Intelligent Design

God vs. science: Can religion stand up to the test?

Michael Shermer Baloney Detection
Carl Sagan Baloney Detection

The Theory of Evolution made easy Michael Shermer -Why people believe weird things

Open Mindedness

Searching for God in the Brain

Here be dragons

POSTED: 10:01 a.m. EST, November 5, 2006

Editor's note: The following is a summary of this week's Time magazine cover story.

( -- It's a debate that long predates Darwin, but the anti-religion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design and excited, perhaps intoxicated, by their disciplines' increasing ability to map, quantify and change the nature of human experience.

Brain imaging illustrates -- in color -- the physical seat of the will and the passions, challenging the religious concept of a soul independent of glands and gristle. Brain chemists track imbalances that could account for the ecstatic states of visionary saints or, some suggest, of Jesus.

Catholicism's Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has dubbed the most fervent of faith-challenging scientists followers of "scientism" or "evolutionism," since they hope science, beyond being a measure, can replace religion as a worldview and a touchstone.

It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls "unprecedented outrage" at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush administration science policy, to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists, to intelligent design's ongoing claims. Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab -- the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter odds.

Finding a spokesman for this side of the question was not hard, since Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with "The God Delusion" (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle.

The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins' expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology.

Dawkins and his peers have a swarm of articulate theological opponents, of course. But the most ardent of these don't really care very much about science, and an argument in which one party stands immovable on Scripture and the other immobile on the periodic table doesn't get anyone very far.

Most Americans occupy the middle ground: We want it all. We want to cheer on science's strides and still humble ourselves on the Sabbath. We want access to both MRIs and miracles. We want debates about issues like stem cells without conceding that the positions are so intrinsically inimical as to make discussion fruitless.

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal, and foremost among them is Francis Collins. Collins' devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins'.

Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then-President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis' map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science's largely agnostic upper reaches.

His summer best seller, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate Time arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building on September 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange are featured in this week's Time cover story.

Marcus Chown [Metro Jan19,2007]
Marcus Chown is the cosmology consultant for New Scientist magazine and specialises in the Big Bang and parallel universes. In his latest book, The Never-Ending Days Of Being Dead (Faber), he looks at theories suggesting galaxies might be generated by a computer program and that we'll all be resurrected in the dying days of the universe.
  • Let's start with something simple: Why are we here? Well, science can't give an answer.
  • Where did the universe come from?
    We know it exploded into being in a big bang. The evidence for that is everywhere - you turn on your television and about one per cent of the static between channels is the afterglow of the Big Bang. But as to where it came from, we still don't know. There is an idea that there might have been other big bangs, going back almost into the infinite past but that just kind of pushes the question further back. Someone's always going to ask: ' What came before that?'
  • Does what we scientifically know about the Big Bang, dinosaurs and evolution prove God doesn't exist?
    Obviously, the timescale in the Bible is wrong - we know the universe is 13.7billion years old, whereas Christians say it started about 4004 BC. We have a lot of evidence of this age, so creationists say God has put the wrong evidence around to put us off track. Oddly, a lot of scientists are quite religious - one of the first people who came up with the idea of the Big Bang was a Catholic priest - but one of the most striking things as we look out across the universe is there's no evidence of a supernatural force.
  • What do you think about creationism and intelligent design being taught in science classes in British schools?
    Well, it's not a science. We live in a world where we have antibiotics, pure running water and technology that makes our lives, on the whole, better. To throw all that out of the window is very scary. It isn't simply that they want to establish creationism as a science but they want to remove the alternatives. To go back to a medieval superstitious time is very worrying.
  • It's been suggested that, if the universe came from a speck, it might be possible to create a universe in a lab. What would you need in your science kit?
    We know that this process, called inflation, happened in the first few seconds of the universe - a very unusual state of matter with what's called repulsive gravity. So, really, if you want to make a universe, all you need to do is recreate that state.
  • How?
    If you got a bit of matter in a lab and you were to squeeze it down to an enormous density, inflation would be triggered and it would create a 'baby universe'. In practice, it's way beyond our technological capabilities but it's not impossible. Accepting that we're not the only intelligence in the universe, what if one civilisation in every galaxy at some point in its history did this experiment? There would be a hundred billion 'daughter universes' created. This has led to the idea that our universe could possibly have been created as an experiment in someone's garage, with someone somewhere compressing a piece of matter to see what happened.
  • A lot of these ideas seem pretty 'out there'.
    Imaginative people have to dare to be wrong to move the frontiers of science forward.
  • Will we ever find ET?
    I hope so but one of my worries is that we wouldn't be able to see it. The reason we know a tree isn't man- made is because it's so complicated - but technology is becoming so complicated that it'll become indistinguishable from a natural thing. So, if there's a civilisation years ahead of us, it could be that we wouldn't be able to recognise it.
  • So they could be here already?
    We think they'd use radio dishes to communicate, so we look for radio waves. Their commumication could be going through our office or living room in a form we don't recognise. I'm certain that there are extra- terrestrials out there but it will be very difficult to spot them. The evidence could be out there staring us in the face, and we wouldn't know.


Bang goes atheism The Big Bang:Was it by design?

The universe was formed in someone's garage, hinted Marcus Chown (Metro, Fri). Maybe, but I thought Marcus was being just a little blasé in doubting a creative supernatural force. Even if you refuse to believe in God, for whatever reason, the fact that the universe was formed ex nihilo (out of nothing) at least hints at the possibility. George Smoot, a physics professor from the University of California, Berkeley said studying the Big Bang was like 'looking at God', while science historian Frederic Burnham said the theory has led many scientists to seriously consider a creator. Maybe Marcus should do some more stargazing instead of hunting for ET and Elvis.
Matt Cresswell, London E9
I've enjoyed Marcus Chown's contributions to New Scientist and his 60 Second Interview in Metro but I think he is mistaken when he says that 'Christians say the universe started ahout 4004 BC'. Certainly, some Christians say so but none who I know. He also finds it odd that so many scentists are religious but there is nothing more inspiring than the beauty, complexity and sheer scale of the universe that science reveals. It's not surprising that for many,it is the inspiration that leads them to God.
Paul Arnold, Herts
I am neither religious nor an astrophysicist but do Marcus Chown's comments that the universe may have been made by someone, somewhere, not seem to suggest that a greater being created all life? Is this not the basis of religion?
Andrew Johnson, Manchester

[The Metro Jan23 2007]

There are two great debates under the broad heading of Science vs. God. The more familiar over the past few years is the narrower of the two: Can Darwinian evolution withstand the criticisms of Christians who believe that it contradicts the creation account in the Book of Genesis? In recent years, creationism took on new currency as the spiritual progenitor of "intelligent design" (I.D.), a scientifically worded attempt to show that blanks in the evolutionary narrative are more meaningful than its very convincing totality. I.D. lost some of its journalistic heat last December when a federal judge dismissed it as pseudoscience unsuitable for teaching in Pennsylvania schools.

