Enemies of Reason
Enemies of Reason first appeared on British TV screens as a two part documentary, evidenced on the DVD by obvious breaks for commercials (which can get a bit tedious when watching a DVD) and the split between the two parts where information is restated in exactly the same way to start the second part.
Seen by most as a follow-up to The Root of all Evil? Which I have previously reviewed, this offering from Richard Dawkins will predictably be met by the lines of confirmation bias inherent in the viewer. Atheists and those such as me who are sceptical about things such as Astrology and the myriad of ‘alternative’ medicines and healing practices available will have a positive view of it and affirm the views proposed by Dawkins whilst those close to the subjects he addresses will more than likely dismiss it.
From a film perspective it is well made with good use of shots and even some very capable and well placed use of blue/green screen to give a sense of things such as the internet when it is being talked about. There were a couple of loose shots that seemed out of place, but overall it flowed well (aside from the breaks for commercials, which weren’t re-edited seamlessly for the DVD).
As a person with a slightly different world view from Richard Dawkins, being a Christian Minister, I would like to affirm most of the points made in this two part documentary. The lynch pin of the argument for me was the highlighting of the spurious connection made between MMR vaccinations and autism that has lead to the danger of the reintroduction of MMR purely because the media hyped up an unsubstantiated report linking and arguing that MMR vaccinations were and are resulting in autism amongst many children. Whilst this was shown to be unsubstantiated years ago, the myth persists and lives are put in danger because of it. We are facing the potential reintroduction of these debilitating health issues because of people’s understandable fear based on shoddy research.
This, in my view, more than almost anything else, highlighted the danger inherent in laying aside the scientific method when addressing health and medicine and listening to a media drunk on sensationalism. Dawkins does a good job of rightly critiquing the media in their approach to issues of health, inducing fear and also offering an almost uncritical free-ride to trendy alternative medicines, some of which are tax funded yet unproven as being anything truly effective.
A good segment of the documentary focussed on explaining the strength of the placebo effect and argued that this is essentially what most alternative methods of healing adequately provide and enhance, even if unknowingly.
One thing bugged me though, Dawkins went to great lengths to rightly point out the very real advances gained in medicine and even life, due to the rigors of the scientific method and noted that in the face of that, people are gravitating towards unproven alternatives in their droves, resulting in a multi billion dollar industry offering a myriad of strange healing methods, yet I don’t feel like an adequate portion of the documentary was focussed on the answer to why this is happening.
Enemies of Reason ventures into possible answers to this problem, blaming the media and pointing to the placebo effect etc, but it comes across as a bit flimsy. I would assert that the answer to this question will take us a long way to finding ways to draw people away from possible dangers that could be found in these alternatives. I would suggest that finding this answer will do a lot more to achieve the move away from the these alternatives that Dawkins would hope for, far better than criticising the alternatives themselves… not because I think those criticisms are invalid, far from it, I think he is often spot on, but more because such criticisms simply amount to sermons for the converted and at the end of the day, that’s all documentaries like The Root of All Evil? And Enemies of Reason will be – sermons for the converted.
Reviewed by: Frank Ritchie.
Rating: PG – Contains low level offensive language.
Duration: 60 mins.
Director: Russell Barnes.
Actors: Richard Dawkins.
Release Date: Out Now.