The BBC touts creationism

Here’s a new 2-minute clip from the BBC’s faith-friendly “Heart and soul” series (click on screenshot). It’s a narration by Charles Duke, an astronaut who in 1972 became the tenth man to walk on the Moon. In 1968, though, he was an Earth-based observer of the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the Moon without landing and returned safely to Earth. As the BBC notes:

On Christmas Eve in 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 read from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the Moon. It was the most watched television broadcast at that time.

Astronaut Charlie Duke was listening from Earth. He was a ‘Sunday Christian’ back then – but hearing the message of Genesis was part of the reason why he’s come to personally believe that God created the world in seven days.

If you listen for the two minutes, you’ll hear Duke say this at the end:

“I look back now and I believe not in evolution but I believe in a creation by God—of everything: the heavens, the stars (which he calls each by name), life on the earth and I believe that process is described in Genesis. So I’ve come from an old Earth, ancient days, to a young Earth. And I have a lot of arguments with people about that and I said, ‘Look—it’s a matter of faith! You can’t prove your point, and I can’t prove my point scientifically, so we both stand on a matter of faith. What do you believe? And belief is faith. I believe in God’s creation. I used to believe in accidental life and here we are, you know, four billion years later or whatever, but I changed my mind.”

Sorry, Mr. Duke, but I have scientific evidence in favor of evolution and scientific evidence that conclusively disproves your creationist view. Read my damn book, which overrides your book. Finally, belief is not the same thing as faith. I “believe”—in the vernacular use of the term—that the sun will come up today, but that “belief” means “confidence born of experience.” That’s different from religious faith like yours, which is “belief in the absence of convincing evidence.”  As for evolution being “accidental life,” well, that’s just deeply misleading.

So here we have the BBC showing someone who gave up their acceptance of an old earth and of evolution in favor of pure woo. Why did they put this up? Just to show one astronaut’s delusions? I don’t think so: the BBC loves to osculate faith and is getting worse about that all the time. Do they put it up to show how easily someone can slip into confirmation bias? I doubt it.  Will the BBC put on 2 minutes of an atheist evolutionist like me refuting Duke’s nonsense? Are you kidding me? It’s the Beeb!

As reader Laurie, who found this broadcast, wrote me:

How someone could have had any existence in space and NOT be cognisant of the deep time required to form the solar system?  Not that deep time connects “directly” (more of an indirect factor) to evolution; but, that belies the ten minutes Christians think it took to form the cosmos AND life here.  Jerks.

 

63 Comments

  1. Posted March 3, 2019 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Not very logical, is he.

  2. Christopher
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    A recent BBC 4 Science Hour podcast was partly recorded at the AAAS meeting in D.C. and they were just pleased as punch that one of the talks was about how there’s no conflict between science and religion. They also got overly excited about science being racist. I know another BBC podcast or perhaps the same podcast but different episode shared the same or similar interview with Duke and gushed over his godification of space while whinging about how nobody talks about how religious most of the astronauts are/were. The faithists and SJW’s are taking over the Beeb, just like they did NPR and The NY Times.

    • SRM
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      And also the CBC in Canada. It’s unfortunate to see those organizations that are such powerful counterpoints to conservative nonsense and misinformation become mired in a different sort of irrationality.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the religiosity of astronauts (or not) is completely irrelevant, one should first show where and how they were different from Laika (Лайка), now 62 years ago, in the space program, methinks.
      And yeah, science is racist and sexist, like Mr Newton’s “Principia” is a rape manual. (Yes, unbelievable as it sounds, that has actually been contended)

  3. Historian
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The Wikipedia article on Charles Duke links to a Texas Monthly article from 1988. That article states that Duke found God in 1978, not 1968. He attributes his religious fervor to saving his marriage, which was on the rocks at the time. Apparently, his wife brought him to his fanatical beliefs. The article relates that his wife supposedly had a tumor in her lungs, which disappeared after a bizarre ritual. However, the article goes on to say that doctors said that the wife didn’t have a tumor, but pneumonia, which cleared up after treatment with antibiotics. Near the end of the article, Duke cautions that rebellion against God can bring dire consequences. It would seem that more than 30 years later, Duke’s views have not changed much. Duke’s situation seems to illustrate that for many people, perhaps most, once gripped by religion, it is unshakeable. Duke seems impervious to reason.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=2SkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA119&lpg=PA119&dq=charlie+duke+born+again+christian+1978&source=bl&ots=U3ZZKUCzhG&sig=EuQtbPeUctkmH4tM4H-dcV6DDIM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjjw5_E3M3eAhVGHTQIHYy0An4Q6AEwEnoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=charlie%20duke%20born%20again%20christian%201978&f=false

