Today Sir Patrick Moore died. And also today, I heard about his controversial views.
I have only recently become interested in astronomy, and so have only recently started regularly watching the Sky at Night. Of course I knew who Patrick Moore was for many years before this, but I’ve never heard anyone mention his controversial views. Until today. Perhaps I’ve just managed to avoid them. I do tend to try to avoid things that induce rage… Or perhaps people don’t like to mention them.
Since his death was announced earlier today, I’ve started reading both praise and criticism, and various quotes and articles started being tweeted around.
In 2007, on reading about Moore’s misogynistic comments, Phil Plait blogged:
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.
His views on women are bizarre. He blames women for lowering the quality of programmes on the BBC and states that he stopped watching Star Trek when they started having female commanders. Read some of his quotes in this old BBC article.
And then there are also the xenophobic (bordering on racist) comments.
I highly recommend the Activism and Political Beliefs section of this Wikipedia page. Sir Patrick Moore was…complicated should we say?
Today Phil Plait blogged about Moore again and said this:
I don’t think we necessarily need to forgive the recently deceased their failings, but neither should we let that keep us from praising their accomplishments.
I Tweeted this in agreement and received a “playing devil’s advocate” reply from a friend that made me stop and think.
So, can you appreciate someone’s work and accomplishments even if some of their views are opposite to your own?
Yes, I think you can.
On one of the few times I have gotten myself into a “discussion” with a creationist, this is one of her killer arguments:
How can you of all people believe in evolution? Darwin was a racist.
This clearly nonsense argument was something I’d now recognise as a logical fallacy (this conversation was a few years ago, much before I’d heard of skepticism and logical fallacies). I now know that this is the Poisoning The Well logical fallacy. Of course, regardless of whether Darwin was a racist or not, this does not invalidate Darwin’s theories. [By the way, I recommend the RationalWiki Foundation page about Darwin and racism.]. That’ll teach me for trying to have discussions with creationists.
So that’s where I am. Sir Patrick Moore inspired many kids to become astronomers, Sky at Night is fantastic, and as an amateur astronomer he practically became the world expert on the Moon. He was a fantastic communicator and populariser of astronomy – I love what he did to promote astronomy and get people excited about it.
I just don’t have to agree with his non-astronomy related views.
- Phil Plait: Sir Patrick Moore, 1923 – 2012
- Phil Plait: Patrick Moore blows it, big time
- The Telegraph: Sir Patrick attacked over ‘racist’ comments
- Martha Henson: An encounter with Patrick Moore (people are complicated)
- BBC News: Moore blames women for ‘banal’ TV