"Did Darwin Kill God?"

On Sunday night, ABC TV ran two programs on the same night about Charles Darwin with entirely different messages in regard to the relationship between Darwin’s theory of the Origin of Species and the Christian religion.

The first was the final in a three part series, “Darwin’s Brave New World”. I have already commented on this disappointing and atheistic documentary here. I wouldn’t have minded quite so much if those who wrote this material had openly said “We believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution killed off any reason for believing in a Divine Creator, and we are going to show you our version of the Darwin narrative that makes us think this is a reasonable belief.” But, of course, they did not.

Far more upfront was the second Darwinian themed program for the night, a short documentary on Compass called “Did Darwin Kill God?”. The maker of this documentary tells you right from the beginning that he believes “that Christ was God incarnate and that he was resurrected from the dead. But I also believe creationists are wrong to read Genesis literally.” So no hidden agendas there.

“Did Darwin Kill God?” is simply supurb. If you are a Religious Education teacher in a Catholic school: go out and buy this one NOW and use it in your classrooms. I am personally keeping it to show to my kids in a few years time when all these questions become issues for them.

If you missed it, you can still watch it here on the ABC website. And if you would rather read the transcript, here it is thanks to someone who collected the teletext subtitles for the deaf.

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19 Responses to "Did Darwin Kill God?"

  1. Louise says:

    Sounds good, David. I’m loathe to give the ABC any more of my $$, so I’ll try to watch on the ‘net.

    • Peregrinus says:

      As an aside, Louise, how does your not watching the ABC prevent them from getting any more of your dollars? I can see how this would work with a commercial station, but not with the ABC.

      • Mr. Schütz recommended that people buy (though he misspelled as “by”) a copy of the episode:

        “If you are a Religious Education teacher in a Catholic school: go out and by this one NOW and use it in your classrooms.”

      • Louise says:

        Pere, I mean extra, over and above what they extort out of our family’s taxes.

        So, I can watch this episode online without giving the ABC any more money than I already am forced to do, but if I buy a DVD at the ABC shop I am giving them money of my own free will.

        That I refuse to do until they start acting like “our” (ie everyon’es) ABC.

  2. PM says:

    I agree: ‘Did Darwin Kill God’ is brilliant. It is historically informed, unlike most of what we see in the media and hear from Ditchkins. (He could also have mentioned Aquinas who said that most of the language used about God in the Scriptures is metaphor – and that the metaphorical meaning in such cases should be taken as the ‘literal sense’.)

    He is right to point out that Darwin’s loss of faith had more to do with the death of his daughter – the theodicy question – than with his research. That in turn has a lot to do with the theological shallowness of ‘chin up, stiff upper lip’ Victorian public school Christianity.

    He also gets the early C20 politics right, unlike ‘Inherit the Wind’ which many people take as history. Darwinism was then associated with the political right who appealed to the survival of the fittest in economic and social policy and were deeply into racism and eugenics. Oddly, the contemporary ‘Christian’ right in the US and its hangers-on elsewhere seem to have swallowed social Darwinism whole.

    The deconstruction of memology is excellent – what are memes if not products of the human intellect in the first place? My dear departed father-in-law, an Anglican synodsman who designed nuclear reactors for his day job, thought Dawkins wasn’t a real empirical scientist’s bootlace. And, speaking as a history graduate, I wouldn’t give his travesties of history 2 out of ten if I got them from a 13-year-old.

  3. Schütz says:

    I just found this unrelated article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/may/13/darwin-evolution-religion-science

    Unrelated to the documentary, that is. Same topic.

    I have also read some atheist discussion boards on Cunningham’s program. They don’t like it. They really don’t think that it should be possible to be both Christian and evolutionist, and so if you claim you are, you are something of an afront to them. I guess the problem is that they would like to see evolution as conclusive proof against God. The fact that very few people actually take it as such means one of the planks in their atheistic structure is a bit wonky.

    See, for eg, here: http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/originsuniverselifehumankindanddarwin/forum/topics/darwin-genius-of-evolution-did

    Or even more here: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3707

    • Paul says:

      Thank you for the links to the comments on this programme.
      It is sad to see the irrational arguments in debates like this. For example, the argument by a Dr Weadon in the first article is:

      “it is impossible to reconcile evolution and Christianity because atheists don’t agree with the doctrines of Christianity”.

      Can a logician please untangle that reasoning? The much despised Medieval Scholastics would despair that 21st Century argument has degenerated to this.

      • Kiran says:

        I’ll try to put it into some sort of semi-logical form:

        1. Atheists agree with evolution.

        2. Atheism is not only self-consistent (i.e. everything that they agree with agrees with everything else that they agree with), but also hyper-self-consistent (i.e. anything that they agree with cannot be held by anyone who holds anything to be wrong that they hold).