  4. Posted March 3, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Note how he levels the playing field at first: “You can’t prove your point, and I can’t prove my point scientifically..”, so in his mind he then can stand on his side without challenge. This will be the ‘ol False Equivalence fallacy.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      It’s a clear sign that he’s never actually listened to a good scientific explanation. Most likely a sign that for some reason unrelated to the explanation, he’s decided that his view is right.
      Considering the time, he probably didn’t try that line on, for example, Gene Shoemaker, the geologist who trained the Apollo astronauts in geological fieldwork. The discussion wouldn’t have gone well for Duke.

  5. Bruce Lilly
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “religious faith […] which is ‘belief in the absence of convincing evidence.’”

    Worse, it’s belief which persists in the presence of a preponderance of contrary evidence.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Your point appears to be correct, it generally indeed goes against the preponderance of evidence, “SAD”.

  6. jgkess@cfl.rr.com
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Jerry: You were wondering in a previous post about whether Andrew Sullivan ever undertook a close examination of the grounds for his Faith. He engaged with Sam Harris in an on-line exchange a few years back. I believe in those exchanges that he went as far as his limitations would permit. Sam came off as far the better debater—and thinker. I could never quite recover my conviction that Sullivan was a serious thinker. Have you read these exchanges?

  7. Posted March 3, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    And I presume he believes humans co-existed with dinosaurs as well?

  8. Silvia Planchett
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    According to Deepak, wholeness is beyond quantum possibilities while imagination is only possible in exponential boundaries.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Of course, as the Deepster himself didn’t actually say in his seminal work “Random Quote Generator”:

      “Experiential truth is a reflection of a jumble of acceptance.”

  9. Peter Bracken
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “So here we have the BBC showing someone who gave up their acceptance of an old earth and of evolution in favor of pure woo.”

    Indeed. But, Jerry, your reaction to it is determinedly eccentric. The Beeb hasn’t endorsed the perspective. It gave it airtime. Period. It’s a matter of historical curiosity that astronaut Duke found faith in space. No more, no less.

    You’ve pitched an argument inside a soggy paper bag.

    • Posted March 3, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I reject your criticism. I didn’t say the BBC approved of creationism, I said it “touted” it, meaning that it presented someone endorsing creationism. It’s like giving airtime to an anti-vaxer. The BBC is presenting someone pushing an antiscientific lie, someone who was an astronaut to boot.

      Your last line is not only superfluous, but rude.

      • rom
        Posted March 3, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        I will have to look at the article

        But to tout is an and attempt to sell

        As an aside the person in charge of religious programming at the BBC is openly an atheist. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle a couple of years back.

        Of course some his “underlings” are likely religious, but to refer to the BBC as somehow touting religion is a little unfair. The taxpayer and licensees pay for the BBC, so surely its programming should reflect its audience to some degree.

        https://metro.co.uk/2017/12/20/head-bbc-religious-programming-atheist-7174771/

        • Posted March 3, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Look, I told you what I meant by “tout”, okay? And PBS is also paid for by the taxpayers in the US, but that doesn’t mean that it should have religious pro-Christian programming. Britain is a secular nation, despite the fact that the Queen is the head of the Church, and the idea that programming should adhere to an audience’s views is bogus.

          • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, but the word “tout” in British English means exactly what rom says it means. If it means something different in American English, I apologise, but it seems unreasonable to me to castigate somebody for assuming you meant the standard definition rather than a nuanced version of the same.

            The BBC published the words of Charlie Duke without any kind of editorialising on a web site that is clearly aimed at “people of faith”.

            The BBC is funded by the British tax payer but it is constantly under attack and it has to tread carefully because it is under existential threat. It has to provide programming for everybody or people will use its non coverage for certain groups as a stick to beat it with.That doesn’t mean pandering to their prejudices but it does mean providing programming that interests them.

            The above said, I do have problems with several aspects of the Heart and Soul web site. A quick glance at it suggests there is no material critical of faith matters on it at all (that might be unreasonable of me, I only skimmed it). More to the point, the title of the broadcast you linked to is “The Astronauts Inspired by the Bible” which might be fair although they probably weren’t inspired to become astronauts by the Bible. The subtitle, however, is “a God inspired orbit around the Moon”. That’s a flat out falsehood written by a BBC person. The Apollo missions were inspired by the politics of the Cold War. God had nothing to do with it.

            • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

              Why the restriction to religious voices on Thought for the Day if they’re not trying to tout religion?

              • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                Why the restriction to vegetables and flowers on “Garden for a Day”?

              • Posted March 4, 2019 at 8:56 am | Permalink

                Thought for the Day is a four minute item in a news and current affairs program that lasts for three hours.

                I agree that they should allow humanist speakers on it though.

        • Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          … to refer to the BBC as somehow touting religion is a little unfair.

          Th BBC has a whole department whose purpose is to tout religion!

          https://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/tv/articles/religion-ethics

          • GrahamH
            Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

            It also has departments that ‘tout’ science and football and politics and drama and comedy and dozens of other things.

            • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

              I agree. It tries to keep many groups happy. It would be much stranger if the BBC eradicated religion from its program as it would ignore a large interest group. Although I am an atheist, I don’t really see the issue here. It is not as if the BBC had a Public Service Announcement that instructed everyone to proceed to church immediately.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted March 4, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                I’m remembering back to my school days when the mandatory parts of the school curriculum were (1) involvement in sports, (2) a daily “religious service” (which really got sticky when more schools than not had at least one person who was not even nominally Christian, or was on a “no external views” agenda like the JWs), and (3) a programme of “religious instruction” (nb : not “education”, “instruction”). That’s it – maths, sciences, law/ “civils”, practicals (how to not electrocute yourself, how to not starve), none were considered important enough to need curriculum time.
                I’ve no need to know what the current state of the law is, but they chop and change minor details every couple of years and there’s no benefit to keeping track.

              • Posted March 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                We had “release time” once a week when we were supposed to go to an activity appropriate to your chosen religion. How exactly this worked was a mystery to me. If I had been more aware at the time, I probably would have insisted “no religion” and spent the time in the library or something else useful. I’m also sure we would have joked about it being time for masturbation (ie, release) but we weren’t that savvy.

              • rickflick
                Posted March 4, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

                You Brits! No separation, and look what you get. You can borrow our (USian) first amendment any time you’d like.

          • Steve Gerrard
            Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

            The BBC website is enormous, in fact, with stuff on every topic imaginable. There are different religion-related programs on BBC 1 and BBC 2, for that matter. Something for everybody, and in many languages, so something for everywhere as well.

            • rom
              Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

              Does it have an atheist and agnostics section?

              • Posted March 3, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

                If not, we have a legitimate complaint.

              • rom
                Posted March 3, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                I think in part this was Jerry’s point.

              • Posted March 4, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                Well it would be quite a small section given that atheism can be summed up pretty much in its entirety with “I do not believe in God”

  10. Jonathan Dore
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Disappointing as it is to be reminded, it’s easy to forget after fifty years that these guys weren’t scientists of any kind (apart from the last of them, Harrison Schmitt), but test pilots. For a certain kind of unreflective personality even personally travelling to the Moon might not be enough for them to really ponder on the deep time necessary for the stars and planets, let alone life, to evolve.

    • Roger
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, more proof that astronauts aren’t exactly rocket scientists.

    • Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      This is also from a time when, if an astronaut came out as an atheist, they would have probably been quietly dropped from the program. This is similar to Colin Kaepernick being dropped from the NFL, though perhaps without the nudge from POTUS.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. For anyone ruefully pondering the fact that Islamic loonies like ISIS have no trouble using the latest technology (whose very existence fundamentally contradicts their dogma), it’s a bit disconcerting to reflect that the Americans have been doing just that for decades.

        cr

  11. PeteT
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    For historical reasons the BBC is constitutionally obliged to provide religious broadcasting and so we have to cut them some slack for obeying their legal obligations. It is not my impression that they are increasing their publication of this kind of creationist viewpoint – over the long term pro-religious broadcasting is in steady decline matching the views of the population. Much of the ‘religious’ content these days has a healthy dose of atheism and also quite a bit of mushy spirituality.
    Young-earth creationism is pretty much unheard of over here, ours being a much more secular country than the US, and so this is likely to be taken mostly as a ‘look what nonsense those Americans will believe in’ freak show.