But in fact creationism and I.D. are intimately related to a larger unresolved question, in which the aggressor's role is reversed: Can religion stand up to the progress of science? This debate long predates Darwin, but the antireligion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design and excited, perhaps intoxicated, by their disciplines' increasing ability to map, quantify and change the nature of human experience. Brain imaging illustrates—in color!—the physical seat of the will and the passions, challenging the religious concept of a soul independent of glands and gristle. Brain chemists track imbalances that could account for the ecstatic states of visionary saints or, some suggest, of Jesus. Like Freudianism before it, the field of evolutionary psychology generates theories of altruism and even of religion that do not include God. Something called the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology speculates that ours may be but one in a cascade of universes, suddenly bettering the odds that life could have cropped up here accidentally, without divine intervention. (If the probabilities were 1 in a billion, and you've got 300 billion universes, why not?)

Roman Catholicism's Christoph Cardinal Schonborn has dubbed the most fervent of faith-challenging scientists followers of "scientism" or "evolutionism," since they hope science, beyond being a measure, can replace religion as a worldview and a touchstone. It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls "unprecedented outrage" at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush Administration science policy to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists to intelligent design's ongoing claims. Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab: the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter odds—or, as Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written bluntly, "Religion and science will always clash." The market seems flooded with books by scientists describing a caged death match between science and God—with science winning, or at least chipping away at faith's underlying verities.

Finding a spokesman for this side of the question was not hard, since Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle. The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins' expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology so lucid that he occupies the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

Dawkins is riding the crest of an atheist literary wave. In 2004, The End of Faith, a multipronged indictment by neuroscience grad student Sam Harris, was published (over 400,000 copies in print). Harris has written a 96-page follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation, which is now No. 14 on the Times list. Last February, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett produced Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, which has sold fewer copies but has helped usher the discussion into the public arena. If Dennett and Harris are almost-scientists (Dennett runs a multidisciplinary scientific-philosophic program), the authors of half a dozen aggressively secular volumes are card carriers: In Moral Minds, Harvard biologist Marc Hauser explores the—nondivine—origins of our sense of right and wrong (September); In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (due in January) by self-described "atheist-reductionist-materialist" biologist Lewis Wolpert, religion is one of those impossible things; Victor Stenger, a physicist-astronomer, has a book coming out titled God: The Failed Hypothesis. Meanwhile, Ann Druyan, widow of archskeptical astrophysicist Carl Sagan, has edited Sagan's unpublished lectures on God and his absence into a book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, out this month.

Dawkins and his army have a swarm of articulate theological opponents, of course. But the most ardent of these don't really care very much about science, and an argument in which one party stands immovable on Scripture and the other immobile on the periodic table doesn't get anyone very far. Most Americans occupy the middle ground: we want it all. We want to cheer on science's strides and still humble ourselves on the Sabbath. We want access to both mris and miracles. We want debates about issues like stem cells without conceding that the positions are so intrinsically inimical as to make discussion fruitless. And to balance formidable standard bearers like Dawkins, we seek those who possess religious conviction but also scientific achievements to credibly argue the widespread hope that science and God are in harmony—that, indeed, science is of God.

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal. Stanford University biologist Joan Roughgarden has just come out with Evolution and Christian Faith, which provides what she calls a "strong Christian defense" of evolutionary biology, illustrating the discipline's major concepts with biblical passages. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson, a famous skeptic of standard faith, has written The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, urging believers and non-believers to unite over conservation. But foremost of those arguing for common ground is Francis Collins.

Collins' devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins'. Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis' map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science's largely agnostic upper reaches. His summer best seller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate Time arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building in New York City on Sept. 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange: Time: Professor Dawkins, if one truly understands science, is God then a delusion, as your book title suggests?

DAWKINS: The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith.

COLLINS: Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in.

TIME: Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree.

COLLINS: Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn't exist in my life. Because I do believe in God's creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation.

DAWKINS: I think that Gould's separate compartments was a purely political ploy to win middle-of-the-road religious people to the science camp. But it's a very empty idea. There are plenty of places where religion does not keep off the scientific turf. Any belief in miracles is flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science.

TIME: Professor Dawkins, you think Darwin's theory of evolution does more than simply contradict the Genesis story.

DAWKINS: Yes. For centuries the most powerful argument for God's existence from the physical world was the so-called argument from design: Living things are so beautiful and elegant and so apparently purposeful, they could only have been made by an intelligent designer. But Darwin provided a simpler explanation. His way is a gradual, incremental improvement starting from very simple beginnings and working up step by tiny incremental step to more complexity, more elegance, more adaptive perfection. Each step is not too improbable for us to countenance, but when you add them up cumulatively over millions of years, you get these monsters of improbability, like the human brain and the rain forest. It should warn us against ever again assuming that because something is complicated, God must have done it.

COLLINS: I don't see that Professor Dawkins' basic account of evolution is incompatible with God's having designed it.

TIME: When would this have occurred?

COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.

DAWKINS: I think that's a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshipping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.

COLLINS: Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it? I don't think that it is God's purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us. If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?

TIME: Both your books suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?

COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event—namely, our existence.

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

COLLINS: This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can't observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam's razor—Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward—leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.

DAWKINS: I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can't understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you're shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

COLLINS: My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else. God is the answer to all of those "How must it have come to be" questions.

Click for more on Dawkins

• Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and author of books including The Selfish Gene. He's also professor for the public understanding of science at Oxford University. His latest book, The God Delusion (out now), has ruffled feathers with its suggestion that the Old Testament God is 'arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction'.

