Pharyngula

Anderson Cooper transcript

The transcript of last night’s Anderson Cooper segment is available. My assessment: it was a pro-religion/pro-creationism show that gave undue reverence to nonsense. Tom Foreman, one of the reporters, was a pandering fool. Anderson Cooper was an obliging tool. Most of the interviewees were conventionally clueless. I’ve put a few choice bits below the fold.

There was a good amount of footage dedicated to Ken Ham, his creation science museum, and a family of ignorant homeschoolers who said evolution was not science. On the other side, the side of good science?

MIKE NOVACEK, PROVOST, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: There’s no question in my mind that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before humans. There’s absolutely no scientific evidence aligned with the notion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

That was it. Literally. Two sentences. That’s how much attention this program gave to the scientific position. It was pathetic.

The only bright spot was when this fellow Robert Boston had an opportunity to get assertive. His opponent was a bright-eyed, chipper android from the Family Research Council.

COOPER: Well, the battle over what children should be taught in school has been raging for nearly a century now. The question is, is there room for compromise?

Joining us to talk about it is Robert Boston of the Americans United For Separation of Church and State, and Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Robert, let me start with you.

Polls show that nearly half the American believes that people didn’t evolve from lower life-forms, but were created, in our present form, by God. If so many people think that, shouldn’t we at least be discussing it in a science class?

ROBERT BOSTON, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Well, I think we need to look really not at what polls show, but what the scientific evidence shows.

We wouldn’t want to teach something in the public schools that was factually incorrect, simply because some people believed it was so. So, we really have to look at the science. If you look at the scientific community, you don’t see this great disparity in polls. You see most of the scientists backing the theory of evolution.

COOPER: Charmaine, what about that? Why should a science class be forced to — to teach something which mainstream science says is simply not true?

CHARMAINE YOEST, VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, you know, mainstream science, throughout history, has been challenged by questions. And that’s how we make advances in science, is being open to all different perspectives.

And that’s all that we’re calling for, is saying that, you know, have we gotten to a place in our culture where science has such an orthodoxy around Darwinian theory that we can’t even question it, that we can’t even look at some of the gaps in the theory, and ask, how can we do better and how can answer some of these questions?

That’s all we’re asking for, is an openness of dialogue and looking at all of the research.

COOPER: Robert, President Bush has suggested that this theory of intelligent design should be taught in public school classrooms. The idea is that kids should be able to make up their own minds; they should get different points of view.

Robert, what is wrong with that?

BOSTON: I disagree.

I think that there is a mechanism in science that allows for these views to be aired through peer-review journals. And the intelligent-design advocates…

YOEST: Well, sure.

BOSTON: … have not been able to public any research that indicates…

YOEST: That’s just not true.

BOSTON: … their point of view.

Let me finish, Charmaine.

And one of the important things we need to remember, too, is that some of the ideas that groups would like to bring into our schools have been completely discredited, for example, the idea that the Earth is 10,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. Scientifically, that’s untenable.

Yet, that is what the creationists believe. And that is what, ultimately, I think they would like to bring into our classrooms.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Charmaine, I mean, do you — do you believe that dinosaurs walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? And, if so, is that the — the basis of your argument?

YOEST: What we are looking at here is saying, there are legitimate scientific questions on the table. And it is not true that — that there is a complete cohesiveness among scientists.

So, we’re really, really seeing an amazing censorship of anything that questions Darwinism. And you see this kind of thing where, immediately, the minute you question Darwinism, people like Rob come up and say, oh, no, you’re going to talk about God.

Well, you know, I think our children have more robust intelligence and — and questioning to be able to cope with looking at all the different theories that are out there. I think it’s — I just have to ask, what is he so scared of?

COOPER: Robert, do you believe this is really about — a debate about science, or is it a debate about religion?

BOSTON: Of course it’s about religion.

And notice how she did not answer your question about the age of the Earth and dinosaurs and humans coexisting. I would guess that, if you took a survey of the members of the Family Research Council, you would find, overwhelmingly, they believe that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, that dinosaurs died because they were too big to fit on Noah’s Ark, or that they existed alongside human beings, other pseudoscientific ideas that has been debunked time and time again.

YOEST: Hey — hey, Rob…

BOSTON: Why would we want to bring this into the classroom, when there’s absolutely no scientific evidence?

(CROSSTALK)

BOSTON: Charmaine, answer the question, yes or no. Age of the Earth?

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: You are trying to confuse the issue of conflating…

BOSTON: Age of the Earth, answer the question.

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: I am trying to answer the question.

BOSTON: How old is it?

YOEST: I’m trying to answer the question.

BOSTON: How old is it, Charmaine?

(CROSSTALK)

YOEST: I can’t get a word in — that you’re trying to conflate creationism with intelligent design.

BOSTON: That’s because you want…

YOEST: I’m saying that you should look at…

BOSTON: … you want creationism in the classroom. Answer the question.

YOEST: I didn’t say — I didn’t say that.

BOSTON: Ten thousand years or six billion?

YOEST: The only thing I have talked about is intelligent design.

BOSTON: Why are you afraid to answer the question?

YOEST: Why are you afraid of the fact that 90 percent of the American people do believe in God?

BOSTON: I know exactly what you want to do. You want to teach your book of Genesis as if it’s some kind of literal, scientific truth, instead of maybe possibly metaphor or lots of other history. You want to bring it into science. It’s not going to fly.

COOPER: Do you want your children — Charmaine, do you want your children to be exposed to a belief which the scientific community has disproven? I’m not saying that they have disproven all of this. But, in certain cases, I mean, some things clearly…

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: … have been disproven.

