Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exposing Themselves

If you've linked to any stories lately on NPR's website you'll know that they heavily advertised Ben Stein's cinematic misinformation, Expelled. This has justifiably raised a few eyebrows - and hackles. For a thorough debunking of Stein's anti-science, religious-right, dishonest movie visit the Expelled Exposed website.

It's bad enough that NPR makes money airing such slimy advertising, but they take it to the next level Tuesday morning with Greg Allen reporting on the Florida legislature which has passed a creationism bill for its public schools. NPR's report is a disgrace, from it's web title "Bill Lets Fla. Schools Teach Evolution Alternatives" (name one legitimate alternative!) to the overwhelming pro-creationist content of the report. As the late Stephen Jay Gould lamented back in 1981 (!) - must this utterly bankrupt, non-scientific fraud of creationism be taken seriously again and again - and yet again?

Renee Montagne sets the frame for the piece, stating that "the Florida legislature has been considering evolution...passed bills that would allow or require teachers to present alternate theories of how life evolved. Proponents say at issue is academic freedom, critics say the bills would introduce religion into public schools." It just kills me to see the two "sides" of this issue held up as if they deserve equal credibility and respect. NPR also just accepts -and uses!- the far right's fraudulent terms of "academic freedom" and reports as if there exist legitimate scientific "alternate theories" of evolution.

Greg Allen's coverage of the Florida bills gives brief time to Democratic critics, but the bulk of his report is filled with advocates for junk science. We hear frequently from Republican state representative Allen Hays. Including a soundbite of Hays boldly asking, 'What are you afraid of? Are you afraid our students are going to learn how to critically analyze a theory.'

Allen tells us that "the bill passed by a wide margin in Florida's house on Monday. It requires teachers to provide their students with quote 'a thorough presentation and scientific critical analysis of the theory of evolution.'" Informing the public would require a serious journalist to seek out and include representatives of the scientific community who would note that the actual "scientific, critical analysis" of evolution is exactly what has established it as the only scientifically accepted theory of life's development, diversity and dynamism.

Instead of seeking scientific opinions, Allen presents "one of those pleased by yesterday's vote was John West of the Discovery Institute, that's a group based in Seattle that promotes intelligent design and has long worked to raise questions about evolution. West says Discovery has written model legislation on this issue of academic freedom for states to consider." We hear West speaking about how 'that model legislation certainly has influenced debates in various states and in the senate version of the Florida bill, parts of it were adapted from this model language.' " Apparently on NPR, any group of far-right, anti-intellectuals who have money and and clout are treated as a legitimate voice for "academic freedom," and are given unchallenged air time to promote their cause.

Sadly, Allen's not done serving the anti-science lobby. His next act is to embed a commercial for the movie Expelled into his report. He states that "similar bills are also being considered in Louisiana and Missouri. In Florida the precipitating factor was the adoption, earlier this year of science standards for public schools that for the first time mentioned evolution. And as that idea was being discussed in Tallahassee a new film came to town." This is followed seamlessly by an audio trailer for the movie - complete with a music track, sound effects and voiceovers:
'I made a movie.' 'Join Ben Stein in this year's most controversial documentary film.' 'If they value their careers they keep quiet about their intelligent design views.'
Then it's right back to Allen reporting that "the sponsor of the bill in the house, Helen Hays, was one of the legislators who attended a private screening of Expelled, a movie by conservative economist and social critic, Ben Stein. Hays says if people wonder if there's a scientific controversy about the teaching of evolution they should see the film." How nice of Allen and his sound editors to include that little plug of "they should see the film."

The irony of NPR running this fundamentalist-friendly coverage as news and then later in the show having Steve Inskeep scoffing at Iran's top prosecutor warning against the influence of "western" toys is priceless. Hard to see what's so funny for smug Inskeep since NPR has no problem with religious fundamentalism - as long as it's of the "christian" variety.

ASSIGNMENT ALERT: I have a little homework for the nitwits at NPR who were involved in producing and airing this report. Go online and read (for free!) the book Science, Education and Creationism before you produce your next piece on the religious right's assaults on education. I realize it might offend your dutiful commitment to giving equal time (and more) to any right-wing position regardless how unfounded and spurious it is, and yes, I know it the book is produced by those wacky, partisan folks from "The National Academies Press (NAP) was created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States" - but it will do you good to expose yourself to what the nutty scientific community actually thinks...however difficult and painful this might be for you.

17 comments:

Meghan said...

My east german husband says this is the kind of stuff that his and his parents (both middle class german engineers) generation look at and think many Americans have serious psychological problems, and that its dangerous that a country like this holds such political, economic, and cultural leadership the world.
Oh mein Gott!

big!pink!fuzzy!bunny! said...

Oh, Myt - nitwits don't even bother to read, let alone ones such as they who are all so nice, docile and cozy in their denial-fortified ivory tower to pay any heed to your earnest firebrands. Sadly.

Anonymous said...

