Sunday, January 27, 2008

Attenborough: broadcaster who has done more to encourage respect for the natural world than anyone

Great respect, even reverence, for the natural world is of course a cornerstone of being green and no broadcaster has done more to encourage this in people than David Attenborough. The interview with him conducted by Jeremy Paxman in this week's Radio Times is fascinating. What a life and career he's having - certainly an inspiration to me (and I'm sure to very many others), especially when I was 17 yrs old and avidly watching Life on Earth in 1979. The interview of course covered his new series Life in Cold Blood, which I shall certainly watch regularly. He was also asked about life, death, consciousness and a Creator - and responded powerfully, supporting naturalism and not supernaturalism:

You wonder what a life spent marvelling at the world about us has taught him about life. Is there - the only big question - a purpose? "None whatsoever!" he exclaims, leaning forward and banging the table.

On not crediting a Creator when commenting on wonderful pictures of hummingbirds:

He has drafted a standard reply [to letters], which asks why it is that people who suggest he should give credit to a Creator Lord always cite hummingbirds, butterflies or roses.

"On the other hand, I tend to think of an innocent little child sitting on the bank of a river in Africa, who's got a worm boring through his eye that can render him blind before he is eight. Now, presumably you think this Lord created this worm, just as he created the hummingbird. I find that rather tricky."

On death:

But what does he imagine will happen to him when he dies? "Oh nothing." So he's with Bertrand Russell, who said 'I believe that when I die my body will rot'? "Absolutely." Does that trouble him? "Not at all."

On whether consciousness distinguishes humans from other species (and on vegetarianism):

...he doesn't even accept the distinction, asking how we can prove that monkeys dont have it. In that case, why isn't he a vegetarian? "Because I'm designed to be an omnivore. I have teeth for chewing and the length of my gut is quite clearly not that of a vegetarian. But as a sentient human I ought to make sure that what I eat has been raised in a 'humane' way." Why? "Because its unfitting that you should dictate the living conditions of another sentient organism."

Well said David!! Certainly couldn't have put it better myself!!


  1. Good quotes, and good sentiments, though I must disagree with one: Human biology is quite compatible with vegetarianism, especially lacto-ovo vegetarianism. In health studies, lacto-ovo vegetarians consistently rate the same as the healthiest groups of omnivores. There are some health-based arguments against veganism (at least statistically; there are many very healthy vegans!), but frankly there is no good medical or biological reason to be consuming beef and pork.

  2. Well, there is a lot to be said for a low meat diet but with better quality meat from naturally reared animals. The argument to go vegetarian is pretty strong on ethical, ecological and health grounds. Beef and pork are very inefficient in food production terms, especially if grain fed. Dont you think that humans have evolved as meat-eaters though??


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