Home > Young Earth Creationism > More on creationists lying to historians

More on creationists lying to historians

June 27, 2009

Jim Lippard has made me aware that CMI and Fathom Media have released a statement defending their actions. Nothing in the statement has made me change my opinion. While Fathom Media may have attempted to portray themselves as disinterested individuals attempting to “dig a bit deeper into the life and science of Charles Darwin and the development of his ideas,” the very nature of the study guide they produced belie that goal containing, as it does, merely links to YEC talking-points provided on the CMI website.

The posted statement is strangely ineffective. Note that there are claims that “[u]nder atheism there is no compunction to be truthful at all” and equations of mainstream academia with oppressive regimes:

If our critics were consistent, they would be raging at the BBC and other investigative documentary producers, since this is their accepted practice. For example, reporters didn’t reveal everything to Communist officials when making an undercover documentary of repression behind the Iron Curtain.

Really? Is that the best argument to make if you want to convince skeptical historians that you have done a good job in your documentary? That historians being interviewed are equivalent to members of the Communist party and needed to be deceived?

And a close reading of the following reveals a minimal defense at best:

Further, and perhaps most importantly, we were determined to deal fairly with the material that the interviewees provided. There was not to be the sort of sneaky editorial cut-and-paste that ends up with someone being seen to say “black” when they actually said “white”. Indeed, in an email response to a query, one interviewee said, “They didn’t actually distort what we said, but did cherry-pick the comments.” (emphasis added by CMI)

The implication from CMI is that it is ok to “cherry-pick” evidence as long as you don’t distort what is said. But as historians we cannot cherry-pick quotes, we can’t avoid statements that might provide a more nuanced interpretation of an earlier statement. We can’t – in short – do exactly what CMI are accused of.

Does the film have a viewpoint? Of course. So does every documentary. Does that influence which cherry gets picked? Of course. What counts is whether that has been fairly done in terms of the way that “cherry” is used and presented, not whether it suits the ideology of any particular interviewee.

As long as the “cherry” being picked suits the ideology of the production company, then all is fair when it comes to “cherry-picking.” This isn’t an attempt at good historical inquiry and is even more disgusting given the use of noted historians to provide the “cherries” thus adding a veneer of respectability to the production.

As Jim notes, the proof will be in the pudding. If CMI feel inclined to send me a copy of the documentary, I’d be happy to watch it as an historian and fairly evaluate the claims being made in the same way as I evaluate those of any historical work I have professionally reviewed. Until then, I remain unconvinced.

Update (6/29): Further thoughts here.

About these ads
  1. sbh
    June 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm | #1

    In point of fact, cherry-picking is simply a form of lying. There is no way to “cherry-pick” fairly.

  2. Mike
    June 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm | #2

    How can you produce a 1 hour doco without cherry picking the comments? it would be a 24 hour film if every single comment recorded were included!!

    In your first paragraph you state “Nothing in the statement has made me change my opinion.” One wonders just what would be required for you to change your opinion? Perhaps you should see the doco???

  3. June 27, 2009 at 10:38 pm | #3

    @ Mike

    You can trim down an interview without making one of the interviewees feel that they have been unfairly “cherry picked”.

    My opinion (referred to above) was on their slight of hand in not honestly representing their goals. While I have not seen the documentary (but invite the opportunity to do so, see above), examination of their “study guide” is enough to make me suspect their intentions. For example, where are any links to reputable studies of Darwin’s life and time? Links to readings perhaps by the very historians (Brown, Bowler, Herbert) who were interviewed? Why would you not want readers to learn more of what those very scholars say?

  4. Stereo
    June 28, 2009 at 6:38 am | #4

    I agree with your statement that there should be outside CMI links to anything that they state about Darwin’s life and time. The deception used in filming the doco is something that should be expected, I suppose.

    Question though, where is the link to the full text of CMI’s “defence”? Clicking a few links to find it for myself was almost too much trouble.

    “Cherry-picking” I would assume is common practice no matter what viewpoint you discuss. Any documentary would use the footage and quotes that best put forward whatever point they are trying to make, whether you agree with that point or not. Is it a problem? Only if what you say is twisted to mean something it doesn’t. Otherwise, let’s argue against what they conclude in the documentary. One last thing, if the comments that the director has used from each expert while their guard was down had been left on the cutting-room floor by a sympathetic production company would you have a problem with their “cherry-picking”?

