The End of God? (BBC4 at 8pm, 10th November, 2011)

As is often the case with modern documentaries on science and religion, this one seemed designed from the outset to try and destroy any remaining faith people may have in a supreme being. Dr Thomas Dixon, the presenter, informed us at the very outset that: ‘in the battle between science and religion, it would seem that science has won the war. Is there any room left for God.?’

Naturally, we were treated to the story of Galileo and his telescope proving the church wrong. His telescope, said Dixon, was ‘more reliable than the bible’. This is because ‘at the heart of scientific knowledge are observation and logic’. Scientists ‘make hypotheses and test them time and again against the evidence’. For poor old faith, there is just ‘revelation – direct communication from God.’

Clips were shown of people who had experienced God in a special way. They’d seen a vision or found themselves speaking in another tongue. Later in the programme, to debunk such experiences, we were treated to the so-called “God-Helmet” – a kind of motorcycle helmet with lots of wires attached. Using this helmet, scientists can make people feel ‘a presence’ which may account for the ‘supernatural’ experiences many people have of ‘God’. The helmet can also make people look really daft, though it suited Richard Dawkins. (You knew he had to turn up sooner or later). Unfortunately, he didn’t experience anything supernatural. (Maybe he didn’t have enough faith in the helmet?)

We moved on (inevitably) to Creationists. ‘The battle ground is America’, says Dixon. ‘For American fundamentalists, the bible is literally the word of God; every phrase is true.’ Therefore, he goes on, ‘the theory (sic) of evolution cannot be right, because it contradicts what’s written in Genesis.’

Once again (sigh) we return to the “Scopes trial” in 1925 Tennessee. A ‘debate of science versus religion, reason versus faith’ a voice from the past tells us. Dixon takes up the commentary; ‘nevertheless, even into the 1980s creationism persisted in many American classrooms.’ The implication is that this is a bad thing because, for scientists, ‘Ancient religious texts are not sources of knowledge about the natural world and to treat them as if they are is absurd.’ And then, the breathtakingly arrogant assertion; ‘there’s no room for the God of biblical creationism in modern science.’

Intelligent design and irreducible complexity also got the elbow. Parents at one American school were shown outside a court case in 2006 in which they sued the school for teaching intelligent design. They claimed the school was trying to ‘promote religion and introduce false doubts about evolution.’ A clever lawyer informed us that the ‘the positive proposition that life could have been created by an intelligent designer is not science.’

I’m running out of space now but I’m sure you get the gist. As always with such programmes, we ended up with a pile of contradictions dense enough to make our brains hurt. For example, that once the Large Hadron Collider has done its bit, scientists will know all there is to know about everything. On the other hand, 75% of the universe is made up of dark matter and no one has any idea what it is! There is no Creator, but there are probably an infinite number of universes. Well of course! Stands to reason don’t it?

Such documentaries can drive me to distraction. Not just because of the ignorance as to what the bible claims and doesn’t claim: not because of the general ignorance as to what most intelligent Christians believe; and not because of the number of scientific facts we are bombarded with. But simply because of the sheer arrogance of little human beings, strutting about the planet, happily trying to supersede God.

Behind everything they tell us of course, is the implication that all is meaningless; that there is no objective worth to anything. But if this is true, why should we listen to anything they have to say?

  1. Hi Chris,

    I’m always surprised that some atheists seem convinced that they have proven that there is no God. Even if secular theories on origins were true, how does it follow that God doesn’t exist? There seems to be a blurring of science and history. The study of origins is as much history as it is science; i.e. prone to the same subjectivity in interpretation as historical study. Thus we can have a young-earth creationist and an atheist-evolutionist look at the same ‘scientific evidence’ and, based on their respective presuppositions, come up with an interpretation that is entirely plausible within their worldview.

    It’s really frustrating when shows like this portray Christians as narrow-minded-simpletons, whereas the great majority of Westerners who uncritically swallow everything that Dawkins et al spout are considered to be the the pinnacle of intelligent, enlightened humanity.

    moan over.

  2. Correct on all points Paul! I especially like your last point, re so many people (seemingly) uncritically swallowing whatever scientific and historical claims they are fed via the media. On the history contained in such programmes too, events such as the Scopes trial are almost always inaccurately portrayed to show Christians as idiots and everyone else as patently sensible and reasonable.

    Thanks for your comment.


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