/skyatnight/proginfo.shtml

  75. I have looked at this weeks Radio Times and last weeks copy and the interview is not there. Any clues where it is?

  76. Os

    Sir Patrick is a national treasure in the UK, a true British eccentric, and, yes, a bit of a controversial ol’ bugger.

    But, dammit, he’s presented all but one of a proper astronomy show for 50 years! He’s met Orville Wright, Neil Armstrong and played piano accompaniment for Albert Einstein on violin. NASA and the Soviets both used his lunar maps in the 60’s as he’s a widely recognised expert on the moon.

    Sure, his decrying women makes him a sexist, and I can’t agree with him, however the BBC really is producing more and more rubbish to pander to the masses.

    If I was more cynical than I am, I’d think he said it to stir up some controversy over the fact that his 650th (monthly) show was shown at nearly 2am!

    He’s 84, set in his ways, has some unpopular opinions but has almost certainly brought tens of thousands of people into astronomy over half a century. That, not the sexist rubbish, will rightly be his legacy.

  77. Just a note, Patrick never married , as he was engaged to a lass during the war and as he put it, she was murdered by Hitler. He said he never wanted anyone else. Perhaps living a lifetime behind a telescope made him a mysoginist , but, I can see why he is pissed off by , for example, endless ‘talent shows’,property shows, celebrity talent property shows , cookery house design talent shows… Big Brother, celebrity decorating on ice, Holby Trepanation Department etc..

    Bring Back Time Commanders! Remember Gene Roddenberry, he could not have imagined his way out of a wet paper bag, too busy chasing skirt…

    Good for you Sir Patrick!! Give ‘em hell!

  78. testosterone_packed

    # Paul Says:
    May 9th, 2007 at 6:59 am

    Hey BA,
    Ask your wife for your balls back. Its sickening that men have to act like women these days just to get along. I ‘m sure my comments will be unwelcome however I’ve had enough of this PC crap. Let Men and Women be the way nature intended.
    ————-

    What a load of crap.

    So, in your opinion, the role for women is to propagate your genes?

    ————-

    What this guy shows is a clear lack of critical thinking. Holding on to old stereotypical role models is inexcusable, especially for a scientist. It doesn’t matter how old he is, it simple shows his lack of rigor in thinking about his own attitude.

    And yes such comments are more contemptuously when they’re about women. Because of the single fact that EXACTLY BECAUSE OF views as such women are still underrepresented in science, politics, etc., have lower wages, etc. because the people in power have those views AND a lot of women themselves share these views because of ignorance and since they always hear those stereotypes until they believe in them for themselves!

  79. I apologize for the triple post above. My browser weirded out when I posted my “bollocks” comment and it looks like it got triplicated.

    Imagine a woman saying this:

    There is a TV channel called “Spike TV” and I feel that their standards of programming are very low because they are “run by men” – that is to say, most of the executives are men.

    So here’s my point. The above is THE EXACT SAME COMMENTS but for some reason, we don’t have such a visceral reaction to it. I think that’s also evidence of sexism – but it’s the good kind of sexism that makes us feel warm and superior to others, right BA?

    Actually, I have the same reaction. It’s a sexist statement across the board.

    The difference is, I don’t whine that someone saying that is somehow going to diminish anything I do for a living, or somehow believe that it’s OK to say that about men but not women.

    People don’t have such a visceral reaction to it because we’ve been conditioned for the last 30ish years to accept that if you say anything negative about men (particularly white men), it’s OK, but if men say anything negative about anyone else, it’s evil prejudice.

    The fact is, disrespecting men is prejudice too. Just because we’ve been made used to it doesn’t change that fact.

  80. Sticks: “Phil, if you are willing to go up against Ralph Rene who is also Plain Wrong, what makes this different if it is plain wrong as well?”

    Because in this case Rene doesn’t have his own show, and hasn’t invited me on it. If Rene did have a show and invited me, I laugh in his face. I’d never get a fair shake on anything run by him.

    Also, the situation is different. Sir Patrick has a show that is about astronomy, and has made terribly sexist comments about women. To go on his show and talk to him about astronomy and ignore his comments would be, in my mind, a tacit endorsement of what he is saying, or at least it would imply that I don’t care about what he said.

