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Thursday, 6 December 2012

In Praise of Prejudice

This post could have had many other titles.

I have been watching a “Discovery” programme about dinosaurs. It was quite beguiling and technically competent. Innovation in film-making has been so dramatic in recent years that technical competence (or even brilliance) in CGI is now almost a requisite – The Lord of the Rings without CGI is pretty well unthinkable. Peter Jackson’s trilogy is vastly superior to earlier attempts, though perhaps not exclusively on account of the technology.

As I watched, I remembered an observation of C S Lewis: that uneducated people have far greater confidence in our knowledge of “cave men” than in our knowledge of Cicero or Thucydides (or even Elizabeth I). He explains this by observing that to his uneducated interlocutors “cave men” were “Science”, whereas Cicero is only known via “texts”, which are notoriously unreliable. This prejudice was unexamined. You can see where it comes from. But it deserves examination – not my purpose here.

[Nor is it my purpose, here, to attack the Materialist assumption that the physical universe is all there is and Science is the only sort of understanding we have.]

No, my irritation was roused by unconsidered turns of phrase: “conclusions about dinosaur behaviour”, whereas “speculations about dinosaur behaviour” would have been just about acceptable. Anyone who knows how dinosaurs behaved should meet a Tyrannosaurus Rex and report back. There was a lot of speculation about colouring in the dinosaur world. Speculating is not a crime.

So, many people, watching while I was, would have taken it for granted that they were watching a “nature” programme” or a “science” programme. It was neither. It was a cross between “Bambi” and David Attenborough.

Back to prejudice. I can enjoy David Attenborough – have done for decades. But he has an agenda – perhaps more than one. He wishes to educate us into the truth of Darwinism/Dawkinism. He wishes us to deplore the pernicious effects of the human species with respect to “Nature”.

I love Nature – how could I not? For me Nature is a miraculous manifestation of God’s power and creativity. It is not God. Humans are “made in the image of God” – so there is some hope, even in a fallen world.

Someone like me can watch (and enjoy) Attenborough and deplore his agenda – it is pretty upfront.

The dinosaur programme comes in under the radar. That’s why grotesquely prejudiced people (like me) need to be alert.

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