The Guardian (England), Wednesday August 14, 2002
For the first time, an atheist has delivered an alternative Thought for the Day on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Oxford University’s professor for the public understanding of science, Richard Dawkins, used his two-and-a-half minute slot today to argue that science gave a better explanation of the wonders of life than religion.
His appearance came a day after a letter to BBC governors from more than 100 public figures demanded Thought for the Day be opened up to secular and atheist thinkers.
Thought for the Day has been part of the Radio 4 schedules for decades and the BBC is looking at ways of “refreshing” the slot, broadcast from Monday to Saturday during the Today programme.
But the series producer, Christine Morgan, today insisted this would not mean opening it up to non-religious voices.
She told Today: “This short strand is unique, offering a faith perspective within a news programme.
“If we include secular voices, we undermine the slot’s very distinctiveness.”
Unlike the rest of Today, Thought for the Day is made by the corporation’s religion and ethics department rather than news division.
Prof Dawkins’s broadcast did not replace the regular daily slot – provided today by columnist Anne Atkins – but ran an hour afterwards as an unofficial “Thought”.
In it, the atheist scientist argued the belief that God was responsible for the wonders of creation or could protect us from disasters like earthquakes or plane crashes was an “infantile regression”.
Prof Dawkins was one of 102 people who put their name to the letter to the BBC governors, drawn up by by the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society and the Rationalist Press Association.