Thursday, September 15, 2005

Evolution, Shmevolution, Part III

Other bloggers have beaten me to the punch, but I may as well throw in my two cents.

I liked installment three of the series. The opening segment by Ed Helms, about the evolution of the Hooter's restaurant chain, was amusing if not brilliant.

But then came Lewis Black, who showed clips of two of the more pathetic young-Earthers: Ken Ham and Kent Hovind. Black is always hilarious, and he did a good job here. He mostly let Ham hang himself with his own childish, idiotic words. But what I really liked was his discussion of Kent Hovind. Hovind is an especially odious figure in this debate, since he bills himself as Dr. Kent Hovind. As Black pointed out, calling himself Dr. suggests that he actually has a PhD in something. What he actually has is a mail order degree from an obscure Christian “college&rdquo. You can read more about him here.

Anyway, Black had the temerity to point out that this guy is basically a fraud pretending to possess credentials he doesn't have. In this he is different from just about every mainstream media outlet who has ever covered Hovind. Usually they write bemused but polite articles about Hovind's dinosaur “theme” park in Florida. Once again it takes a comedy show to point out the obvious.

Then came a panel discussion with Ed Larson, William Dembski and Ellie Crystal. It was a bad idea to do a panel discussion with such limited time; even when they have one guest the interviews are too short to really get deeply into anything. And I can't imagine where they found Ellie Crystal. Not only was she some moonbat New Ager, but she couldn't express herself coherently at all. After watching the interview I haven't the faintest idea what she thinks about anything.

Larson was good. He forthrighthly defended evolution, and since he was sitting next to Dembski it was good that he was a historian (and not a scientist).

But the best moments of the interview came in Stewart's exchanges with Dembski. There were two in particular. At one point Ellie Crystal attempted to explain how she thinks about these things. What she said made no sense at all. Stewart then turned to Dembski and asked, pointedly, “Why shouldn't that be taught?” Exactly right. Crystal wasn't saying anything dumber than what the ID folks say, and if “Teach the controversy” is to be the rallying cry there is no reason not to present her views in classrooms.

I have a feeling something got left on the cutting room floor at this point, because there was an awkward transition to a new topic.

The other excellent moment was when Stewart got Dembski to admit that his religious conversion came before his interest in ID. Given the format this was a damning admission. Stewart also pointed out that his impression of the ID folks was that most of them had a religious conversion before promoting their “science.” Again, exactly right.

I'm obviously highly biased when it comes to judging Dembski, so take this for what it is worth. Leaving aside the specifics of what was actually said, I thought Dembski came off as defensive and humorless. It's hard to imagine any fence-sitting Daily Show viewer came away with a favorable impression of him.

The final installment is tonight. According to the website the guest tonight is Gwynneth Paltrow. I suspect she won't be talking much about evolution.

So, overall I've been happy with the segments. They are orders of magnitude more accurate and more informative than most of the media coverage of this issue. The guests have been a big disappointment, however. Chris Mooney on Monday night was good, but otherwise it's been all downhill. Kurt Vonnegut had nothing to say, and the panel discussion was a mess. And why didn't they manage to book an actual scientist?


At 8:50 PM, Anonymous J. J. Ramsey said...

Dembski didn't look all that great, but it's not as if Jon Stewart got the better of him the way he got the better of Bernard Goldberg when he was trying to promote 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. He did come off as humorless, but he didn't strike me as even having much of an opportunity to get defensive.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Mateo said...

Because it's fake news maybe? This says a lot about the current state of news coverage when you have to turn to a comedy show for informative news, and are disappointing when it isn't quite as informative as you had hoped.

At 5:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave S.

I think the "Why shouldn't that be taught?" remark was directed at Larsen, not Dembski. At least it was Larsen who spoke next. It was a good question, and in such a format, if you can get in one or two good points, that's about all you can expect.

I haven't a clue why the New Ager was there, other than to demonstrate that there are not just two sides and to redress the gender imbalance. She said absolutely nothing remotely coherent and the others rightly ignored her. Dembski looked very reasoned in comparison, although I'd ask him if we could conclude that since the face on Mt. Rushmore gives the appearance of being Teddy Roosevelt, that that is because it is Teddy Roosevelt.

I'm looking forward to Miss Paltrow's views on punctuated equilibrium (I have it taped from last night).

At 3:05 PM, Blogger tgibbs said...

I liked the inclusion of the new ager. I think it was a subtle (at least for the Daily Show) of bringing up the "where do we draw the line?" issue. Once you start insisting that science classes give serious consideration to fringe notions, where do you stop?

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Garth said...

I'm sure you saw or heard about the Kansas school board panel discussion where the evolutionists basically boycotted the discussion and let the ID folk have center stage. Not the best presentation, but still those scientists who didn't participate missed a good opportunity to dialog. But maybe that's their point, they don't believe this discussion should even be taking place. Well, as a person of faith, I would disagree. Even wrote a short post about this theme at Brokenmasterpieces. Thanks for your comments. GT

At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kitchen promotional productsonline signature
This says a lot about the current state of news coverage when you have to turn to a comedy show for informative news, and are disappointing when it isn't quite as informative as you had hoped.


Post a Comment

<< Home