Wednesday, 4 July 2007

TV Documentary Review: Root of All Evil?

The Root of All Evil? ...A TV documentary written and presented by Professor Richard Dawkins (popular science writer and holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University).

The title, Root of All Evil? is something of a compromise. The TV company chose the title Root of All Evil (without the question mark). Richard Dawkins fought against this title, he argued that "nothing is the root of all of anything". Thus, Dawkins proposed a more parsimonious title, something along the lines of his new book, which is based on around the same ideas as the series: The God Delusion. The producers were adamant however, but Dawkins did received a small compromise in his favor.... They allowed him to add a question mark on the end of the title.

Dawkins starts of this two part series, by identifying that religion and science are totally incompatible. He then expands on this theme throughout the series. He goes on from here to show that the world would be a better off place, without religion.

He calls religion a "virus of the mind" and he uses the analogy of a computer virus to suggest religion spreads in much the same way as computer viruses do. A computer virus spread itself around and often does some damage on the way. Religion Dawkins tells us, "does the same thing".

He demonstrates that the young child mind is set up (for good Darwinian reasons) to believe what adults tell it. The reason being that a child cannot afford to get involved in naturalist experimentation to know not to swim in the river because of the crocodiles, there simply isn't time for such experimentation and any child who did so, would wind up dead. Thus, from here he states that the mind of a child is perfectly set up to be poisoned with "viruses of the mind".

He also demonstrates the divisive nature of religion. He draws an analogy with politics: adults would not dream of calling children little Marxists or capitalists, for example... Yet, religion for some bizarre reason is the exception. No one even blinks at the comment - "look at the little Muslim child" or "look at the little Christian child" or the Jewish or catholic child. Dawkins talks about the need for consciousness raising ...when one hears an adult tag a child with a religious label, one should consciously wince at the idea. Dawkins goes on to say that "children are simply to young to have an opinion on such matters".

Dawkins demonstrates that religious fundamentalism is on the increase, particularly in America. One interview Dawkins had was with a group of closet atheists in America's bible belt. One of these individuals compared this religious extremism to the McCarthy era, in that being an atheist may seriously damage you job prospects and Dawkins went on to call it religious fascism.

Dawkins also interviewed Christian evangelist Pastor Ted Haggard, the founder of the New Life Church. Haggard has a very large congregation and his evangelical stage shows (he himself compares them to a rock concert), draw huge audiences. Haggard is a very powerful man and has a lot of political clout. Indeed, he claims to have weekly phone calls with George W. Bush. Haggard actually threw Dawkins and his film crew of his church property, Dawkins apparently insulted him by comparing his flock to animals ...of course in the strictly Darwinian sense, that's exactly what we are, and that is all Dawkins meant .

On the whole an excellent series. My only real criticism is that most of the interviews were far to short.

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