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.