You probably didn’t, and were wise, watch Eddy Izzard insearch of his prehistoric roots on BBC1. I did because I am a fan of Eddy; slightly less so now (Russell Brand would have been more astute); and the subject seemed vaguely interesting. However, it proved interesting in quite an unexpected way. The genetics expert who took a sample of Eddy’s spit and sent him straight back to some San hunter gatherers in their ANC-imposed reservation, appeared at first sight to be an actor in the role of an overenthusiastic scientist on a stage set of a lab. However he, Professor Dr James Wilkinson of Edinburgh university, proved to be a perfectly respectable geneticist doing excellent work. How come, then, that he appeared concomittantly to be not just acting in but a founding initiator of the kind of bollocks being propounded in the programme (for instance, I may have misheard, but I understood either the voiceover or him to say that the San split from the rest of H. sap 190,000 years ago. If this is true, which seems unlikely, then how come they are ancestral to Izzard?)
Delving a little further, I discovered that Wilson is an associate of Alistair Moffat in a business venture Britains [sic] DNA to whom you can send your spit and for a consideration be informed who your ancestors are. All it’s necessary to know about Moffat can be read here.
That people will pay to have their fantasies confirmed is up to them. Richard Dawkins in The Tasmanian’s and Eve’s tales in The Ancestor’s Tale shows the vanity of such fantasies, though maybe they do no harm. But the BBC peddling this garbage is unconscionable; quasi-scientific shite is meant to be the prerogative of Channel 4; and the James Naughtie connection is interesting.
The BBC seems to be going two ways at once at the moment. Stunning excellence, as in David Attenborough, Jim al-Khalili et al., and post-democratic lowest common denominator slop (as in slopping out) in News at Ten and Izzard meets his ancestors. We watch with interest.
Should I report Father Erasmus to the Authorities?