The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Bad debate obscures an important issue

My wife and I cozied up on the futon tonight to watch the 10 o’clock airing of “Faith Under Fire” on PAX, a cable TV network with ostensibly religious overtones to its programming. I was interested in seeing how the religious side, represented by its own media, framed this debate. My wife and I were both **very disappointed** in the quality of presentation of the debate.

Let’s begin with the commentator, who interjected his opinions into the debate and often cut-off his guests (primarily the pro-science/religion separation guy, but then this guy was also the most mouthy in the program). The pro-ID (intelligent design) guy was a quiet political scientist with a screwed-on smile, kinda looking like that creepy guy in the corner at the high school dance. The pro-science guy was a poorly organized and kinda trigger-happy reverend, with no apparent background in biology.

A good debate needs a good framework, and this one was bad TV at best. Therefore, the debate itself was bad (people talking over each other, the moderator acting instead like a commenatator, etc.). This is typical of TV debate, I guess.

The prime question raised, and harped on, in the program was whether we should teach our kids in school to critically question evolution as a sound theory, since 300 scientists (were they biologists? No one asked and the moderator didn’t say) from presitigious institutions signed a letter saying they doubted evolution could explain the macroscopic changes in nature. The right answer, if I had to proffer an answer at all, was that we should teach our kids to **ask critical questions** and **answer them by engaging in sound experimentation with rigorous methodology**. However, nobody raised that, and the two guests got bogged down in a spitting match.

It’s sad that this is how the only well known network with religious overtones presents the debate. You have a freshman moderator, a political scientist (let’s not get into that…) from the Discovery Institute, and a reverend without a science background from a group calling for separation of church and state. If this is the best you can do to inform the public, just keep playing crappy movies or showing that show with thta country singer who plays doctor. Leave debate to the experts on either side, or at least invite them to organize their own debate on your network.