NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/07/24
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new creationist movie is accused of misleading and misrepresenting its interview subjects. Meanwhile, NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott was interviewed in Science News, and a chance to vote for NCSE -- if you're a Working Assets/Credo Mobile customer.
HISTORIANS MISREPRESENTED BY CREATIONISTS Three historians of science are unhappy about their treatment in a creationist movie about Darwin, as they explain in a note in the July 2009 Newsletter of the History of Science Society. Peter Bowler, Janet Browne, and Sandra Herbert write, "We have recently been featured in a documentary film, 'The Voyage that Shook the World,' produced by Fathom Media of Australia and directed by Stephen Murray of Synergy Films, New Zealand. We were led to believe that the movie was being made to be shown as an educational film on Australian broadcast television and possibly elsewhere. Fathom Media was revealed to be a subsidiary of Creation Ministries International when publicity for the movie began to appear on the internet." Previously, William Crawley, a blogger for the BBC, reported (June 21, 2009) that Bowler was "unhappy to be appearing in what he regards as an 'anti-Darwinian' film which offers an historically distorted portrait of Darwin" and that he along with Browne and Herbert "only discovered that they had inadvertently contributed to a Creationist film a month before the film's release." Phil Bell, the CEO of Creationist Ministries UK, acknowledged that Fathom Media was established as a front company, explaining, "At the end of the day ... [when] people see 'Creationist', instantly the shutters go up and that would have shut us off from talking to the sort of experts, such as Professor Bowler, that we wanted to get to." Crawley added, "I asked Phil Bell if this method of securing an interview was 'deceptive'. He said: 'Well, it could be called deceptive. But I think, at the end of the day, I would say that more people are concerned about how we've made a documentary, that's a world-class documentary, clearly with wonderful footage, with excellent interviews, and balanced open discussion.'" A subsequent statement, posted on CMI's website on June 27, 2009, amplified: "We were and are under an obligation to speak the truth, but not to provide exhaustive information where it was not sought," adding, "Further, and perhaps most importantly, we were determined to deal fairly with the material that the interviewees provided." The interviewees themselves, however, are not satisfied with the fairness of the movie, writing, "Janet Browne's remarks about his childhood delight in making up stories to impress people is used to imply that the same motive may have driven his scientific thinking. Peter Bowler's description of Darwin’s later views on racial inequality is used in the film, but not Bowler’s account of Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s thesis [in Darwin's Sacred Cause] that Darwin was inspired by his opposition to racism and slavery. Sandra Herbert's comment that Darwin’s theory required explanation of many aspects of life was edited down to imply that his theory required explanation of all aspects of life." Bowler, Browne, and Herbert end their article by musing, "Academics perhaps do need to be more aware of the fact that the media organizations are not always open about their underlying agendas." (The similar case of Expelled springs to mind.) "Had we known the true origins of Fathom Media," they continue, "we probably would not have contributed, but the producers do have a point: if academic historians refuse to participate when movements they don't approve of seek historical information, these historians can hardly complain if less reputable sources are used instead." They accordingly recommend a few websites for information on the history of Darwin and evolution, including NCSE's. So far, The Voyage that Shook the World seems to have attracted little attention independently of the controversy over its misleading the historians: no reviews of it appear at Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. The sole positive review cited at CMI's website is from Ted Baehr on Movieguide, which, despite its neutral name, describes itself as a ministry "dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles, by influencing entertainment industry executives and helping families make wise media choices"; Baehr also gave four stars to Expelled. There are no signs that the movie is going to have a theatrical release in the United States. For Bowler, Browne, and Herbert's article, visit: http://www.hssonline.org/publications/Newsletter2009/July_Perils_Publicity.html For William Crawley's BBC blog post, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/06/creationists_defend_darwin_fil.html For CMI's statement defending its conduct, visit: http://creation.com/the-voyage-darwin-film-defended For NCSE's compilation of information about Expelled, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com/ EUGENIE C. SCOTT INTERVIEWED IN SCIENCE NEWS NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott was interviewed by Science News about the need for scientists to watch their language when talking about evolution and the nature of science. "What your audience hears is more important than what you say," she observed, recommending, for example, that scientists describe themselves as "accepting" rather than as "believing in" evolution. Answering the question "What should scientists and people who care about science do?" Scott replied, "I'm calling on scientists to be citizens. American education is decentralized. Which means it's politicized. To make a change ... you have to be a citizen who pays attention to local elections and votes [for] the right people. You can't just sit back and expect that the magnificence of science will reveal itself and everybody will ... accept the science." For the interview, visit: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/45594/title/Accept_it_Talk_about_evolution_needs_to_evolve_by_Eugenie_Scott NCSE AND WORKING ASSETS/CREDO MOBILE NCSE is again slated to be a beneficiary of Working Assets/Credo Mobile, the telephone company established "to help busy people make a difference in the world through everyday activities like talking on the phone. Every time a customer uses one of Working Assets' donation-linked services (Long Distance, Wireless and Credit Card), the company donates a portion of the charges to nonprofit groups working to build a world that is more just, humane, and environmentally sustainable." Every year, the donation pool is allocated among the groups supported by Working Assets in proportion to the customers' votes. The more votes NCSE gets, the more money we get! If you're already a Working Assets/Credo Mobile customer, you can vote on-line: http://www.workingassets.com/Voting/Default.aspx If you're interested in becoming a Working Assets/Credo Mobile customer, visit: http://www.workingassets.com/ Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! http://ncseweb.org/evc Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://ncseweb.org/nioc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership