Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Manipulation and information

I'm a bit concerned. I've just typed in my email address on a website beneath a grey square with the word "GOD" in white diagonally across it, and I've clicked on a lozenge beneath saying "Unsubscribe". I imagine my atheist friends will be sighing (or chuckling with glee), "At last. Physics is being proved right. 'Religion is set for extinction' - and here's the evidence! The rot's well and truly set in, if Michael's unsubscribing from God." I don't know if you've seen the news item - which I'm glad to see the BBC has filed under Weird and Wonderful (along with 'Germany's star polar bear Knut dies' and 'Colombian keeper to run for president') - Religion's last legs? . It goes some way to substantiate the old aphorism, "Lies, damned lies and statistics" (Disraeli, via Mark Twain to West Wing Episode 21).

The story, as far I can see, is about some apparently serious academics in America who have been looking at census figures in 9 countries over a century (not the US or Britain) and deducing a mathematical model which "proves" that religion will eventually become extinct. As a dodo? I don't think so. Wasn't it meant to expire in communist Russia and China? Far from it, it came up fighting fit. Funny that, sounds a bit like the resurrection.... I guess too that's why atheism's Militant Tendency is getting so up-tight. They can see that religion is far from moribund. Otherwise they could just put their feet up and watch it wither and die.

By the way, I was just unsubscribing from the God Channel's mailing list, mainly because I don't have time to watch it, but also because every mailing has a big Donate Now! appeal attached.

I was interested in the mini-storm over the musical background to the Wonders of the Universe led by the master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who berated the "muzak morons". I have to say I sympathise with him, and with the hard of hearing for whom serious discursive programmes are rendered unintelligible. Documentary becomes drama. For example, wildlife filming has background music which imposes an entirely specious emotional response on it. It is merely manipulative. Significantly Professor Brian Cox admitted as much in his defence of the music's volume. The programme, he said, "should be a cinematic experience - it's a piece of film on television, not a lecture". So next time you watch a programme with a musical undercurrent, remember it's entertainment, not education. I don't think Professor Sandels' excellent series on justice had muzak accompaniment.

1 comment:

  1. Strange, but God is the only person I do not try to contact on the Internet: I have another, secret means of contacting Him.