C is for Crank

28 May 2007

Ken Ham, the bearded author of "A Is For Adam" and "D Is For Dinosaur," recently opened a museum of creationism in Kentucky. In it, Ham uses religious dioramas to tell the story that the bible is literally true. Using the literal truth of every word of the bible as his infallible starting point, Ham then goes on to intermittently make use of long-ago disproved ideas to justify his position that the past few hundred years of scientific research in biology, physics, astronomy, geology and paleontology are all wrong. In its place, Ham asserts that the earth is just 6,000 years old, that plate tectonics raced the continents away from each other in a matter of days, and that man and dinosaur once walked together in the garden of Eden.

The National Center For Science Education (NCSE) touches on the media coverage here. Overall, I'd say that it's been pretty poor. Rather than laying out what Ken Ham claims in his museum and why it is wrong, most news organizations have put out weak "balanced" accounts such as this:

Notice how this segment has about two and a half minutes of Ken Ham claiming, without any explanation of what his reasoning is, that the bible is literally true and that he has a bunch of science to back that up. Counterbalancing this is only 30 seconds of a single scientist saying "that's not very plausible," also without any of the reasoning. Nowhere in this segment, or in any other that I've seen on CNN, have they informed the audience of what any of the arguments are.

The New York Times has an equally ineffective and friendly account of the museum here. Why do journalists find it so hard to call a spade a spade? Why do they always fall back on the "oh there's also an alternative viewpoint" angle instead of actually evaluating the claims that people make? Certainly CNN and the NY Times must have some actual scientific journalists...

EDIT: The Los Angeles Times does a better job here:
"The museum, a 60,000-square-foot menace to 21st century scientific advancement, is the handiwork of Answers in Genesis, a leader in the "young Earth" movement. Young Earthers believe the world is about 6,000 years old, as opposed to the 4.5 billion years estimated by the world's credible scientific community. This would be risible if anti-evolution forces were confined to a lunatic fringe, but they are not."

EDIT #2: Boykoff's Balance As Bias talks about a similar phenomenon in another area of science journalism.



BONUS: And here's a video of a convicted felon giving a speech at an unaccredited college on the same topic, saying basically the same things. He even opened a creationism theme park a few years back.

No comments: