Offended in Dundee

How to get into the newspapers: say something fatuous and self-regarding and preeningly righteous.

Second-year dental student Emily Mackie said the university’s decision to call its inaugural Dundee Christmas Lecture “Why Evolution is Right … and Creationism is Wrong” is badly timed and insensitive to Christians.

And this makes it into a newspaper because…nothing ever happens in Dundee? Too chilly up there is it?

But since it did make it into a newspaper, I can’t resist looking at it.

The lecture is being given by Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College, London, who claims that all biologists support the theory of evolution and that “intelligent design”—the belief that life was created as part of a divine plan—is wrong.

He ‘claims’ that, does he? Goes right out on a limb and claims that? Imagine. (Steve Jones wrote a little something for B&W once you know – he contributed to the group article on the decision in the Kitzmiller case. ‘Up the Joneses,’ he said, amusingly, celebrating Judge John Jones, Bush appointee and sensible judge.)

Miss Mackie, who is also a member of Dundee University’s Christian Union—reckons the lecture will create divisions rather than bring the community together. She said, “I appreciate that the role of a university is to encourage academic debate on a wide range of sometimes controversial issues. However, as a Christian I am offended that the lecture purporting to coincide with such an important Christian festival has so clearly been chosen to antagonise Christians.

‘As a Christian I am offended’ – there’s one of the worst, most repellent formulas in the discourse of complaint we have today – but boy is it popular. Variations of it were all over Nova’s ‘Judgment Day’: one stalwart citizen of Dover after another talking about being offended. I think that was the first thing the awful Bill Buckingham said – ‘I am personally offended by evolution because the Bible etc etc etc’ – the ‘personally’ was a nice annoying touch. So you’re ‘personally’ offended by reality, so what! The world doesn’t revolve around you, so suck it up.

And by the way the ‘such an important Christian festival’ is codswallop, as Mackie ought to know. It’s an important shopping and eating and air travel festival, it’s not genuinely Christian at all; it has nothing real to do with Christianity (surely she’s heard about the ancient solstice festival?), so she has even less business being offended.

“I also feel that the lecture title allows no scope for a balanced debate on the subject. I call on the university to take a moral stand and choose a new title which better reflects the celebration of the birth of Christ.”

What would that be? “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus: Why Evolution is Right … and Creationism is Wrong”?

Dundee University said its decision to book Professor Jones for its Christmas lecture was “opportunistic” as he is a highly sought after speaker who could only be available at this time…“However, I would deny that we have put opportunism over sensitivity as I think this will provide an opportunity for all sides of the argument to be aired.”

That’s another one – it’s like the mirror-image of ‘offended.’ It’s what you’re supposed to run to the closet and fetch when someone is offended – sensitivity. They’re a co-dependent couple, those two words. Offended and sensitivity; they’re like egg and chips, apple and pears, Ben and Jerry’s. But all the same, there is something very stomach-turning about the idea that a university is supposed to deploy ‘sensitivity’ about the organ of offendedness in godbothering students when planning its lectures on academic subjects.

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