Monday 19 September 2011

The magic of living in a bubble

Here's a quote:
News presenter Jeremy Paxman, in a Newsnight programme, has recently referred to a large section of religious believers as ‘stupid' and religious creation narratives as ‘hogwash.' At many levels this is unacceptable behaviour for a BBC presenter, yet the BBC not only justifies it but allows him to get away with it!
Just who is getting so offended at this blatant anti-religious rant by a famous BBC anchor-man? You've probably guessed already: Creationists!
Although the context was an interview with Richard Dawkins about his new book, The Magic of Reality, Paxman also made categorical statements that the truthfulness of religious creation accounts cannot be taken seriously and should therefore be treated with utter disdain. His disrespect and lack of impartiality was self-evident despite later BBC attempts to justify it. A response from the BBC argued that he ‘was being provocative by playing devil's advocate.' But that isn't how it came across to anyone listening; it sounded very much like Paxman was expressing his own opinion as a statement of fact, not in the context of asking a question to Dawkins.
There's a reason why it sounded like Paxman was making a statement of fact. It's because he was, as it happens, stating a fact. Religious creation narratives are, on the whole, hogwash — meaning false, not true, non-congruent with reality. Dawkins charitably described them as myth, and expressed a fondness for Genesis, as myth. Listen for yourself:

My copy of the book arrived this morning, and I only had time to glance briefly at it before leaving for work. The illustrations are amazing. I look forward to reading the whole thing as I'm apparently within Dawkins' target age-range (12 to 100).

But back to those hyper-sensitive creationists. See how they attempt to justify their position with oblique references to research and other non-biblical texts:
Christian creationists have always recognised the multi-levelled nature of the creation account, reading it both literally and with theological symbolism, and not just with the eyes of simplistic literalism. Creationists are also interested in mapping global creation and flood stories from around the world to see whether there is a common pattern. It would seem in fact that there is knowledge of a global flood in many of those accounts, and this is to be expected if the world population is related to Noah's family, just as the Bible says. Oxford Professor Peter Harrison has also argued recently that a literal reading of the Bible led to a more literal reading of nature, and this helped to get science going in a more meaningful way in the early modern period.
So the creation account is both literal and symbolic? How convenient, allowing them to push the symbolism when their literalism is challenged, and vice versa. Plus there's an appeal to authority — an "Oxford Professor" no less, who has argued. He may well have argued, but has anyone (apart from creationists) taken him seriously? We won't find out from this piece, as it provides no references.
In summary, I would suggest that the BBC hierarchy is out of touch with its viewers and has little interest in genuine respect and dialogue. Instead it appears to be living in a bubble of its own making.
The BBC likely considers creationists deserving of respect, just like anyone else, even if they believe nonsense. But the nonsense itself deserves none. And we can clearly see who's living in a bubble (hint: it's not the BBC).