Last Friday saw a much heralded episode of current affairs talk show Otto e Mezzo, focussing specifically on Intelligent Design and the (supposed) debate between proponents of creationism and evolution. It’s title was the lofty ‘inchiesta su dio’.
The direction of the programme was interesting. First of all, as is often the case, on the panel of important minds invited to discuss the issue, out of 6 only one was a woman. Surprising? No. Dissapointing? Yes.
The programme was based around a documentary filmed in the United States by Stefano Pistolini, entitled ‘ID non vuole dire Idiota’, or ‘ID doesn’t mean Idiot’. With extensive interviews with various representatives of the Discovery Institute, repeatedly in the documentary Pistolini wondered mournfully to himself why there was such intollerance amongst the scientific community, why the refusal to engage with a valid competing theory of how life has developed on the planet? He ends up the documentary in that bastion of scientific thought, the Vatican, where he interviewed Fr. George Coyne, the then official astronomer of the Holy See – who, to be fair, spoke eloquently within his framework as a man of faith. A religious man who has openly said that Intelligent Design should not be considered as science – because God and Creation are, in effect, beyond scientific explanation – is held as the epitome of liberal thought. The scientific world is, in this framework, elitist, iliberal, and arrogant.
The problems with the documentary were evident. Close collaboration with one of the leading (and heavily funded) bodies proposing creationism, and an almost complete absence of the scientific counter-arguments. For example, Richard Behre was interviewed at length, and spoke of his theory of ‘irreducible complexity’, with the example of the bacterial flagellar motor. It wasn’t mentioned that his theory of irreducible complexity has been challenged extensively and discredited – something described at length in Richard Dawkins polemic The God Delusion. The documentary focussed on the famous court decision of Judge John E. Jones, who ruled in Pennsylvania that Intelligent Design could not be taught in schools as science, without focussing equally on the scientific testimony that led him to his decision. A clear, and to this monkey’s mind false, message was sent out – Intelligent Design is a valid theory that has been censored by a dogmatic and intollerant scientific establishment.
In the studio discussion things moved up a gear, with the programme’s host Giuliano Ferrara working himself up into a lather about these scientists who believe we’re just a step away from the monkeys (and what is so wrong with that, this monkey asks).
And as the documentary credits rolled, a ‘special thanks’ to the Discovery institute passed by benignly on the screen.
There’s gold in them thar young-earth hills…