‘Thought for Today’ … by an atheist!


20 August 2002

For decades, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has aired a daily ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4, offering a ‘religious view’ on current issues.  But last week, BBC asked Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, a ‘militant’ atheist and avid evolutionist, to give a secular ‘Thought for the Day.’1

Why this bizarre twist?  The governors of the BBC received a letter of protest, signed by more than 100 civic leaders—including 20 members of parliament—denouncing BBC for ‘discrimination against the non-religious.’  The letter claimed, ‘By resolutely retaining the ban, the BBC is discriminating against the non-religious, and thus giving the impression of promoting religion as the one source of ethics.’2

Although the producer of ‘Thought for Today’ refused to change the policy, BBC still wanted to give listeners a taste of a non-religious ‘Thought for the Day.’  So on 14 August, BBC’s ‘Today’ program asked Dawkins to give a three-minute ‘Thought for the Day’—an hour after the regular slot.

Dawkins used this opportunity to attack people’s ‘infantile’ belief in a Creator and to push an atheistic worldview, which he sees as the logical outgrowth of evolution.  He argued that evolution explains all of life without the need for ‘supernatural intervention,’ and with this knowledge humanity can ‘finally grow up and realize that there is no help for us outside our own efforts.’  The transcript follows: 

‘Good morning.  When a terrible disaster happens—an air crash, a flood or an earthquake, people thank God that it wasn’t worse.  But then, why did He let the earthquake happen at all?  Or even more childish and self-indulgent, “Thank you God for the traffic jam that made me miss that plane.”  But what about all the unfortunate people who didn’t miss the plane?

‘The same kind of infantile regression tempts us when we try to understand the natural world.  “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”  A pretty song, but an infantile explanation.  It’s too easy, lazy.  The moment we put a little effort into thinking about it, we realize that God the Creator is no explanation at all.  He constitutes a bigger question than He answers. 

‘Once we couldn’t do any better.  Humanity was still an infant.  But now we understand what makes earthquakes; we understand what made “trees,” not just oaks and redwoods with their underground root system like a huge upside-down tree. The arteries that leave the heart branch and branch again—like a tree.  (There are about fifty miles of blood vessels in a human body.)  Nerve cells, too, branch like trees.  They’re so numerous in the teeming forest of your brain that, if you stretch them end to end, they would reach right ’round the world twenty-five times.

‘In the face of such wonders, do you fall back, like a child, on God?  “It’s so wonderful, so complicated, only God could have done it.”  It’s tempting, isn’t it?  But it’s not a real explanation, not the kind of explanation that actually explains anything; and it’s nowhere near as poetic as the true explanation, because the beauty is that humanity has grown up.  We now know the true explanation.  It’s gloriously simple once you get it, and more wonderful than our forefathers could ever have imagined.

‘It makes use of yet another tree—the family tree of life.  It began with something smaller than a bacterium, and it branched and branched to give all the species that have ever lived, whether extinct like the dinosaurs, or still hanging on like our own.  Evolution really explains all of life, and it needs no supernatural intervention of any kind.

‘The adult response is to rejoice in the amazing privilege we enjoy.  We have been born, and we are going to die, but before we die, we have time to understand why we were ever born in the first place—time to understand the universe into which we have been born.  And with that understanding, we finally grow up and realize that there is no help for us outside our own efforts.

‘Humanity can now leave the cry-baby phase and finally come of age.  Now there’s a thought for more than just a day.’3

Throughout this debate, both the atheists and BBC have missed the main point—evolution is a religious viewpoint (see Q&A: Evolution is a religion).  Purporting to explain ‘all of life,’ evolution forms the basis for ‘modern’ human ethics.  While BBC radio quibbles about whether to include ‘atheists’ on a ‘religious’ program, it regularly invites a menagerie of Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and ‘Christian’ speakers who share Dawkin’s same evolutionary worldview and fail to give the true Biblical perspective on current issues, found in God’s Word, beginning in Genesis.

  1. For more on Dawkins, see ‘A Who’s Who of evolutionists’. For scientific refutations of Dawkins’ works, see:
  2. Atheist gives thought for the day, BBC News Web site, 14 August 2002.
  3. An atheist thought for the day, BBC Web site, 14 August 2002.