By Decca Aitkenhead
You can guess how Professor Brian Cox feels about our referendum result from his opinion of the current anti-expert mood. We met three days before the referendum vote, and throughout the interview his famous perma-grin faltered only when the subject of public cynicism towards professional expertise came up.
“It’s entirely wrong, and it’s the road back to the cave. The way we got out of the caves and into modern civilisation is through the process of understanding and thinking. Those things were not done by gut instinct. Being an expert does not mean that you are someone with a vested interest in something; it means you spend your life studying something. You’re not necessarily right – but you’re more likely to be right than someone who’s not spent their life studying it.”
If Michael Gove believes the country is fed up with people who know what they’re talking about, Cox’s enduringly wild popularity suggests that we haven’t entirely lost faith in them. The particle physicist, 48, enjoys a remarkable degree of global celebrity status for someone who references Plato, Newton, Descartes and an obscure patron of early 17th-century science called Johann Matthäus Wacker von Wackhenfels within the first five minutes of conversation. His previous series have attracted the sort of viewing figures Simon Cowell would envy, and his new four-part series will go out on primetime BBC1.
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