    Tigran: I have been interviewed by the BBC several times over the years, and by lots of other journalists. In general the questions are very good and interesting… but not always. I can imagine that being interviewed over and over by fatuous journalists (and that includes both sexes) would be tiresome, but again, it doesn’t matter. He wouldn’t have said those things if he didn’t actually believe them, and it’s clear he does.

    And I can easily separate the potential truth in what he says — television has undoubtedly gone downhill the past few years — from the egregious comments. I also was clear in my post that Sir Patrick has made an incredible contribution to public outreach in astronomy, and that is again separate from his 19th century attitudes about women. I know of a lot of great scientists who are total jerks, but that does not detract from the quality of their work (unless it means some other qualified researcher won’t work with them, but that’s another issue). None of this is about the astronomy outreach he has done, though sadly that will no doubt be impacted. It’s about his attitude.

    Having said all that, I don’t hold the show Sky at Night at fault at all; this is all squarely on Sir Patrick’s shoulders. I haven’t seen SaN in quite some time, and so I have no idea what it’s like now. Someone mentioned they have someone else cohosting; if true I hope they are good at it, because something like this can destroy a good show, and I’d hate to see that happen to what is in reality an institution in the UK.

  81. CS

    BA, if you would like to see some recent The Sky at Night shows they are available online at
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/spaceguide/skyatnight/proginfo.shtml

  82. Will

    And what if he beat up a child and stomped some kittens? What’s the point of this strawman? Some would react differently, some wouldn’t. What’s your point? Where does the speculative extrapolation end?

    Oh, sorry. *kills self*

  83. Nick R

    Chris Lintott is the co-presenter of The Sky at Night. I’ve just found that he also has a blog, and he’s also given a brief response to Patrick Moore’s comments…

    http://chrislintott.net/2007/05/08/for-the-record/#comments

  84. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Oh, sorry. *kills self*

    Huh? What? Shall no one dare question your statement?

    >>> One is disparaging an oppressed group with the same attitudes
    >>> and beliefs that have been used to justify their oppression, and
    >>> one is disparaging a privileged group. They are very, very different things.

    Some animals are more equal than others, right Napoleon?

    And the problem perpetuates itself.

    >>> Today is today, and that attitude is just plain wrong.

    And no one is arguing that. Some of us are just SKEPTICAL of the overreaction it seems to be producing. My God, should we imprison the guy? Should we tattoo a scarlet “M” on his forehead and ostracize him until he commits suicide in despair.

    I think the Virginia Tech shooter got more forgiveness than Moore.

    Oh noes mommy, the bad man said something mean! I hurts!

    Some day we’ll evolve thicker skins.

  85. DennyMo

    Speaking of astronomy on television, I’m surprised I have read any comments about “Space Week” on the Discovery Science channel this week. I’ve caught a couple interesting programs, one on what Earth would be like without the moon and the other about the search for dark matter. (I haven’t heard any mysoginistic comments, either…)

  86. DennyMo

    Argh, should have read “surprised I *haven’t* read any comments”

  87. Phil, I do agree with your comments. What I’m trying to say is quite often (maybe always) journalists are conducting interviews with only one single purpose – to get some sensation out of it.

    The person in front is famous in science outreach and also known for his “radical” attitudes towards many aspects of life. Now, to present science for general public is not that simple and straightforward as you know. If you are a good journalist and know how to do that you do that. But if you are one of those opportunists then you go for an easy bite, you trigger a person to say “the magic words” and give you a sensation. In case of Sir Patrick Moore it turned out to be easier, although I still think that those words were “picked”. In case of you … c’mon you are young and have lot’s of patience.

  88. My God, should we imprison the guy? Should we tattoo a scarlet “M” on his forehead and ostracize him until he commits suicide in despair.

    You could make him watch Spice Girls videos until his head explodes…

  89. Kutsuwamushi

    Existing Squid:

    “That’s bollocks. If a sexist remark is bad, it’s bad irrespective of which gender it’s made against.

    “In that statement, you just justified prejudice.”

    Sexist remarks against anyone are wrong. However, sexist remarks against men usually don’t involve repeating the same beliefs that have been used to justify the social oppression of the male gender.

    When Larry Summers “hypothesized” that women are underrepresented in the sciences because they just aren’t good at it, he was repeating a belief that has been used both to justify keeping women out of the sciences, and to deny the impact that sexism still has on women scientists today.

    If he had said that women are *better* at science than men, and so they drop out of science courses because they’re too easy and they get bored, it still would have been sexist and wrong, but in a different way.