    • GrahamH
      Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. I remember back in the sixties and seventies when BBC1 was pretty much wall to wall religious programmes on a Sunday (as was the commercial channel). These days regular religious tv is reduced to 35 minutes of ‘Songs of Praise’. And that goes out at 1PM on Sunday.

    • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      However, creationism is quite popular among British Muslims (my impression from discussions with university students).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Young-earth creationism is pretty much unheard of over here,

      It is definitely getting more public airing, but almost uniformly if you dig down there is either a single businessman providing funding, or it’s some cancer spreading from an American funding source. It’s quite worrying.

  12. Mark R.
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I look back now and I believe not in evolution but I believe in a creation by God—of everything: the heavens, the stars (which he calls each by name), life on the earth and I believe that process is described in Genesis.

    Why does this guy think that Genesis describes a ‘process’? What is this process? And I wonder what kind of name god gives each star, and in what language? Man, this is beyond dumb.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      And I wonder what kind of name god gives each star, and in what language?

      Clearly Duke’s god could never have named any stars south of about -61° declination.
      Obviously these stars were named in one of the several hundred Aboriginal Australian languages.

  13. Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Someone needs to get this guy on the air with some moon landing deniers.

    • Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      That would be some show! We can go even further by giving all the nuts their own half hour.

      • Posted March 4, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        If their vehemence and crazy were harvestable, maybe it would be a good power source!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 4, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Who’d have to deal with the toxic waste?

          • Posted March 6, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

            That’s a point -like a mainstream economist, I ignored the externalities!

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    So some astronauts are loony (no pun intended). Probably because they’re American.

    “Will the BBC put on 2 minutes of an atheist evolutionist like me refuting Duke’s nonsense? Are you kidding me? It’s the Beeb!”

    Have you tried??

    Compare this 2 minutes to the amount of time they devote to, say, David Attenborough wildlife docos which are 100% non-religious and which take evolution as an established fact.

    cr

  15. Posted March 3, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    “For historical reasons the BBC is constitutionally obliged to provide religious broadcasting and so we have to cut them some slack for obeying their legal obligations.”

    Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of the legal obligations the BBC has to provide religious broadcasting for historical reasons. How far back in history must they go? To the Anglo-Saxons? To the Vikings? To the Catholics? Or, maybe just the Church of England’s version of Christianity.

    I think it more likely that the reduction in attendance and of financial support for the Church of England has more to do with it.

  16. Greg Geisler
    Posted March 3, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Jerry. I’m more than tired of seeing these programs that lend credence to mythology and faith. It’s the 21st Century fer crissake. I’d be fine with them broadcasting such pabulum if they posted a disclaimer at both the beginning and at the end of the program that stated: “Scientific evidence has proven that evolution is true and there is no evidence for a creationist origin of the universe.”

    Regarding “belief”, I have stopped using the term and have responded to people professing theirs that: “your beliefs are meaningless” and that “I only care about the -reasons- for your beliefs”. I don’t -believe- in evolution, I -accept- the reasons and evidence for it being true. My blood boils when I hear some dolt like Marco Rubio state “I don’t believe in climate change” No one gives a cr*p about what you believe, we care about why you believe it.

  17. Dominic
    Posted March 4, 2019 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Oh dear BBC – pathetic to give this crap the ‘oxygen of publicity’…

  18. David Evans
    Posted March 4, 2019 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I’m a regular listener and watcher of BBC programs, and an atheist. There are three kinds of things which lead me to change channel or switch off.

    1 unreflective coverage of or support for religion
    2 Unreflective coverage of any of the sports that don’t interest me (which is most of them)
    3 2 Unreflective coverage of extremist or stupid politicians

    #2 and #3 are constant annoyances to me- and sometimes inescapable except by switching off. #1 is barely a blip on my horizon.

  19. Mike
    Posted March 4, 2019 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The BBC apart from a few honourable exceptions, “Nature Documentaries et al” is becoming less and less fit for purpose.

  20. Posted March 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Not only is this a sap to the creationists, it is also teaching people about irrelevant appeals to authority. Except in the context of a biography, or perhaps maybe a history of the space program, who cares what astronauts personally believe about anything?

  21. Zetopan
    Posted March 7, 2019 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Charles Duke is not the only creationist astronaut. Remember James Irwin, who went on multiple expeditions in search of Noah’s big box?* Or Edgar Mitchell, who invented the oxymoronic “Institute of Noetic Sciences”?**

    *Losing multiple teeth in the process.
    **Literally “science that is known by intuition”. You know, just like Trump.


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