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Channel 4 becomes "teach the controversy" stooges

So there I was, sitting down this evening to watch Tony Robinson's new Gods and Monsters documentary, all about how pervasive weird religious superstitions were in England until not so very long ago, and this happens.

A two minute short called "4 thought tv" came up, purporting to present a view on the question "should creationism be taught in schools". That very fact started the alarm bells ringing with me. Channel 4 are here presenting this cut-and-dried issue as if there really was a genuine debate to be had - as if the two positions in contention were equally matched and equally worth hearing. It was, by even asking the question, giving undue prominence to the pretence that there is even a debate to be had.

And then today's video started. It was by a maths teacher called Abdul Aziz - a heavily indoctrinated muslim creationist who parroted the lies of your average creationist literature. It was pretty much two minutes of "the cell is really complex so it must have been designed" rubbish. There I was expecting a programme on medieval and early modern religious superstition, and I get a taster of religious superstition from the 21st century as a less than appetizing appetiser. I was livid. Are Channel 4 really giving a platform to such fringe lunatics in an attempt to pass off this facile manufactroversy as a genuine debate on the philosophy of education?

That was all today's offering gave us, apart from a link to the remaining six videos on Channel 4's website. Which I followed up once my programme had finished. I became even more appalled. This creationist was not the only one whose viewpoint was presented here. There were others. In addition to our friend Abdul we hear from the following:

  1. A sappy creationist-indoctrinated teenager who has just finished his biology A-levels and been awarded a top A* grade. He freely admits that he just wrote the answers the examiners wanted to hear but didn't believe any of them. Clearly something has gone horribly wrong with this young man's education.

  2. A bloated, beardy creationist moron who works for the creationist misinformation industry. He parrots even more ridiculous Ray Comfort style, creationist canards about how animals reproduce after their own kind, how it's either randomness or jesus, and how intrinsic childhood fondness for ideas of a creator god are apparently evidence there is one.

  3. A fluffy, nicey-nicey church of england vicar, who doesn't want creationism taught in schools. Very "god created a world that creates itself, isn't that wonderful" and "creationism gives christianity a bad name".

  4. Michael Reiss expressing his usual waffly, syrupy, NOMA-touting, it-shouldn't-be-taught-in-science-but-lets-all-explore-each-other's-worldviews-together blandishments.

  5. An anglican campaigner who was strongly anti-creationist. Seemed very sensible, so I got the impression that the "I'm an anglican" bit was tacked on the front for nefarious purposes.

  6. A philosophy professor who condemns creationism out of hand as pernicious unscientific nonsense and says the only place for it in education is as an example alongside other conspiracy theories of the sort of balderdash you can start believing if you fail to think properly, skeptically and critically.

The videos can all be found here:

After watching this series I am even more appalled that Channel 4 should have commissioned it in the first place. Yes, perhaps it is the sort of thing that might be tackled in a brief ethical and moral issues strand like 4 thought tv (I note with even greater disappointment some of the other things the channel has thought worthy of the same treatment, and the overwhelmingly religiously-inspired theme running through them). But this is NOT a pressing or difficult to resolve issue. This is NOT a legitimate debate. There are NOT two equally balanced sides to hear out. It isn't even 4-3 in our favour as the nature of the videos might suggest. Creationism is a loony fringe minority belief in Britain - they would never even think of doing a series on "should flat earthism be taught in schools?". And, what's worse, creationists are actually trying hard to make out, via their media campaigns, that there is a debate, that it is controversial, and that they do have serious standing and credibility. Channel 4 are, here, directly colluding with the creationist lobby in furthering these aims.

Or, at least, that's what I think. And I'm concerned that if respectable media outlets like Channel 4 continue to collude with the pretense that there is a legitimate debate we may start to slide back into the kinds of grisly medieval beliefs about revenants and corpse-medicine that Tony Robinson was discussing in his documentary.

I also note that Channel 4 are the ones who have commissioned and broadcast Richard's many recent documentaries. It would be interesting to know how Richard feels about them supporting the agenda of the creationist lobby in this way.


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