  5. June 28, 2009 at 10:15 am | #5

    In regards to your last statement:

    As Jim notes, the proof will be in the pudding. If CMI feel inclined to send me a copy of the documentary, I’d be happy to watch it as an historian and fairly evaluate the claims being made in the same way as I evaluate those of any historical work I have professionally reviewed. Until then, I remain unconvinced., did you send that directly to CMI? I doubt that they’d go hunting for it on this blog…

    God, I’d love to see them get their rears handed to them.

  6. June 28, 2009 at 11:25 am | #6

    @ Stereo

    Sorry. Fixed the link to the defense.

    @ Reynold

    No. But they linked to my original post in their defense, so I’ll just leave the ball in their court.

  7. June 28, 2009 at 1:21 pm | #7

    Mike,

    Yes, you have to cut down the length of an interview for time. But in case you missed it, what John quoted above is CMI saying that they intentionally kept things that made their position sound accurate and discarded anything that didn’t. They’re not being academically honest; they’re crafting a narrative. And that’s what should be called “fiction”, not a documentary.

  8. June 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm | #8

    Also, notice how they said “one interviewee said” rather than give us a name so we could confirm the claim. They could well have gone on to say “However, the narrative they are forming is not representative of true history” or some such thing… but since we don’t know who “one interviewee” is, we’ll never be able to fact-check.

    Typical.

  9. June 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm | #9

    @ MikeTheInfidel

    My guess is that the interviewee is Peter Bowler. But it’s only a guess.

  10. DLC
    June 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm | #10

    Oddly, I am not surprised. Lying for Jesus seems to be their chief means of argument.
    I wonder what Lee Atwater would think of them.

  11. korotiotio
    June 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm | #11

    If the interviewee is Bowler, perhaps they did him a favor by not naming him? If you were him and the quote was accurate would you want it made public???

    BTW, I have seen the film and I would aver that perhaps this is not quite the documentary one might expect from a YEC organization…

  12. alderan
    June 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm | #12

    You can’t really argue with Darwins discoveries. They are right there in your face. Either you choose to ignore it or you accept what’s right there in front of you.

  13. stushie
    June 28, 2009 at 9:48 pm | #13

    Both sides are cherry picking propagandaists. History is usually written biasedly by the winners; in this case, both sides are losers. Documentaries are by nature biased no matter which side creates them.

  14. June 29, 2009 at 1:58 am | #14

    It’s not okay to pick a cherry and pretend it’s an apple, or a plum.

    Does the film talk about the enormous successes we’ve seen as a result of Darwin’s work? Does it say, for example, that diabetics now may live long, productive lives, due to the practical applications of the theory in understanding the origins, causes, and treatments of the disease?

    Or does it suggest that there is some dark problem with the theory of evolution, that it is in some way false?

    We cherry pick information about George Washington, too. We may emphasize his behind-the-scenes fights with Congress, his use of spies, to indicate how hard he fought to hold together the Continental Army and the republic-in-birth; or we can note his long periods without engaging the British, and suggest Washington wasn’t always so decisive as perhaps he should be. But no longer may we say he cut down his father’s cherry tree and told the truth about it, thereby establishing him as the most honest man in history. We know that story was a complete fabrication, and it would be dishonest to suggest it is true, say by presenting evidence that George Washington’s father grew cherries, and showing stumps of cherry trees.

    This film doesn’t strike me so much as cherry picking as cherry tree chopping, in order to get a stump to put on camera.

    Why are the filmmakers avoiding screenings for scientists or historians? It appears they fully understand the propaganda value and target of the movie by putting it in fundamentalist churches alone, avoiding even the majority of religious views on evolution.

  15. June 29, 2009 at 2:04 am | #15

    Here’s the confession:

    In March 2009 we wrote an article about the film in Creation magazine (subscribers in over 170 countries) in which we stated openly that Fathom Media was a subsidiary production company we set up. In a footnote, we explained: “This allowed us more freedom to approach the places we wanted to film and be judged on the merits and the aims of the project, without being discriminated against on the basis of our name.”

    Let’s be fair now: Submit the movie, without credits, to a panel of historians familiar with science, evolution and Darwin, and let them review it — same way these propagandists made the movie. Then, if the reviews are not favorable as to honesty and accuracy, don’t release it. Judge it on its merits, eh?

  16. June 29, 2009 at 2:06 am | #16

    It’s not enough to win the title “honest” that “Argentina” and “Appalachian Tral” both start with the letter A. It’s generally considered poor form to set up a subsidiary company and call it Appalachian Trail when your destination is Argentina. Even in politics, that’s considered bad form.

    Can’t these people of faith be at least as honest as a crooked, wife-cheating politician?

