KNME Put Lock on Infomercial

This column appeared in the Thursday, January 13th issue of the Albuquerque Journal , and is on-line at the Journal's website here.

By M. Kim Johnson

N.M. Academy of Science

The local public television station, KNME-TV5, has been accused recently of "unprecedented censorship" for deciding not to air the program, "Unlocking the Mysteries of Life." The New Mexico Academy of Science (NMAS) has reviewed the accusation, and congratulates KNME for its decision to not broadcast this program.

We have found the "documentary" to be an infomercial for creationism rather than a balanced discussion of evolution and biology.

The "Intelligent Design" (ID) advertisement for the video states that "A growing number of scientists now think that DNA and the complexity of life point to purpose and design in nature. This documentary tells their tale." They claim that the validity of the scientific Theory of Evolution is being seriously questioned by scientists who are experts in the field. This is false. The Theory of Evolution is one of the most robust scientific theories in existence today. There is no scientific evidence that challenges evolution today. Despite a decade of so-called "research," ID advocates have produced no single scientific piece of evidence for their claim that each major form of life was uniquely created by an unnamed "intelligent designer" whom these advocates readily acknowledge among themselves is God.

The producers and funders of "Unlocking" have an agenda. They are predominantly religious groups who wish to change the very nature of science, and to have their own religious views taught in public schools as if they were science. Intelligent Design evolved from Bible-based creationism.

Please, do not assume that the NMAS opposes any religious views. We do not. Many of our members are quite religious. But, we are against misusing science to push any specific religious agenda.

The "Unlocking" video is heavily promoted by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, the national leader of the Intelligent Design movement. They have written a strategic plan for Intelligent Design called the "Wedge." Here are their own words from that document:

Wedge Governing Goals

o To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

o To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

Twenty Year Goals

o To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.

o To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; (and) to see its influence in the fine arts.

o To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

When KNME looked into the funding sources for the program and discovered that they derived from a special interest group, they correctly decided to pull it from the schedule, in accordance with their own established editorial policy.

KNME did offer the ID community an alternative to the broadcast of "Unlocking" - a live panel discussion about ID and evolution featuring local scientists and ID spokespeople. NMAS members accepted, but the local ID group declined. The reason ID supporters want "Unlocking" shown on public television instead of religious stations is that they want the implied "seal of approval" that comes with being aired on KNME. They want to ride the coattails of PBS programs such as "Nova" and "Nature." They want the respect given modern science, but they have not earned that respect in the science community. They want ID taught in all public school science classrooms in New Mexico, but they have been unsuccessful in trying to force it into New Mexico public education, beginning with creationism in 1996 and continuing with ID into the present.

Does the Albuquerque Journal practice censorship when it refuses to print certain letters? The Journal itself retains editorial control of what it publishes, how articles are written, and which letters are accepted. Just as the Journal would not succumb to external pressures to violate its own journalistic standards, it should not demand that KNME violate its broadcast and programming standards.

The fact that this program has been broadcast by a few other PBS stations simply means that the other stations did not do sufficient background research. Since KNME withdrew the program, PBS has been informed of the special-interest nature of this video and has removed it from their online store - in accordance with its national editorial policy.

The New Mexico Academy of Science vigorously supports critical thinking and the best scientific methods. Scientific facts are not determined by popular votes, and religious and scientific issues must not be confused with each other. Science seeks natural explanations for natural phenomena, and does not make any statements concerning God or other so-called Intelligent Designers. Very few scientists see any conflict between their scientific endeavors and their religious beliefs.

KNME should be congratulated, not criticized, for diligently maintaining the scientific and journalistic integrity of its programs. Responsible programming is not censorship.

This op-ed was signed by the writer, Marshall Berman, Ph.D., and David E. Thomas, board members of the New Mexico Academy of Science.

Related Links:

NMSR: KUDOS for KNME! Or, "Responsible Programming is Not Censorship" (Jan 7, 2005)

Panda's Thumb: Albuquerque PBS Station Under Fire by Creationists (Jan. 7, 2005)

Illustra Media's Page on the KNME Flap (links to several related articles)

Illustra Media's 2nd Page on the KNME Flap (images of several related articles)

Discovery Institute Blog: KNME Untroubled by the Hobgoblin of consistency (Jan. 17, 2005)

Discovery Institute: "The BS in PBS" by Trib Columnist Jeffry Gardner (Jan. 20, 2005)

Panda's Thumb: The Discovery Institute's Strange Allies (Jan. 21, 2005)

Alb. Tribune Editorial: KNME did right thing to pull 'science' show (Jan. 27th, 2005)

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