        3. Christians hold atheists are wrong about the existence of God.


        4. It is impossible to reconcile Evolution with Christianity.

        • Paul says:

          Hi Kiran, thanks for the response.
          How about this…
          1. Atheists agree with the Periodic Table of the Elements
          2. as you say
          3. as you say
          4. it is impossible to reconcile the Periodic Table of the Elements with Christianity (…..not)

  4. Kiran says:

    There has been quite a deal of work on the Christian response to Darwin, as well as the Christian background of Evolution. James Moore’s The Post-Darwinian Controversies, Owen Chadwick’s magisterial The Victorian Church (two volumes), and Ronald Numbers’ very balanced and reasonable treatment of American Creationism The Creationists in particular are very good, but a lot of it is in papers (such as such as Jaroslav Pelikan’s Creation and Causality, James Moore’s essay-length review Creation and the Problem of Creation, and John Lyon’s Immediate Reactions to Darwin in particular are very useful. By and the large, the immediate English reaction to Darwin was generally favourable. Problems only began in the 60s, with Pusey adopting a very strong anti-Darwin stance, and Huxley and Darwin adopting very strong anti-Christian stances. The English Catholic journalist, Richard Simpson in particular is interesting as having suggested the evolution of man quite a while before The Descent of Man. Of course, Simpson himself was a liberal, and something of a gnat, but I think his stance was not at all uncommon among English Catholics. I think that such Catholic opposition to evolution as exists today is largely a descendent of the Jesuit stance of the 1890s, itself proceeding from a misguided attempt to hold on to Thomas Aquinas on the problem of species. I think it is fair enough. Darwinism is held to be irrationally final, in a sense that (for instance) the Standard Model in Particle Physics isn’t. (W once said “Why the hell should they be so certain?”) But I don’t think it is wise, politically or ideologically. Above all, I suppose the problem with creationism is that it ain’t true, and sustained defenses of untruth can be ridiculous. Part of the problem here is that Dawkins looks more plausible than he is, in part because of Creationist (and ID) attacks on evolution.

    One that I like and which is less well-known than I’d like it to be is Wilberforce and Huxley.

    In response to CP, actually, ABC bought the episode from the BBC. So, if one “bought” the episode, I imagine, they’d do some from the BBC…

    Programs like this one are a great service….

    • Kiran, have you heard about, or perhaps even read, James Le Fanu’s recent Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves? I finished reading it about a week ago; I found it quite engrossing.

      • Kiran says:

        No. I haven’t. Thank you. I shall look it up.

        On what I do see about what he writes, I should say, I am all for the idea that biology is not a particularly interesting form of explanation (or is not to quite a large proportion of the population including myself).

        But on the other hand, what biology does, it does, just as does any other science, and it shouldn’t be expected to do (as Dawkins etc… would like to) the work of another science.

        My favorite philosophy paper, Gilbert Ryle’s The World of Science and the Everyday World, makes the point about the plurality of sciences using the example of a visitor to a college and an accountant. Let us say a visitor were to go around admiring everything the college had to offer, including such things as the customs of the college and the library books, and so on. Unbeknownst to him, the person to whom he has chosen to speak is the college accountant, who forthwith brings out a column of figures, and says “This, this is the real college. Everything that happens in the college is a number on my column of figures. Everything can be seen here.” He does have a point, of course, but only a very minor one. One doesn’t want to be an anti-accountant, but neither does one want to say that accountancy is all there is to life.

  5. “No. I haven’t. Thank you. I shall look it up.”

    A couple of reviews, both favourable, appeared in The Weekend Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year. I had a look at some other reviews on-line as well; some of the comments were interesting–one, presumably atheist, commenter was demanding a ‘point by point refutation’ of what Dr. Le Fanu wrote.

    “[Ryle] does have a point, of course, but only a very minor one.”

    Quite apposite here, though; after all, as one commenter at The Australian‘s letters blog recently noted, in a strict materialist world-view, each of us is just a very long line of zeroes and ones.

    “One doesn’t want to be an anti-accountant, but neither does one want to say that accountancy is all there is to life.”

    I seem to recall recently reading, on-line, a Dawkins defender saying that Prof. Dawkins acknowledged some non-material realities, such as ideas. But then if an idea is non-material, then wouldn’t that imply that it requires something non-material in which to inhere? Anyway, what I’d really like to see is Prof. Dawkins produce a book explaining his ethics; apparently he is some kind of meliorist, but it would be interesting to see him elaborate his moral system.

    • Clarification: When, in my paragraph beginning with “A couple of reviews”, I speak of comments and commenters, I mean comments and commenters at the comboxes where the on-line reviews were published, not necessarily in the reviews themselves.

    • Kiran says:

      Clarification in my turn. It is the accountant who does have a point, that something significant about quite a lot of things (not everything) in the college is represented in the numbers in the column. I think Ryle’s point is much larger, and well-made, that a science is just a science, one of any number of explanatory mechanisms for a wonderful world, which ideally doesn’t end wonder…

      I find Dawkins well-nigh impossible to read. Dawkins is also bizarre in other ways, proving Chesterton’s dictum that if you don’t believe in God you’ll believe in anything. He believes in aliens for instance, and the alien origin of life on Earth.

    • Kiran says:

      Hey! Hang on! I think I read either the review, or an article by him.

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