Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fairness, or Doctrine?

One of many, many arguments against teaching Creationism alongside evolution is that, if we give equal merit to one article of faith, then we open up the need to teach every version of the creation myth. After all, Creationism is as scientifically sound as my childhood theory that God created the world in a frying pan in his kitchen one day out of boredom. Should equal classroom weight be given to both? And, if not, why not?

This principle, albeit translated to politics, is what drives Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader to take a stance against the restitution of the Fairness Doctrine. She argues that the measure backfired because of its broadness, which stations feared would render them vulnerable to allegations of bias (and fines) if they didn't air the rantings of every kook who demanded it. This, in turn, led to less media dialogue. It's a worthwhile point to consider.

Still, I've always been a big fan of the Fairness Doctrine. It remained in force from 1949 to 1987, which (coincidentally or not) matches the most prosperous period in U.S. history - a time when progressive taxation and various social reforms brought increased equity and equality to all Americans. It wasn't all peachy, of course; but a national unity of sorts existed, a feeling that the nation was a community and owed it to each other not to let to let the disconnect between the haves and have-nots get too imbalanced. Much credit for this goes to the credible, hard-hitting, relatively staid newscasts of the time.

The 1980s, and Ronald Reagan, changed all that. Through numerous deregulations and the genesis of the Me Decade, being an American became less about civic obligations and more about pure-grain capitalism. Not coincidentally, this also began the age of the media as a profit-driven corporate entity. Prior to this, most networks devoted their news departments strictly to telling the news, while allowing financial losses to be made up by the entertainment division. This agreement allowed for a golden age of journalism, unburdened by the pressures of prioritizing stories based on what sells (Paris Hilton) or of offending the political sensibilities of the deep pockets behind the broadcasts (hopefully, never Paris Hilton). Following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, however, news organizations were free (so to speak) to base their content on what the people would want, which would presumably create a de facto natural balance.

The only flaw in this reasoning is, to put it in the words of Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty, "Since when do people know what they want?"

Which brings us to today. With more information and founts for information than ever before, the average American still comes off as ill-informed. And not for lack of trying. Passion, not reason, typically drives political beliefs. The line between journalism and infotainment has been blurred beyond recognition, the result being that Fox News is considered a legit source of news, as is Air America on the left. They aren't. They are what any editorial outlet is and should be - a forum for opinion intended to appeal to those who have educated themselves on current events. Unfortunately, too many citizens skip that step now, whether they know it or not. They are living off cotton candy, forgetting that they have to eat a balanced meal to get real nutrients. Conversely, truly informed citizens have grown so cynical that even reputable news outlets won't pass muster with them, thus hurting the standing of the good guys even further.

Perhaps the Fairness Doctrine is a relic of a bygone era, and would not solve the specific problems inherent in today's media. But I'd argue that a much more sinister form of government interference continues in its place: the growing manipulation of public opinion through misinformation and implied retribution against outlets that don't toe the party line. And I'm all in favor of repealing that nonsense.

Ian McGibboney works for the Springfield News-Leader. He does not work for Fox News and seems on track to keep it that way.

11 comments:

Cajun Tiger said...

When did the THEORY of evolution become the law of evolution? I seemed to have missed that major scientific breakthrough.

Ian McGibboney said...

When did Bible stories become science? And not only science, but THE only option if evolution isn't 100 percent proven?

Cajun Tiger said...

Nice avoidance of the question.

Evolution has never been proven scientifically even after 100 years. In fact there are more and more evidences that evolution is false coming out on a regular basis.

You are more than welcome to explore other theories. However, the only other mainstream theory is intelligent design. Instead of dicounting it completely, real science would dictate putting it to the test. When that is done there are many evidences, that under the level of evidence required to teach evolution, it is just as much a credible study as evolution. However, that approach is fought hard b/c in order to go the route would mean opening the door to belief in a Creator and we can't be having that now can we.

Ian McGibboney said...

Evolution is constantly being proven scientifically. Proof that organisms evolve is as easy as tracking bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. But that's not the main flaw in your reasoning.

When certain aspects of evolution are proven wrong through empirical evidence, it doesn't make the whole theory wrong. In fact, scientists freely adjust their findings whenever they learn something new, which only strengthens the theory of evolution.

And that's the difference between evolution and "intelligent design" - the latter cannot be empirically proven, nor will its adherents ever accept any challenges to preconceived notions. Which means, in a nutshell, that it is not a theory in the scientific sense and should not be treated as such.

