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Friday, January 7, 2005
KNME Shelves Christian-Funded Show Challenging Evolutionary Theory
By Rick Nathanson
Journal Staff Writer
KNME-TV has pulled a documentary called "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" from tonight's television schedule because it was funded by evangelical Christian sources.
The documentary, which had been scheduled to air during the 9 p.m. time slot reserved for tonight's episode of "NOVA," challenges Darwin's theory of evolution.
"The funders of this program have a clear and specific agenda that they openly promote," said KNME marketing manager Joan Rebecchi.
"KNME has no position regarding this agenda, but we must guard against the public perception that editorial control might have been exercised by the program funders."
Some scientists question whether KNME's decision was based on content.
An advertisement placed in today's Journal by program supporters called the decision censorship.
Some scientists argue that the sophisticated machinery inside living cells could point to "intelligent design."
The theory is sound, leading-edge science, regardless of who paid to produce it, they say.
Supporters of the program point out that the show has aired on other PBS affiliates.
On the other side of the argument are scientists who contend intelligent design is "creationism in a lab coat."
"It's nothing more than a religious proselytizing effort masquerading as science," said Dave Thomas, a physicist and mathematician who works at a local high-tech robotics firm.
KNME has fielded a number of phone calls and letters from both sides, but Rebecchi said none factored into the station's decision.
"KNME follows PBS production funding standards and practices," which are designed to promote fairness, balance and impartiality, said Rebecchi.
KNME program manager Chad Davis said "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" lists five Christian organizations as funders.
Among them, and the most problematic, he said, is the Crowell Trust. According to its Web site, the trust promotes "the teaching and active extension of the doctrines of Evangelical Christianity through approved grants to qualified organizations."
Said Ted Garcia, KNME's general manager and CEO: "Had the program been produced from the perspective of an objective body, free of this perceived influence, the program would have been acceptable for broadcast, with an appropriate disclaimer by KNME."
Rebecca Keller, an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of New Mexico, thinks the documentary should air.
"It challenges the idea that this sophisticated machinery and software could arise purely by the means of natural selection and random mutation, which is the core of Darwinian evolution," Keller said.
It makes for good science to question a "dominant paradigm," such as Darwin's theory of evolution, she added.
"From a scientific perspective, I can't understand why KNME wouldn't run this documentary. ... They're hiding behind their guidelines because the documentary itself is not objectionable."
Rebecchi acknowledged the program has aired on other PBS affiliates.
"Why it ran in those markets, I can't say. Maybe those stations didn't check to see who was funding it, or maybe they have different guidelines."
Thomas is president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a group of scientists and interested lay people who promote critical thinking.
He has seen the documentary and agrees with the decision to pull it.
Thomas called it "creationism in a lab coat" because its basic premise argues that cells, and therefore life, "are so complex that they couldn't possibly have evolved on their own, and there must be a supernatural designer."
The intelligent design theory, "is pseudo science," he said. "It looks scientific, but those ideas were shot down 200 years ago."