David Attenborough and the Botherers of God

I was going to write about this, but I was too lazy to look for an English-language source. Luckily, Martin Wisse has been more dilligent:

Dutch broadcaster censors DavidRichard David Attenborough on evolution:

The Dutch public broadcaster EO (Evangelische Omroep/Evangelical Broadcaster) has a reputation to uphold when it comes to broadcasting quality wildlife documentaries, both their own as well as series they’ve bought from other broadcasters like the BBC. One series they recently broadcasted was David Attenborough’s excellent (as per usual) Life of Mammals. However, something strange has happened with that series when it crossed the Channel: for some reason the Dutch version only has nine episodes, while the original has ten –and that’s not the only difference.

It turns out that the EO has deliberately removed all references to evolution from the series, as demonstrated by the three videos below. Which is not too surprising, considering the EO is after all a fundamentalist Christian broadcaster and adhers to the doctrine of the literal truth of the bible. What exactly the EO has censored in Attenborough’s series is now documented in several youtube movies, uploaded by somebody called Odurodon…

If the EO had problems with the views expressed in Life of Mammals, they should either have declined to broadcast it or put in disclaimers at the start of the programme, not censor it. That they have done so shows a lack of intellectual integrity worrisome in a public broadcaster. Especially since they are using public funds to do this.

I’m actually a bit disappointed by this. In the past decade, journalistic standards at the EO have actually improved considerably (i.e. they now have people working for them who are journalists as well as foreign correspondents who understand the languages of the places they’re posted to), and while they continue to lie on hot-button issues such as abortion, they have come a long way since the days when they classed dinosaurs with fairytale animals in their quiz shows. This may sound like I’m damning them with faint praise but ten years ago I’d have been damning them with profanity on a regular basis. And now this.

I wonder how much of a culture war is going on internally within the EO. I can imagine that the actual journalists and the people who did the Vincent Bijlo interview (several years ago, Christian comedian Bijlo was interviewed about his anti-evolution song, clearly in the hope that they would get a quotable statement out of him about evolution being wrong. What he actually said was that evolution was silly and absurd, just like gravity, and that he didn’t see the point in either. The interview was kept) aren’t too pleased about cutting up documentaries from such a respected director as Attenborough.

What disappoints me most, though, is that according to the news reports, the BBC allowed this butchering of their work. For shame, BBC!

More on this (in Dutch), on Evolutie which gives a full transcript of the changes in the first two episodes of the series, and brings home just how disgraceful the BBC’s collusion is: by selling exclusive rights to the series to a broadcaster that cuts out references to evolution, they have effectively prevented the uncut series being shown by another broadcaster. That way, the EO can effectively censor the series for the general public.

Update: It was David after all. Not Richard. I had it right to start with, then corrected it wrong. It should be correct now. I’m just glad the Dimbleby family didn’t spawn a famous nature documentary maker.