Sunday, 4 August 2013


I wonder what the reporter thought of it
From Jake Arnott's interview with one-time train-robber Gordon Goody, in the Review section of the Sunday Times
… He doesn't remember what made him a thief, though perhaps it was an instinctive trait like that of a magpie.
'It might be something to do with my genes,' he reasons, 'all my family were honest.'

Think about it. You couldn't make it up. In my own words, the reasoning appears constructed as follows – 
  1.  reification of life events as being due to 'a trait'
  2.  default explanation of this trait as an 'instinct'
  3.  uncritical cross-species corroboration
  4.  further explanatory recourse to genes
  5.  even though no known relatives have ever displayed this supposed attribute

To be fair to Mr Goody, whatever else his virtues he lays no claims to having given critical thought to questions of brain and mind. His stated views here represent probably no more than muddled and unthought-out views on such matters held in many sectors of society. It was not the nature of Mr Arnott's article to judge. Maybe the whole article was ironical.

 I do hope that at the words quoted here at least many of its readers thought 'Hold on a minute...'

'do bird' (British slang) = serve a prison sentence

'a trait' = distinguishing characteristic or quality, often presumed at least in part heritable.

Arnott, J. (2013) Kestrals and poetry helped this Great Train Robber to do bird, Sunday Times (Review Section), 4 May, p.5

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