BBC RADIO FOUR
The History of Folly
Programme 1: Group Think (14/05/2003)
Why, to begin at the beginning, did the Trojan rulers drag that
suspicious-looking wooden horse inside their walls despite every reason to
suspect a Greek trick?
In the first of a new series Francis Wheen examines the perennial tendency of
politicians, scientists and others in authority to act perversely, and how,
when more rational alternatives are clearly present, the best and brightest can
blithely and arrogantly march into colossal blunders.
Listen to programme 1
Programme 2: 'Tis Folly To Be Wise (21/05/2003)
Some things are so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them -
no ordinary person could be so stupid. Francis Wheen examines how, down the
ages, the cleverest people have been led into folly when their great brains
somehow failed to sound the alarm.
The great mathematician Michel Chasles, fell for a con trick a child could have
seen through; French physicists deluded themselves that they had discovered a
new and entirely fictional kind of radiation; and a seventeenth century English
scientist thought he had invented cloning four hundred years early.
Listen to programme 2
Programme 3: The Madness of Crowds (28/05/2003)
Francis Wheen looks at manias, delusions and panics over the centuries. The
masses may be gullible, but, he finds, there is usually someone intelligent but
misguided behind each scare - whether it be the prominent astrophysicist who
predicted the imminent destruction of Los Angeles or the top economist who told
us the stock market would carry on booming forever.
Listen to programme 3