Monday, March 24, 2008

The Expelled Incident as Insight into the Culture of Bias

The recent incident with PZ Myers getting expelled from a screening of Expelled (a movie in which he appears comically enough) provides us insights into the culture of "bias". Granted, it is on the extreme end of the spectrum, but sometimes that is where the essentials shine through.

We hear about bias all the time. The media is biased, Hollywood is biased, the judges are biased, Wikipedia is biased, science is biased, etc. I've written about bias before, and while that was fairly general, this commentary is very specific. Think about all the examples of bias I mention above. See some similarities? One group dominates the rank and file accusers of bias: conservative Christians. The media is biased because it doesn't much support their faith-based political agendas (except for one which I'll get to in a moment). Hollywood is biased because it doesn't support their faith-based social views. Judges who rule against them (say Judge Jones of Dover fame) are biased when they deal with facts, as is Wikipedia. Science is biased because it doesn't treat 2,000 year old creation tales as legitimate.

Over and over again we see the same pattern of response. The media is biased, so they create Fox News, which Rupert Murdock specifically said was designed to offset the "liberal media bias". So it was, from its inception, NOT a news organization, but a propaganda machine. It's the Pravda of the Right. Those who argue that the other media outlets are the equivalent for the left are merely suffering from the compulsive centrist disorder Fox has helped create with its "fair and balanced" mantra. Reality is not fair and balanced, and neither is Fox.

Likewise, facts bothered them with Wikipedia, so they create Conservapedia, an absolute joke of a site with scholarship thattreated Noah's ark as a historical event. In a similar vein, scientific findings run counter to literal interpretations of favorite desert fables, so they put together sciency-sounding talkers and write sciency-sounding books and pretend they are doing science. They make their own museums like the Creation Museum, a testament to idiocy, complete with saddled brontosauruses ready to be ridden.

The schools are biased because they don't treat religious views as worthy of being taught over modern science or math, so they scream about home schooling and choice and set up joke institutions like Bob Jones University and Liberty that essentially insulate the attendees from many of the very essential lessons college students
are supposed to learn. And let's not even get into all the diploma mills like "Patriot University", which was located in someone's basement.

And of course, when you lose in the sociopolitical realm with your fancy little "Intelligent Design" idea, rather than just admit your error, instead stoop to the lowest kind of behavior to get even. You make a movie where you interview people under false pretensions, and then have the audacity to evict one of them from a prescreening of the film HE IS IN! And then they have the nerve to act as if they are the aggrieved party. Had you submitted this story to a Hollywood producer, it would probably be rejected for having characters unrealistically stupid and brazen. Yet there they are.

More and more, modern scientific investigation reveals facts and confirms theories that conflict with traditional religious teachings. And let's be fair: some of the moral and social rules of religion did have a lot of staying power. After all, how many of your ideas will last 1,000 years? So those who devised them deserve some credit. But they clearly weren't omniscient, and sometimes the rules need revision. The world changes, either by technology, or nature, it changes, and we have to change with it.

Those who refuse to change, who set up these alternate realities for themselves rather than admit the flaws of beloved beliefs, are a drag on the rest of us. They have every right to make their personal decisions any way they wish. More power to the Amish. But the rest of us should not be tolerant of their attempts to make public policy based on their myopia. It doesn't matter whether they call it "fair and balanced media" or "strengths and weakness of evolution" or "school choice" or "academic freedom", it is all about the same thing: holding onto a faith-based view of the world in the face of growing evidence to the contrary.

This problem is only going to get worse as more and more data come in. And they have proven over and over again that their precious absolute moral code doesn't seem to come into play when dealing with those who disagree with them. Then lying, and basic standards of decency, simply don't apply. Not to them anyway. Be assured they will be crying persecution every moment they are screwing you.

It's time the culture of bias was called for what it is: a cover for religious closed-mindedness, nothing less, and nothing more. It's time we in the reality-based community stopped wasting so much time debating the minutia of arguments they don't really care about anyway. These people are about ideology, not truth, and they are going to make reality the way they want if they have to censor everyone around them to do it. The only thing that stops them is lack of power, not lack of will. The Expelled incident was just the latest, greatest moment. More are right around the corner. Watch for them.

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