Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Dumb BBC presenter, child abuse and antibiotic resistance

A main story (and rightly so) on yesterday's news was the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. The difficulty is that there is not a stream of new antibiotics becoming available, while due to excessive use of these sometimes life saving drugs pathogenic bacteria are becoming adapted to them through natural selection. Incidentally, this does not support molecules to man evolution at all. Antibiotics are derived from naturally occuring microbes and have always been around. Antibiotic resistant bacteria were found in the frozen guts of people buried in permafrost before penicillin was discovered. And MRSA is still a bacterium of the same species as non resistant staph aureus. Relatively minor gene shuffling is not a mechanism that could turn microbes into men however much time you allow. But that isn't what I'm posting about today.

James Naughtie, senior BBC presenter on the Today programme, introduced the story on yesterday's Today morning news programme. Twice he mentioned that 'we are becoming resistant' or 'our bodies are getting used to' the antibiotics so they didn't work any more.

This is a schoolboy error, which the medical officer corrected as soon as she finally appeared. Of course it is the populations of microbes that become resistant, due to swapping DNA with previously resistent bacilli via conjugation (in which packets of DNA called plasmids are exchanged) or simply as susceptible germs are killed and previously resistant ones replace them. All quite uncontroversial as long as we stick to the facts that can be observed. And I support the chief medical officer's assertion that growing antibiotic resistance is a major threat calling for a serious international response involving governments and the medical and pharmaceutical industries. And we need to look at agriculture as well where antibiotics (wrongly in my view) are used a growth promoters and to allow excessively heavy stock densities.

But the reason I bother to post this, which might seem petty or nit picking, is that Naughtie (who on this performance knows hardly any science, and wasn't even corrected by one of the BBC Today team between repetitions of the basic error) has in the past been EXTREMELY dismissive and contemptuous of intelligent design advocates. In particular, when interviewing a spokesman for the popular and successful Immanuel school in Gateshead, which dared to allow Darwin to be taught critically insted of as dogma, he accused them of 'teaching creationism' (which Dawkins compared at that time to child abuse). The spokesman specifically denied that creationism was taught. Standard evolutionary theory was taught. Its just that it was allowed to be questioned too, as if it was an actual scientific theory that could potentially be falsified instead of the compulsory official religion. BLASPHEMY!!! However, Naughtie repeated the same false accusation, to the same spokesman, a few months later. Either he had forgotten that he had been corrected earlier, or he had an agenda. I recall both occasions clearly, there was real anger, and contempt, in his voice. As if he had a grasp of scientific facts that establish Darwinism beyond question, and as if it was wicked to question ANY scientific theory, let alone one which lacks a repeatable experimental basis or any direct observations as is the case with evolutionism.

Jim Naughtie is a senior BBC news man and therefore a key opinion leader since it is quite evident that his organisation chooses which news stories will (and most importantly WILL NOT) be covered and what spin will be put on them. And he is SO IGNORANT of basic biology on a key matter affecting public health that he has no idea how antibiotics work or what antibiotic resistance is. Yet he speaks for an organisation that considers itself a champion of science and scourge of the 'ignorant, fanatical, pseudoscience' of Intelligent Design.

Not many years ago, the BBC gave extensive and friendly coverage to the maverick scientist Andrew Wakefield when he was in a minority of one against the establishment over MMR vacination which he alleged to cause autism and bowel disease He was wrong, and as it turned out had undisclosed financial interests in pushing the story. 4 children died in the measles epidemic which followed and was arguably partly caused by the BBC's reporting. In my opinion the BBC's coverage of Wakefield constitutes a major scandal calling for an investigation (although of course the parents who chose to go against medical advice and deny their children teh protection of MMR have some responsibility). The BBC has never apologised for giving such a powerful platform to Wakefield's extremely controversial and dangerous views. But the BBC never, ever gives intelligent design advocates a chance to put their case.

Anyway, at least on this occasion the Chief Medical Officer thankfully had her wits about her and corrected Naughtie's ignorance. It doesn't always happen.

The BBC is an effectively taxpayer funded (by a compulsory licence fee) and privileged organisation with a near monopoly on broadcast news-and how that news is spun. The BBC allowed Richard Dawkins to get away with calling parents and teachers who question Darwin 'tantamount to child abuse(rs)' without criticism. Meanwhile, as was also reported yesterday, the BBC also sheltered Britain's most prolific child sex abuser, Sir Jimmy Saville, for almost half a century.

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