I do try to avoid the goggle-box in the corner for the simple reason that it can make me quite irate at times, and that doesn't go down too well with Mrs P. Monday night was a case in point.
Now, I quite like Robert Winston, he's got a great tache and looks like he'd dish out the Werthers Originals quite liberally. But the BBC's Big Personality Test (5 days left to watch at the mo) was possibly the most irritating programme I've seen for quite a while. It was the first time I have witnessed a visual version of science by press release and I truly hope it will be the last (though something tells me this is the gut-wrenching future).
The whole thing, it would appear, centres around the insolubale nature v nurture debate. In this series, or at least the episode that I watched, Winston sits squarely on the fence as one would expect, yet editing was up to usual selective BBC standards.
Tyreese, who lives on a council estate, thought being clever was 'boring'. It was because he tested low on conscientiousness and this is affected by his environment. Not anything to do, you understand, with the fact that his Mum believes, and no doubt tells him frequently, that "black boys are this, black boys are that, you start believing it yourself [...] if they think that about me, I might as well not bother" ... followed helpfully by the BBC with the statistic that white people are more prone to being conscientious than black people. By a "small but significant margin", apparently.
Matthew on the other hand, who the BBC emphasise is from an "affluent part of Surrey", does well because he has a successful brother who pushes him.
Read between the lines there.
Highly entrepreneurial Megan is bright, imaginative and destined for success. But she was almost alone a few years ago in not wishing to share a cookie with her sister. She therefore scores highly in 'disagreeableness'. Proof of which is the BBC's experiment that followed, in a law firm that Sophie Raworth decribed as "smelling of success" and boasting people who earn "in the top 0.7% of the country".
The top third of those, of course, were firmly in the disagreeable category ... those nasty, selfish, high earners, eh?
Time to be thoroughly disagreeable if you wish your kids to be successful then, don't you think? Oh no. Because the Beeb ensure that you are told that 60% of those who are deemed in their survey to be 'disagreeable' (not that they are necessarily high-earners) say they are unhappy in their jobs.
The BBC then manage to source about the only archetypal (for Yank tourists) village in the country which has escaped modernity and finds, shock horror, that they are all agreeable. They then ask the entirely unscientific question "do you think you are healthy?".
82% of them say they are, so that's taken as fact. Agreeable people are more healthy. People who are 'disagreeable', it is threatened, suffer worse health than that diabolical benchmark ... people who smoke!
Just say no to disagreeableness, people. It may earn you lots of money but you will die when stats are contorted in the right direction. Got that?
If you're an extrovert? You have a better chance of being happy, which is good - it could boost your life expectancy by 3 years! But beware, as nothing so positive is allowed for thrill-seekers on the BBC. You will be more likely (about 55% as against 45%) to be hospitalised ... in accident and emergency, they tell us, as if anyone hasn't heard the scare words before. And, oh yes, 53% of 'binge-drinkers' are high on extraversion. What's more, those who have had 10 or more sexual partners tend to be extroverts (53%), though it's not revealed how many actually suffered as a result. Probably not that many considering they have told us that extroverts live for three more fucking years than others!
So, to recap.
If you're poor, it's your poverty which dictates your education chances, not your family's attitude. If you're rich, it's the opposite.
If your kid is single-minded, they will likely be a success, but they will become a rich arsehole, so best stop them. They'll only be deeply unhappy otherwise.
And if your kid is an extrovert, he or she may well be blissfully happy, popular, and live longer ... but think of the accidents, the binge-drinking and the sex! Far too risky.
This is serious science, or at least Comrade Beeb are taking it as such. You can even study their findings yourself.
Data collected for Lab UK experiments will be made available for academic research and educational purposes only.Yes, I was being mischievous there. We can't have a look at all. Well, not till well after the show has been aired and its message properly digested.
Lab UK will make the scientific findings of all its experiments publicly available through the Lab UK website.But really, what's the point? They've told the country, from 9pm till 10pm on Bank Holiday Monday, what they wish to be known, incorporating unscientific anecdotal evidence and selective righteous irrelevances. Any published peer review of the raw stats is obviously going to to be low key by comparison, and won't be focussed on rebutting the programme, as broadcast, itself.
This could have been a great opportunity to understand what makes the country tick. What works and what doesn't in pursuit of the nation's prosperity. How to increase the collective sum of our achievements by isolating which kind of people succeed and which don't.
But the BBC turned the broadcast highlights of their 'extensive' research into an exercise in nannying and right-on bias.
Science by press release is one thing. Science which, by the Beeb's own admission hasn't been peer-reviewed, being broadcast as cast-iron conclusions on primetime state-funded TV, is something else entirely.
Fortunately, Mrs P had installed the wire mesh in front of the telly before I sat down, otherwise I'd have been forced to buy one of those pre-World Cup £299 Bravias, that Sainsbos are offering, as a replacement.