  17. korotiotio
    June 29, 2009 at 2:35 am | #17

    @Ed Darrell.

    The producers state that the documentary was designed for and to appeal to secular broadcasters and is being marketed to those broadcasters.

    I suggest you park your bias until you can comment on the film intelligently.

    As for diabetics (my sister is one), quite how you arrived at such a nonsensical conclusion is beyond me. How does a belief in evolution have anything to do with discoveries that led to our modern understanding of diabetes. Diabetes have treatments today because real scientists did real science observing and understanding how things happen in the PRESENT, rather than pseudo-science ‘religionists’ speculating about what happened in the past.

    In fact diabetes is exactly the type of disease that condemns the very premise of evolution i.e. mutation and natural selection working in harmony to ‘create’ something bigger and better. Diabetes is just one more example of catastrophic genetic failure that causes pain & suffering. It is the very anti-thesis of evolution.

    Speaking of sisters – have you actually pondered why it’s not a good idea to get married to one? Because the human genome has mutated so badly!!! Hardly a compelling testimony to the wonders of the evolutionary process.

    Perhaps you might want to go away and brush up on the history of science and see where the real influences came from.

    Yikes!

  18. korotiotio
    June 29, 2009 at 2:42 am | #18

    “Let’s be fair now: Submit the movie, without credits, to a panel of historians familiar with science, evolution and Darwin, and let them review it — same way these propagandists made the movie. Then, if the reviews are not favorable as to honesty and accuracy, don’t release it. Judge it on its merits, eh?”

    Just like Nat Geo, the BBC and Discovery do, every time they talk about creationism.

    NOT!

    Do you have any idea about how documentaries are made???

  19. Kyle
    June 29, 2009 at 3:43 am | #19

    korotiotio, you have straw-manned evolution, as expected of a loony.

    In fact diabetes is exactly the type of disease that condemns the very premise of evolution i.e. mutation and natural selection working in harmony to ‘create’ something bigger and better. Diabetes is just one more example of catastrophic genetic failure that causes pain & suffering. It is the very anti-thesis of evolution.

    Where to start with such a ridiculous statement? Well, for one, evolution is much more than “mutation and natural selection”. For two, no one ever said they work “in harmony”, whatever that means. It seems to imply that they have will-power, which they don’t – they are mindless forces. For three, there’s nothing in any description of evolution that implies or states that it will only be creating something “bigger and better”, except in creationist drivel when they are trying to slander it. Indeed, the mutation can cripple a person pretty severely, as we’ve all seen, and natural selection takes over and typically that person doesn’t continue on in life, or reproduce in order to continue that line of mutation. That’s natural selection for you.

    Think of evolution as a giant tree growing up toward the sun. In this analogy, each branch created has a slightly different genetic makeup. Branches that don’t grow as quickly get less sunlight, and ones that grow faster tend to get more sunlight and grow better and stronger. Branches can have positive mutations, neutral mutations, and negative mutations. Examples of each might be: Growing wider leaves (positive), a susceptibility to certain blights (negative), and changing the pigment in its bark to be a slightly different color (neutral). There’s probably better examples of neutral mutations, but the point still stands: Having a susceptibility to certain blights will likely cause that specific branch to die off more quickly, or grow more slowly, and by natural selection, the stronger, heartier branches overtake it.

    Now, go lie down and think about the silliness of your statement like a good child.

  20. June 29, 2009 at 10:42 am | #20

    I’ve been reviewing the “Creation Ministries” stuff on the film. An appropriate headline today would be “CMI lies about lying about Darwin.”

    This production and the methods of the producers bring shame not only on them, but on all Christians. This is quite painful.

  21. June 29, 2009 at 11:05 am | #21

    Where to begin, indeed.

    The producers state that the documentary was designed for and to appeal to secular broadcasters and is being marketed to those broadcasters.

    Bovine excrement. They have made no appeal to any secular broadcaster that anyone can find. They state in their material that they made the movie to further their “ministry” (ministry of evil, I would call it). They schedule no screenings to sell the film to distributors. They enter the film in no festivals to increase the chances of getting screenings and sales in secular areas. Instead, they schedule viewings in churches across the world — and in no other sites — and openly appeal for contributions, love offerings, to their “ministry.”

    Undercover film operations are one thing — this is not that. Ambush journalism is another, and this falls into that category, but without the word “journalism” being appropriate in any way. Jesus said we shouldn’t hide lights under bushels, but these guys don’t have lights. Their attempt to put bushels over the lights of historians and scientists is, by Biblical terms, evil. I think all Christians should feel compelled to speak out against this voodoo history, voodoo religion film.

