Friday 22 August 2008

The Genius of Charles Darwin - raise your consciousness here

Many of the reviews of the first episode of Richard Dawkins' Channel 4 series, The Genius of Charles Darwin, which finished last Monday, were critical of Britain's most prominent atheist for being unable to resist having a go at creationists and other religious believers. I watched the series, but reading these reviews I couldn't help wondering if the reviewers had seen the same programme. Dawkins was repeatedly praised for his eloquent exposition of Darwin and his theory, but simultaneously marked down for introducing his own atheistic point of view.

My advice to these reviewers is: watch again; you're critiquing what you think Dawkins said, based on your opinion of his views. As the man himself stressed again and again, go and look at the evidence. It's true that there was a certain slant to Dawkins' telling of Darwin's story, but at no point in that first episode did he proselytise atheism, least of all to the schoolchildren he took fossil-hunting on a beach.

Dawkins' insistence on evidence became more apparent in the second and third episodes, and we saw precisely why it was inevitable that he would slant the series the way he did: he believes that an understanding of Darwinian evolution will lead to atheism, and it would have been disingenuous not to have included that point of view.

As for highlighting the creationist nutjobs, they may indeed be few and far between at present, and it's obvious that anything he says to one of these hardcore creationists is not going to sway them one iota. But by challenging them on TV, as he did here, he's showing many more people (those watching the programme) how wrong the creationists are.

Consciousness raising - it's a strategy that stands a good chance of success. Get the moderates on the side of rationality, so that they will understand why so-called creation science has no place in school science lessons, and actively oppose it (rather than leave it be, like those wishy-washy science teachers Dawkins spoke to in the final episode).