Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#1987: Michael Medved

Michael Medved is a right-wing radio host (the fundie Christian Salem Radio Network), movie critic (some of his earlier writings on film are actually pretty decent: Medved also helped launch the popularity of Plan Nine from Outer Space) and senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank that occasionally tries to pretend to be thinking about science but usually forgets that they’re supposed to, such as when they hired Medved, who doesn’t have any background remotely related to science. Medved claims to be a “moderate” and is, indeed, moderate on a number of issues, having even critized the extremists on the far right; but he is also a supporter of the Tea Party, as well as various fringe conspiracy theories and a broad range of denialist positions, including global warming denialism (“a complete scam”) and creationism. His recent work includes such claptrap as Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values.

Medved is a firm supporter of Intelligent Design Creationism (it is worth noting that Medved’s father, David Medved, who was a physicist and emphatically not a biologist, was a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism). It has therefore been natural for Medved to invite non-scientist ID-creationists like Stephen Meyer on his show to discuss their pseudoscience without having to engage with the damning criticisms of that pseudoscience. After being appointed Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute Medved promptly spilled the beans and admitted, somewhat inadvertently, that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory but a fundie PR campaign against the scientific theory of evolution. Medved is otherwise apparently familiar with some of the more ridiculous PRATTs creationists use to fuel their Gish gallops, but doesn’t even begin to grasp the basics of biology and science.

In 2018 we should apparently be looking forward to his Great Minds, an audio and video podcast that will feature interviews with various “key scholars” at the Discovery Institute, bringing their ideas to a wider audience – in line with the institute’s mandate, which was never about doing science anyways, but about promotion of silly ideas.

According to Medved, God has intervened in human history on several occasions. In his book The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic, Medved argues precisely that “there is intelligent design in America’s history”, stating for instance that God hid all the gold in California until “the very moment” that the territory became the property of the United States – as Medved tells the story, the gold was discovered on the very same day the treaty was signed, so the best explanation is that God actually put it there on that very day. In the real world gold was discovered before the treaty was signed, but when the facts don’t fit the premises and Medved needs to infer divine intervention, the facts must go.

Racialism and Civil Rights Issues
Medved has also adopted some notably cranky views on civil rights issues, and has even promoted racialism. In his own words (a 2008 Townhall article, one of the most idiotic in the history of idiotic articles): “The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide – between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.” At least Medved doesn’t have the faintest clue how genes work. In any case, Medved goes from these observations to conclude that Obama’s policies were doomed to fail, since they go against the risk-taker genes (Republican ideas are apparently now hardcoded in our DNA). Also, talking about the trans-Atlantic slave trade: “Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean.” This is not the most horrifying aspect of these voyages. He has also argued that an American Indian Holocaust was just political correctness gone mad, since the US government never deliberately killed Native Americans. This is incorrect as well.

Zeh gays
As you’d expect, Medved is no fan of the LGBT movement, and used to argue against the repeal of DADT applied to gays but not to lesbians, since gay sex is an act of “aggression” and lesbian sex, by contrast, an act of “affection”. The most interesting detail here is that Medved has apparently thought long and hard about this (but, given that he’s stupid, failed to come up with anything intelligent). Gay marriage, meanwhile, is an existential threat, and “one man and one woman” is “essential for the survival of our civilization”. According to Medved states have never banned gay marriage, though – “that’s a liberal lie”; he’s apparently trying out his own, particularly dishonest, version of a favorite argument among opponents of interracial marriage.

And taking a page from the belligerent lunatic ravings of Scott Lively, Medved has also stated, against all facts, that most Nazi leaders, including Hitler, were gay. This is false.

Donning his movie critic (tinfoil) hat (he once praised the inane conspiracy pseudodocumentary Expelled, too), Medved criticized the movie “Happy Feet” for apparently featuring a subtle pro-gay message, at the same time implying that some gays can make themselves straight when they have “turned their lives around”.

Miscellaneous politics
Medved was not pleased when mainstream media labeled the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooter a “right-wing extremist”, calling such labeling an attack on conservatives, which, if Medved were correct, would not really portray conservatives in a particularly favorable light. There is little chance Medved is right about stuff like this, though.

In 2012 he published The Odds Against Obama: Why History and Logic Make the President a Likely Loser, arguing that Obama was bound to lose according to the “iron rules of history and logic”, which he pushed rather loudly even after it was painfully obvious that Obama would win. (The book is garbage in most other ways, too.) Here is Medved trying to argue why Americans shouldn’t ever vote for an atheist president. Here is Medved claiming that God votes conservative (because Medved does and God always agrees with Medved on politics). And here is Medved complaining about how liberals are given a free pass to talk about their faith, and that conservatives never do.

In 2003, Medved launched his campaign (later picked up by others) against the fictional character Captain America, whom Medved said was being depicted as sympathetic to terrorism because Captain America questioned official U.S. policy with regards to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Diagnosis: Denialist and emphatically as far from scientifically literate as you get, even though the Discovery Institute seems to think otherwise (of course, they wouldn’t have the faintest clue about what the difference between a scientist and a pseudoscientist might be). He is a bit of a C-level celebrity, though, and there are apparently some people who listen to him.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

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