Monday, February 02, 2009

DIY Agnostibus, and David Attenborough on Darwin

Thanks to Maggi Dawn, Alan Wilson and pretty much everyone else, who has discovered the delights of the DIY bus slogan generator.

Caught up with one global treasure and one national treasure on TV over the weekend. Nelson Mandela keeps an incredible schedule for a 90 year old, it's hard not to be impressed with his determination to use his influence for good, and yet to keep on engaging with normal people.

Meanwhile David Attenborough was fascinating last night. In his previous series, he's presented us with evolution as a given fact, and not felt any need to argue for it. Now in Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, he presented an appreciation of Darwins work, and spoke as an apologist and evangelist for evolutionary theory, which itself is a fascinating commentary on where we are.

What I want to know is: why, when Christianity is presented on TV, is it always unorthodox views which get the full treatment (see the current Christianity, A History), but when science (especially evolution) is presented there is never a heretical voice raised? Here's a couple, quoted by John Lennox in 'Gods Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?'

"We are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have quarter of a million fossil species, but he situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky, and ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwins time." (David Raup, Field Museum of Natural History)

"The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology." (Stephen Jay Gould). Gould also writes "the history of most fossil species includes 2 features particularly inconsistent with the idea that they gradually evolved:
1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear...
2. Sudden appearance. In any local area a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appearas all at once and "fully formed". '

The idea that evolution is signed sealed and delivered, and that all scientists agree on how it works, is equivalent to saying that all Christians everywhere believe exactly the same things. Attenborough hinted at this in his interview with Andrew Marr yesterday, but you'd never guess there was an internal debate in the scientific community from the way evolution is presented on TV.

The Attenborough programme closed with a statue of Darwin being installed in a place of honour in the Natural History Museum, like some secular deity. It would be great if, in this bicentenary year for Darwin, there was a proper debate about his theories, and not merely idol worship.

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