What is it about God you don't like?
The God of the Old Testament is a sheer monster. Anyone who denies that simply hasn't read the Old Testament. In chapter two of the hook, I describe him as 'a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, genocidal, capriciously malevolent bully.' I defy anybody to disagree with any of those epithets.

• People assume the Bible is peace-loving. Are they wrong?
A lot of people vaguely recall a few nice bits that were read out at church or school but they haven't read most of it - and most of it is pretty horrible. For example, in the book of Joshua, the story of the children of Israel taking over the Promised Land has one genocide after another. Tribe after tribe are wiped out with great gore, blood and glee with direct orders from God. 'Thou shalt not kill' really means 'Thou shalt not kill another Jew'.

• The idea of heaven brings comfort to many. Is it mean- spirited to attack it?
I wouldn't go out of my way to visit somebody on their deathbed who is putting their trust in going to heaven and try to disillusion them but it's odd to use the 'mean-spirited' argument to argue the 'truth' of religion. Finding it consoling doesn't make it true.

• Are science and religion incompatible?
There are those who say science and religion are about quite different things: science is about the way the universe works and religion is about moral questions and 'deep mystery'. I hope we don't get our morals from religion. As for deep questions such as 'Where does the universe come from?', it might be that science finds answers. If science doesn't answer those questions, nothing will.

• The biggest clash between science and religion seems to be over when Earth was created.
Some people still take the book of Genesis literally and believe Earth is less than 10,000 years old - which is after the domestication of the dog. This is naive creationism. It's like believing the distance from New York to San Francisco is a mere 7.8metres. Respectable bishops and vicars don't believe that for a moment. The true age of Earth is 4.6billion years.

• By using the word 'delusion', are you suggesting that believing in religion is like madness?
I don't wish to come across as saying everybody wearing a clerical collar is mad. Many of them are sane, intelligent, nice people but it is a delusion, in the same way any false belief is a delusion. It's a mass delusion that is held by many people, which is why it doesn't appear to be insane. If you confronted a religious person with the beliefs of a rival religion, they would think the other ideas were mad because the beliefs have no connection with the real world. They're self-evidently dotty but, because each is brought up in their own religion, they don't see their own beliefs as mad.

• George Bush and Tony Blair have claimed to 'hear' God's commands. Should they be committed?
They would be committed if it wasn't the God of the prevailing culture they were 'hearing'. If they claimed to be hearing the voice of Napoleon, then they'd be comitted.

• Religious believers suggest morality is only possible through religion. Is that patronising to perfectly moral atheists?
It certainly is. It's also incoherent. People do not get their morals from scripture. You wouldn't like someone who did because they'd be awful. Only people like the Ayatollah Khomeini do that. Some people may think they get morals from religion but really they are acting out of fear - doing good things only because they are afraid God would punish them if they did bad things. That's a pretty contemptible reason for doing good Atheists who do good for genuinely moral reasons are far more moral than those Christians who do good only because they're afraid of God.

Does Richard like anything in the Bible? Find out at

Click for more on Dawkins

Once again we hear the wisdom of 'moral' and anti-God Richard Dawkins (Metro, Fri), spewing vitriol, taking concern and dumbing down science in order to flog us yet another book. It's not as if he has discovered the laws of physics, or the composite nature of light. It's not as if he has invented the science of mechanics; no, that would be Sir Isaac Newton - a 'deluded' Bible-believing Christian. As the Bible puts it: 'The fool says, in his heart, there is no God.'
P Jennings, Cheshire

Richard Dawkins should not speak publicly about what he does not understand. Christians do not 'do good' to avoid punishment. They avoid punishment by facing up to their sin, confessing it to God, repenting of it and asking for forgiveness, which is given - permanently and unconditionally. They 'do good' out of gratitude to God for their forgiveness - there is nothing extra to be gained from it. Phil Wainwright, London SE15

DAWKINS: I think that's the mother and father of all cop-outs. It's an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, "Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this." Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, "We're working on it. We're struggling to understand."

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That's an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as "Why am I here?", "What happens after we die?", "Is there a God?" If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn't convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

DAWKINS: To me, the right approach is to say we are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God—it's that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

TIME: Could the answer be God?

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That's God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small—at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case.

TIME: The Book of Genesis has led many conservative Protestants to oppose evolution and some to insist that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

COLLINS: There are sincere believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe's age or of how living organisms are related to each other. St. Augustine wrote that basically it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis. It was not intended as a science textbook. It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God. Augustine explicitly warns against a very narrow perspective that will put our faith at risk of looking ridiculous. If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang.

DAWKINS: Physicists are working on the Big Bang, and one day they may or may not solve it. However, what Dr. Collins has just been—may I call you Francis?

COLLINS: Oh, please, Richard, do so.

DAWKINS: What Francis was just saying about Genesis was, of course, a little private quarrel between him and his Fundamentalist colleagues ...

DAWKINS: ... It would be unseemly for me to enter in except to suggest that he'd save himself an awful lot of trouble if he just simply ceased to give them the time of day. Why bother with these clowns?

COLLINS: Richard, I think we don't do a service to dialogue between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names. That inspires an even more dug-in position. Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case.

TIME: Dr. Collins, the Resurrection is an essential argument of Christian faith, but doesn't it, along with the virgin birth and lesser miracles, fatally undermine the scientific method, which depends on the constancy of natural laws?

COLLINS: If you're willing to answer yes to a God outside of nature, then there's nothing inconsistent with God on rare occasions choosing to invade the natural world in a way that appears miraculous. If God made the natural laws, why could he not violate them when it was a particularly significant moment for him to do so? And if you accept the idea that Christ was also divine, which I do, then his Resurrection is not in itself a great logical leap.

TIME: Doesn't the very notion of miracles throw off science?

COLLINS: Not at all. If you are in the camp I am, one place where science and faith could touch each other is in the investigation of supposedly miraculous events.

DAWKINS: If ever there was a slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation, it is the word miracle. To a medieval peasant, a radio would have seemed like a miracle. All kinds of things may happen which we by the lights of today's science would classify as a miracle just as medieval science might a Boeing 747. Francis keeps saying things like "From the perspective of a believer." Once you buy into the position of faith, then suddenly you find yourself losing all of your natural skepticism and your scientific—really scientific—credibility. I'm sorry to be so blunt.

COLLINS: Richard, I actually agree with the first part of what you said. But I would challenge the statement that my scientific instincts are any less rigorous than yours. The difference is that my presumption of the possibility of God and therefore the supernatural is not zero, and yours is.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you have described humanity's moral sense not only as a gift from God but as a signpost that he exists.

