I made the same sorts of remarks on Ed's blog that I have already made here, mostly having to do with the fact that "Judgment Day" was not a balanced presentation of the issue of evolution and Intelligent Design. There was the usual rude ad hominem attacks here and there that plague the blogosphere, but most were pretty much to the point. Ed's responses were reasonable, so I wanted to respond to a couple of points he made.
Here was his response to one of my posts:
There is no doubt that the producers of the show were biased toward the evolution side, nor that the dramatizations portrayed the other side in a bad light (though in many cases, that was quite justifiable - reality paints them in a bad light). But here's the only question that really matters, I think: was there any claim made that was untrue? I don't care whether one side got a rebuttal while the other didn't, I wanna know if the rebuttal was true and accurate or not.Unlike a few of the program's defenders, Ed is intellectually honest enough to admit the obvious bias in the program, but argues that the bias is irrelevant and that the only thing that matters is the accuracy of what was presented.
Now I've already said that, from PBS's perspective, I think it has an obligation to be impartial. But I think the biggest problem with Ed's position is that it basically assumes what it is trying to prove. It basically amounts to saying, "Since evolution is true, a treatment that assumes that it is true, no matter how biased it is, is perfectly acceptable." Lack of balance is okay, as I have said before, if it is for a good cause.
Well, that may be acceptable to the people who already accept Ed's position, but the question is why it should be convincing to those to whom it is presumably directed: those who haven't made up their minds yet, and who are wanting to see a fair argument between the two positions so they can make up their own minds on the basis of the best arguments on both sides.
It seems to me colossally arrogant for anyone advocating a position to say that the other side just doesn't deserve to be treated fairly because they're wrong. That kind of arrogance makes me doubt the rest of what they think. And it this kind of arrogance that turns not a few people off to the Darwinist position.
It may be correct to say that what the program as presented was accurate (although I seriously doubt it), but what if PBS put together a pro-ID documentary that was technically accurate, even by the admission of its opponents, but so deficient in its presentation of the Darwinist position, and so biased against Darwinism that it gave the impression that ID was the more reasonable position? And suppose further that the program billed itself as "educational", and gave no hint in its promotional material that was in any way unbalanced or polemical in nature?
Can you imagine the outcry over at places like Dispatches from the Culture Wars? And can you see them being mollified by the argument that, since ID was true, the program was justified in being unbalanced?
Didn't think so.
Yo, Ed, this is a debate. People expect debates to be fair.
If the Darwinists want to convince the general public, they'd be get their noses out from up in the air and their feet back on the ground.
One of the posters on Ed's blog, Troublesome Frog (obviously not his real name, although if I were to find out he was from one of certain parts of my state, it would not be out of the question) brought up another point related to this:
Of course, it's also worth remembering that this documentary was less of an in-depth examination of ID vs evolution than it was a retelling of exactly how the ID crowd got its collective ass handed to it in court. Given that, chronicling the "smoking guns" that lead to the decision makes a lot more sense than diving into the detailed defenses the ID proponents try to give on the scientific front.Well, yes and no. The program was ostensibly about the Dover trial, but one of the two major examples I gave of bias had to do with the part of the program that went beyond the trial and presented the case for and against Intelligent Design outside of the context of the actual trial. That part of the program had little to do with what happened at the trial and was the most biased part of the program. And besides, if the part that didn't have to do with the trial was blatantly biased, why should anyone believe the part about the trial itself?
I think that programs like "Judgment Day" are in the same category as movies that are supposed to be portraying historical person or events. If they're going to pretend to be about historical events, then they have some kind of obligation to portray events with reasonable accuracy. In this respect, Judgment Day was the Oliver Stone version of events in Dover: one part history, two parts polemic.
As I have said before, those of us who are viewing the debate from the outside can be excused for getting very suspicious that the debate is rigged in favor of one side. I have posted here before about the Richard Sternberg incident, in which the editor of a Smithsonian Institute scientific publication, Sternberg, published a peer reviewed paper favorable to Intelligent Design, after which he was harassed and vilified by advocates of evolution.
The irony here, of course, is that the very people who are saying, "If you ID people really want to prove your case, then get papers published in peer reviewed journals" are the same people who will read out of polite society any editor who has the temerity to actually publish such an article, decidedly reducing the numbers of editors who will ever be willing to publish such papers in the future. No science editor in the civilized world is going to publish a pro-ID article now--not at least if he values his career.
So folks, I'm just tellin' ya: if you continue take positions like this one--that it's okay to treat positions with which you disagree unfairly in programs that clearly give the impression that they are giving a balanced presentation--you're just giving your opponents more ammunition.
Now I suppose some opponent of ID could say, "Yeah. I'm sure you're real concerned about helping the case for evolution. Thanks for the advice." And there is a certain amount of truth to that. But, you see, I am pretty confident, knowing how arrogant ID opponents seem to have become, that they will completely ignore any advice I have to give, and will continue to rig the debate in ways that will make them vulnerable to legitimate criticism.