In September 1997, I allowed an Australian film crew into my house in Oxford without realising that their purpose was creationist propaganda. In the course of a suspiciously amateurish interview, they issued a truculent challenge to me to “give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome.” It is the kind of question only a creationist would ask in that way, and it was at this point I tumbled to the fact that I had been duped into granting an interview to creationists — a thing I normally don’t do, for good reasons. In my anger I refused to discuss the question further, and told them to stop the camera. However, I eventually withdrew my peremptory termination of the interview as a whole. This was solely because they pleaded with me that they had come all the way from Australia specifically in order to interview me. Even if this was a considerable exaggeration, it seemed, on reflection, ungenerous to tear up the legal release form and throw them out. I therefore relented.
My generosity was rewarded in a fashion that anyone familiar with fundamentalist tactics might have predicted. When I eventually saw the film a year later 1, I found that it had been edited to give the false impression that I was incapable of answering the question about information content 2. In fairness, this may not have been quite as intentionally deceitful as it sounds. You have to understand that these people really believe that their question cannot be answered! Pathetic as it sounds, their entire journey from Australia seems to have been a quest to film an evolutionist failing to answer it.
With hindsight — given that I had been suckered into admitting them into my house in the first place — it might have been wiser simply to answer the question. But I like to be understood whenever I open my mouth — I have a horror of blinding people with science — and this was not a question that could be answered in a soundbite. First you first have to explain the technical meaning of “information”. Then the relevance to evolution, too, is complicated — not really difficult but it takes time. Rather than engage now in further recriminations and disputes about exactly what happened at the time of the interview (for, to be fair, I should say that the Australian producer’s memory of events seems to differ from mine), I shall try to redress the matter now in constructive fashion by answering the original question, the “Information Challenge”, at adequate length — the sort of length you can achieve in a proper article.
It is no secret that people have long protested not only the Harry Potter books but the movies as well. Many of those people who protest do so with their religious conviction in mind. Back in 1999, an Associated Press writer reported that a group of parents wanted the books kept from classrooms.
One parent, Elizabeth Mounce, was quoted as saying, “‘The books have a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil.'” At the time, the school principal, Jerry Locke, asked teachers to stop reading the books in classrooms until the issue was resolved. He said, “‘It’s questionable whether every parent wants their child to read or be exposed to books having to do with magic and wizardry.'”
Back in late 2002, there reportedly was an Anti-Harry Potter Conference in Lewiston, Maine. About 100 people attended to watch a minister cut up a copy of a Harry Potter book. They also watched a film that drew parallels between Harry Potter and “‘real'” witchcraft. The minister, Rev. Douglas Taylor, said, “‘I’m against Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz. I’m against any kind of movie or book that has a kind of magical or cultish theme to it.'” (Ahem, what about the Bible?)
Back in 2006, in Atlanta, Laura Mallory was said to think that “Harry Potter [was] something far more sinister than a fictional character.” It was also reported that “as far as [she] is concerned, the books help foster the kind of culture where school shootings take place. She believes that wouldn’t happen if students were reading the Bible instead.” (Has she actually read the Bible? It is rich with violence!)
So, the detest for anything Harry Potter has been well established here in the states. But, now, it seems, religious folk may have yet another reason to hate Harry Potter if all their other reasons weren’t enough. At least Daniel Radcliffe thinks they might.
Though many people have suspected that Daniel Radcliffe is an atheist for some time now, he confirmed it in an interview with Esquire according to a report published on the Telegraph Web site. The Harry Potter star said:
I’m an atheist, but I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do. Anything he does on television, I will watch.
He went on to say jokingly:
There we go, Dan, that’s half of America that’s not going to see the next Harry Potter film on the back of that comment.