Friday, January 27, 2006

The BBC on Intelligent Design

Last night, the BBC screened an episode of Horizon, their science strand, called A War on Science (link to BBC website). It was about the lawsuit in Dover, Pennsylvania where a school board was told that they could not have Intelligent Design (ID) taught in science lessons. I support that decision and believe ID to be mistaken on many levels, scientific and theological. However, the Horizon was still badly distorted in some ways and certainly did not give the ID crowd a fair crack of the whip. More dangerous, the programme tried to sell the idea that evolution was incompatible with religion. They did this is various subtle and less subtle ways.

First, the title of the programme and the whole approach suggested that science was under threat from religious fanatics. This is rubbish. ID is not a threat to science, it is a threat to lazy scientists who cannot be bothered to explain things to the public. The proponents of ID were interviewed in a fairground, a small town cafe and on a ferry. The proponents of evolution sat in their studies, behind desks or in a lecture theatre. Cunning. One of the spokesmen for evolution was David Attenborough, a secular saint here in the UK. However, the programme dishonestly described him as a 'zoologist', which he isn't, rather than a maker of natural history programmes, which he is. The most dishonest distortion was that the programme never said that Kenneth miller, the main advocate of evolution, is a practicing Catholic. They interviewed him extensively and never mentioned this. When they needed a Catholic point of view, they asked a Jesuit priest instead (who was also anti-ID, of course as this is the official Catholic position). The programme tried to drag the Church into the dispute on the side of ID and ended up having to admit that a single cardinal had been caught out of line.

Essentially, Horizon did not want to admit that evolution is compatible with Christianity. It wanted a conflict between science and religion, so resorted to underhand tactics to produce one. Its choice for main spokesman for evolution - Professor Richard Dawkins. Who else?

Evolution has two interconnected problems which contribute to creationism and ID. The first is that you can't put a bacteria in a lab and watch it evolve into an elephant. The evidence for evolution is diffuse, sometimes obscure and requires a good deal of hard work to get to grips with. While it is extremely convincing taken as a whole, each part of the puzzle alone cannot do the job. To actually do the legwork to put the whole picture together and understand it takes both hard work and a certain amount of goodwill towards the theory. The second problem is the goodwill is missing. This is largely the fault of atheists who want to use evolution to push their own agendas. Last night's Horizon was a good example of this. This means that Christians who support evolution have to fight both sides at the same time. The best thing that Dawkins could do for evolution is announce that it is fully compatible with religion and he was wrong to say otherwise. Then he should shut up and never say another word for as long as he lives. Presently, his ilk are the best recruiting sergeants that creationists have. He won't shut up because he wants to encourage Christians to be creationists so that he can pour scorn on them.

So the needless battle goes on.

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