God: the video
This is an opportunity to repeat my favourite taxi driver story. "I had that Bertrand Russell in the back of my cab once. 'Bert!' I said. 'What's it all about?' And do you know he couldn't tell me!" Which neatly summarises the whole of this excellent video. Devised by Russell Stannard, Professor of Physics at the Open University, it fearlessly and open mindedly jumps to the basic question of whether science has all the answers or whether there is still some space left for faith and belief.
It actually consists of four separate, though related, programmes. "Beginning at the Beginning?" looks at creation, the Big Bang, and the awesome nature of the universe and time.
"The Origins of Life?" is a debate about evolution. "Miracles?" deals with the biblical miracles as well as modern healing experiences. And "Science Rules Supreme?" considers whether there is 'another kind of knowledge", to do with emotions and consciousness itself, that lies outside the orbit of conventional science. There are plenty of talking heads - scientists, clergy, lay questioners - but interspersed film keeps the interest alive.
As the titles suggest, the aim throughout is to raise questions rather than to preach. And although, unsurprisingly given the production's origins, it leans towards the existence of a benevolent God, this is a conclusion which is not hammered home, but allowed to emerge as a consensus from the views of the various interviewees, some of whom - notably Richard Dawkins - are well known as evangelical atheists.
Many teachers, frankly, find themselves floundering when thoughtful students press them hard on the fundamental questions of existence. For them, this production (which is supported by an excellent booklet) will provide a useful way into the debate.
Although aimed at pupils over 13, some parts could provide a real challenge for a science A-level group.