Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Liars For Jesus Get A Taxpayers' Handout

CMI propaganda cartoon. Probably about as good as it gets.
Australian film agency awarded creationist film AUD$90,000 | Film | The Guardian

Creation Ministries International is the Australian version of Answers in Genesis from which it split when it's founder, Dr. Carl Wieland fell out with it's then president, Ken Ham, who went off to the USA where more money could be made.

It is little different to AiG in that it specialises in misrepresenting science to misinform the people to whom it sells books, and Christian fundamentalist groups who invite guest speakers to provide spurious confirmation of their existing bias by giving it the semblance of a scientific basis.

Judging by their slick website, CMI is not short of a bob or two. Either it's backers or its customers are generous in their support. Creationists are never slow to stump up good money to be told what they want to hear by creationist 'scientists'.

CMI's veracity can be judged from their well-trumpeted publication a few years ago of a list of 15 questions which they claimed 'evolutionists' could not answer. The site they published them on did not allow replies, of course - can't be too careful, can we - but if you dug around hard enough there was a link to a site where you could submit replies 'for consideration'. Having spent some considerable time answering these questions in detail and submitting them 'for consideration', they were of course, completely ignored, and the claim is still being made that they remain substantively unanswered. CMI only presents selected, unattributed and easily dismissed 'answers'.

To further their money-making scheme, CMI made a 52-minute long pseudoscience/pseudohistory video in 2009 to 'celebrate' the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, using the familiar creationist techniques of misrepresentation, lies, selective presentation of refuted or highly dubious science as mainstream and presentational techniques designed to make CMI employees look like respected experts without admitting to their vested interest.

Now it's been revealed that CMI managed to exploit a loophole to charge AU$90,000 of the AU$116,000 it cost them to make this piece of misinformation, to Australian taxpayers. Screen Australia is a government agency set up to support and encourage the Australian domestic film industry and legally obliged to either contribute financially to the making of documentaries by Australian film companies or to give a tax offset rebate. It had offered a lower rebate but CMI appealed to a tribunal and won.

The documentary fails to mention creationism but purports to be a serious scientific and historical assessments and corrections of Darwin's mistakes and biases. To this end it presents a series of vignettes of Darwin's life and times by reputable historians followed by CMI employees giving their alternative opinions without the viewers being told they work for CMI. The clear intent is to portray them as more experts and so mislead the viewers.

The video spends a considerable time misleading the audience regarding the Galapagos and the place they played in the formation of Darwin's ideas. It makes the historically inaccurate claim that at that time informed opinion was divided between a scientific view that that Earth was old and change was gradual but that species were fixed and unchanging, and a religious view that Earth was young and subject to a rapid catastrophic change but that species were mutable. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie.

There may well have been individuals who expressed those views but they were by no means the only views on offer. These misrepresentations are made by Rob Carter who is identified as “(PhD, University of Miami) Marine Biologist and Geneticist”. Nothing is said about him being a full-time employee of CMI. He is shown in a series of locations dressed in what is intended to look like the sort of gear a scientist would wear when doing field work. In fact his PhD was conducted in a laboratory on fluorescent proteins in Cnidaria. He has no record of field research.

Despite being a biologist, Carter is also presented as an expert historian. I'll let Jim Lippard and John M Lynch, who reviewed the film for The National Centre For Science Education, take up the story:

He states that Darwin’s contemporary Edward Blyth had a “fully fledged theory of natural selection” and that “Darwin got Blyth’s first paper when Darwin was in South America, so when he came here to the Galápagos, he had Blyth’s idea of natural selection and Lyell’s idea of geology on his mind”. The documentary goes on to claim that Darwin was misled by his reliance on Lyell’s gradualism to initially miss the evidence for natural selection in the Galápagos islands, in particular with regards the avian specimens he collected. (It is perhaps worth noting here that implicit in the claim is that Darwin somehow plagiarized the idea of natural selection from Blyth, a creationist who saw selection as a purely negative force that maintained the type.) The problems here are twofold. First, natural selection is in no way self-evident from the collections that Darwin — or indeed any other naturalist — could have made. What Darwin observed on his voyage was variation and in particular patterns of variation — the processes behind the patterns would only come to him when back in England. Secondly, while Blyth did indeed have a theory of selection, historians — despite the claim made by Loren Eiseley (1959) — have been unable to demonstrate that Darwin had read Blyth’s paper of January 1835 before visiting the archipelago in September, or had indeed for that matter read Blyth's paper before 1837-'38. In short, Carter is being inaccurate — or disingenuous — in his presentations of historical “facts”.

At one point the film presents evidence of Darwin's supposed racism and claims this came from his evolutionary view. It presents this as a contrast to the supposed absence of racism in religion - a claim which is absurd in the extreme given the religious support for slavery at that time and Darwin's opposition to it.

The film concludes with a claim by Cornelius Hunter who is introduced as a “Molecular Biophysicist & Author” without mentioning that he is also a Fellow of the Discovery Institute, that Darwin developed the theory of evolution as a philosophical counter to religion as science was beginning to diverge from philosophy implying that Darwin had an anti-religion agenda.

The viewer is left with the impression that evolution and religion are merely philosophical views with evidence being evenly balanced between the two and both being at least equally valid. There is, as we should expect of a creationist organization, no presentation of the vast amount of evidence for common descent from many different strands of science, nor the overwhelming geological and cosmological evidence of an old Earth in an even older Universe. Facts which are inconvenient to the creationist agenda are simply ignored and the target audience is assumed to be ignorant of them.

If you are an Australian taxpayer, you have contributed to the costs of making this marketing tool for dishonest people who specialise in fleecing ignorant people.

Sources:
Jim Lippard and John M Lynch; Review: The Voyage that Shook the World, National Center for Science Education.

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