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: Things which have been clearly scientifically disproven, do you still want them taught?

YOEST: Well, absolutely. That would — that would come in, in a history of science, in a philosophy of science.

That’s why I’m saying, there’s different kinds of classes. So, we’re talking about kind of a broad array of things. Your kids need to know what opinions are out there and — and — and see what the evidence is, consider the evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, for other subjects in a science class that people disagree on, but that have been disproven, the kids should be taught those as well?

YOEST: Sure.

COOPER: They should — they should — they should know that there are other people who disagree on… YOEST: Absolutely.

COOPER: … just about every scientific issue?

YOEST: I’m not afraid of my kids knowing about any controversy that is out there, as long as you put the evidence on the table and consider what — what the debate is. That’s what education is all about, is having a vigorous debate.

COOPER: Charmaine Yoest, appreciate it, and Robert Boston as well.

BOSTON: Thank you.

COOPER: Fascinating discussion.

Notice how she said she was trying to answer the question (an answer that would require one word, “thousands” or “billions”) and she never did.

That was the one brief moment of fire, and then the rest of the show went back to feeding marshmallows to the gullible.

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian
    April 5, 2007

    Although I think Boston did an admirable job of not letting Gish gallop away, what’s likely to remain in the minds of creationist viewers is that the ‘Darwinists’ have something to hide. Unfortunately for many, the take-home message is that evolutionary theory is afraid of criticism.

    Would the undecided camp–the ones we’re really trying to reach and educate–respond to a comparible concept in medicine? What if it were suggested that doctors should be taught voodoo, the four humours, trepanning, and other archaic ideas alongside modern orthodox medicine and then make up their own minds when faced with the evidence?

    I wonder how many of even the most fundamental of fundies would go to a home-schooled doctor?

  2. #2 Brownian
    April 5, 2007

    I meant ‘letting Yoest Gish gallop away’.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    April 5, 2007

    Rey Fox:

    Many Lucas fans call the Star Wars trilogy the ultimate authority on existence and morality and politics. Others are big meanieheads who want to chip away at that conviction. And yet others seek the Glorious Middle Way.

    Have you read Star Wars on Trial? It’s got Matthew Woodring Stover on the defense and David Brin on the prosecution. . . some interesting give-and-take, and a couple bust-a-gut laughter moments (from the prosecution’s side).

  4. #4 Sastra
    April 5, 2007

    Many Christians call the Bible the ultimate authority on creation and existence, a manual for all that is possible. Others seek to chip away at that conviction. And yet others hope for harmony between science and faith.

    And obviously this “harmony between science and faith” will most certainly not include chipping away the conviction that the Bible is the ultimate authority on creation and existence. No, we want a nice moderate position which avoids those two extremes.

    As Rey Fox already pointed out, that’s just nonsense. What they actually want to promote as “moderate” is a general refusal to consider religious claims seriously, as statements of purported facts. No, it’s all only expressions of Meaning — metaphors and symbols which stand for things that everyone believes in like life and love and being nice to your neighbor. It’s just that those symbols are so powerful they’re actually real.

    But don’t examine that last sentence too closely, or try to figure out what it literally means. Only an extremist would do that. And that’s not how we’re going to be able to “harmonize” science and faith.

  5. #5 Sastra
    April 5, 2007

    Joe Carter wrote

    And while I believe that “random mutation and natural selection” can account for many, if not most, biological features that it cannot account for every biological feature.

    I more or less understand what the basic mundane mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection would involve (genetic replication, variation, and environmental selection, same as goes on today), but I don’t understand how Intelligent Design is supposed to work. I mean, if someone were watching an “Intelligently Designed” biological feature form, what would they see?

    Would they see chemicals and bits and pieces of molecules suddenly start to scurry across distances from all over and link up like they were being put together by an invisible hand? Perhaps they would drift together lazily, over long periods of time, but not in a way that could have happened by chance, but a very slow invisible hand. And if so, what would cause this? A form of psychokenesis? Mind acting on matter through the energy of sheer intention?

    Or would there be nothing there and then suddenly — poof — there is an irreducibly complex part of a cell? One moment it’s not there, next it is. Perhaps a small popping noise? And again, what force does this? Another form of psychokenesis, only one which actually creates ex nihilio by imagining something?

    I find it hard to believe that those scientists who consider Intelligent Design to be a science theory have never considered the how . It’s rather critical to any theory to have some kind of process in mind, I would think.

    Wouldn’t that really be the best way to test Intelligent Design in a lab, then — demonstrate psychokenesis as a creative or effective force which can act on matter? Without a mechanism, all you’ve got is an argument from ignorance. And a stunning lack of curiosity.

  6. #6 Sastra
    April 5, 2007

    “At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people’s inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.”

    It’s not just that people don’t understand basic scientific concepts — the average person does not seem to understand the basic scientific process . Peer-review? That’s not really fair, everyone should get an equal chance. Testing? That means “try it for yourself and see if it works.” Scientific support? Well, does it sound like it’s science? We need to make up our own minds, not just follow what so-called “experts” say. We have experts on our side, too. We saw them in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?

    When the public seems to honestly believe that a cure for the common cold has been “developed by a school teacher” out of herbs and vitamins — and nobody is particulary concerned with clinical controlled testing because anecdotes, testimonials, and personal experience are “scientific evidence” — then there’s a real problem, and it’s not just with distinguishing between different kinds of stem cells.

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