Thank "God" people like the ones at this blog call B.S. on the garbage that comes from NPR. Keep up the great work!

War On War Off said...

Heard that Yoko Ono was suing Stein for using "Imagine" in the film. Go Yoko!

Porter Melmoth said...

BushCorp loves this kind of stuff: so they can divide and rule.

Anonymous said...

Nationalist Propaganda Radio's promotion of that creationist superstition is linked to military recruiting.

50% of recruits still come from the slave states and God Talk reinforces both American exceptionalism and the Crusades for Oil.

American war is marketed religious war, the forces of God vs Evildoers and heretics.

The same week that Ben Stein's nonsense movie came out there was another one released about a college professor who is a pathetic loser.

My my. What coincidence.
CIA-Hollywood's main task since WWII has been to reinforce military recruiting memes.

Expect lots more of it because recruiting goals have been kicked up.

JackC said...

I have been thinking lately that we need to respond - loudly and clearly - to this "What are they arfaid of??" comment with something like the following:

We are afraid that our students will ENTIRELY FAIL to critically analyse the information - because that is what you are asking them to do. You are asking that they ENTIRELY FAIL to examine the present evidence and instead, take a 'faith-based' approach for which there is a single reference, itself having no solid referential validity.

It is this, and this alone that we are "afraid" of - though "Aghast at" might be more appropriate a term.

Anyone with me on that?

JC

Blake Stacey said...

"...John West of the Discovery Institute, that's a group based in Seattle that promotes intelligent design and has long worked to raise questions about evolution."

Wait a second, that doesn't sound quite right. How about this:

"...John West of the Discovery Institute, that's a group based in Seattle that rapes science education in this country with a mace dipped in burning stupid."

There. Fixed it for you.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear about this argument, I always wonder what the reaction would be if a bill was passed that lets teachers educate their students in 'alternative theories' on the Holocaust.

Like the ridiculous (not to mention vulgar) belief that it never happened...

Liberality said...

Who in blue blazes is running the show there at NPR? It's got to be a neo-con friend indeed.

Jimmy Dean said...

Hey, Liberality, ever hear of Kevin Klose, NPR's President?

"Prior to joining NPR in December 1998, Klose served successively as director of U.S. international broadcasting, overseeing the United States Government's global radio and television news services (1997-98); and president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), broadcasting to Central Europe and the former Soviet Union (1994-97). Klose first joined RFE/RL in 1992 as director of Radio Liberty, broadcasting to the former Soviet Union in its national languages.

As RFE/RL president, Klose radically downsized RFE/RL and moved it from Munich, Germany, to Prague, the Czech Republic. He also helped devise and implement a strategy to coordinate all U.S.-funded international broadcasting (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio/TV Marti, Worldnet Television) to save money, refocus the mission, and modernize operations in the post-Cold War."

There you have it. Klose was a propagandist for the US who directed RFE/RL.

NPR is Radio Marti for the Gringos.

End of story.

big!pink!fuzzy!bunny! said...

Well, ain't that tasty, JD?

They DO protect their own.

Liberality said...

I was being sarcastic but I apprieciate the answer. I remember the uproar when this neocon thug took over. And he has taken over!

Anonymous said...

Just love people like Blake Stacey - he quotes a reference to the Discovery Institute, turns it into an ad hominem attack, and then feels good about himself. Why not try this - if the DI asks questions about evolution, why don't you try ANSWERING THEM? If your billions-of-years, goo-to-you-by-way-of-the-zoo positions are true, shouldn't they be able to withstand a little real scientific examination by scientists who don't buy it hook, line, and sinker?

ConcernedEducator said...

I've called them out - and until recently I was a SUPPORTER of NPR!

My latest comment in the article forum:
Since NPR gave airtime to a Creationist, will they give equal time to a member of the Flat Earth Society? Or a Pastafarian (follower of the FSM)?

The Pastafarian's view is JUST AS VALID as the creationist's...as is the Flat Earth Society's...not to mention the Church of the IPU(Invisible Pink Unicorn)!

NPR already abandoned any semblance of journalistic integrity with THIS article...so when will these interviews be taking place? I volunteer to be the Pastafarian!

ConcernedEducator said...

I've proactively taken some steps to face down these ID/creationists once and for all.

Just 2 days ago I "debated" a fellow from the Discovery Institute named Karl Priest - the transript is here:
http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,119,Why-I-Wont-Debate-Creationists,Richard-Dawkins,page1#343559

He fled like a kicked mongrel.

I'm the duck avatar...I picked it because Karl Priests public email is THEINSECTMAN@aol.com...and ducks eat insects for breakfast. ;)

Martin J Sallberg said...

Yes, creationism is bullshit. Intelligent design is also bullshit insofar it is used as a covert term for creationism (as opposed to definitional hair-splitting). There is no real controversy about whether or not evolution happened. Thre are, however, scientific evidence that evolution is really driven by something other than differential reproductive success. See the topic page "Evolution" at Pure science Wiki, http://purescience.wikia.com