Nuggets of Wisdom

Monday, September 7, 2009

Penn and Teller’s Latest “Bull****!” is Bull****

Believe it or not, I am a fan of Penn & Teller: Bull****!, a television series dedicated to debunking myths and fads such as feng sui, global warming, alternative medicine, and ESP. But while I agree with many of their episodes, I also strongly disagree with many of their others.

Take their latest episode about the Vatican, for example.

As a Protestant, I could care less about the Catholic Church; but even I realize that, though it has been responsible for many atrocities in the past, the Church has become more humanitarian in the present.

I also realize that, since Catholics make up 65% of all Christians, an attack against the Church can also be viewed as an attack on Christianity. Considering that Penn Jillette and Teller are both atheists who have dedicated episodes to debunking the Bible and creationism, such an attack can safely be inferred.

And it didn’t take long for Catholics to become up-in-arms against this episode. The day after the episode was released, Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, decried the episode in a press release, claiming “I have never seen a more defamatory, obscene and vicious show on TV.”

But not only was the episode defamatory, but fallacious as well.

Today, the released an article highlighting 14 fallacious claims made during the episode. Here’s a sample of the article:

1. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2001, issued a "confidential order to every bishop" and "ordered the cover-up" of sex abuse.

As canon lawyer Ed Peters wrote years ago, the Vatican published Ratzinger's document in its official journal when it was first issued. Catholic press reported on the document in early 2002. The Vatican also posted the document on its web site.

In other words, nothing was ever "confidential." Not ... even ... close. As far as Jillette's wild charges of a "cover-up," keep reading.

Not surprisingly, Penn and Teller have been known to stretch the truth in their show. In their episode on recycling, they claimed that recycling paper actually creates more pollution than throwing it away, a claim they based off a discredited source. In their episode on second-hand smoke, they claimed second-hand smoke did not lead to cancer, a claim they later admitted was wrong.

But what else can you expect from two skeptics who admit that they’re “biased as f***k”?

Don’t like my opinion? Don’t blame me. Blame the 1st!