    It’s the same reason that black people can call whites “crackers” during a stand-up act and get away with it, while–well, look at what happened to that guy who played Kramer. The historical *and* ongoing social oppression of blacks makes a white guy calling a black guy by a racial epithet much more hurtful.

    Phil:

    “One has to think, how do these comments change anything related to what you mentioned? What Sir Patrick said is wrong, but it is not going to change a thing. It’s not going to make the pay gap wider and it’s not going to stop women from getting jobs in a position of power.”

    So we should save our outrage for expressions of sexism that have a measurable effect?

    If it was as simple as “Patrick Moore wants women back in the kitchen, so I get paid less,” sexism would be much easier to combat–in no small part because it would be harder to deny its effects. Unfortunately, it’s not direct cause and effect. I wish it was.

    “You are saying a woman can’t be sexist.”

    That’s an interesting interpretation, considering that I used the phrase “sexist remarks against men.”

  90. Al

    Maybe Heather Couper could slap him upside the head, next time she sees him?

  91. kingNOR

    weak women arn’t worthy of your respect? :-(

  92. Irishman

    Well, I can agree I wouldn’t care to watch soap operas, cooking, or kitchen sink plays. Some quizzes would be okay. But I think he misassigns blame. I see his soap operas, and raise a “Survivor” and “Fear Factor”. I don’t believe either of those was created by women. I can share a lament over banal TV caused by the catering to the lowest common denominator. No one gender is to blame for that.

    As for Doctor Who, while the Doctor may still be male, there was that whole story with the bisexual male vying for Rose’s attention. PC attitudes expressed through sci-fi include more than just female starship captains. (Think Riker in a skirt.)

    Funny that he used to like Star Trek. Star Trek:TOS was a boundary pusher from the get go. There was a classic episode where Kirk confronted a woman who was denied captaincy because she was female. Then there was the “first interracial kiss on TV” between Kirk and Uhura. The whole “all of humanity as one” premise with the mixed race and nationality crew working together, including a Black woman as an officer and eventually a Russian on the bridge. Ah, but the captain was Kirk, the alpha male out hunting alien skirts and occasionally averting interstellar disaster. ;-)

    As for going on the show, couldn’t you go on to discuss astronomy and then confront him on his attitudes? Express dismay and disappointment?

    I understand you don’t want to give the appearance of agreement with the presented attitudes. However, I think the TV show is bigger than the man. Something for consideration.

    It is also possible that the reporter is emphasizing the statements in such a way to make them seem harsher than they are.

    How about three channels? One for banal “women” programs, one for banal “men” programs, and one for good science and information programs.

  93. Quiet_Desperation

    >> You could make him watch Spice Girls videos until his head explodes…

    Now that’s just cruel.

    I mean… Spice Girls! *shudder*

    Are they still around over there?

    >>> How about three channels? One for banal “women” programs,
    >>> one for banal “men” programs, and one for good science
    >>> and information programs.

    Lifetime, Spike and the array of Discovery channels (plus History and a few others. Gotta have my Mythbusters!)

    FX might fill in for Spike, although “The Shield” does pwn all cop shows.

  94. Jon H

    “People *should* make an enormous fuss when a famous person makes such a blatant display of bigotry. Tolerating it sends the message that it should be tolerated–and it *should not*.”

    Oh good lord, you’re talking about an old guy who could kick off any day, who is not particularly influential, but is kept around like a family heirloom.

    There’s absolutely no reason to think he’s going to influence anyone about gender relations. He’s not a corporate titan, he’s not a government figure, he’s not a church leader, he’s not a popular entertainment figure. He’s merely an old astronomer.

    They only response that makes any sense is to say “Gosh, that’s an unfortunate thing to say” and move on with your life.

    There’s really no point in getting all offended, or, worse, acting all ‘holier than thou’, when you’re talking about someone that old who is on the fringe of the culture. What’s the point?

    What, does anyone *really* think they’re going to change the attitudes of an 80-something man?

    Save your condemnation for the many, far more influential and powerful people.

  95. Rob

    The only surprising thing is that it’s only blown up now. As noted earlier, Sir Patrick, for all his good work, is a neo-fascist with very, very dubious political views. That doesn’t stop him being a good communicator of science (although I would say that the Sky at Night is more a magazine programme watched by the already interested – mainly amateur astronomers – than an outreach programme) and good astronomers of all political persuasions have appeared on it over the years. However, if you actually want outreach, then the Open University/BBC ‘Stardate’ programmes are probably a lot better.

