Date: Sun, 9 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 9, 1996 nn nn AANE
Date: Sun, 9 Jun 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for June 9, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
# 58 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 6/9/96
In This Edition...
* Intelligent Life At NBC? Pseudoscience Sleaze On The Tube
* In Search Of... You, Too, Can Have A Career In Journalism!
* aachat -- Listfun for AA Members
* From The LISTMASTER. Serv-ing Up Cyber Details & More
* About This List...
NBC ''DUMBS DOWN'' COUNTRY WITH SATURDAY M.O.M. RE-RUN
When NBC aired a program titled "The Mysterious Origins of Man last Feb.
25, scientists from throughout the country voiced astonishment and
disapproval at the fraudulent, unsubstantiated claims which were transmitted
into millions of American households.
According to NBC, "The program presented startling evidence suggesting
man may have made the climb from Stone age to civilization more than once;
that present-day man is just the latest in this cycle, and that Darwin's
Theory of Evolution has serious flaws..."
The "startling evidence" turned out to be a re-hash of pseudo-scientific
and biblical creationist claims, touching upon subjects like Atlantis,
Stonehenge, pyramids, and the
discredited "giant man tracks" found at the Paluxy Riverbed near Glen Rose,
Texas. And last evening, the network re-broadcast "Mysterious Origins,"
after sending out a press release claiming that "University profs want
special banned from the airwaves," and (The program) sparked heated
controversy within the academic community..."
Editorialist John Carman of the San Francisco Chronicle, though, put a
somewhat different slant on the program in his June 7 opinion column.
"A survey released last month revealed that we are a nation of scientific
simpletons. Fewer than half of Americans know, for example, how long it
takes the Earth to go around the sun. In fact, one in five of us is pretty
sure that the sun rotates around the Earth."
Carman added that "Mysterious Origins" gave "credence to claims that would
make most scientists gag."
So outlandish were the M.O.M. claims that a small war of words has been
fought over the past several weeks in cyberspace between the academic
community and the show's producers. The fray has been joined on one side
by an army of skeptics who fear that a steady intellectual diet of such
pseudo-science is "dumbing down" the American culture, and a growing segment
of biblical literalists, new agers and devotees of crank conspiracy theories.
M.O.M. echoed a number of claims which have found popularity in both new
age and biblical-fundamentalist subcultures, including:
* Evolution is simply one of many "possible narratives" or ways of
interpreting geological and anthropological evidence, that "many scientists"
really "disagree" with evolution as a mechanism of explaining how life arose
on our planet, and that Darwinism is simply a "faith" lacking substantive,
* Science has lost its spirit of inquiry and fairness, and has devolved
into a a "religion" where contrary ideas are suppressed and ignored in
* Evidence which questions or contradicts theories concerning evolution or
the origins of human culture has been "ignored" (until now, thanks presumably
to the producers of programs like "The Mysterious Origins of Man). Indeed,
"the world is bigger than scientists can explain, and some of them want us to
believe they can explain everything" (NBC Press Release quoting M.O.M.
producer Bill Coate.)
+ A Media Feeding Frenzy of Religious Mysticism, Pseudo-Science +
"Mysterious Origins of Man" is not the first program to present such ideas
and unsubstantiated claims. In addition to the "big three" commercial
networks, UPN and Fox have found that contemporary pseudo-science and
mysticism, when packaged properly, can bring in advertising bucks and high
audience ratings. Even though much of the material is re-cycled and
discussed traditional themes such as Atlantis, UFO's, Stonehenge, pyramids,
apparitions of the Virgin Mary and other artifacts of pseudo-science pop
culture, the use of graphic special effects and interviews with "researchers"
and "experts" often lends a veneer of credibility and excitement to the
Often, program creators use effective techniques to create the impression
that one is watching a credible, "investigative-style" news show. As noted
in a previous article concerning the TV special "Mysteries of the
Millennium," shows like "Sightings" employ a professional looking stage-set
which resembles a news room. As a serious announcer reads the dialogue,
people can be seen in the background sitting in front of computers, walking
around with files or papers, or conversing. The "working news room," which
has become popular with network stage designers as a prop for the evening
news, is imported to create the appearance of serious journalism. The use of
celebrities ia also an effective tool. Jonathan Frakes of "Star Trel" fame
narrated a controversial, even whimsical special recently known as "Alien
Autopsy," which purportedly showed film of a medical exam performed on a dead
extra-terrestrial. ("Or is it just a hoax?") In "Mysterious Origins of
Mankind," Hollywood heavyweight Charlton Heston appears serious and
avuncular, a role played earlier by the late and robust Orson Welles in a
similar TV production "The Prophesies of Nostradamus."
Another technique of producers has been to portray conventional
scientific viewpoints on "hot button" topics like evolution as a dogmatic
creed enforced through intolerance and vague, conspiratorial machinations.
Contrary speculation is treated as competing theory, regardless of the
quality of the evidence. Evolution, plate techtonics and dating techniques
are questioned not on the basis of credible, challenging evidence but by
generalized statements of certain "researchers," "experts" and "writers."
In "Mysterious Origins of Man," one such "expert" was identified as Dr.
Carl Baugh, who believes that human beings and dinosaurs once co-existed.
For biblical literalists and creationists -- those who consider biblical
accounts of human origins to be literally true -- such coexistence is a
necessary component in accepting other religious teachings, including the
story of a global flood and Noah's Ark. Dinosaur tracks found in the Paluxy
riverbed in Texas, along with what some claim to be giant human footprints,
are often cited as evidence.