COLLINS: There is a whole field of inquiry that has come up in the last 30 or 40 years—some call it sociobiology or evolutionary psychology—relating to where we get our moral sense and why we value the idea of altruism, and locating both answers in behavioral adaptations for the preservation of our genes. But if you believe, and Richard has been articulate in this, that natural selection operates on the individual, not on a group, then why would the individual risk his own dna doing something selfless to help somebody in a way that might diminish his chance of reproducing? Granted, we may try to help our own family members because they share our dna. Or help someone else in expectation that they will help us later. But when you look at what we admire as the most generous manifestations of altruism, they are not based on kin selection or reciprocity. An extreme example might be Oskar Schindler risking his life to save more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers. That's the opposite of saving his genes. We see less dramatic versions every day. Many of us think these qualities may come from God—especially since justice and morality are two of the attributes we most readily identify with God.

DAWKINS: Can I begin with an analogy? Most people understand that sexual lust has to do with propagating genes. Copulation in nature tends to lead to reproduction and so to more genetic copies. But in modern society, most copulations involve contraception, designed precisely to avoid reproduction. Altruism probably has origins like those of lust. In our prehistoric past, we would have lived in extended families, surrounded by kin whose interests we might have wanted to promote because they shared our genes. Now we live in big cities. We are not among kin nor people who will ever reciprocate our good deeds. It doesn't matter. Just as people engaged in sex with contraception are not aware of being motivated by a drive to have babies, it doesn't cross our mind that the reason for do-gooding is based in the fact that our primitive ancestors lived in small groups. But that seems to me to be a highly plausible account for where the desire for morality, the desire for goodness, comes from.

COLLINS: For you to argue that our noblest acts are a misfiring of Darwinian behavior does not do justice to the sense we all have about the absolutes that are involved here of good and evil. Evolution may explain some features of the moral law, but it can't explain why it should have any real significance. If it is solely an evolutionary convenience, there is really no such thing as good or evil. But for me, it is much more than that. The moral law is a reason to think of God as plausible—not just a God who sets the universe in motion but a God who cares about human beings, because we seem uniquely amongst creatures on the planet to have this far-developed sense of morality. What you've said implies that outside of the human mind, tuned by evolutionary processes, good and evil have no meaning. Do you agree with that?

DAWKINS: Even the question you're asking has no meaning to me. Good and evil—I don't believe that there is hanging out there, anywhere, something called good and something called evil. I think that there are good things that happen and bad things that happen.

COLLINS: I think that is a fundamental difference between us. I'm glad we identified it.

TIME: Dr. Collins, I know you favor the opening of new stem-cell lines for experimentation. But doesn't the fact that faith has caused some people to rule this out risk creating a perception that religion is preventing science from saving lives?

COLLINS: Let me first say as a disclaimer that I speak as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Executive Branch of the United States government. The impression that people of faith are uniformly opposed to stem-cell research is not documented by surveys. In fact, many people of strong religious conviction think this can be a morally supportable approach.

TIME: But to the extent that a person argues on the basis of faith or Scripture rather than reason, how can scientists respond?

COLLINS: Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith rests squarely upon reason, but with the added component of revelation. So such discussions between scientists and believers happen quite readily. But neither scientists nor believers always embody the principles precisely. Scientists can have their judgment clouded by their professional aspirations. And the pure truth of faith, which you can think of as this clear spiritual water, is poured into rusty vessels called human beings, and so sometimes the benevolent principles of faith can get distorted as positions are hardened.

DAWKINS: For me, moral questions such as stem-cell research turn upon whether suffering is caused. In this case, clearly none is. The embryos have no nervous system. But that's not an issue discussed publicly. The issue is, Are they human? If you are an absolutist moralist, you say, "These cells are human, and therefore they deserve some kind of special moral treatment." Absolutist morality doesn't have to come from religion but usually does. We slaughter nonhuman animals in factory farms, and they do have nervous systems and do suffer. People of faith are not very interested in their suffering.

COLLINS: Do humans have a different moral significance than cows in general?

DAWKINS: Humans have more moral responsibility perhaps, because they are capable of reasoning.

TIME: Do the two of you have any concluding thoughts?

COLLINS: I just would like to say that over more than a quarter-century as a scientist and a believer, I find absolutely nothing in conflict between agreeing with Richard in practically all of his conclusions about the natural world, and also saying that I am still able to accept and embrace the possibility that there are answers that science isn't able to provide about the natural world—the questions about why instead of the questions about how. I'm interested in the whys. I find many of those answers in the spiritual realm. That in no way compromises my ability to think rigorously as a scientist.

DAWKINS: My mind is not closed, as you have occasionally suggested, Francis. My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up. When we started out and we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable—but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

[reproduced from]

1 The points made by the writers to the Metro are typical of the ignorant and misleading comments and responses made by Christians. "Out of Nothing" does NOT imply a creator, especially the Christian God. If such people as Matt Cresswell bothered to read one of the many frontier science publications they would realise how unsophisticated their thoughts are. Christian argument usually implies that because of their own intuitive notion that there isn't anything that can start from nothing - the universe NEEDS a creator -Science says that indeed the universe can bring itself about from nothing and conversely, does not need a creator. Christians are still using cause and effect principles that modern physics does without. The idea of "nothing" means that there cannot have been ANY-THING to start with - including deities - Assuming a God,merely supplies a SOME-thing - there is no need in science for any such concept at all.
Smoot's comments - like those of Einstein are anthropomorphic - and allegorical - they mean "If we were to assume a God....." -they are not intended to remark upon the actuality of any such concept.
2 There is something wrong with Paul's logic - how can Marcus be "mistaken" if Paul knows that SOME Christians say the universe is 4004 years old? Merely because Paul does not know them personally is irrelevant -they exist as a representative group.
The reason Marcus finds it odd that scientists are religious - is for the same reason I do - science says there is no God in effect - and a religious belief says there is - a belief in God is at odds with the scientific evidence and therefore any scientist who accepts a deity is not a true scientist or is at least a contradiction in terms. To be awed by the universe is not the same as believing it to be the work of a creator.
3 When Marcus says the universe may have been created by someone somewhere,he is playing on the ideas of the physics we know of to say that if we could start a universe in a lab - so could someone else -this someone needn't have been a supreme being - but just some scientist in another p-brane of m-theory - who created a bubble which peeled off his own universe. None of the above comments in the least indicate a reason why God should exist.
The God Lab
Advocates of Intelligent Design have a new strategy; an institute in the Seattle suburb of Washington has set out to prove evolution wrong by putting science first. Opponents of evolutionary biology, trained research scientists, are taking to the lab in search of the creator's handiwork. If Intelligent Design supporters can cite more experimental research, some may conclude that it is a legitimate topic for discussion in US science classrooms. New Scientist goes and knocks on the door...MORE

Let's note that the ID advocates are resting their case on the ability of bacteria to propel themselves through use of a tail that they say cannot have arisen by chance - I wonder whether they have considered the following:

Power house

How pumping ions gave early cells a kick start

Did God make this? I think notWE MAY be a step closer towards understanding how the first cells emerged on the primordial stage, thanks to researchers in California. They have shown that proteins can spontaneously form the ion pumps that help power cells.

Protein pumps are crucial in modern cells. They use the energy from light or food to move ions across a membrane, creating an electrical gradient. These gradients act as a kind of battery, driving cellular processes.

Unlike the sophisticated proteins that make up pumps in modern cells, the pumps of "protocells" must have formed from simple proteins present on ancient Earth. What's more, these pumps must have assembled themselves.

A team from NASA's Center for Computational Astrobiology in California, led by Andrew Pohorille, has now simulated the formation of such pumps, using a protein called M2 from the human flu virus. Though it's highly unlikely that M2 was used by protocells, similar proteins may have been involved. "We really don't care all that much for the specific identity of the actors," says Pohorille, "we want to know if we can understand the play."

He and his colleagues simulated what happens to M2 molecules when they interact with simple membranes made of a mixture of organic substances such as carboxylic acids. Such membranes can spontaneously form vesicles reminiscent of cells (New Scientist, 12 September 1998, p 30).

The M2 protein has a water-loving backbone and oily, water-hating side chains. In water, the protein is held open. When it interacts with a membrane, however,the protein folds [see loglimit.html] into an alpha helix. According to the computer simulation, four of these helices then bond to each other, forming a channel on the inside, and the whole package inserts itself into the membrane to escape the water.

Within the channel, parts of the proteins bond to form a gate that blocks most ions. However, hydrogen ions captured at the outside of the gate are rapidly conducted through the proteins by a series of chain reactions that eventually spews hydrogen ions into the interior This process causes protons to accumulate inside the vesicle, creating an electrical gradient.

David Deamer, a biophysicist at the University of California at Santa Crux, says this type of modelling could help researchers create lab versions of protocells in the near future. "For the first time we are in a position that we can do it," agrees Pohorille, whose team last week presented its findings to an American Physical Society meeting in Minneapolis.

Mark Schrope

1 April 2000 New Scientist

Komodo Dragons Show that "Virgin Births" Are Possible

The virgin births of several male Komodo dragons at two English zoos might provide one explanation why Jesus was not a clone of Mary.
VIRGIN BIRTH: Komodo dragon hatchling is the result of an asexual method of reproduction called parthenogenesis. [Image: Ian Stephen]Indonesian dragons can breed without the benefit of masculine companionship. Last week, researchers reported in Nature that the only two sexually mature female Komodo dragons in all of Europe laid viable eggs without insemination from a male. One Komodo, named Flora, lives at the Chester Zoo in England and has never been kept with a male; yet a few months ago she laid a clutch of 11 eggs, eight of which seem to be developing normally and may hatch as soon as January. Earlier this year, a now deceased female named Sungai from the London Zoo laid a clutch of 22 eggs, four of which yielded normal male dragons--even though Sungai hadn't had a date in two and a half years. Some reptiles can hold onto sperm for several years, so initially researchers considered that Sungai's eggs had a father. But genetic analysis ruled that out, unless the father were somehow genetically identical to her. (Sungai did later mate with a male and laid a normally fertilized clutch, so don't think she died a virgin.)

These "virgin births" raised eyebrows because this asexual method of reproduction, called parthenogenesis, is rare among vertebrates: only about 70 backboned species can do it (that's about 0.1 percent of all vertebrates). Biologists have known that some lizards can engage in parthenogenesis, but nonetheless seeing it among Komodo dragons surprised zookeepers. Despite having only a mother, the offspring are not clones. That's because an unfertilized egg has only half the genes of the mother. The sperm is supposed to provide the other half. In parthenogenesis, the mother's half-set of chromosomes doubles up to generate the full complement. Hence, the offspring derives all its genes from the mother, but they are not a duplicate of her genome. Komodos have a curious twist in their sex determination as well. Although we think of females being XX (that is, having two X chromosomes) and males as being XY, it's the other way around in these giant monitor lizards. Two identical sex chromosomes make a male Komodo, and two different ones make a female. Biologists label the Komodo's sex chromosomes as W and Z, so ZZ makes a male and WZ makes a female. Birds, some insects and a few other lizard species also rely on this sex-determination system. (Embryos of some reptiles--notably crocodiles and turtles--don't have any sex chromosomes; rather, the incubation temperature dictates their gender.) In Komodo females, each egg contains either a W or a Z. Parthenogenesis hence leads to embryos that are either WW or ZZ. Eggs that consist of WW material are not viable and die off (just as YY is not a viable combination); in contrast, ZZ does work. So all the Komodo hatchlings have been and will be male (ZZ). Evidently, in the case of these Komodos, the doubling of the egg genes occurred when, in essence, another egg, rather than sperm, did the job of fertilization.

Oogenesis, the biological process of making an egg cell, typically also yields a polar body--a mini ovum of sorts, containing a duplicate copy of egg DNA. Normally, this polar body shrivels up and disappears. In the case of the Komodos, though, polar bodies evidently acted as sperm and turned ova into embryos. The ability to reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically probably resulted from the Komodo dragon's isolated natural habitat, living as it does on islands in the Indonesian archipelago. Researchers have seen other species resort to parthenogenesis when isolated, such as damselflies in the Azores. The ability, researchers speculate, may have enabled the dragons to establish new colonies if females had found themselves washed up alone on neighboring shores, as might happen during a storm. High school biology texts tend to gloss over parthenogenesis, typically mentioning the process as rare and restricted to mostly small invertebrates. But the phenomenon has emerged from the backwaters in recent years, primarily as a tool for science. Some scientists hope to exploit the phenomenon to get around ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cell research. They can fool an unfertilized human egg to divide by pricking it, thereby simulating the penetration of sperm. Such deceived eggs continue dividing into the blastocyst stage of 50 to 100 cells before petering out naturally.

In principle, it may be possible to keep that cell dividing. In 2004, as a means to elucidate the details of how fertilized eggs develop, scientists in Japan engaged in some genetic trickery to create a fatherless mouse. Such a developmental process probably didn't happen in the little town of Bethlehem two millennia ago--the mistranslation of "young girl or maid" into "virgin" explains the story a lot better. But as the Komodo dragons' astonishing parthenogenesis feat shows, nature has plenty to teach us about making do without a mate.

RELATED LINKS: The Komodo Dragon Antigravity: Enter the Dragon Exhibit Mickey Has Two Moms: No sperm needed--mice are born from two eggs The Stem Cell Challenge The Future of Stem Cells

[Scientific American 4/1/07]

ANYONE who studied computer science will recall the huge intellectual effort that goes into creating and understanding algorithms for sorting lists efficiently. Perhaps this has all been superseded. Aidan Karley directs us to an apparently watertight algorithm developed by David Morgan-Mar, who calls it the Intelligent Design Sort (IDS). The probability of the input list being in the exact order it's in, Morgan- Mar notes, is 1 divided by the factorial of the length of the list. So for a list of just 10 items, that's 1/3,628,800; for 11, it's 1/39,916,800, and so on.
Morgan- Mar says: "There is such a small likelihood of this that it's clearly absurd to say that this happened by chance, so it must have been consciously put in that order by an Intelligent Sorter." He is of course following the arguments of proponents of intelligent design, whereby apparently vastly improbable structures - such as an eye must have been designed. Morgan-Mar suggests that applying the IDS to any list will reveal that it is optimally arranged in a way "that transcends our naive mortal understanding of 'ascending order' Any attempt to change that order to conform to our own preconceptions would actually make it less sorted." See for a short exposition of the advantages of this view (and see the rest of his site to judge how serious Morgan-Mar is).
Indexing and cataloguing both depend on sorting by carefully chosen criteria. So Feedback wonders whether all library catalogues and web indexes could not, by a similar argument concluding that no work actually needs to be done, be replaced by a single instruction always to consult the same document for the answer to any question.
But... hang on...
TRYING to book a flight for two adults and a child from San Francisco to Newark in New Jersey, Ephraim Tekie was informed that Continental Airlines could offer seven flights, each of which had precisely three seats available. Hmm. Most of these flights are on Boeing 737-800 aircraft, fitted with 141 seats in economy class. Ignoring the complexities of flight scheduling and price adjustment, the number of, empty seats on one flight ranges from 0 to 141. So the odds on there being exactly three free seats on each flight are 1/142 to the seventh power, or 1/1,164,175,380,274,048. Whether this, too, is proof of intelligent design is left as an exercise for the bored and not-at-all-cramped traveller.[New Scientist 12May,2007]

The Genius of Charles Darwin
On the ropes:The Bishop

Metro 25/8/08

Dear Ed,
With respect to "biologist" Michael Marriot's comments on Darwin. Perhaps as a biologist he maybe correct in saying that Darwin explains how life evolved but not how it started. If he happened to be a physicist or mathematician too, then he would know how it all began. In the beginning there was not a "word" but simple elements that were forged from nuclear processes in stars.Before that there were more elemental particles and forces,which can be looked up on the web.There is no evidence whatsoever at any time for an omnipotent being having started life, as it suggests in the bible.
DL Borrell

Metro [27/8/08]

Dear Ed,

With respect to James Pritchard's comments using the hackneyed argument of saying that in lieu of any evidence to the contrary,atheism is a faith,perhaps he has not heard of Occam's razor,which is a principle of science,and as it happens,the courts of this country use to discern that we do not believe anything until there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and not to add complexity to a situation that does not need it.

There is no evidence of God,and inserting the hypothesis is adding needless complexity.Science explains everything that we see without reference to a deity. It is necessary therefore to assume the negative,that is - that there is no God,and wait for evidence of the contrary,none of which is ever shown,therefore atheism is not a faith,like belief in God,but the only conceivable situation that any reasoning mind should honestly adopt.

DL Borrell

Do you believe INTELLIGENT FALLING? If not,mail Andreas and tell him why.

Dear Andreas,

Your website [now closed] seems to be of the opinion that the chronically ignorant idea of Intelligent Falling holds some water. In the first place there is no such thing as God,and in the second place even if there were,Gravity is still a consistent law that is seen to operate exactly as Newton suggested it does with the proviso that anything in science is a theory and is taught as such assuming that new data can and probably will follow,which is why theories of quantum gravity are now being posited in order to try and make the whole of science consistent.

The alternative "theory" which in fact is nothing of the sort,since it cannot ever be shown to be true in principle,is nothing but sour grapes on behalf of those who truculantly continue to believe in a deity who has long since been proven to be a figment of the ignorant mind's imagination. Such a bizarre and frankly laughable explanation is not in the same league as Newton and anyone pretending to be of his calibre should at least explain to the scientific community why this proposterous idea has any merit. It is merely a device to attack science- much as attacks on the evolution of the eye have been made to disprove evolution,only this time the attack is on science itself. It has no merit as a theory and certainly does not deserve to be taught as a realistic alternative,because its premise is false. There is no such thing as the Christian God.

Are we to assume Zeus might be pushing things down or Vishnu or Odin,or perhaps an invisible Pink Pig? Christian ideas are abdsurd and ignorant and it behoves them to actually learn science before making any claims to what is and is not a viable theory. By advocating intelligent falling you are merely indicating that your scientific education lacks in just about the largest capacity one can imagine.


Channel 4 is not biased towards any religion, belief, sexual preference or race, we show programmes that cover these different aspects of the human experience so as to educate and inform people.

