Magazine article Geographical
Robert Winston Is a Leader in the Field of Human Fertility Research and the Presenter of Several TV Programmes, Including Human Mind and Child of Our Time. He Also Acted as Editorial Consultant on Human, Dorling Kindersley's Definitive Visual Guide to Our Species, Released Earlier This Year
How did you get involved in Human?
It's an area that I suppose is appropriate for me because of my broad interest in human biology, and I think the fact that it examines anthropology is very interesting. To put our humanity in a broader context was useful. I think it gives a wider appeal and will be more helpful for teaching young people, not only about human diversity, but also the nature of humanity.
Do you think we're becoming more culturally uniform?
Of course we are, aren't we? It's inevitable. I think there were 250 languages when last recorded, and up until the last century, there were at least four or five in the UK. Now, there's probably only two left. I don't think we can expect to see Cornish again. I think, inevitably, with mass communication, what we lose are some of those cultural diversities, because we now have an almost universal language. It isn't entirely negative, but now people in Shanghai watch the same films and television programmes as do people in Cardiff.
What do you feel is the most interesting aspect of the human animal?
Falling in love. That's an extraordinary and muddling experience. There are neurotransmitters that cause phenomenal effects--loss of appetites, night sweats, nightmares, sleeplessness. Another one, I think, would be lying. It's extraordinary, because lying turns out to be necessary. To be a successful human, even as a child, you need to know how to lie, and children who lie well tend
to be more gifted than children who don't, which is kind of curious. I suppose the biggest single aspect of human behaviour, which is both puzzling and difficult to probe, is spirituality. I mean, where does our spirit actually come from? Is it genetically determined? I think that religion and spirituality are fascinating aspects of human behaviour, because they can't be explored scientifically; we don't have the tools yet. But maybe we will in time.
Given the problems of overpopulation, how do you justify using science to help people reproduce?
That's a really silly question! You have six-point-something billion people in the world, and by the year 2025, there'll be maybe nine billion. But out of all the babies that are born, those born using fertility treatment add up to about a million. …