Last Night's TV: The Genius of Charles Darwin, Channel 4; I'm Kylie's Body Double, BBC 3

It is a very strange thing, the way in which the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has come to resemble that which he most despises. There is something almost biblical in the desire of this high-profile hard-rationalist to smite the unbelievers, and remove them from the face of the earth, using the implacable power of science and reason. God knows, as he wouldn't say himself, how we'd manage without the chap.

Dawkins's latest assault on the feeble-minded came last night in the first episode of The Genius of Charles Darwin, a series about the naturalist and his influence. In expressing the overwhelming nature of his admiration for Darwin and his genius in constructing his theory of evolution, Dawkins left the viewer with the impression that he had no reason to believe in God because Darwin was his prophet instead. Dawkins did well in his role as writer and presenter to remain as placid as he did, given his well-known impatience with humans who still believe in such superstitious nonsense as God. Certainly, though, he set his stall out unequivocally.

Early on in the programme, he visited a group of schoolchildren, whose stubborn belief in the religious values with which they'd been brought up, was just the sort of thing that Dawkins finds intensely irritating. The aim was to educate them out of their wilful ignorance, an ignorance he subtly laid at the door of their families, their schools, and a general culture that is just too damned tolerant of loony investment in fairy stories. In his efforts to burst their superstitious bubble, he even took his class to the Jurassic Coast in south-west England, so that the children could find fossils for themselves, and become personally involved in the adventure of scientific discovery. Dawkins's own belief in the transformative power of science is touching.

These children, some of whom looked mutinously distrustful of Dawkins, and his declarations that evolutionary theory has made a mockery of the Bible, appeared only in three short segments of the first episode. But even during their own brief intellectual journey, they illustrated exactly the problem Dawkins faces. Mostly, after his explanations of Darwin's theories, and his elucidations on how, ever since, each new scientific discovery has only bolstered and strengthened those theories, they accepted what he had told them. They were reluctant, however, to stop believing in God just because they believed in Darwin.

Like some of the most intelligent adults – even though research shows that the more intelligent you are the less likely you are to believe in God – the children found little problem with believing in more than one thing at once, even when glaring contradictions arose. For Dawkins, such a duality is unacceptable. He is absolutely amazed that four out of 10 Britons still believe, in some form or another, that God created the world. Yet he never stops himself to wonder why, if natural selection really does ensure the survival of the fittest, and if belief in God really is such a burden on humanity, he shouldn't just sit back secure in the knowledge that evolution will fix the problem in time.

Dawkins, for such an enthusiastic Darwinist, seems to have no faith at all in social Darwinism, or in the possibility that humans might in all cultures have organised themselves around a unifying belief system simply because there is an adaptive advantage in maintaining networks that inject social capital into societies. What became clear during this first programme was that Dawkins is not only a rationalist but is also a literalist. Even deeply religious Christians are happy to consider the Bible to be metaphorical rather than narrative. But he cannot do so. He sticks rigidly to the idea that since the Bible describes the world beginning 6,000 years ago, when really life began four million years ago, God can't exist.

Of necessity, because it was pitched at a family audience of non-scientists, the first episode of the series was highly simplistic, a whistle-stop tour of first principles. The series should become more interesting as it progresses. The worry is that Dawkins is too close-minded to be the ideal person to illuminate this material. He may find religion absurd, but Darwin did not. He was deeply worried at the impact on Christians that his researches and their conclusions would have, and far from sharing Dawkins's impatience, he might now even wonder if perhaps the impact of his discoveries has been too fast and too furious. He was a far wiser man than Dawkins.

Mind you, the content of I'm Kylie's Body Double did make me wonder if natural selection might be on the brink of collapse, anyway. Rachael, the titular body model, was just off to the surgeon to have a previous breast job fixed, and was going up a size while she was there. She also wanted a bit of lipo on her perfecly lovely bottom. It's all going to play havoc with mating, this stuff, if it hasn't already. Then, a photographer called Simian came along, his unusually spelt name so arrestingly evolutionary that you could only shudder at quite how much Darwin might be spinning in his grave.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015