I realise the politicallly correct nature of the scheduling - but this is the irony - the exact point that Richard Dawkins made to the teachers he spoke to in the programme is that they were accepting of falsities through not wishing to offend people's beliefs - Channel 4 is in the same position as the teachers in Richard's programme - not being able to step out of line lest it offend someone - but in doing so - it does the same thing as the teachers - compromises what is true - Evolution is a fact - people's beliefs are not. The programme Make me a Christian is offensive TO ME because it propagates lies using the remit of Channel 4 just as the lies are spread in schools by teachers not taking a stand on what is true.Politically correct rubbish is demolishing science. Channel 4 also used to transmit the excellent Equinox which dealt with facts. Make me a Christian is a vehicle for the prosthelitising of Christian propaganda and attempts at brainwashing. I noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury was on the ropes when asked by Richard Dawkins how it is that God can have created a perfect world and then needs to mess with it via miracles - the Bishop wished the world to accept Evolution by evidence because he cannot deny it exists and yet that entails accepting the laws of physics are not subject to divine intervention - and yet insists that the miracle of Jesus happened -as Richard says- Christians want their cake and to eat it. It amazes me that secular people like myself are constantly offended by the "remits" of the media that are seemingly created by government PC ideology and yet those of faith are catered to out of fear of a backlash - the fact is that those of faith are liars just as Richard Dawkins maintains and the media has a responsibility greater than its remit to transmit what is true - not what is believed - otherwise Channel 4 could be coerced by government to transmit the views of those who believed the world was flat whilst also transmitting the views of those who believed the world was round - either it is one or the other - not both.

As long as the media maintains a policy of helping the faithful spread lies,even into our schools - the Western world will slip into a decline of believing any nonsense the media happens to represent - Big Brother is a major example.

There is too little of the kind of programme that Richard Dawkins has made - and if one existed - one might thank a God that Channel 4 at least gave him the capacity to air this view - but as he suggests there are not "many truths" - people can choose to believe the moon is made of cheese - but they should not be given the same credence as a scientist who checks facts.

I have had cause to make this point before to Channel 4 over Graham Hancock and his ideas of linking Earth based objects with star systems - often it is the case that non-scientists such as Mr Hancock are given airtime,whilst real factual ideas with proof are overlooked. Too few schoolchildren seem to understand the basic ideas of science and end up being uncritical in their thinking because the media has an "everyone's opinion is valid" policy - this is rubbish - some things are right and some things are wrong - we see the effects in the moral decline of our youth. The programme scheduler told me that Graham Hancock had as much right to say what he wanted as anyone else - if only that were the case. Anything complex and scientific is often given a backseat because it is too hard for viewers - or the facts don't sit comfortably with what they believe. Mr Dawkins challenges this and so he should.

I thank Channel 4 for giving him airplay - but cannot make sense of giving airtime to Christians whose only use of TV time is to try and convert people to their ludicrous lies - the fact that Channel 4 participates in this is offensive. It is one thing to say what someone believes - another to try and convert. In his programme,Richard Dawkins was careful to discriminate - telling the schoolchildren " I am not telling you what to believe - but giving you the facts and asking you to think about them". By comparison "Make me a Christian"- even in it's title is suggestive of coercion and conversion -a propaganda exercise - forcing someone to become a believer,by careful manipulation of the truth.

Thank you for your response.

-----Original Message-----

From: Channel4 VE Support <>
To: Lee Borrell <>
Sent: Tue, 19 Aug 2008 12:50
Subject: Re: Viewer Enquiries Contact Form (KMM1639490I19660L0KM)

Dear Mr Borrell,
Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding THE GENIUS OF CHARLES DARWIN and MAKE ME A CHRISTIAN.
We are sorry to hear that you feel it is misguided to show MAKE ME A CHRISTIAN after showing the series on Charles Darwin.
Decisions on programme schedules will vary according to several factors, which include adhering to Channel 4's remit, which stipulates that we must cater for tastes, interests and audiences not served by ITV (or other television channels.) Channel 4 aims to do this not only through content, but also providing an alternative schedule.
Channel 4 is not biased towards any religion, belief, sexual preference or race, we show programmes that cover these different aspects of the human experience so as to educate and inform people.
Nevertheless, please be assured your complaint has been noted and logged.
The log is distributed throughout Channel 4.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.
Sally Smith
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries
For information about Channel 4 have a look at our FAQ section at
Original Message Follows: ------------------------

Thankyou for giving Richard Dawkins a well needed voice to counter the rising ignorance of religion. I do not though understand why Ch4 chooses to simultaneously provide the programme "Make me a Christian" - unless it is under some misguided idea of equality - either evolution is true or creationism is - it is quite evident that creationism is false - therefore to provide airtime to someone trying to brainwash people to believe ignorant lies,at the same time as giving airtime to a well-proven scientist reminds me of the replies I received from Ch4 defending Graham Hancock. Richard Dawkins suggests he is not "making people believe" and yet the programme "Make me a Christian" is doing just that. There is no evidence for religion and it is about time it was dispensed with. A TV channel should inform and educate,not give airtime to blatant liars.

Please can some Christian explain how the eye of a Plaice managed to migrate from one side of its body to the other using ID,it is quite evidently a case of Evolution and not God. This is not the only evidence. The Blenny stays out of water and breathes air showing that fish could have escaped the sea, becoming animals such as the mudskipper.Certain species of sea slug have evolved from their land counterpart,showing that animals that lived on land are now living in the sea.There is also a species that absorbs the photosynthetic cells of seaweed and uses them to get energy from sunlight. The Hermit crab has evolved to be assymetrical so it can fit inside the spiral shells of snails. There is no way that this can be explained by ID or Creation Theory.


LAST NIGHT'S TV The Genius of Charles Darwin Channel 4

Richard Dawkins was looking for a fight. Wearing the WWE cape of the Atheist Avenger, he was out there looking to bring down God in the final part of the three-part series The Genius of Charles Daiwin. Initially, like any pro-wrestling bout, you knew the odds were stacked in Dawkins' favour from the moment he faced up to the US religious fundantentalists or, as they came across, well - fundementalists. Their utter lack of intellectual capacity to challenge Dawkins saw them neatly dispatched. Ding, ding. Round one to Dawkins. The mental battering continued; Dawkins even took on illiterate members of the public who'd been foolish enough to write to him with threats aplenty. 'I hope you die slowly and burn in hell,' wrote one opponent. The irony was lost on him that Dawkins, a proud atheist, would never entertain the prospect of hell. Ding ding. Round two to Dawkins. No one was immune from the juggernaut of fact and reason that spilled out of his smug mouth, not even the Archbishop Of Canterbury. He, too, was pulled into the ring but, frustratingly, much of their conversation was held in low tones before Dr Rowan Williams wriggled out of the more difficult questions via some flowery poetic prose. With the Archbishop sideswiped, Dawkins was home free and once he'd finished decrying relativism and multiculturalism, he relished his victorious romp with a passionate declaration of wonder at the science of nature.And with that, off he went to seek his next battle. The Vatican, no doubt.

