David Attenborough: “I don’t ever want to stop work”

The naturalist and broadcaster says he has no plans to retire despite having a pacemaker fitted earlier this summer - and a knee replacement operation last year

David Attenborough says he will never retire.


In an interview with Radio Times published today, the 87-year-old naturalist and broadcaster says that even though he had a pacemaker fitted in June, he will never slow down his work commitments.

He says of the medical procedure: “It was no big deal. When you’re in your 80s, your heart gives you a funny five minutes every now and again and they won’t insure you unless you have a cardiologist to say that you can go on a long-haul flight. So I had to have the pacemaker.”

Sir David says he has also had a knee replaced last year – and is equally blasé about that operation.

“If you’ve got a motorcar and its brakes fail, and you have the capacity to replace them, you replace them. And we have the capacity to replace knees, which is wonderful.

“I don’t ever want to stop work. Sure, something’s going to wear out some time and I won’t be able to do it, but while I can – and people want me to, and people look at the result – I’m delighted to work. If I was earning my money by hewing coal I would be very glad indeed to stop. But I’m not; I’m swanning around the world looking at the most fabulously interesting things. Such good fortune.”

In the same interview Attenborough outlines his belief that human beings have stopped evolving according to the principle of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin.

“I think that we’ve stopped evolving. Because if natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the main mechanism of evolution – there may be other things, but it does look as though that’s the case – then we’ve stopped natural selection.

“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95–99 per cent of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.”

But Attenborough is keen to point out that while physical evolution might have stalled, we are still developing culturally.

“Stopping natural selection is not as important, or as depressing, as it might sound – because our evolutionary process is now cultural. Humans have a great cultural inheritance as well as a physical, genetic inheritance – we can inherit a knowledge of computers or television, electronics, aeroplanes and so on. Each generation has got all these books that tell them these things, so our cultural evolution is proceeding with extraordinary swiftness.” 

Read the full interview with SIr David in this week’s Radio Times magazine.