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TV Review – Darwin’s dangerous idea – Andrew Marr – BBC TV

June 2009 | by Philip Bell

TV review

 

Darwin’s dangerous idea

 

Andrew Marr

BBC TV (Broadcast March 2009)

 

Some readers will recall that Andrew Marr nominated Charles Darwin as his ‘Greatest Briton’ in a BBC series several years ago. He claimed then that ‘[Darwin] is destined to be the prophet and guide of the next few hundred years. His time is only just beginning’ (The most natural selection of all, in the Daily Telegraph, Weekend, p.1, 19 October 2002). In his latest 3-part BBC series, Marr does not shrink from revealing the bad fruit of Darwin’s legacy.

 

In the first instalment, Body and Soul, Marr shows how evolutionary theory was taken to logical but extreme conclusions by some world leaders and has been used to justify war, atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide. At times, he tries to argue that these were abuses of Darwinism but contradicts himself elsewhere.

For instance, natural selection ‘was creation according to Darwin; no Adam and Eve, no need for God. And in God’s place, an indifferent mechanism that relentlessly scrutinised every single individual of every species. It selected the best adapted and remorselessly eliminated the rest’.

Throughout the three programmes, the implication is clearly that ‘theistic evolution’ is an oxymoron since it is an attempt to amalgamate two competing and diametrically opposed world views: ‘Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution questions almost everything we thought we knew about ourselves: Where we come from, why we behave as we do, the origins of our morality’.

In Born Equal, the second part, Marr explores the influence of Darwin’s theory on culture and politics – and particularly the issue of racism and ‘Final Solution’ of the Nazis.

Following the publication of Origin of Species in 1859, Darwinism began to influence a number of leading thinkers of his day. Herbert Spencer, a champion of the Free Market, coined the now-famous term ‘survival of the fittest’ to describe natural selection and Darwin happily incorporated this term into his 1869 revision of Origin – helping to contribute to the racist mindset prevailing in the nineteenth century.

Although Darwin himself was strongly opposed to slavery, he wrote that the ‘civilised races’ would exterminate and replace the ‘savage’ ones. The revelations of genuine skulduggery (involving the Royal College of Surgeons) over aboriginal bodies will have shocked some viewers.

Certainly, aboriginal people suffered much at the hands of Darwin’s dangerous idea. Francis Galton’s brainchild of eugenics is dealt with in considerable detail – though few Brits are likely to have heard of ‘The Feeble-minded Persons Control Bill’, thankfully defeated in Parliament a century ago. Eugenics was supposed to be the answer to all society’s ills, from dealing with ‘imbeciles’ and invalids to controlling criminals and preventing over-breeding by paupers!

Of course, it was in Germany that the brew of eugenics, genetics and Darwinism produced its worse fruit, in the Nazis’ attempt to establish an Aryan ‘Master Race’. The Final Solution meant genocide for ‘gypsies, communists, Poles, Slavs, mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, political and religious dissidents and six million Jews’. No wonder that, following the war, attitudes were radically altered in the realisation of the full horror of Nazism.

In Life and Death, the final part, Marr informs viewers: ‘Most people thought [extinction] was the result of the Great Flood, sent by God to punish man, as described in the Bible story of Noah’s Ark. Darwin doubted this’. That he did – choosing to interpret fossils not as creatures that had succumbed to a watery catastrophe but rather as resulting from extinction occurring over deep time.

The thesis of this last instalment seemed tenuous at best. Marr claims that Darwin’s vision is responsible for giving twenty-first-century humanity the impetus and rationale to look after our planet.

‘We have’, he declares, ‘to preserve the environment, the natural world inside which we live. And it’s that – not equality or the existence, or not, of God – which is the most urgent message from Darwin’s essential idea. We have to change our behaviour as a species. If we don’t, we know what follows’. Biblical revelation is seen as entirely irrelevant in the whole scheme of things.

This, then, is the gospel according to Darwin, as expounded by one of his modern-day disciples. Again, Christians who see no harm in adding evolution to the Bible should pause and reflect long and hard on their reasons for clinging to Darwin’s dangerous idea.

Philip Bell

Creation Ministries International