Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Brief History of Disbelief: Shadows of Doubt

I posted Sir Jonathan Miller’s BBC4 series “A Brief History of Disbelief” on a previous iteration of my blog and wanted to do so again here, but have refrained from doing so until now at the behest of someone who found it profoundly “depressing” for whatever reason. Well, tough. It’s too good to miss, and seeing as a lot of videos have a tendency to abruptly vanish for various reasons (copyright infringement, amongst other things), it seems a shame not to give it another viewing while it’s still available online. To quote from the fellow who uploaded it: “So few representatives of atheism provide a compelling and earnest account for unbelief, let alone with the lucidity and intellectual vigor of Jonathan Miller. He is sincere and moving in this attempt to explain and understand the origins of the truth of disbelief of religious superstition and faith.”

Miller is another one of those delightful polymaths that the Brits turn out with alarming regularity for some curious reason. Writer, satirist, physician, stage director, operatic impresario, philosopher and TV presenter… the man is quite wonderfully accomplished at everything he’s turned his hand to over the years. In this first episode called “Shadows of Doubt” Miller starts his journey in the wake of the absent Twin Towers to consider the religious implications of 9/11 and moves on to explore the first “unbelievers” in the ancient world before examining some of the modern theories about why people have always felt compelled to believe in mythology and magic.