Science on TV Evolves

In the years that BreakPoint has been on the radio, I've had some strong words about our nation's public television broadcasting system, PBS. Two years ago, for example, I criticized PBS's airing of a deeply flawed series on the theory of evolution. That series was inaccurate and one-sided, leaving out any mention of the scientific evidence that supported the theory of intelligent design. But today I've got good news about PBS to report. And this is news where you can make a real difference. Over the past few weeks, here and there around the country, some PBS stations have been broadcasting the one-hour science documentary "Unlocking the Mystery of Life." This program tells the story of the biological theory of intelligent design. Using interviews with scientists and philosophers, computer animation, and location footage -- from such sites as the Galapagos Islands -- "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" describes the emergence of an alternative theory to strictly naturalistic evolution. Naturalistic evolution, you see, credits all the amazing diversity and complexity of life solely to mindless natural causes, and that's how PBS science programs usually explain biology. That's "usually" as in "the sun usually goes down at night." You'd search fruitlessly if you tried to find PBS presenting the scientific case for a different viewpoint than Darwinian. And so airing "Unlocking the Mystery" points to a significant breakthrough. The documentary tells such a good scientific story that, earlier this year, PBS made the program available to all of its national affiliates. Local stations could download the program from a satellite link, and -- if they so decided -- put it into their schedules. Stations in Oklahoma and Michigan have already done so, and in a couple of days, PBS affiliates in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Texas will broadcast the program as well. You can contact BreakPoint (1-877-3-CALLBP) for the days and times of these broadcasts. Airing "Unlocking the Mystery" on taxpayer-supported public television is great news for intellectual freedom and openness in science. Most Americans learn about new developments in science from TV -- shows like the long-running PBS series NOVA. A well produced TV documentary can take complicated scientific theories and make them accessible and easy to understand -- even fun to watch. For young people, science that might be boring in the classroom becomes fascinating when presented imaginatively on television. But TV can also exclude scientific ideas if they're deemed too controversial or likely to upset the scientific establishment. Challenges to Darwinian evolution have been seen just that way, religiously motivated and therefore suspect. But science suffers as a result, because there is plenty of evidence that does challenge Darwinism, and the public needs to hear both sides. So here's what you can do. Call your local PBS station if it hasn't scheduled "Unlocking the Mystery," and encourage it to show the program. Send them an e-mail. If they've already shown it, let them know you appreciate their willingness to present alternatives to Darwinian evolution -- and that you'd like to see more of such programming in the future. For further reading and information: Visit the PBS website to find out whether your local station is airing "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" and to contact them about it. Order your own copy of "Unlocking the Mystery of Life." Learn more about intelligent design at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Phillip E. Johnson, "Intelligent Design, Freedom, and Education," BreakPoint WorldView, May 2003.


Chuck Colson


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