Book information

The Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for evolution by Richard Dawkins

Published by: Bantam Press/Simon & Schuster

Price: £20/$30

WHEN he has that fire in his belly, Richard Dawkins is arguably the greatest living populariser of evolution. His foundational work, The Selfish Gene, inspired a generation of evolutionary biology students (myself included), while The God Delusion was a powerfully effective self-esteem booster for atheists in the closet.

With his new book, splendidly titled The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins joins other popularisers in what has become almost a rite of passage - to "make the case" for evolution to the general public. It's like the "ring the bell" game at the county fair where every able young male feels obliged to step up and swing the giant mallet. Two of the greatest efforts in recent years come in both flavours: atheist (Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne) and believer (Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller).

These previous books were so well written it seemed the challenge had been met. Another "argument for evolution" book could only be justified by a great new angle on how to reach the unconverted masses.

Implying that your audience is stupid does not qualify as a great new angle. Yet this is precisely what Dawkins does. He opens the book by mentioning his two previous books about evolution, and then, with a nearly audible scoff, adds that back when he wrote those books (when people, apparently, were smarter?) he didn't have to argue that evolution actually happened. "That didn't seem to be necessary," he says.

By the first chapter he is comparing his predicament to a history professor forced to teach "a baying pack of ignoramuses" and dealing with a "rearguard defence". Today, he proclaims, "all but the woefully uninformed are forced to accept the fact of evolution".

It's really kind of comical. If "spot the condescensions" is a new drinking game, then bottoms up! There's one in just about every chapter. Though Dawkins says from the outset, "This is not an anti-religious book", he can't help but knock religion throughout, For instance, he writes: "God, to repeat this point, which ought to be obvious, but isn't, never made a tiny wing in his eternal life." Young Earth creationists are, he writes, "deluded to the point of perversity". You get the sense that Dawkins just can't control it. It's as if he suffers from an anti-religious form of Tourette's syndrome.

You get the sense that Dawkins can't control it. It's as if he suffers from anti-religious Tourette's

The Greatest Show on Earth is not a bad book - Dawkins wouldn't know how to do that. His use of a crime scene investigation as a parallel for the narrative is at times very effective, particularly in showing the endless frustration of addressing the "gaps" critique of the fossil record.

But in the end, you have to wonder why Dawkins wastes so much time trying to argue with creationists. We all know that creationists are not rational thinkers. They are driven by beliefs, not by logic. Dawkins provides a transcript of his interview with the president of Concerned Women for America which reads like a Monty Python skit as the woman, a bullheaded creationist, simply answers all of Dawkins's sophisticated argumentation by saying she's not convinced - like a cartoon character standing in front of a hail of bullets taunting, "You missed me."

It's a shame Dawkins couldn't take a few tips from his atheist colleague Jerry Coyne. Coyne's powerful and popular book was, to quote Booklist, "far more presentational than disputatious". That is a desperately needed attribute these days in making the convincing - and persuasive - case for evolution.

Randy Olson is the writer and director of the feature films Flock of Dodos: The evolution-intelligent design circus and Sizzle: A global warming comedy. His new book, Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking substance in an age of style, is published this month by Island Press

Dawkins: The Purpose of Purpose


Dawkins: What if you're wrong?


See also : Atheism,Can science oust religion?,Darwin on the right,Johnson FAQ1,Johnson FAQ2,HORIZON:ID on Trial,BHA,Darwin on Trial,Dragonseye, The Silly Bible Laws,Priest slams gay adoption laws

Why Intelligent Design should not be taught in schools [.doc]
ID: A parents guide [.doc]

How I knew that your article on the universe would start a flurry of flustered first causers to write letters. Do these people not understand that if the universe needs a first cause then so does a deity? And if he is timeless and does not need a cause,neither does the universe?

The fact is that quantum physics allows for the universe not needing any first cause,so God is defunct. He is merely the wishful thinking of people who do not understand sub-atomic physics. If God is merely the button pusher of natural law then he isn't God.

Science and religion are mutually exclusive.

Team sheds light on upright walking

Humans learned to walk upright so they could carry more food, experts have suggested

Mankind's ancestors may have started walking on two legs simply because it allowed them to carry more food away in their hands, boosting their chance of survival, scientists have said.

Anthropologists studying chimpanzees found that the great apes, who usually walk on all fours, walk upright and free their hands for carrying when they need to monopolise hard-to-find resources by swiping more at a single attempt in the face of fierce competition.

The team from the University of Cambridge and Kyoto University in Japan believe the benefit of "first come, first served" and getting a bigger share of scarce food supplies could, over a long period of time, have led some of our earliest "hominin" ancestors to evolve into "bipedal" primates walking on two legs permanently instead of four.

Professor William McGrew, from Cambridge's department of archaeology and anthropology, said: "Bipedality as the key human adaptation may be an evolutionary product of this strategy persisting over time. Ultimately, it set our ancestors on a separate evolutionary path."

Scientists believe that man's ancestors changed how they moved at a time of climate upheaval which reduced the forested areas in which they lived and forced them out into the open more. But a lack of fossils means there is division over what specific factor it was that led to the development of walking on two feet.

The research by the team led by PhD student Susana Carvalho and Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests our earliest hominin ancestors may have lived in shifting environmental conditions in which certain resources were not always easy to come by.

Chimpanzees are one of several ape species able to walk on two legs for short periods of time.

The scientists conducted two studies of chimpanzees in Bossou Forest in Guinea, west Africa, finding that when supplies of highly prized coula nuts were scarce, the chimps were more likely to walk on two feet in an attempt to carry off more in a single trip.

They also found that when the chimpanzees went "crop raiding", 35% of their activity involved some sort of bipedal movement, and "once again, this behaviour appeared to be linked to a clear attempt to carry as much as possible in one go".

By studying the behaviour of chimpanzees, they believe that over time, intense bursts of bipedal activity in early hominins may have led to anatomical changes that in turn became the subject of natural selection where competition for food or other resources was strong.





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