The BBC Big Questions, a too familiar showcase of ineffectualness


By Jerome Finch

If you’re unfamiliar with The BBC Big Questions, click on the link below and view the episode within.

The Big Questions: Is there a God?

First and foremost, I must warn you that I am about to attack the BBC. Something that I have to do with a heavy heart, but nonetheless something I deem necessary with regards to this topic. Specifically, my issue is with the popular Sunday morning topical debate show here in the UK, The Big Questions. Ostensibly, one would assume that the BBC has attempted to construct a show that enforces neutrality, where different people from different segments of society come together and thrash out their differences in ideologies, with an emphasis on religion. A great idea, one would assume.

I am personally an agnostic, and I share the views of Buddha when it comes to debating the origins of the universe: it’s trivial and unnecessary to do so. With so many hypothetical dilemmas – and with “faith” as the trump card for any scientific debate – I have given up this aspect of debating, particularly with people whom completely rely on the structures of organised religion. The inevitable, unconvincing ‘conclusions’ from the debates leave too much to be desired.

Here, however, the fault is with The Big Questions. Firstly, they spend a ridiculous amount of time debating subjects that have already been thoroughly discussed and interviewing people that should not be given airtime in the first place. Nothing is achieved for the greater good. Furthermore, the show has the opportunity – the platform, the audience and the finances – to do something that little more effecting for society; even if that’s delving into more relevant topics.

Nicky Campbell, the presenter of the shower, is very prone to asking such questions to evangelical Christians: “Do you believe in the literal virgin birth?” The air time for this ridiculous question, funded at the licence payers’ expense (that’s the closest I will go with Daily Mail clichés), is infuriating. It is impossible for a woman to get impregnated without a sperm fertilising an egg. Humans are not asexual. We are uninterested in what this misinformed character has to say.

When half of the audience raises their hands in response to the question “Do you literally believe in angels?” you know there is something wrong. Unless you’re a Christian, significantly less than half of the people you know would share that view. (By the way, the vast majority of that debate was dominated by an Irish Christian who claimed she saw an angel – what has anyone gained from that?)

On the other hand, I can see how such a show can be beneficial to the public, whom may be uneducated or interested with respect to the show’s debates. Many can develop an opinion for themselves on topical issues if given the chance through such a big television network. Indeed, there are too many that are apathetic or ignorant on key, underlying issues. But with all this in mind, surely the people on the show should be more diverse in their thoughts, more active in pursuing what is necessary to make a change and more representative of our country? Often there are journalists and professionals in attendance, but little in inspirational characters willing to pursue an actual change.

Another example of the show’s flaws was when they invited an Islamic extremist on the show only to vent about his hatred for the Western world. This does no good whatsoever and only leads to the British public having an ill-informed view of Islam within the UK; thus making life for the average British Muslim that little bit tougher than it currently is.

Essentially The Big Questions is way off the mark and frankly, as entertaining as it is, I find the show pointless. Instead, I suggest local members of different ethnic and social groups in the same geographical area to come together and ask questions on the local agenda, in the hope of improving the neighbourhood. Moreover, they could communally develop strategies on how people with alternative viewpoints can be tolerant (and desirably accepting) of others – possibly through free education in local schools or group activities in village halls, instead of paying for these inadequate debates. This would obviously not be as entertaining, so sadly I feel like The Big Questions may come back for another series and continue to be as divisive as it ever was.

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