  96. baryogenesis

    Sure, the Open University/BBC Stardate programmes might be better in some ways, but do they have women commanders, er communicators?

  97. csrster

    It seems very ironic to be discussing whether or not women should captain starships in fictional tv shows when we live in a world where women captain space missions in real life.

  98. Sorry nodded off at the key board, woke up and hit submit

    They feel they can work together without being seen to endorse the other.

    Chris on his blog says he has emailed Phil because this is being seen as tarring the whole team with the same brush, or does lack of their resignations imply they must by default endorse Patrick.

  99. Please note

    On the other blog I was not being serious about getting rid of Patrick, but the way some go on, one begins to suspect that is what they want. I thought I would be satirical about that attitude, and I suspect it back fired.

    :doh:

  100. Quiet_Desperation

    Jon H said
    >>> They only response that makes any sense is to say “Gosh, that’s
    >>> an unfortunate thing to say” and move on with your life.”

    John, you win the Rationality Award for this week. :)

    >>> What, does anyone *really* think they’re going to change the attitudes
    >>> of an 80-something man?

    It depends. Are we talking using reasoned arguments or a scalpel. :-o

  101. Rob

    In the UK it’s generally well known that Sir Patrick is forthright and somewhat right-wing in his political views. (To balance, he’s also a vehement public opponent of blood-sports such as fox hunting). These never surface in the Sky At Night programme. Basically, he’s of an age now where he doesn’t care a jot and says exactly what he thinks when he’s asked by a journalist.

    Yes, his attitudes are old-fashioned, reactionary and, in our modern world, usually wrong. Swearing is far more taboo to his generation than sexism. Just like most 84-year old men out there. Just deal with it.

    It would be a shame for his 50-year career as a TV presenter to be ended by a pushy journalist out to make a name for themselves. He is on the ‘final lap’ now, as he himself admits. The programme “The Sky At Night” itself will long outlast him.

  102. Dulouz

    Honest to goodness. He is an old man and is barely functioning. So what if he thinks women have ruined television? Is that now a crime? Does the thought-police come in the night and take you away for it?

    There is not one person who has a bad word to say about him – male or female. Most people realise that he is old-fashioned and eccentric. It’s not the end of the world.

    How many times have you heard women say that if there were more women leaders there would be a better world? Would you get your PC knickers in a twist over that?

    I would rather be a nice old man who everyone loves and respects who has a few silly views than some politically correct phoney bore.

  103. Moose

    Dulouz: Honest to goodness. He is an old man and is barely functioning. So what if he thinks women have ruined television? Is that now a crime? Does the thought-police come in the night and take you away for it?

    No, Moore has the right to say what he likes on his own soap box, no matter how ignorant or wrong. The same right Phil has to criticize him for it on his platform (here). Phil also has the right to decline participation with whoever he likes, wherever he likes, for any reason he likes, and to publicly explain why.

    Declining to enable Moore’s mysogeny is as valid a reason as any other (and IMO, more than most.) The only thing that really matters is this: Moore’s attitude is wrong. His being old doesn’t excuse that.

  104. MichaelS

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see where he says “women’s television is bad”. It seems to me that he’s saying “women’s television isn’t for me”.

    Men and women are different. Deny that and you might as well deny evolution, heliocentrism and round-earth-ism. Because men and women are different, they enjoy different things. You get a bunch of women creating television shows (whether it be women directing, or men asking female viewers what they want), and men are going to tend towards not liking them. Likewise, women tend to not like men’s TV shows. This is
    fact. Not bigotry or sexism or anything like that.

    What Mr. Moore seems to be saying is that we need to remove the women’s influences from the men’s shows so men such as him will like them better. But he goes on to say they should be given their own channel to do what they want. That’s far more fair and un-sexist than giving women’s shows the good times of day and leaving the men’s shows with the scraps.

    Nowhere in that entire article do I see him saying women should be treated as less than men. Stating that women tend to create and enjoy different shows than men is being discriminatory and stereotypical, yes. But those two skills are absolutely critical to being alive, and he isn’t being unfair in his use of them. He’s not saying “women are bad and all women’s shows must be cancelled”. He’s saying “women are different, so they need their own entertainment, but men also need their own entertainment so let’s create two places–one for men and one for women.”

