Credit where it's due: Giles Fraser played a blinder on the Today programme. He was arguing with Richard Dawkins over the true definition of a Christian. People who identify as Christians don't really know what they're talking about, implied the biologist. "A majority of them don't seem to be truly Christian in the sense that they don't believe what Christianity teaches," he said. "Many of them don't go to church, they don't read the bible – an astonishing number couldn't identify the first book of the New Testament… they just tick the Christian box."
All of which made him sound like a strict Mother Superior telling off her novices. But it was then that Giles Fraser pulled a fast one. "If I said to you what is the full title of the Origin of Species," he said, "I'm sure you could tell me that." Dawkins really did try – you could almost hear the wobbling jowl – but he simply couldn't. "On the Origin of Species… er… with, oh God… [laughter]… On the Origin of Species… um… there is, there is a subtitle… with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the f-f-fight… in the struggle for life."
So the High Priest of Darwinism doesn't know the title of his own secular bible. Fraser had won: if people self-identify as Christians, he said, who are you to tell them otherwise?
The Origin of Species
is well over a century out of date, it's of more value as a 19th century travelogue of historical interest than a text of any scientific value in this day and age. I would actually be quite concerned if the Origin of Species
was the book biologists stayed up at night reading.
Most people understand that as we encounter new experiences our knowledge grows and ideas change, academic texts become obsolete for anything but the study of history.
But if you want to play this game, forget the name of the first book of the New Testament, how about a more equitable question, without looking it up, what's the subtitle to the original KJV Bible? Can you even give me a brief description of what's on the cover page? To be fair, while I could have answered the latter question, there's no way I would have known the former without looking it up.