[If there a polite Brit way of saying “sod off,” the BBC has certainly developed it as a high art, as is the way with a government broadcaster.]
Thanks for contacting us about ‘Newsnight’ on 13 September.
We understand you were unhappy with Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Professor Richard Dawkins. We note you felt it was biased against people with religious beliefs and you found a number of comments offensive. [I am and I do, but that is not the reason behind my complaint.]
We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the programme’s discussion with Professor Richard Dawkins. We also appreciate some viewers found presenter Jeremy Paxman’s comments offensive. However, we don’t agree that it showed anti-Christian bias. [I agree, it was biased against all religious belief, not just Christianity. If referring to the content of religious belief as ‘hogwash’ by Mr Paxman, and religious believers as ‘stupid’ by Mr Paxman and Prof Dawkins is not biased, then what ever might be considered biased by the BBC?
This discussion centred on Professor Dawkins’ new book, [Yes, it was a book promotion- a commercial event.] which seeks to counter myths, legends and religious teachings commonly taught to children by replacing them with strict scientific rebuttals. [Did it really? Can the BBC point to any strict scientific rebuttal offered in the course of the interview? Here is a question Mr Paxman might have posed about the so-called strict science and its extension into belief and philosophy: Bertrand Russell writes, ‘It is this conceiving according to the dictate of reason’ that I find lacking in the philosophy which is based on evolution.’ How would you (Dawkins) answer Lord Russell’s charge as it applies to the centre piece of your extension of science/scientism into the realm of the metaphysical?] The interview wasn’t about the merits of religion or science as a whole; instead it sought to explore the methods of disseminating knowledge to children, with particular reference to complex subject matter which can be difficult to understand even for the most mature readers. [This claim seems to contradict the claim made in the previous sentence. Once again what exploration of the methods used to disseminate complex information was explored? Professor Dawkins revealed that with the help of a teacher an 8 year old can understand his book, and that he is considering writing a book targeting even younger children. These comments really don’t shed much light on his pedagogical method. Is this really newsworthy?]
Jeremy countered Professor Dawkins’ assertions on a number of occasions, stressing that stories and myths are often more interesting than bare scientific explanation. Jeremy added that such stories and religious interpretations offer comfort and inspire imagination. Jeremy then asked Professor Dawkins why he was concerned that such teachings take place. His comments didn’t intend to cause offence and instead sought to initiate a variety of responses from the interviewee. [Mr Paxman made a rather vague unacknowledged
reference to Blake on Milton. In Paxman’s version claiming the mythmakers have all the best lines. Dawkins said he disagreed. The matter was dropped. This was hardly a Michael Howard moment for Prof Dawkins.]
Jeremy’s interviewing style is well known. He was being provocative by playing devil’s advocate. [In this interview it was advocate without the devil.] It’s a really important element of what makes ‘Newsnight’ what it is. [I agree, and that is one reason I find this blatantly commercial promotion of Dawkins so disturbing.] The matter in question was not the validity of Genesis, but the reasoning behind Professor Dawkins’ vehement opposition to such teachings. Neither ‘Newsnight’ nor the BBC holds opinion on either matter. [Then Mr Paxman does not represent the BBC?] We believe the interview was conducted in an impartial and appropriate manner. [Is describing any belief, religious, political, economic, or other, as ‘hogwash’ an example of impartiality? Does the author of this statement believe seven impossible things most mornings?
Nevertheless, we’re grateful to you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. We’d like to assure you that your comments were raised with the programme and have been registered on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose