Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ken Miller and the missing links between radio and TV

So Miller's book tour brought him to the Colbert Report last night, following the more substantial Science Friday appearance last week:

I was underwhelmed by the Colbert interview, and that is mostly to do with the format of that particular show, and its the very short duration. Miller was good but seemed to rush through a number of things, so I don't know how regular viewers kept up. I recommend listening to the radio interview for a much better discussion. I'm not sure what to make of his comparing the ID/creationists to welfare moms - although it did allow Colbert the opportunity to claim victory! But why bring in the whole economic-conservative image of moms (driving cadillacs) living the high life on govt. handouts? Is this a way to "frame" the issue so that it resonates with conservatives? He made a similar comparison on the radio as well, but the argument seemed more fleshed out there (or at least less abrasive to a liberal like me). Likewise, comparing science to a free-market of ideas where ID has failed to compete, and directly appealing to Colbert's anti-government persona. I wonder if that actually works in convincing anyone on the right... but who better than Ken Miller to "frame" evolution to make it palatable to religious people?

Comparing the two interviews is a good illustration also of how much can go missing when one is forced to condense things for the typical sound-bite demands of TV, especially when faced with a loud talking-head host! And this wasn't even one of those right-wing blowhards on Fox News! If the medium is challenging even for someone as articulate and media-savvy as Ken Miller (winner of the Peabody), what hope do the rest of us scientists have of getting the word out in the mainstream media?

And one more annoyance last night was that the interview seemed unnecessarily short, for Colbert evidently had another 3 minutes available (following Miller), which he padded with REM performing "Hollow Man" - not live, but from their appearance on the show some months ago!! I'm mystified as to why they would do that, when other guests have been on (I think) for longer chats!



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