Newsnight doesn’t “do” original sin

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Newsnight doesn’t “do” original sin

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Paxman: original disbelief

Paxman: original disbelief

Did you hear the one about the Archbishop and the journalist? No? Well it goes like this…

Alastair Campbell may be infamous for claiming that Blair didn’t “do” God, but Jeremy Paxman seems to have come close to a similarly reductive statement last night, when he claimed that Newsnight didn’t “do” original sin.

The suggestion came out during a discussion involving the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, playwright and author David Hare, and historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, on the ideological and cultural impact of the credit crunch. For those of you who missed it:

Williams: Why exactly were we seduced by this [an unlimited sense of economic growth]?

Paxman: Well nobody’s got an answer to that yet, have they?

Williams: Well, I could say original sin, which is a good start, but I’d need to spell that out a bit further…

Paxman: I don’t

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  1. September 18, 2009

    A_MARTIN

    I suspect Paxman’s problem is a general one: the vulgar confusion of a theological concept, original sin – a label for aspects of human character – with tales about apples and serpents.
    Original sin points out that people have an innate tendency to get it wrong because of selfishness, greed, cowardice, envy, spite etc, that can be resisted and people are happier for doing so. The alternative is the noble savage of Rousseau, or the post-capitalist man of Marx.

  2. September 22, 2009

    SALEEM YOUSAF

    PAXMAN IS FAR TOO OVERRATED.HE’S USED TO ANNOYING POLITICIANS BUT WHEN HE COMES UP AGAINTS HEAVY DUTY INTELLECTUALS HE CAN’T BEAT THEM DOWN,AND DIMISSES THEM AS BEING IRRELEVANT.
    WATCH HIS INTERVIEW WITH CHOMSKY,HE USES ALL THE TACTICS THAT WORK WITH POLITICIANS,BUT NOT WITH CHOMSKY OR THE GOOD BISHOP,WHO KNOW THEIR STUFF.
    THIS IS THE REASON HIS INTERVIEWS LAST NO MORE THAN 5 MINUTES,SO THAT YOU CANNOT LEARN ANYTHING

  3. September 22, 2009

    PaulJ

    “…the danger is that we continue to invest time and energy in a purely scientific debate; one that is so out of touch with the human impulses behind the bust that it produces no real, holistic solutions.”

    And what do you suppose is the best way of “getting in touch” with human impulses? Prayer, perhaps? A purely scientific debate might at least yield some insights that are based in reality. Psychology, I understand, is a science.

  4. September 23, 2009

    steve

    Given that Williams panders to our “dangerous taste for unreality” in his day job, this is very ironic.

    Pot calling the kettle black ?

  5. September 24, 2009

    Philip Hunter

    I take issue not with the substance of the blog but with the last line, \If not, the danger is that we continue to invest time and energy in a purely scientific debate; one that is so out of touch with the human impulses behind the bust that it produces no real, holistic solutions.\ This is a gross libel on science, which does not preclude holsitic solutions. Holism is in fact a scientific concept stating that a system cannot be understood through consideration of its components alone. Indeed science is all about unity, and it is humans who are guilty of seeking quick solutions and explanations. Perhaps indeed that is our original sin – seeking fast gratification.

  6. September 25, 2009

    Elizabeth Kirkwood

    To Paul J:

    Many thanks for your comment. By no means am I advocating prayer as a solution. I agree, psychology is a science, but it’s a social science of many different strands. And there are branches that are less abstract than others which may help us understand what it is that motivates us to live beyond our means—humanistic psychology for instance.

    When you argue that “a purely scientific debate might at least yield some insights that are based in reality” you make a fair point but also an assumption which, I think, was at the heart of the Paxman/Williams interview. Fundamentally differing interpretations of “reality” collided. But that shouldn’t mean dialogue must always end when that happens. In an ideal world—and if time had allowed—it would have been valuable if Paxman could have pushed Williams further on his assumption of reality—and vice versa. Instead, Paxman just dismissed it.

    However, in the above blog, I was referring to the need for a more philosophical approach to some of our current predicaments. James Purnell’s Sen and Sensibility in this month’s Prospect has some interesting things to say about this, and can be read online by subscribers here:

    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2009/09/sen-and-sensibility/

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Elizabeth Kirkwood

Elizabeth Kirkwood is a freelance writer living in London. 


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