Kent, England, January 2001, 
This is Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin, now a museum in honour of the great man's name. In an age when it is fashionable in some quarters to ridicule the objective approach to solving many of  the problems of life, I made a sort of pilgrimage  to this spot, tramping over the snow-covered fields of north-west Kent to the village of Downe. The house was of course closed at the time of year, but fortunately the English villages boast many country pubs and I was able to quench a good thirst with  first class pint of real ale in the Red Lion.
It was an opportunity to reflect on irrationality and its extreme realisation in fanaticism and many people's apparent need to embrace this. Those people take for granted that their existence and comforts in life, particularly in the West, depends totally on the application of modern science. Medicine and health care starts well before day one. Transport, communications, food production and distribution, buildings to live and work in, education, entertainment... every aspect of modern living has been possible because of scientific advance; and, scientific advance has been possible only by the embrace of objectivity and that means scrupulously rejecting irrationality. To a scientist that is common-sense, since non-reason does not work. It does not mean rejecting imagination, which is creative and essential to scientific advance.
False and dishonest science is commonly seen in today's world, promulgated with all the application of high-tech communications. This in many ways is worse than simple irrationality. It is usually linked to blatant commercialism. A lying advert is its least offensive form. A most obnoxious form is a series of arguments presented in the media, in books, pamphlets, on the internet, videos etc., that assume the required conclusion and then find every example under the sun as evidence of proof of that conclusion. Thousands, even millions, believe and sign-up. Powerful bodies are often behind such unscrupulousness. The phenomenon is commonly seen in wonder-cure and self-help books of all types, and used by apparently intelligent people but quite often with some inner 'axe to grind'. Proponents becoming totally convinced as examples multiply and mutual support grows -  x million cannot be wrong! Where have we heard this before?
Leaving Down House, I followed well-signed footpaths through farming country (this was the Winter before Foot-and-mouth struck  a dreadful epidemic, closing all the English countryside to walkers), up a short hill to visit the stone seat dedicated to William Wilberforce, and then downwards again to the village of Keston, famous for its ponds (right).This journey was not as 
straightforward as it sounds; one footpath had been so badly maintained that it disappeared completely and wandering through a wood I altogether lost sense of direction. Buzzing and droning above were becoming louder with each passing step. It was obvious that I was close to Biggin Hill, now a commercial airport, but once famous for its key role in the Battle of Britain. I chanced on another walker who had a well-stocked back-pack with rain-gear, provisions, coffee, and importantly, a map. The two of us pored and squinted at it for some time until a path was found to return me to my home for the night in Farnborough, Kent, with an opportunity to sample further specimens of Kentish ale and reflect on some other of today's social phenomena.
Richard Hurley's Music Pages and Vacuum Pages
Walking in Ulster with the Spartan Red Sox
"Sniper at Work," a visit to Crossmaglen