Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Science and Religion: Same Old Story

I have just finished watching Colin Blakemore’s programme on Channel 4 on the history of science and Christianity. I’ve had a few emails since it aired on Sunday night (I recorded it) asking what I think.

Sadly the programme was not very good. Blakemore himself came across as insufferably smug even when he was trying to be serious. The storyline was the nineteenth century yarn of science beating back the forces of superstition with heroic battles fought by Bruno and Galileo. Most of the details were wrong but even if they had been right, I doubt it would have made much difference to the tone.

I’ll just make three points:

Firstly, if you want to make a show about history do get yourself an academic advisor who is a historian. The historical consultant on Blakemore’s show was John Gribbin, a physicist. He’s written a couple of works of popular history, but given there are plenty of historians of science around, it would have been a good idea to hire one.

Second, it is a bit rich devoting your whole show to how sneaky Christians are for accommodating their faith to scientific discoveries and then at the end say science is great because it always chucks out theories that don’t work. Either responding to the evidence is commendable or it isn’t. It can’t be good for scientists and bad for Christians.

Third, do have a look at Humphrey’s demolition of the Giordano Bruno myth below.

By the way, at one point Blakemore picked up a big book and said it was volume one of the Inquisition’s big book of torture. Does anyone have any idea what it was?

PS: Here's someone else who is not happy about the show.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum


Bjørn Are said...

I have these days made some fuzz in Norwegian Media by insisting that The Fossils Don't Lie, especially relating to all the myths about how Darwin was received in 1859.

My point of course being that one needs to look at sources and eye witnesses before making historical claims and judgements. And as you mention, to do so, it helps to consult real experts.

Why journalists want to make a fool of themselves by denying the fossils is beyond me.

Humphrey said...

Hmmmm, interesting. One of my sources for the Bruno 'myhtbuster' post was 'Science a History' by John Gribbin. Dunno how much consulting he did on this project. They also had some good historians like Ron Numbers and Peter Harrison, but they merely served as talking heads.

Bjørn Are said...

BTW, I blogged about something of the same here, based on a message from the forum yesterday.