    Like I said, I may have missed something, but that’s what I’m reading from the article you linked to.

  105. Kullat Nunu

    Apparently Sir Patrick is not like an old time gentleman, he is an old time gentleman. In the “good” old times things like tolerance weren’t “in”.

    Must say he’s a very difficult person–his political views are repugnant, but on the other hand… the book that was the most influential making me interested in astronomy was written by him, so I owe him that. On the other hand, it was the awesome pictures painted by David A. Hardy which made the biggest impact.

  106. Where is this full article, I have not been able to find it :(

  107. Found it on page 17 of next weeks edition along with a number of interviews with other celebrities about what they watch on TV.

    Each person was asked 5 questions, and the answers were short, probably why I missed it earlier on.

    The first question he says regarding the news that “these jokey women are not for me” (A preference rather than sexism)

    Second question has his bit about star trek and Dr Who being PC

    The third question shows his frustration that they put the 650th episode on at 02:00 and that prime time seems to be dumbed down which he seems to ascribe to women running the BBC. (I am not sure what the actual demographic is there)

    4th question no problem
    5th question no problem, but he did make a guest appearance on UK Big Brother 5 when contestants were asked to identify celebrities from their voice, and the contestant, Shell, guessed first time.

    Looking at the thing as a whole, there were 15 celebrities, so why did the BBC website, or whoever picked this up, single out Patrick? Was this a cunning plan to come up with an excuse to get rid of him so TSAN can be reformed to be “more popular”

    Have certain people fallen into this trap?

  108. bassmanpete

    Having now read the report on the BBC web site I have to agree with MichaelS, it’s not as bad as has been made out. Plus he’s PM’s right about the standard of television, it’s certainly deteriorated but whether that’s anything to do with women I don’t know enough about who’s responsible for the programmes to have a view on that. I think whoever’s making the programmes is just catering to the biggest audience – bread & circuses is still the go even after 2,000 years!

  109. I may put this in the main forum, given we now have to click on the previous items link to get to this forum, but having read the actual article, which was a survey of televison watching, where Sir Patrick was just one of fifteen people canvassed, one does wonder why the media would pick up on this, when it was on page 17!!! of a listings magazine?

    Is there a plot afoot to oust Sir Patrick? Has the Sky At Night been ear marked for being cancelled as it is too high brow for the intelligencia? Maybe they want to have phone in quizzes to increase audience participation. The plan is simple, make it seem like Saddam Hussain was a proper gentleman compaired to him, so when he gets the order of the boot no one will complain.

    It is obvious that TPTB do not like this show. As Patrick pointed out the 650th edition was shunted to 02:00 and according to Patrick one episode in one month was later than usual because the schedulers forgot all about it. Maybe this was accidentally on purpose and were hoping no one would notice, so it could be quietly cancelled by default, so there was more time for quizzes, soaps and talentless shows.

  110. JohnD

    OK,
    Let’s stop arguing in a vacuum. Here is the item in question, verbatim from the RT 12-18 May 2007, p.17.

    ” Patrick Moore [what happened to his knighthood? JD]
    Favourite recent programme.
    I can’t say that there is anything that stands out now. The news for example: those jokey women are not for me. Oh, for the good old days! There was one day [in 2005] when BBC news went on strike. Then we had the headlines read by a man, talking the Queen’s English, reading the news impeccably.

    Guilty pleasure?
    I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching.

    TV today – is it better of worse?
    Much worse. Any interesting programmes are put on very late. The 650th edition of The Sky at Night was put out at 2 am. I shall never get over that. And our 50th anniversay programme went out just before midnight. The trouble is that the BBC now is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days. I would like to see two independent wavelengths – one controlled by women, and one for us, controlled by men. I think it may eventually happen.

    Worst programme ever made?
    I was in hospital once having a knee operation and I watched a whole episode of Eastenders. Ugh! I suppose it’s true to life. But so is diarrhoea – and I don’t want to see that on television.

    Celebrity Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing?
    I’m no good at dancing, but I certainly wouldn’t go on Celebrity Big Brother. I’d rather be dead in a ditch than appear on that.”

