"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Science on the Beeb

D’ya know? I’m not the nationalistic type. There are very few things that cause me to promote the country and culture I happen to have been born in above any other. But sometimes one particular British institution inspires in me a modicum of union flag waving.
The BBC, funded as it is by the British T.V license payer seems to me to fulfil its remit to educate, entertain and inform with such consistent rationality I almost relish my license renewal reminder.
In case you haven’t noticed the Beeb has been doing science particularly well lately. We have just finished the excellent Museum of Life which, as well as taking us behind the scenes of the British Natural History Museum, gave us excellent science history presented by scientists, without any creationist apologetic or post modernist equivocation.
Now we have The Story of Science explaining how the evolution of scientific thought and method has brought us to the understanding of the world we have today.
In the opening sequence of the first episode presenter Michael Mosley says

Of all human endeavours, science has had the most impact on our lives…it is a tale of power, proof and passion
He then proceeds to take us through a historical rollercoaster of evidence about the extent of the universe, taking in along the way; Tycho, Keppler, the reformation, Galileo, Halley, Newton and Hubble.
He is constantly mindful of the social, political and religious context of the advances that were made and presents them factually, debunking the orthodoxy when necessary without fear or favour. I'm scheduling this one on Sky+ for sure.
Given the international reach of the BBC, particularly in the de facto theocracy of the U.S I am truly proud of this cultural ambassador of ours which is fast becoming one of the best advocates of science in the world.


  1. As an Englishman living abroad (Hong Kong), I don't get to see much BBC science programming nowadays, but what I have seen recently makes me feel that the Beeb has dumbed down considerably compared with 30-40 years ago.

    The "evolution of scientific thought" was described brilliantly by Jacob Bronowski in his series The Ascent of Man in the early 70s (available on DVD if you haven't seen it).

  2. I'm old enough to remember The Ascent of Man the first time around. It was good. I would agree there has been a lot of dumbing down since, but that trend seems to be reversing with these latest series.