July 26, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

The Simpsons Producer Treats Evolution as Fact

The TV cartoon The Simpsons was praised for its “greatness” in, of all places, the premiere scientific journal Nature.1  Michael Hopkin interviewed “Executive producer Al Jean, the show’s head writer and a Harvard mathematics graduate.”  One of the questions was, “One episode in which the show does take sides is the one in which Lisa protests against creationism in her school.”  Jean explained the thinking behind the episode:

What we say is that there are conservatives, like Pope John Paul II, who believe in the theory of evolution, and that it’s far from a liberal theory: it’s scientific, it’s as close to a fact as can be.  We did say that Flanders, who opposed the teaching of evolution, is sincere in his beliefs.  We tried to take his emotions seriously.
    What’s really funny is that they had a debate here between the Republican candidates [for the presidential nomination], and the moderator said “so, which of you believe in evolution?”  And you could see a couple sort of raising their hands and then changing their minds, and I’m going “how can you not be sure whether you think that’s true or not?  It’s not a matter of opinion.

Jean did not explain what he meant by evolution, but since it was put in contradistinction to “creationism” one could safely infer he meant the common ancestry of all organisms by an unguided, undirected process that did not include a designing intelligence.  Because of that, and for assuming the factual objectivity of the most controversial theory in science and philosophy, and for propounding a grade-school-level philosophy of science, he wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.
    For the Pope’s most recent statement about evolution, see this translation of his July 25 speech posted by ID Net.2


1Michael Hopkin, “News Feature: Science in comedy: Mmm… pi,” Nature 448, 404-405 (26 July 2007) | doi:10.1038/448404a.
2This is provided for reference only.  CEH makes no claim that the Pope’s opinions on this matter carry any particular credibility or authority.  Since his words were widely reported in sound bites, however, one should view them in their context.

We think people need to be reminded that cartoons don’t just drop out of the sky into TV sets from unbiased sources.  They are the work of producers, writers, and publicists who are just as biased as anyone else.  You’ve just seen a portion of the mindset of the executive producer of a popular cartoon that always portrays the father as a bozo, the son as a delinquent, the religious leader as the sincere fool, and the girl who adores science as the savior of society from dangerous myths like creationism.  Why do you think they do this?  No agenda at all, would you say?  There’s nothing like humor to slip propaganda past the family radar.
    Al Jean may be a math whiz but he needs to do some homework.  If he thinks evolution is the closest thing to a fact as anything can be, and that one is not allowed to have opinions about it, even if the skeptic is a PhD scientist or world-class philosopher or theologian, then he needs to go back to school himself.  His assignment is to read all seven years of Creation-Evolution Headlines.
    Jean’s answer to a subsequent question in the interview provides a great case of dramatic irony.  He was asked, “Do you have a dream scientific guest who you’d love to have on the show?”  Without blinking an eye, he said, “Living or dead, it would be Isaac Newton.”  Ha!  Gotcha.  Now read this article by Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe, and the entry on Newton in our online book.  Better send your cartoon heroine to keep this kook out of the public schools, Al.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Education, Media

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