I’ve just got round to viewing a recording of this BBC documentary, which was broadcast on 28th September.
It covers much of the same ground as the recent film ‘Creation’, although giving less attention to biographical details and more (in true BBC style) to the presentation of gorgeous images that supplement Darwin’s account of the ‘struggle for survival’ in the world of nature.
We are not surprised to be told, at some length, of a parallel struggle – the struggle between science and religion. Although the documentary is broadly accurate in its treatment of Darwin’s beliefs (such as they were), and not unsympathetic towards the feelings of his believing wife Emma, it adopts uncritically the myth that Darwin’s ideas inevitably challenged Christian orthodoxy, and allows us to think that all the criticisms of his theory were on religious grounds.
The facts are, (a) that Darwin’s theory was welcomed by a significant proportion of Christian leaders (Temple, Kingsley, Drummond, and Warfield, for example), and (b) criticised as much on scientific grounds as religious grounds (lacking time [the earth was too young], empirical evidence [the fossil record was too indequate], and a plausible mechanism [Mendel’s genetic theory of inheritance being lost and forgotten for several decades]).
But a juicy ‘conflict thesis’ makes for a better story, and therefore better television. And so, once again, any evidence of convergence between science and faith must be conveniently ignored.
At least we were spared the fabled Huxley/Wilberforce story.