Maybe evolution is not the front line in the fight for good science education. Judging from this clip, from Dan Abrams’ show on Tuesday night, it would seem there are more pressing problems in that area:
ABRAMS: It’s time for tonight’s “Beat the Press”, our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV. First up: A lot of the time, conversations on ABC’s “The View” aren’t exactly intellectual. But one interchange today would suggest that their new co-host needs to review her 3rd grade color-coded books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, THE VIEW: Do you–is the world flat?
SHERRI SHEPHERD, THE VIEW: Is the world flat?
SHEPHERD: I don’t know.
GOLDBERG: What do you think?
SHEPHERD: I never thought about it, Whoopi. Is the world flat? I never thought about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I don’t think about it, either. I just know. Even the show’s mother hen seemed stunned about Sherri Shepherd’s apparent ignorance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”: You’ve never thought about whether the world was round?
SHEPHERD: No, because–but I’ll tell you what I’ve thought about, how I’m going to feed my child…
WALTERS: Well, you can do both.
SHEPHERD: … how I’m going to take care of my family. The world–is the world flat, has never entered into–that has not been an important thing to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Neither is if the sky is blue or that gravity keeps us from floating to space, but that doesn’t mean you get a pass on knowing one of the basic truths of the world we live in.
Now, I know some of my fellow bloggers (here and here, this latter post noting incidentally that Ms. Shepherd is quite certain that evolution is a load of nonsense) have suggested unkindly that this reflects poorly on Ms. Shepherd’s intelligence. Certainly not! Clearly she just takes the Sherlock Holmes approach to knowledge acquisition. From A Study in Scarlet:
His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. Upon my quoting Thomas Carlyle, he inquired in the naivest way who he might be and what he had done. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.
“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”
“To forget it!”
“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
“But the Solar System!” I protested.
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently. “You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
No doubt Shepherd spends her free time dazzling her cohosts by deducing their recent activities from the state of their clothing and the scuff marks on their shoes.
Some have wondered how a person that ignorant could be given a platform on a prominent television show. So naive! When applying for such jobs you do well to include a bullet point on your CV boasting of such ignorance. You see, people who know a bit of science tend to think in paragraphs and sometimes use polysyllabic words. That makes it impossible to affect the proper tone of aggrieved haughtiness when saying things like this (PDF format) (from The O’Reilly Factor, January 18, 2005):
[Fox News Personality Bill] O’REILLY: OK. But science is incomplete in this area of creationism, is it not?
[University of Colorado biologist Michael] GRANT: Science is always incomplete in all areas.
O’REILLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. Science is not always incomplete, and I’ll give you an example. There are 24 hours in a day. All right. That’s science. And there are four seasons. That’s science. So you can state things with certainty in biology or any other science you want. However, if I’m a student in your class and you’re telling me, well, there might have been a meteor or big bang, or there might have been this or there might have been that, I’m going to raise my hand like the wise guy I am and say, “Professor, might there be a higher power that contributed to the fact that we’re all here?”
From the number one rated show on cable television, ladies and gentlemen.
I think The View is already longing to get Rosie O’Donnell back.