    You should also have a flavour of the views of the other people interviewed for this “article”:
    Paul Merton (comedian and writer) Worst programme ever made? “Last Wednesday’s Eastenders.”
    Max Beesely (actor and musician) CBB or SCD? “I’m an actor and I don’t want to be on your show in the first place.”
    Kirsty Young (journalist and presenter) CBB or SCD? “SCD – at least you’d get fit while humiliating yourself.”
    Terry Wogan (SURELY you’ve heard of Our Tel?) CBB or SCD? “”I’d rather starve…”
    and
    Worst programme ever? “Too many to list”

    Armando Iannucci (Comedian and writer) CBB or SCD? “I would far rather kill myself,……”

    But back to the Good Astronomer. You will notice that he dislikes a certain style of programme. He may be wrong in that, but he is entitled to his view, and it is a view shared by many in the business. He sees those programmes as made by women, and he is probably wrong in that. Neither prog is airing now and I can’t be *rs*d to look up the producers and directors.
    And he advocates TV channels on an equal footing for men and for women. Again, an individual view, but not necessarily one that denies women their place in the cosmos, though one that has the same dangers as apartheit.

    In case any reader is not familiar with Eastenders, CBB, or SCD, may I suggest you Google for them? They all have Wikipedia entries, but be aware that those articles are written by fans. In fact, the latter two are cheap TV (in the sense of needing little original thought), and the first is a cleverly written but overwrought soap opera. I too would rather be dead in a ditch than be in any of them, but that is just me. And Sir Patrick.

    But you may know of the BBC TV series “‘Til Death us do part”, and the execrable Alf Garnett, whose sexist, racist, homophobic and generally mean-spirited tirades were the feature, indeed the only feature of this otherwise dreadful sitcom. The BBC were extremely proud of its success, and leant on the Jewish origin of the star, Warren Mitchell and the working class origin of the writer Johnny Speight, to justify it as ‘ironic’. So how do you know if Sir Patrick wasn’t being ironic?

    In conclusion, what do you say to your grand-dad, who starts to go on about Blacks, Jews, or Catholics, let alone women? Or your grand-ma? You tell them you don’t agree, and change the subject. They are honoured members of your family; will you refuse to visit, abuse them, try to punish them for their views? I hope you are more grown-up that that.

    John

  111. Roy Batty

    I’m weighing in here late & will probably be only a footnote to this blog entry :-) But I have to agree with JohnD, Sticks, Quiet desperation etc.
    I think it’s sad that the BBC site had to highlight those comments & even sadder that the BA chose to highlight them more. But I suppose that’s partly what blogging is about, sigh. Not that I condone all of Sir Patricks views, but I do think this has been blown all out of proportion by this blog entry & some of its commentators.

  112. I disagree that this is “blown all out of proportion”. I didn’t say he should be sent to prison, or whipped. What I said is that he said atrocious things, horribly sexist things, and because of that I would not want to be his guest on the show, any more than I would want to be a guest on a show hosted by Michael Richards.

    You may note that I said I respected what he has done for astronomy, both in the blog itself and in my later comment.

    And JohnD, if a relative of mine said something like that, I would indeed chastise them. I don’t care if they are an honored member of my family or not. That kind of thinking is the root cause of a lot of the woe in the world. It’s an us-versus-them mentality, where “them” is some sub-human class, where “them” is less worthy, less intelligent, just plain old less then us. It’s wrong, and it’s despicable. If someone in my family expressed some opinion like that to me, I would in fact lower my opinion of them. Why should my family get special dispensation from bigotry?

    I see that same sexist garbage in my field, and it’s galling. I know far too many women in astronomy who tell me stories of sexist professors, sexist advisors, sexist tenure committee members, and how women still aren’t getting a fair shake in the field. It’s getting better, but it’s still not yet good enough. When a respected and beloved figure in astronomy says women aren’t as smart as men — and that is what he said — then what message is he sending young women in his audience?

    Criminy. We’re talking about half the human race here.

    “Blown out of proportion” indeed.

  113. niin

    “It’s an us-versus-them mentality…”
    Are you not doing the same when you portray him as a misogynist?
    It seems to me like you only have a few short sentences from the internet, that can be read in different ways and may or may not be accurate.
    Maybe you could explain why you are so sure, that he thinks women can’t be as smart as men.

  114. niin, the comments, in context, have been posted in the comments here, and attest to the fact that Moore’s comments are exactly what they read like.

    And sometimes, being tolerant means being intolerant of those who are intolerant. It’s ironic, but it’s true, ad it’s OK.