Oh, and one last thing - if something in the theory of evolution is proven incorrect, that does not necessarily validate the Book of Genesis.

Cajun Tiger said...

Bateria developing resistance to antibiotics is natural selection or what some now call micro-evolution, which means a species adapts to its environment to survive which I have no problem with scientifically as there are many proofs of that. Evolution or what some now call Macro-evolution is one species changing to a completely different species. There is no proof that has ever happened, only theories.

Darwin wrongly observed micro-evolution and assumed it ultimately leads to macro-evolution. He then proceeded to give a scenario to disprove his theory called irreversible complexity which means if a structure was discovered that cannot be developed by a step by step process from simple to complex then his whole theory is invalid. I can list hundreds of structures that meet this criteria and so can any scientist that is being honest. So in Darwin's own words, the theory is invalid.

Another recent discovery is orphan genes. These are genes that only appear in one species. Also according to Darwin, every gene that exists today had to be in the original organism. Well that is very quickly becoming impossible without it being a very complex organism, which is opposite of a single cell simple organism that is required for the theory.

And then the most obvious, where are all the "missing links"? Darwin again said that he was a little surprised that he couldn't find them in the fossil records, but proposed that in time they would be. Well after over 100 years and they still haven't been found...maybe they don't exist which again disproves the theory.

Just for full disclosure I have minors in zoology and chemisty, so I'm not just spouting about things I don't understand. I have no problem whatsoever of accepting challenges, if only most scientist were willing to really do the same.

In science the negative is just as strong as the positive meaning if you can't prove that it didn't happen then it is just as valid as a theory. I'll readily admit ID will never be proven 100% (well at least not on earth, but that's another topic entirely), but unless another way can be proven scientifically it remains a viable option.

GumboFilé said...

I thought this post was about the fairness doctrine

Ian McGibboney said...

Gumbofile, it's my fault for putting "keyword: evolution" in there.

CT, evolution research did not stop at Darwin. Furthermore, the lack of missing links and changes in findings over the decades shows precisely how the scientific method works, and show the need for future research. Science is uncertain, but it is quantifiable and admits when it's wrong.

The Book of Genesis, on the other hand, will never change and isn't open to the same kind of exploration. In the minds of its adherents, it is the true word of God that no one is supposed to question. And that certainty makes in unfit for the scientific realm.

Cajun Tiger said...

Did you just admit that evolution is wrong? Be careful...pretty soon you may admit that the current global warming cycle is not caused by humans.

Question the book of Genesis and the rest of the Bible all you want...more and more of it is being proven true every day, archeologically, politically and yes, scientifically. I have never taken the "it says it so I belive it and that's it" approach and I think too many Christians have taken that route when they don't need to. Yes, there is a level of faith, but you don't have to remove yourself from all "secular" disciplines just because you are a Christian.

Gumbo...the beauty of blogs...you never know where comment threads will go.

Ian McGibboney said...

No, I said if some piece of evolution is disproven by later evidence, then scientists adapt. That doesn't make evolution wrong - it's just a theory in progress, and will be for the foreseeable future. Conversely, I haven't seen the Book of Genesis revised in awhile.

How exactly is the Bible being proven scientifically? And by whom?

Cajun Tiger said...

gonna wait a day or so to see if it posts but posted a comment that showed up and now doesn't for some reason at least on my end.

Cajun Tiger said...

Not sure what happened...you didn't delete my comment did you? j/k

I'll try to remember what I said last time.

There are only two pieces of evolution. One that says all species started from one organism and evolved into all we have today but a mutation one step at at time. Second is that species adapt to their enviornment. The second one has been proven over and over and I totally accept. However the first part has never been proven. How long should we give them? It has been over 100 years already and no proof while at the same time more and more evidence is disproving it yet it is still taught as if it law.

Two examples for you of science verifying the Bible. First is the day the Bible in it's OT laws as to when a boy is to be snipped, the 8th day after birth. Now we now that the 8th day is the best day to do snipping due to the clogging agents being at their highest on that day.

Second is how time is determined. When scientist go back in time they don't just subtract the days. They have to subtract an additional day and 6 hours to be accurate. In the Bible there are two times that time was supernaturally adjusted. Once the sun was held still for an entire day and second it was moved back six hours.

Genesis will not be revised. If it ever is, then every literary work of antiquity will have to be questioned b/c the Bible is the most accurate work of antiquity by far with time of translation, original copies and all the other evidences used to verify ancient texts.