Gollum lookalike Andrew Marr was a terrible choice to replace Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4′s Start the Week. Bragg had begun to develop the show into something close to his later, acclaimed In Our Time – intelligent discussion from a few knowledgeable and interesting experts on all manner of subject and Marr simply wasn’t up to the job of replacing him.
Now Marr is presenting a BBC TV series on Darwin, called Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (a title lifted from Dan Dennett) and he writes on the BBC website:
I believe Darwin was right…Darwinism, as I take it, is a creed of observation…
Whether or not Andrew Marr, an English graduate, ‘believes’ Darwin to have been right shouldn’t detain anyone for long but that sly inclusion of ‘Darwinism’ is troubling. As The New Scientist recently said,
When you come across the terms “Darwinism” or “Darwinists”, take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for “evolution” and “biologists”, respectively.
I don’t suppose Marr is a Creationist but his language is very peculiar and probably betrays too much time in the company of religious literalists of one stripe or another. And ‘Darwinism’ – or the fact that species have evolved through the processes of natural selection – is not a creed – which Marr should know is ‘a formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith‘. It isn’t a creed literally and the metaphorical use is false in its implication.
But Marr goes on to say
However we celebrate the old man, we mustn’t let his work crust into creed or harden to dogma.
Well I wasn’t going to do that and I don’t know anyone else who was either but of course Marr, just a few paragraphs before, has already claimed he sees Darwin’s work as a creed, the very thing he now pretends to be warning us about. Marr is inventing a problem that doesn’t exist presumably in a misguided but typically BBC-ish effort to appear even-handed when there simply are not two sides and there is no debate. The only people clinging to dogma and creeds are religious people and Marr knows that’s true.