The Scientific Indian

I accidentally caught the program titled The Trouble With Atheism yesterday on Channel4. I was astonished to find the host Rod Liddle make so many factual errors, erraneous interpretations and misrepresentations. It felt like my brain was being fried constantly.

I am feeling very charitable today so let me just say the program is a piece of turd hurled in the general direction of thinking people by Rod Liddle. You better duck behind some furniture whenever it airs. Some discussions at the Channel4 forums. The first forum post goes like this:

Rod Liddle talks bollox about why he thinks atheists are as bad as fundamentalists.

Watch it, get angry, try not to vomit, and expect our resident theists to come here and gloat.

Spot on.

If Liddle was an Ostrich he just jumped off a cliff and is flapping his wings vigorously. A few things I recall that exhibited an enormous lack of scientific literacy and judgement:-
-“Evolution has direction.” A common misinterpretation that Mr Liddle makes often and revels in.
-“Darwinism will be completely rewritten because so many things in it have been disproved”. Uh oh. Liddle doesn’t know anything about Darwinism and he doesn’t know that.
-“Atheists are immoral”. The usual suspects like Stalin and Hitler are there. What Liddle doesn’t say is this. Stalin and Hitler did not use Atheism as a reason for their actions. (The fact that Hitler was an atheist is disputed, incidentally).

I understand program producers and hosts need a narrative. But in this case the narrative has been infused with a load of crapola logic and Liddle’s delusions. Here are the issues that the program supposedly deals with as documented at the site. It’s ill-conceived, terribly documented and lacks any sort coherence.


  1. #1 Silmarillion
    December 19, 2006

    I caught a bit of the program last night and I was surprised to see how bad it actually was. Like you said, there were so many errors in it I was almost yelling at the TV screen. In the end I had to switch off because it was annoying me so much!

  2. #2 Martin
    December 19, 2006

    Almost yelling? you obviously have more self-restraint than I do…

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 19, 2006

    -“Evolution has direction.” A common misinterpretation that Mr Liddle makes often and revels in.
    -“Darwinism will be completely rewritten because so many things in it have been disproved”.

    I always find it convenient when someone includes pseudoscience with their religious or political opinions. I can dismiss them as a crackpot without the trouble of venturing onto unfamiliar ground. Another example would be Ann Coulter’s most recent book.

  4. #4 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 19, 2006

    Ekklesia reports

    However, Peter Atkins, Fellow and professor of chemistry at Lincoln College in the University of Oxford, asked if people of faith are less intelligent than those who hold his atheist view says: “Clearly not; but I think they are more conditioned than I am.”
    He goes on to claim that “we will be able to explain everything through science” and accuses senior scientific colleagues who advocate religious convictions of being “half-scientists”.

    Glad to hear it, I’ve got his textbook on the shelf above my desk.

    Last week, before ‘The Trouble With Atheism’ was broadcast, the National Secular Society accused Liddle of “peddling the same tired and tiresome cliche beloved of those religionists who are most threatened by Dawkins’ unanswerable polemic ‘The God Delusion’. Namely, that non-belief is a belief.”
    Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, commented today: “We need a much more intelligent and rational debate about religion in public life, and sadly we are not going to get that either from absolutist religious ideologies or from the alarmingly unsophisticated anti-religious polemics which seem popular in some circles.”

    In case you want to know their angle:

    Ekklesia is a not-for-profit thinktank which promotes progressive theological ideas in public life.

  5. #5 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 24, 2006

    Editorial by Terry Sanderson: The Trouble With Rod Liddle’s Programme

    The Rod Liddle programme The Trouble with Atheism on Channel 4 on Monday was, as we expected, biased, dishonest and about as profound as a pancake. We have to make allowances for the fact that it was a polemic, and that Mr Liddle had started out with a contention that he needed to support. So the programme proceeded from the idea that “militant” atheists are really just the mirror image of “fundamentalist” religious believers.
    The first flaw in Mr Liddle’s approach was his use of terminology. He bandied about the words “atheist” and “secularist” as though they were interchangeable and synonymous. This is the favourite trick of the religious right, who love to sow confusion about secularism.

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