  115. Is Mysogeny the correct term, is it not chauvanism?

    The question remains, this appears as a small panel on page 17 of a listings magazine amongst opinions of others, so why did it suddenlt appear in the news section?

    One does suspect that someone has it in for The Sky at Night. They even “forgot” to schedule it one month, and if it were not for Sir Patrick they would have gotten away with it. Even the 650th episode was put on at two something in the morning.

    So if they can turn Sir Patrick into public enemy number one, then it will be a lot easier to can TSAN. So by putting on a boycot plays right into their hands.

    Oh well 50years is a decent innings, and it was a bit too elitest and high brow, and so it is a good time to call it a day.

    Next month we will have an all emcompasing science programme with Zoe Ball as the presenter, to appeal to the young, and our first programme will be about body implants

  116. nobody

    I don’t view it as misogynism or sexism at all. I intepreted his comments in a different manner than you did.
    I despise political correctness. I think that it is very sexist to insist that women be employed on the basis that they are women while ignoring merit.
    Most women, I find, still believe that they somehow have a right to behave irrationally.
    I am irritated by most women’s desire to “work with children and animals”.
    Occasionally, I meet a woman who is rational and not interested in “other women’s bullsh*t”. Why can’t all women behave this way ? I have had female bosses before. All except one were your typical permanent PMS type ladies and they mostly made ridiculous decisions. That single sane individual was a very good manager and I had no problem being a subordinate.I agree with Patrick Moore.

  117. Jeff

    Blown out of proportion (I’m in the UK).
    It was Patrick Moore that got me that interested in Astronomy and I read his Astronomy O Level book from cover to cover over and over again which inspired me to me to teach myself an astronomy A Level module in physics.

    This man belongs to a different generation and his comments should be treated accordingly.

    Plus I think he was a bit fed up with his 50th year (YES 50 YEARS ON THE BBC) anniversary show being put on at a derisable time slot.
    And yes the BBC standards are deteriorating as can be seen with Horizon but that’s in a country where most people have trouble differentiating between astronomy and astrology.

    Phil, I really enjoy your blog but unless you grew up the UK it may be hard to understand eccentrics like PM (I hope not and don’t mean to be patronising). You need a pinch of salt, stand back and take a broader view, not a literal one and celebrate the fact that we’re free to post like this. I disagree with most of his views but it’s his right to say so and discuss.

    Please reconsider your views on “The Sky at Night”. I’d love to see you it.

  118. Chris

    I agree with people that sexism in this era is appalling and shouldn’t be tolerated (although I’d still argue for his right to hold such views.)

    That said, let’s not forget that Patrick Moore is 84 years old and grew up in a time when sexism was the norm. I’m certainly not condoning his view, but let’s see this in perspective.

  119. R

    He’s got a point- The only reason I never watch TV is because of all the “celebrities” and cooking and other rubbish.

  120. Peter

    A couple of contributions:

    1) What he’s said is not illegal – the English media supposedly prides itself on freedom of speech, so I don’t see what the fuss is about. So what if you don’t share the same views? And as for Moore loving the Nazis, this is just ridiculous. I read that he lied about his age so he could join the airforce and kill German Nazis just to defend our rights.

    2) Full on agreement, in any case. It’s Political Correctness that prevents the late-night London bus driver from defending himself against having his head caved in by an iron bar. And look at any Moss Side classroom to see the effect that a diet of daily soaps and reality TV can have on a brain. Whether these recent phemomena are connected with the rise of women (or otherwise liberal namby-pambies) taking over the executive offices, or whether it is coincidece, is up for debate.

  121. CJE

    If he wants to express his views, let him. It’s a free country. I like Patrick anyway.

  122. Dezza

    If any of us are lucky enough to reach his age, we’ll probably feel the same. I mean can anyone honestly say things have got better due to our changing PC attitudes???? The man speaks with the voice of experience and just cuz you may not like it, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  123. Richard

    Does anyone have a clue where to find Prof. Moore’s (alleged) statements about “unusual” phenomenon viewed on the moon?

    “Renowned astronomer Patrick Moore discovered over one hundred dome-like buildings. In fact, about one thousand such bases, dome-like structures of diameter around 700 feet, have been witnessed. ”

    http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2008/07/18/02474.html

  124. Mirek

    Sir P. Moore just said naked truth. That’s it.

