Television Programme Review:

The Confused Atheistic World of Jonathan Miller

The BBC Continues to Churn Out the Same Old and Tired Anti-Christian Propaganda

(A review of Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief, Final Episode, as broadcast on BBC2 television at 7.00PM on November 14th, 2005).

This was not the first time this series has been shown. This should not surprise us since the BBC seem commited to giving as much air-time as possible to anybody who can be reasonably expected to attack Christianity. Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief is dismal, outdated, tired and tedious (I speak in the present tense since I am sure that the BBC are going to bring this rather old-fashioned series out yet again before too long!). I am now going to concentrate on the final episode.

Miller is an ardent admirer of Darwin and – for Miller – everything else in life must be fitted around Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Since the series employs the BBC's usual very dated approach to science, in which Darwin is little less than a god who must not be challenged, it has no value whatsoever for anybody with an enquiring mind who may actually be keenly interested in the very latest thinking on evolution and Neo-Darwinism. Maybe Miller is genuinely unaware that the challenges to evolution have never been greater than at present and that an ever-increasing number of scientists are turning away from it as an adequate theory to explain life. Darwin had expected the fossil record to eventually fully substantiate his thesis but over a hundred years later the only certainty about evolution is that the fossil record refuses to corroborate it! Miller also continues to think that only 'religious people' could challenge Darwin – so is he truly unaware of these major challenges to Darwin which are now coming from within the scientific community?

The final programme quickly reveals Miller's emotional dependence on evolution and his apparent disinterest in any scientific thinking more recent than fifty years old. But - for Miller - anything anti-Christian must be good. Freud, of course, gets a mention with his theory that we only call the Christian God 'Father' because of the psychological importance of our own fathers. Apparently it is no concern to Miller that this is clearly one of the most amazingly illogical and evidentially-selective theories of all time – After all, the New Testament represents Jesus as praying to 'the Father' which is where the practise comes from, otherwise Christians would not have adopted it – Moreover, Christians also happen to talk rather a lot about Jesus who is – in fact – right at the centre of the Christian Faith but not a 'father-figure'. No problem, then, that huge areas of Freud's thinking are now considered mightily dubious – at best and sometimes ludicrously wide of the mark. He did not like Christianity so a good enough reason to quote him.

Again, no surprise in the final programme in the series to find arch-atheist and chief evolutionary propagandist Richard Dawkins being 'wheeled on' in order to utter some anti-theistic venom. The surprise, however, is that Dawkins turns out to be quite mild in his comments even admitting that – for him – natural selection is an “article of faith”!! No, the real venom in this programme comes from Mr Miller with his continual suggestions that Christians are 'ignorant' and 'stupid' and generally beneath contempt; yet his very special hatred is reserved for those Christians who support 'Creationism' – for Miller, Creationism (that is, belief in divine creation) is as despicable as those Islamic terrorists who set out to indiscriminately maim and kill those who do not support their cause. He sees all religious “fundamentalism” as incorrigibly evil (it would probably be a little harsh to rudely disturb Miller's sadly dated view of the Bible-believing world in which – here in the UK at least – fundamentalism has now been replaced by evangelicalism which is intellectually stronger and can summon some of Britain's leading thinkers in science and philosophy among its supporters). Yet the quite amazing thing is that in his myopic hatred of “religion” Mr Miller seems blissfully unaware that his own wholehearted and devotional acceptance of Darwinism is in itself a religious faith! At least Professor Dawkins (somewhat astonishingly) admitted this.

But perhaps the saddest part of this programme was when Miller went to a hospice to visit an elderly lady who was apparently near death. This lady appeared in her comments almost ready to accept God but was instead “encouraged” in her atheism by Miller in one of the most despicable television interviews I have ever had the misfortune to witness. Miller appeared to simply lead this old lady to a black expectation of her future. The BBC should hang their heads in shame that they ever allowed this interview to take place! This lady needed to be comforted, not presented with a picture of bleak despair and ultimate meaninglessness. Yes, Miller held her hand while he spoke to her and I am informed that prisoners going to the gallows are also comforted by chaplains.

Away from Miller, it seems obvious that staunch scepticism and atheism remain the controlling factor in the echelons of the modern BBC - just as the acceptance of the Christian worldview was very evident in its earlier days; the quite amazing thing is that Songs of Praise (on television) and Choral Evensong (on radio)continue to survive, yet - in the case of the former - one is convinced that this is only because of its huge popularity and because (ever since the BBC abandoned its wholly noble ideal to educate and enculturate) audience ratings have become paramount. Yet a recent opinion poll made it clear that 67% of Britons still, however loosely, support the UK's Christian heritage. The BBC stubbornly refuses to reflect this in its programming with its Religious Affairs department best summed up by their high priestess of scepticism and doubt, Joan Bakewell. Where religion appears on their agenda one almost invariably finds mocking, scepticism and atheism. The very odd thing, however, is that non-Christian religions are usually afforded respect.

If it is high time that the BBC shook up its whole attitude to religious affairs, there is also a serious need to shake up its completely out of touch science department which continues to worship at the altar of Darwinism with a blissful ignorance of anything that has happened within science during the last fifty years! Are they really unaware that modernism is now dead and that post-modernism rejects many of its assumptions? Have they never heard of the exciting new world of Irreducible Complexity and the outstanding work of biologist Michael Behe? Why does almost every BBC natural history programme continue to assume the increasingly dated religious worldview of evolution when attacks on Macro-evolution from the scientific community itself continue to gather momentum?

Almost certainly Miller's “brief history” of meaningless, flawed and outdated anti-theistic polemics against a creed, that of Christianity, with a proven life-changing track record which was at least partly responsible for giving a certain magnanimous nobility to the British people will make yet another appearance sometime in the future. Meanwhile it will continue to amaze many that 'scientism' itself (a reliance on poor, theoretical, philosophical, unproven and unprovable science) has become a god which is revered. How odd that those who would reject religion have become enslaved by the most flawed religion of all: Hopelessness.

Robin A. Brace, 2005.


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