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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Attenborough Magic

 More David Attenborough on TV tonight. More magical mixtures of CGI and incomparable wildlife filming. He tells us about creatures which existed 100s of millions of years ago; he brings them to life with brilliant technology. He speculates on which of them might have been our ancestors or the ancestors of our contemporaries, modern insects, for example. He is persuasive when he tells us that there were once dragonflies with 1 metre wingspans. He is plausible when he explains why the largest modern dragonflies are much smaller – there isn’t as much oxygen in the atmosphere as in the time of the giants. He is very good! His breathless presentation is sans pareil. He is a national treasure, without doubt.

And yet!

There was a substantial section of tonight’s programme which dealt with the first arthropods to take up residence on land, to breathe air. He showed us fossils of astonishing delicacy and pointed out the tiny holes through which they drew air into their bodies to provide them with the oxygen they needed to respire.

He was honest enough (unguarded enough?) to point out that these creatures could never return to the ocean from which they had emerged; they would drown – they invented drowning! He neglected to address what seems to me an obvious question: At what point did these spiracles appear? Was it in the ocean? – not possible. Was it on land? – again, not possible.

This evening’s programme spent next to no time on how our alleged ancestors, the early vertebrates, overcame their watery patrimony and started breathing air. They learnt to “gulp air”, it seems. David Berlinski, much smarter than me, and you, begs us to consider the co-ordinated adaptations required when one species gives rise to another.

Why do I have it in for a national treasure? I hope it is clear that I don’t hate the man. Many, probably most, Catholics can just enjoy the pictures, pathos and information with which he confronts us. I have it in for him because of his agendas. He is very keen for us to sign up to Darwinism. Again, many, perhaps most, Catholics are Darwinists. As long as they say the creeds without embarrassment, I am on their side. But, let us not forget that Richard Dawkins declares that Darwin’s theory makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. It doesn't – Darwin’s theory addresses a tiny aspect of what Catholics believe about why anything exists, rather than nothing, about how life and humans came into existence. Dawkins, despite his declaration, is unfulfilled.

His other agenda is to persuade us that there is an antagonism between Human Kind and the Natural World.

This worries me more than a little. Rachael Carson alleged that DDT was bad for certain raptors. She persuaded the bien pensant elites that, although Americans had eliminated Malaria from their own country, they should lean on third world countries to ban this incredibly beneficent chemical. Rachael Carson has more deaths on her hands than Pol Pot. Millions of children in Africa die annually from entirely preventable Malaria. She is dead. Should I pray for the repose of her soul? Should I pray for the repose of Saddam Hussein’s soul, of Adolf Hitler’s?

Back to Darwinism – The Nazis and the Bolsheviks were enthusiastic Darwinists. Of course they were – Darwinism bolstered their atheism. They were the baddest people in History. Was Hitler worse than Stalin? How do you measure? Stalin killed more people.

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