Review: The Genius of Charles Darwin Final Episode- Dawkins gets to the crux, but what’s the price of smugness?

August 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews


The Genius of Charles Darwin

Channel 4, Monday 18th August, 8pm

Tonight sees the last of three parts of Richard Dawkins’ fervent quest for a world of atheists, who revere the beloved scientific fact.  He takes this final opportunity to properly stick an ungodly boot in to all those insistent religious folk and tell them just what a load of guff he thinks they’re talking.  This is all well and good- his is a rather compelling argument- but I can’t help but wonder, what’s the price of success in making everyone give up religion?

In tonight’s episode Dawkins delves into the personal history of both himself and Darwin and truly tackles the crux of his argument- creationism is just plain false.  He describes how poor old Darwin had a hard time of it largely biting his tongue and nodding politely every time his pious wife would elaborate on her faith and how this disbelief troubled him.  Dawkins remembers his own revelatory moment when studying his hero’s theory, and recalls how his was rather a more pleasant transition to atheism.  Evolution is comfort enough for him.

Dawkins is determined to show the loony religiosity of these creationists.  When he reads the damning expletives he’s been sent via email out loud, the F-ing and blinding in all his Oxford eloquence is rather funny.  You’ll struggle not to giggle.  Also, look out for the member of that laid-back group, Concerned Women for America, who claims she wants US education to “teach the controversy? but actually just does that thing where you smile despite conducting a fairly serious argument- you know, where you’re basically disagreeing with the fundamentals of what that person’s saying and actually think they’re a complete arse, therefore you’re grinning inanely and somewhat patronisingly with glazed over eyes as they talk.  In fact, there’s a great deal of that in this programme- thoroughly narked people shaking hands with Dawkins under the guise of a healthy debate yet looking like they want to batter him with his book, The God Delusion.

What truly gets Dawkins’ goat is two-pronged.  He reckons people need to think for themselves and look at the evidence for evolution.  Plus, he thinks that the truth, as harsh as it is, is better than living under “a security blanket of religion.?  Science teachers should be paving the way for the thrill of true enlightenment so that every child can work out for themselves that evolution is real.  Trouble is, people like thinking someone’s looking after them, don’t they?

It’s his point about relativism sounding like a respectful gesture towards multiculturalism but actually being a pretentious cop out that is where I being to wonder whether Dawkins has truly thought through the implications of what he’s saying.  If evolution is the truth, is it worth fighting over?  Beyond being correct, does it actually matter how people think something happened so long as everyone gets along ok?  Indeed, Dawkins’ smug fervour for evolution may be compared to any other narrow-minded crusade, religious or not, one that if you fight too hard to prove, you may just miss the point- that life’s pretty cool and surely not worth wasting by waging war.  Be careful what you wish for, Richard.

By Susan Allen

Find out when the last episode is on.