Thursday, September 16, 2004

PBS Series

So I watched the first installment of the PBS show "The Question of God" last night. Very interesting, as I expected.

I disliked certain elements, though. Whoever produced the program was evidently afraid that most people won't tolerate something that is too cerebral. So they decided to have modern actors recreate little vignettes of both Freud and Lewis, as both adults and children. Thus, when the narrator discusses an incident from Lewis's boyhood, a child actor portrays what supposedly happened. And at various points, the actors playing the adult Freud and Lewis deliver soliloquies into the camera. I found all of this distracting and intrusive.

Armand Nicholi, the Harvard psychiatrist whose own work on Freud vs. Lewis is the premise of the program, is intermittently featured conducting a seminar of sorts. He asks various theological questions of a group of people sitting around a table, and the discussion proceeds from there. But the discussion is uneven in quality, as are the participants.

At one point, for example, Michael Shermer and Dr. Frederick Lee begin to have an interesting discussion on the nature of miracles and scientific investigation. Dr. Lee says that he believes in the possibility of miracles, and then Shermer asks whether Lee is curious as to how the Resurrection would have happened. Lee says yes, and then Shermer follows up with this question:
Once you've tried to understand the forces by which God intervened into this system from outside this system, you're just back in the system again, looking for natural causes. God used some electromagnetic force to tweak the genome, to restart the heart, to whatever. If that's what you're doing, then you're just doing science. And the only other choice is, you just say, "beats me, it's a miracle." I give up.
An interesting (although possibly misguided) point, and it would have been nice to hear Dr. Lee's answer. Instead, the camera immediately shifts to another participant -- noted as a "Jungian analyst" -- whose comment was a complete change of subject:
Well, there are a few other answers to that throughout history. I mean, well, one of the classic theological answers is that God's time is not in any way connected to human time and that therefore, God can break in to human time, at any point, at any time, and does, so that God is infant in the manger, and God is reigning on the cross, and God is dead and alive. God is not confined by human history, human time, and it's just as reasonable, if we're going to stay with, you know, qualifying things by reason, to assume that God can have God's own time, and not be controlled by us, or confined by, you know, our little, limited consciousness.
Now maybe this is the fault of the editors splicing in a different part of the discussion. But as it was broadcast, it looked the Jungian didn't understand the question about science vs. miracles, and was just jumping in with a complete irrelevancy about the nature of time.

But I'm just being nitpicky. Still definitely worth watching (the second installment is next Wednesday, I believe).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For an atheist, Shermer has a very clear notion of the hypothetical God that all theists believe in. It's such a straw man, I can't believe he wasn't criticized for it.

4:37 PM  
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1:12 PM  

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