In the 1970's, it was revealed that several of the "man tracks" at Glen
Rose were hoaxes carved half-a-century before by a local resident named
Wayland Adams. A number of these carved "tracks" had been cited in
creationist literature as being actual footprints deposited by humans during
the dinosaur era. Following the February broadcast of "Mysterious Origins,"
newsgroups, websites and publications were quickly pointing out the lack of
good, credible evidence for the Paluxy tracks.
In addition, the use of Carl Baugh as a scientific-expert on M.O.M.
highlights a practice used by writers and producers of many pop-culture
pseudoscience "specials." Readers or viewers of such fare are often not told
the entire story, let alone presented with the overwhelming evidence put
forth by more reputable scientific authorities. Even some creationists such
as the Creation Science Foundation question the statements and credentials of
Mr. Baugh. The Christian Answers Network Homepage, for example, notes that
while "We are positive about biblical creation (sic) ,...we are negative
about the spreading of misinformation in the name of Christ." CANH then
noted that the Foundation had written to "Dr." Baugh "asking for
documentation regarding such astonishing claims as chlorophyll being found on
a T. rex tooth, alleged tapes of Neil Armstrong, a NASA experiment showing
that eggs do not hatch outside of a magnetic field, and a tomato plant that
grew to 30 feet tall and produced 5,000 tomatoes when grown under light
supposed simulating pre-Flood conditions. The only reply we received had
enclosed 'documentation' which was nothing of the sort."
Baugh's credentials have also been questioned. The Talk.Origins Archive
(http://members.aol.com/Paluxy2/degrees.htm) includes a concise, six-page
discussion of Baugh, including academic awards from either non-existent,
bogus or non-accredited institutions. Claims of advanced doctorates by
Baugh's associates, such as Don Patton of the Metroplex Institute of Origins
Science near Dallas, Texas, are also examined.
M.O.M. is O-U-T
Other problems plague many of the claims and speculations in "Mysterious
Origins of Mankind."
* Although M.O.M. script referred to "cover-ups," extensive investigation
and data into phenomena such as the Paluxy tracks was selectively ignored.
Frank Steiger's point-by-point dissection of the program as published in
Talk.Origins Archive, for instance, cited the work of scientists such as
Laurie Godfrey, John Cole, R.J. Hastings, Jim Farlow and Glen Kurban.
* Claims by "author researcher" David Hatcher Childress concerning
geological time scale are contradicted by scientific finds and even the
historical record of ancient peoples, including the Egyptians. Childress
also proposes that dinosaurs may be alive even today in remote environments,
and cites as possible evidence a photograph of a decomposed marine animal
hauled up by a Japanese fishing vessel. Notes Steiger: "It was never proven
to be a plesiosaur, as claimed. But (M.O.M. narrator-host) Heston reversed
the burden of proof by stating: 'Although its authenticity has never been
disproven, skeptics claim that it's merely the body of a decomposing shark.'
Charlton Heston is a very accomplished actor, and has the ability, by
gesture and facial expression, to make even the most flimsy 'evidence' sound
convincing. That, of course, is why they hired him."
* M.O.M. echoes an old creationist chestnut, that the "missing link" of
evolutionary theory has never been found, and that "there is little support
for man's connection to the apes." Just the opposite is true; nearly every
year, more of the fossil record supports the growing evidence for human
evolution, including the skull findings of Australopithecus and Neanderthal
hominids. The "lucy" skeleton discovered by Donald Johanson reveals a
definite transitional stage between ape and human, and is not -- as claimed
by the "Mysterious Origins of Man" producers -- simply another extinct ape.
* Viewers were presented with the dubious theory of Rand Flem-Ath and
Charles Hapgood, that approximately 12,000 years ago, the outer crust of the
earth shifted, thus moving temperate regions into a polar position. As
evidence, they cited the remains of a wooly mammoth which had buttercups in
its stomach. Notes Steiger: "The possibility the animal had lived at the
edge of an advancing icecap, had died, was preserved by cold conditions and
later covered by snow and the advancing icecap was not even considered."
Indeed, had such a remarkable and sudden shift taken place, substantially
more and better evidence would be uncovered on a regular basis.
Flem-Ath and Hapgood also propose a bizarre scenario which in the 1970's
was novelized as "The Habb Theory." In this account, the accumulation of ice
at the polar regions creates a weight-imbalance, and an immense "slip"
resulting in a re-alignment of geographical features. Gravity pulls the
northern cap "down" in a southerly direction; presumably, the "lost continent
of Atlantic" -- another mysitcal, new age topic -- is quickly moved to the
pole and is promptly encased in ice.
But this "slippage" is impossible; it assumes an enormous source of
gravity outside of the earth itself which, somehow, acts on the polar ice.
Where, and what could this be? Basic physics shows that even when aligned,
the moon and sun exert nowhere near the required gravitational attraction;
indeed, only by convincing viewers and readers that a southerly direction is
somehow "down" can the Hapgood-Flem-Auth tale even begin to have a semblance
For More Information About "Mysterious Origins of Mankind"...
* The NBC web site (http://www.nbc.com) has links to M.O.M.
* Search engines like Altavista will provide links as well, including the
Talk.Origins Archive. Check out Frank Steiger's critical review, which
includes other examples of poor research, unsubstantiated claims and
misinformation which appeared in M.O.M. Follow links to
http://rumba.ics.uci.edu:8080/faqs/mom/, which includes a critical discussion
of the Oronteus Finaeus Map of 1532, and the claim that artifacts found in
California provide evidence for the existence of modern-type humans dating
back 55 million years. Author Paul Heinrich constructs a skillful and
devastating critique of these unfounded and distorted assertions.
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A Word From The LISTMASTER...
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