Christchurch lecturer loses job when
scientific “web of deceit” is unraveled.
In a joint announcement in London on January 22, the Royal Entomological Society and the British Arachnological Society have announced what many biologists have long suspected: that spiders are just a type of insect and not a separate species.
Professor of entomology Benjamin Siegel was joined on stage by arachnologist Professor Peter Parker for a press conference at the London Natural History Museum. Professor Parker, in an emotional speech, said that while it was difficult for him personally to “climb down from a web of deceit”, he thought it was “best for science” to admit that arachnology was “junk science”, and to rationalise the study of spiders, incorporating the study of all of “God’s creepy crawly creatures” into the more respectable field of entomology.
“It’s something that has been bugging me for the last six or eight years, I forget which. I started getting this tingling sensation when I read about the secret of the origin of arachnology…” At that point, Professor Parker became too emotional to continue, with his appearance also beginning to alter slightly. Professor Siegel quickly took the microphone while Professor Parker was rushed offstage.
“What Professor Parker was referring to was the foundation not only of the separate branch of ‘arachnology’, but the compartmentalisation of academia in general led by Thomas Henry Huxley. Mr Huxley is remembered today as the grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, but in his day, he was best known as a great promoter of Sir Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. In fact, he was known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog‘. Actually, he looked a lot like a bulldog, but that may have been from, uh, shall we say, a certain lack of, erm, genetic diversity in the Huxley bloodline.”
Professor Siegel went on to explain that in the wake of budget cuts, a dramatic increase in arachnophobia statistics, and the need to popularise the study of science, the latest academic thinking is that the dangerous trend of over-specialisation in scientific fields needs to end. The new trend is to combine fields where possible, pooling budgets and thereby gaining synergy and better cooperation among scientists in closely related fields. “As for insects and spiders, they have more DNA in common than neanderthals and homo sapiens,” he explained. “You don’t have a separate branch of science for humans with polydactyly, do you? It’s a distinction without a difference. Plus, we don’t want to miss important discoveries by not talking to each other, like when the CIA and FBI didn’t talk to each other before 9/11. Look what happened there.”
At that point, Professor Siegel took some questions from reporters on the scene. Celebrity reporter Glynnis Gruenforest of the PayPal funded News Source Alliance (NSA) asked, “But what about the different numbers of legs that bugs and spiders has? Doesn’t spiders have about 10 legs at least?”
Professor Siegel patiently explained that insects have 6 legs and two antennae, and spiders have 8 legs. “But, the top two legs of spiders evolved from antennae, so spiders are just a mutated form of insects. There is now a scientific consensus that this mutation occurred during the meteor crash that killed off all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Computer models now prove that there was significant radioactivity in the meteor that caused that particular mutation. It also caused the two top body lobes to partially fuse and to start secreting radioactive webs with which they were able to catch unsuspecting bugs, er, insects.”
Professor Siegel admitted that this rationalisation of scientific disciplines could result in job losses in academia. In Christchurch, prominent science “communicator” Dr Simon “Spidey” Pollard has just been pink-slipped by his employer, Canterbury University. Doctor Pollard said he was “shocked but not surprised” at the double whammy of losing his job and losing his beloved specialty, the popularisation of spiders, but he was most indignant at having to read about his dismissal on the Internet.
“And and you know it’s very interesting I happened to online read an article this morning umm actually the Guardian has been doing lots of articles on this and you know people just look for patterns where there just aren’t any and the thing was it was all a conspiracy and we just can’t help it cos our brains are just wired that way when it sends messages to the amigdyla and then it sends messages to other parts of the brain to start analysing flat out what’s going on. And you know those entomology guys are all out to get me cos you know they’re just jealous of my pop… my success and it’s like what do they have? They just have bugs. Bugs! And nobody wants to be a fly even if Hollywood did like nine remakes of The Fly but who cares and so what if Howard Shore wrote an opera about The Flies and wasn’t the Lord of the Flies himself a, a kind of a dysutopian? But spiders cos they’re aspirational are cool and who wouldn’t want to be Spiderman and yeah no there’s even SpiderPig on the Simpsons so even pigs want to be spiders. Our brains are just wired that way.”
Canterbury University spokesman Ali Oxford Frei apologised to Dr Pollard for the communication failure. He said, “We apologise to Dr Pollard if the communication failure caused him any emotional anguish or uncontrolled outbursts of run-on sentences. But it was a cockup, not a conspiracy. Dr Pollard was out of town doing his job of science communication when we were trying to reach him. He was reading ‘My Pet Spider‘ to a group of school children in Invercargill. We attempted to contact Dr Pollard a couple of times, but we had a deadline for the evening news cameras, so we just couldn’t wait to release the news. His driver whispered something in his ear, but he just kept on reading that dam…, excuse me, darned book, looking like a deer in the headlights.”
Radio New Zealand issued a statement when asked by RadioActive about Doctor Pollard’s future on the Nine To Noon programme as their “science commentator”, saying that they are “currently seeking other science commentating opportunities”. A popular weekday morning host spoke to RadioActive under condition of anonymity. She said, “Now that Simon has gone all conspiracy theory on us, we just don’t have a slot for him. I mean, it’s kinda oxymoronic, isn’t it? The science of conspiracy theories? Yeah, Simon was just getting to be too edgy. I think maybe he was all stressed out dealing with his conspiracy theory that turned out to be true, just like 9/11, I mean, Watergate. Anyway, listeners were complaining that Simon wasn’t soothing enough. Hmm, maybe now we should get John Hawkesby back.”
But while this downpour of bad news may have temporarily washed Dr Pollard out, he has plans to climb the water spout of success again with not one, but two sequels to his popular book, “I Am Spider“. He has already begun work on a memoir dealing with his struggle with cognitive dissonance in the face of the massive Entomology Department conspiracy against him. In his memoir, Doctor Pollard will finally come out of the closet as a fully metamorphosed conspiracy theorist. “Yeah no I’m sorta umm well it’s like that phoney love doctor guy, you know, Charlie Veitch, only in reverse,” he confessed. His upcoming memoir, “I Am Buggered“, will tell the inside story of his now public conflict with envious colleagues who conspired against him, as well as his own inner conflict with cognitive dissonance.
He refused to reveal details of the other book he’s working on but did hint to one reporter, “Well, you know there’s like this hierarchy thing in nature and and spiders you know umm eat bugs cos their brains are just wired that way and yeah no cos obviously they’re nutritional.” A spokeswoman for celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson, refused to comment on reports that she is collaborating with Doctor Pollard on a new book that one insider says is “simply crawling” with entomophagically themed recipes. The book is rumoured to have a working title of “Nigella Does Entomophagic Magic!“, but Doctor Pollard is said to be holding out for a title more recognisable as a sequel to his previous books, “I Eat Bugs“.