  125. Dan

    I agree with Sir Patrick Moore, and listen.. the reason why old people say things like this is because they have lived through great change. The world has charged for the worst (imo) and we need totake note of what they say, not bash it.

  126. I know this is thread necromancy but doesn’t anyone know that he has a very particular value system that is not immediately accessibly to anyone who is not him (PC police should nab him for that too I suppose!).

    He fought in the Second World War for the RAF and whilst there his first and only known romance, his fiancée, died because the ambulance she was a nurse in got hit by a bomb dropped by a…(not sure what to use here…German or Nazi, it’s really down to you and your modern take on who we were at war with) pilot.

    He’s recorded as saying “there was no one else for me… second best is no good for me…I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be.”

    So since fighting for our freedoms to be of any religion, have equal rights, have the ability to protest and pretty much everything else we deem important in modern democracy cost him his only true love we burn him at the stake for being a touch sexist??

    We’ll happily vindicate Nicolaus Copernicus upon reflection for stating the obvious but when someone we are stuck in the same society as states what is perfectly obvious to them we shoot them down.

    I don’t agree that women are the cause of all evil but I’ll happily sit back and watch when all those calling for Patrick to be sanctioned cast their own prejudice observations in the future and the ‘youth’ of then berate them as you are him now.

    We only get a short time in existence, no where near long enough for us to grow up and see things as they actually are. Use it wisely and for goodness sake – keep the gossip inside the hairdressers!

  127. Sir Patrick is a personal hero of mine – not for any cranky views he might have expressed, but for a lifetime of public outreach in astronomy.

    The thing is this. He’s in his eighties! For most of his lifetime, the views he expressed were prevalent. It’s incumbent on us ‘youngsters’ to give the man a little latitude. It is OK to disagree with someone, without condeming them in public and engaging in political posturing. You don’t win hearts and minds by burning bridges. If you don’t agree with Sir Patrick, then go talk to him about it. You remember when people used to talk to each other? Back when Sir Patrick was in his 60s and there was no Internet?

    Also, consider this. Is it just a teeny bit possible that he was being ironic? I seem to recall that The Sky At Night is produced/directed by a woman and the show regularly features female guests whom Sir Patrick treats with utmost repect and certainly as equals to the male guests he has on the show. Has no-one ever jokingly said anything slightly politically incorrect? I think some people take themselves far too seriously.

  128. john brooke

    He has the right to voice his opinion, just as you have all just voiced yours. TV has got to many soap operas and cooking programmes anyway.

  129. Fred S

    Re: Posting # 36, oldamateurastronomer:
    Yes, and let’s not forget Henrietta Leavitt and Jocelyn Bell! And Margaret Geller, and …

    I too admire the guy. I read his book on the Moon about a half-century ago, and disagreed then with his view on lunar craters being of volcanic origin. But while he did seem a little too stuck on that theory, still he gave a wonderful presentation of lunar astronomy and its history in that book. Can’t seem to remember the title, it’s been so long, but it was simple and to-the-point. Think he re-issued it with much new material a decade later (or was 1959 the re-issue, and the original was ’49?).

    Phil, I admire you, too, and I don’t see any reason you couldn’t handle yourself in an encounter with the guy. If the distasteful subject came up, you could just say that your ‘views are somewhat different, and shall we rather talk about something we’re both fascinated with?’ Or, for that matter, can you bring yourself to a dispassionate view of the subject, based on fact and logical argument, you know, kinda like science, and maybe lead him a little way toward your direction? He may be a legend, but he is after all, just a man. (Am I quoting a classic country song? “Stand By Your Man”, Tammy Wynette?)

    Anyway, the thought that a pair of legends like you and Sir Patrick couldn’t appear together, just ain’t right. Read posting # 111 again. I think you may be reading too much into what he actually said.

  130. Damian gonzo-moore

    Patrick Moore’s television programme the Sky at night has been running since 1957. I think someone who has been on television continuously for over half a century is worth listening to,.

  131. dom

    Moore is a right wing reactionary. He was chairman of the right of right “United Country Party”. He has espoused bigoted views on the usual suspects- homosexuals, immigrants, women, etc. & quite rationally he “hates all Germans”.
    What has this to do with his astronomical life? Nothing.
    He’s the presenter of a tv show about astronomy, who also happens to be a right wing bigot.
    Moore doesn’t apologise for his irrational beliefs, nor should we.
    A bitter man who lost the love of his life early in his life & has since harboured irrational grudges.

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