The folks over at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey have an article up called Penn & Teller: It’s all bunk:
“Other programmers wanted us to do a show that was less, well, hard-core,” says Penn. “They wanted us to show magic tricks used by scam artists, then at the end we’d say, ‘And here’s one we can’t figure out.’ I call that the Fox point of view. They wanted us to say, ‘Oh, there are some things we don’t understand, so they might be true,’ which is an idiotic way to think.
“It seems the stupider you are, the more likely you are to accept things as unexplainable. That’s why Carl Sagan never saw a UFO.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Carl really wanted to see a UFO too. The article goes on to reveal that the entire show is done (surprise!) entirely by atheists.
Discussion of the title distracts from what’s truly radical about Penn & Teller’s new series: its insistence that any belief not firmly rooted in rationality is mysticism, or a con.
When pressed, Penn & Teller include organized religion in that category (and religion generally). “This is a show done entirely by atheists,” brags Penn. ‘We have a crew full of people who, in a certain sense, are doing penance. They’ve all worked on the alien autopsy and Loch Ness monster shows. In some cases, the people we’re interviewing know our crew members by name.”
I’ll probably get in trouble for the next huge bit I’m going to clip and paste in here, but it says so much that needs to be said that I have to do it.
Penn cites professional debunker James “The Amazing” Randi as an inspiration for the series, and adds that he would like to prove that on TV, a medium that favors folks who shout, a rationalist can be just as entertaining as a mystic.
“When you have any sort of debate in TV’s so-called marketplace of ideas, you end up with a person on the wrong side, the nut side, who is full of passion, full of life and full of bulls…, and a person defending rationality who has the facts on his side but can’t help coming off as a killjoy. On TV, the nuts are presented as optimists because they believe that UFOs or Bigfoot exist or that you can have a conversation with dead relatives,” Penn says.
“The idea that rational, skeptical people don’t have as much imagination as believers, or that they’re not as optimistic or open to different ideas, is just insane. The imagination necessary to come up with a UFO theory is so much less than the imagination necessary to come up with Darwinism, or Stephen Hawking’s theories on black holes, that it’s not even funny,” Penn continues.
“It does the world no good to smile and nod when someone says, ‘My psychic knew my mother was going to die,’ ” says Teller. “We’ve gotten to the point where society way too comfortable with bulls….This show will show people that there are good reasons not to be tolerant of it.’’
There are too many people in this country who should seriously watch this show and take it to heart. The belief in pseudo-science and mystic mumbo jumbo has rarely been higher in the history of this country. And I’m not even counting religious belief as part of that.
All quotes taken from an article by Matt Zoller Seitz of the Star-Ledger which owns the copyright. Please don’t sue me.