Getting the Facts Straight

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In 2001, PBS aired a 7-part series entitled Evolution. Essentially produced and entirely funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, Evolution was produced at a cost of up to $20 million. The series was entirely pro-evolution and did not offer a single interview with a scientist who dissented from evolution. Biola Professor John Mark Reynolds commented about Evolution stating, “It is easy to be offensive. It is easy to be dull. This series manages the much more difficult task of being both offensive and dull.” The Discovery Institute published the not-so-dull ‘Getting the Facts Straight: A Viewer’s Guide to PBS’s Evolution’ to correct the misinformation in the series.

Only a full read of the Viewer’s Guide can give a complete impression of the misinformation in Evolution. The first episode uplifts Darwinian biologists who are religious, but then uses the discredited argument from the backward wiring of the vertebrate eye as evidence against design. An intelligent engineer would have wired it the other way around to avoid creating a miniscule blind spot, so the argument goes. But as biologist Michael Denton and others have noted, backward wiring dramatically improves oxygen flow, a benefit crucial to creatures whose eyes are wired “backwards.” The fact that the makers of Evolution were apparently oblivious of this fact suggests just how deep the myopia is among the staunchest defenders of neo-Darwinism.

The second episode purports to document the great evolutionary transitions. To its credit, it calls the Cambrian explosion something of a “mystery” but conveniently leaves out the details concerning many transitional fossils it assures us are out there, choosing instead to employ the hand-waving explanation that evolution undergoes “tinkering.” Claims of human evolution are also overblown, given the paucity of fossil evidence documenting a gradual transition from apelike species to homo sapiens.

Episodes three and four obscure the lack of evidence for macroevolutionary change by pointing to extinctions and the longstanding fact of microevolutionary change, such as bacteria’s capacity to develop antibiotic resistance. Episode five tackles the question of sex, delving into evolutionary psychology and alleging that human creativity and great intellect arose merely for the purposes of attracting mates. Episode six continues this trend of trying to account for everyday human behavior in purely evolutionary terms.

Episode seven is entitled “What about God?” As the Viewer’s Guide notes, the episode spins evolution to look like the victim at the hand of close-minded and ignorant religious fundamentalists. Nothing is said about the many teachers of recent years who have faced harsh sanctions for teaching scientific evidence which challenges evolution. Spin and rhetoric are the order of the day as the episode portrays religious individuals who are not evolutionists in a demeaning light. Those who support evolution, however, are portrayed as intellectuals. The Viewer’s Guide finally summarizes the underlying message of Evolution:

Evolution began with the Bible, and now it ends with the Creator. Despite the producers’ assurance that they would avoid “the religious realm,” Evolution has had a great deal to say about it – The message is unmistakable. As far as Evolution is concerned, it’s OK for people to believe in God, as long as their beliefs don’t conflict with Darwinian evolution. A religion that fully accepts Darwin’s theory is good. All others are bad” (pg. 107).
Getting the Facts Straight exposes the failure of Evolution to accurately and fairly present the scientific problems with the evidence for Darwinian evolution. More broadly, the viewer’s guide reveals the systematic omission of disagreements among evolutionary biologists about the central claims of evolution and also neglects to report the views of any scientists who dispute Darwinism. Evolution is revealed as a biased attack upon religion, despite the fact that the series purported to focus on science. The viewer’s guide concludes that this PBS series represents a misuse of taxpayer money to organize and promote a controversial political action agenda.

Getting the Facts Straight: A Viewer’s Guide to PBS’s Evolution

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Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.