    I suggest you park your bias until you can comment on the film intelligently.

    You have a bizarre definition of intelligence. I suggest you buck up, straighten your spine and speak out against injustice and error. Bias for accuracy is never something that should wait.

    As for diabetics (my sister is one), quite how you arrived at such a nonsensical conclusion is beyond me. How does a belief in evolution have anything to do with discoveries that led to our modern understanding of diabetes. Diabetes have treatments today because real scientists did real science observing and understanding how things happen in the PRESENT, rather than pseudo-science ‘religionists’ speculating about what happened in the past.

    Speaking of reserving judgment, perhaps you should reserve comment until you acquaint yourself with the history of diabetes. The cause of the disease — faults in the pancreas — were accidentally discovered by surgeons practicing surgery on dogs. They removed the dogs’ pancreases, and discovered they had induced diabetes in the dogs. Their surgery practice was based on the common evolutionary understanding that animals are, evolutionarily, analogs of humans, mammals, especially. So the discovery of diabetes’ cause was based on applied evolution theory.

    Treating diabetes then became a serious pursuit. Eventually scientists determined that a lack of insulin usually caused the symptoms. The search was on to find a source of insulin to treat diabetics. Again, evolution theory provided the answer, and porcine and bovine pancreases, supplied from slaughterhouses, provided the insulin to treat the disease. Applied evolution theory once again.

    Today, most diabetics in the western world use Humulin or another drug similar to that brand. It is human insulin manufactured by bacteria which have been genetically engineered with the insertion of human genes to make the bacteria produce human insulin. Each step of genetic engineering was done with full understanding of the processes in the evolution theory, in pursuit of further understanding of evolution. Applied evolution theory, once again.

    Here is a good, simple explanation of history, from the Nobel Foundation website.

    In fact diabetes is exactly the type of disease that condemns the very premise of evolution i.e. mutation and natural selection working in harmony to ‘create’ something bigger and better. Diabetes is just one more example of catastrophic genetic failure that causes pain & suffering. It is the very anti-thesis of evolution.

    Evolution does not have goals. Evolution happens. Your misunderstanding of evolution is at least as signficant as your ignorance of the history of diabetes and its treatment.

    If diabetes were left untreated, most Type I and many Type II victims would die before they could have children. Natural selection in action. But it’s really more complex than that — diabetes tends to occur often when the victim inherits two recessive genes, so the genetic tendency can descend in a family with no operation of natural selection able to knock it out.

    In fact, since your sister has the disease, it is likely that you and your siblings and children have a genetic predisposition for the disease. You should make your physician aware so you can be appropriately tested annually. Another life-saving application of practical evolution theory.

    Speaking of sisters – have you actually pondered why it’s not a good idea to get married to one? Because the human genome has mutated so badly!!! Hardly a compelling testimony to the wonders of the evolutionary process.

    How bizarre that you’d think evolution should smooth the path to incest by making it no problem. You’d do well to study evolution and see how it really works. You may also want to see a counselor about those feelings for your sister.

    In evolutionary terms, your sister would not appear so appealing as a better genetic match. Your olfactories and Jensen’s Organ should alert you — evolutionary defenses against incest, and in favor of good genetic blending.

    Have you ever studied evolution?

    Perhaps you might want to go away and brush up on the history of science and see where the real influences came from.

    Yikes!

    Could you tell us your sources on the history of science? They were clearly faulty, and I’d like to avoid them.

  22. June 29, 2009 at 6:28 pm | #22

    Hi John,

    I’m with CMI and we’d be happy to send you a review copy of the DVD so you can judge it for yourself. It may take a week or so, but where would you like it to be sent?

    All the best,

    [removed e-mail address]

  23. June 29, 2009 at 6:41 pm | #23

    Tas,

    Thanks for the offer. I have emailed you separately.

    (I’ve also removed your email address so that it doesn’t get spammed).

  24. korotiotio
    June 30, 2009 at 2:04 am | #24

    @Ed Darrell: “They have made no appeal to any secular broadcaster that anyone can find. ”

    Which goes to show that “anyone” hasn’t looked very hard.

    The film is being distributed by TVF International (http://www.tvfinternational.com/the-voyage-that-shook-the-world-2/), a secular broadcast agent in London and is in the process of being sold to broadcasters. “Voyage” has been marketed twice at MIPCOM in Cannes, and is being shown in public cinema screenings in Australia.

    So you started by getting it wrong. Doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the rest of your comments…

Comments are closed.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers

%d bloggers like this: