Last night Close Up featured a debate between Gareth Morgan and Ian Wishart on whether climate change is real or a hoax. It’s a shame we didn’t have Mark Sainsbury around to tackle the big issues last century: we could have spent the cold war discussing whether or not the Soviet Union was real and the early 40’s would have seen heated debate on whether the Japanese drive to dominate the Pacific was a scam dreamed up by greedy geographers and political scientists to get more grant money. I’m rarely home in time to watch Sainsbury’s show: I’m assuming tonight’s episode will be about the controversy over whether drinking drain cleaner is healthy or not. ‘Make up your own minds and then call our phone in poll.’
Snark aside, I think the problem is that so few journalists have any kind of background in science: most of ’em graduate with degrees in subjects like history or politics or literature. You wouldn’t see Sainsbury doing a serious show about whether or not the Bush government and Israel were behind 9/11 because they understand that it’s not a valid debate and that they’d look like fools if they took the conspiracy theorists seriously. But because there’s (evidently) nobody at TVNZ who knows anything about scientific issues they don’t understand that their show made them look like ignorant chumps, that Morgan and Wishart are not qualified to speak on scientific issues and that by hosting a debate about a fake controversy they’re actively misleading the public.
Update: A few people have emailed me to point out that Close Up did, in fact have serious inteview with a 9/11 truther a few weeks ago. Sorry, like I said, I don’t watch the show. I overestimated their intelligence and integrity.