22 November 2009

Janet Parshall's America...I'm sure glad I don't live there (click here to see why).

Dear Janet Parshell,

I sometimes force myself to listen to your show and I must confess, it never ceases to disappoint me. Whether you are falsely claiming that you hope that President Obama does well(you don't hope this), or you are engaging in histrionics over climate change, evolutionary biology or complaining about healthcare your disinterest in honest engagement seems inconsistent with the values you claim to cherish. Honesty, and integrity seem decidedly lacking at just about every level of your being. Your ill facility with logic is also counter-productive. Those who disagree with you can never possibly be doing so simply because they see issues differently. They are always part of a larger conspiracy. I suppose if I thought that anyone who disagreed with me was a dupe for Satan (either willingly or not), it would be hard to take their opposing viewpoints very seriously too. Luckily I do not share in your delusional paranoid fantasy and can approach ideas and data as they are, and not through a warped ideological filter. I am forced to wonder if the growing pile of your inconsistencies ever alarms you, or if you even notice? Do you ever think, “I am sure to be caught today?,” or “I hope this bible quote will distract the audience from the fact I have no data, logic or even a good argument for what I am about to say?” I wonder this, because if I were you it would certainly be a matter of pressing worry. It’s a matter of credibility Janet.
You have none.

Let me make an example out of just one issue close to your heart of late, climate change. Your new fodder for denial is the recently hacked emails. But let’s leave that aside for a moment. As early as two weeks ago your gripe was about consensus among scientists. Namely you thought that the consensus wasn’t high enough to make it a national policy matter. That is since it was just a majority of climatologists who think that climate change is actually occurring and not an overwhelming majority of scientists (let’s say 90% or greater) our government should be, at the very least, reticent to act in a major way on the phenomenon. If scientific consensus, and independent corroboration were really important to you, there would be no problem (though I would be curious what said majority would have to look like before you supported any regulatory action on climate change, or even said you had to accept the current expert opinion). However you are clearly not concerned with scientific consensus and the manner in which you wield the notion is a smokescreen to cover over what is an ideological opposition which is religious, political and economic at its roots. Despite your alleged Christian commitment to honesty, you seem decidedly uncomfortable with the concept. But lying for Jesus is an old story.

Clearly though you don’t care a whit about scientific consensus. If you did you would not oppose the teaching of evolutionary biology in schools. Next to quantum mechanics, and relativity you would be hard pressed to find a more accepted, or more successful theory in all the sciences. If you actually valued scientific consensus you would not clamor for the teaching of creation “science” or its euphemistic code intelligent design alongside the teaching of evolutionary biology. You would not advocate, "teaching the controversy." No you don’t care about evidence Janet, you care about furthering your religious and political ends. There really is no controversy over evolution among working biologists (a huge overwelming majority consensus) Janet, but you don’t care. You prefer the views of William Dembski, and a minority (infinitismal)of other voices to the rest of the scientific enterprise. Clearly consensus isn’t as big on your list of concerns as you make it out to be.

If scientific consensus were as important a criterion in your mind as you make it out to be, you would not oppose ABC sex education, that is to say comprehensive education. A is for abstinence, B is for be monogamous and C is for condoms. You would not in a million years support and certainly you wouldn’t prefer Abstinence-only education because research has consistently shown abstinence only education doesn’t work. In fact it doesn’t work so well that kids who go through abstinence only programs are more not less likely to engage in sexually risky behaviors without protection. If scientific research was your guide, and the consensus of scientists a benchmark, you would certainly never support only funding AIDs/HIV programs on the continent of Africa that pledged to use only the worthless Abstinence-only approach to sex education. That would only increase the numbers of AIDS/HIV cases. But I think we see again you really don’t put much stock in scientific consensus.

Whether you are engaging in willful mendacity or you are simply so blinkered by the limits of your religious faith, and your political ideology that you are incapable of seeing a bigger more complex picture is not entirely clear. Though your histrionics about the popularity of vampires in fiction (you call them, with breathless credulity, “’undead’ instruments of the Devil) make me suspect that your religious derangement is very real. But even real religious derangement doesn’t preclude shameless dishonesty so I suppose that leaves us with an untidy open question. Whatever the case Janet, it is absolutely clear that you do a huge disservice to your listener’s comprehension of complex issues. You and your guests are simply echo chambers for one another. But beyond the disservice you do for your listeners, you do a disservice to public discourse on complex issues that cannot hope but to become political footballs. It is sad that you do not use your position in the media to elevate the debate.

Good Day,
Max Driffill II


08 November 2009

A wonderful debate: Stephen Fry/Christopher Hitchens vs Archbishop John Onaiyekan/Ann Widdecombe MP

An amazing debate. And mostly just because Stephen Fry is so wonderfully eloquent and humane, and because Chistopher Hitchens, is so eloquent, serious and angry. It is the oratory equivalent of a one-two punch.

There is little by way of editorial comment that I could add to this.

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