Thursday, March 09, 2006

(138) The TV programme called The Ghost in the Machine followed the next week by one leading to a loss of face for the Oxford academic

A Times leader from August 1992 commented that many biologists admit that neo-Darwinism has grave limitations, that the search for a better theory was now wide open and that the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sir David Attenborough "... may be assured that the search will make fascinating television."

I felt that it would too and, since nobody else seemed to be punting for such a programme, I decided I would have a go.

On 23rd July 1997, I met with the head of Red Door Productions, Trevor McCallum, to discuss a possible anti-Darwinian TV series.

Some of my doubts about neo-Darwinism are outlined in Entry 110, but such points hardly ever receive a public hearing.
Several times Trevor suggested calling it The Ghost in the Machine.
He was prompted both by the title of a Koestler book that I brought into the discussion and also because I had mentioned Sting as a possible presenter and told him that, in 1982, The Police had released a best-selling album of that title.

I also cited possible further evidence for anti-Darwinian sympathies in Sting choosing the title of Flexible Strategies for a little-known ‘B’ side to one of their singles.
This I took to be a reference to a term used by Koestler to describe how organisms may adapt and modify the means by which they evolve.

I was not convinced that an attempt to debunk Darwinism should have so overtly dualistic a title, and several times said so, even though Trevor remained quite stuck on the idea of calling it either that or something similar.
I preferred a title like that of Richard Milton’s anti-Darwinism book, The Facts of Life.

I had in mind perhaps an hour-long documentary, but he was certain that a mini-series of six half hour programmes would stand a better chance of acceptance from, perhaps, Channel 4 and thought that this should be followed with a seventh programme which would be a debate with the unhappy defenders of Darwin, e.g. one of the best known – Richard Dawkins, Reader in Zoology at Oxford University.

That evening I glanced at the TV guide page in the copy of The Daily Telegraph that I had purchased earlier that day, and indeed which I had been carrying when I met Trevor at the railway station in the morning, (although he had not seen it).

I noticed this at 8 p.m. on ITV:

INSPECTOR MORSE: The Last Enemy, rpt.
Originally shown in 1989 (appropriately enough it followed Ghost in the Machine, which was repeated last week), this Morse mystery features another legendary detective – Piet van der Valk, alias Barry Foster – in the supporting cast. The body of an academic is found floating in the canal. Could the intense rivalry over a prestigious position at an Oxford college have led to murder?

The floating corpse had been decapitated.
The Last Enemy is death itself. (See Entry 70.)

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