News and Views
HYPE VERSUS TRUTH AND REASON
Webster's Canadian Dictionary and Thesaurus, published by Reader's Digest, defines "hype" as, "deception; aggressive or extravagant publicity," and more and more this is an accurate description of the way the big mass media organizations handle news. They grab on to the most controversial, objectionable and/or frightening aspect of a story and present it as though it were the whole story; present it in a way that stifles further investigation or discussion.
For example, In the recent recall of beef products, we have been thoroughly informed of the amounts involved in each stage of the recall, informed of each human illness possibly connected with it, told of every accusation leveled at government. Mention has been made of accusations that management did not listen to workers complaints and revelations, and once briefly at the beginning I heard mention that heat kills E. coli, that well cooked beef is safe. There has been little or no attempt to inform the public in ways that would reduce risk and concern, or that would identify the real source of the problem. E. coli is bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are a number of strains of E. coli, and some cause food poisoning. As one person put it, "I'm a farm boy. Wash your hands and cook your beef. End of story." Obviously, the plant involved did not practice proper cleanliness, did not have adequate separation of meat from waste at all stages of production. Surely a company wanting to have a reputation for a quality product would have monitored this more adequately. However, one may also question those who did not adequately cook the processed products and ground beef. In the mass media, the fear factors and some blame factors have been emphasized without adequate balance in reporting the information that would calm fears and provide safety. Science and reason are ignored.
Another recent example was the reaction to a private members bill asking parliament to reconsider, in the light of current science and knowledge, the outdated definition that an infant is not legally a person until it has proceeded completely to outside the mother. The inappropriate emotional response was to make a wild jump to see this as an attack on women's rights to abortion. Science and reason were ignored.
Some of the science behind the original motion lies in what we have learned about brain development. The current fall issue of "Apple," a magazine published by Alberta Health Services to promote health in individuals and communities, is devoted to our brains, especially how they develop and ways to help infants and children develop healthy brains. In the introductory article, The Apple Team writes, "Our brains begin developing very early, literally from the moment of conception." (p. 10) Although there is an article about the brain and addictions, and another about new understandings of brain "plasticity," the ability of the brain to learn and change throughout all of life even into the late senior years, a strong emphasis is on recognizing the importance of the early years in laying a sound foundation for the brain's architecture. "Dr. Bryan Kolb, a neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, says the most critical period for brain development is between the second trimester of pregnancy and approximately four years of age." (p. 64) If a father talks to a baby while it is in the womb, the baby shows recognition of his voice when it is newborn. There are strong indications that later ability in literacy skills can be enhanced by reading to the baby while in the womb. Such science indicates that there is a little person in there, as does the survival rate for babies born very prematurely.
The pro-choice mantra, "A woman has the right to control her own body," is used to shut down discussion and silence any evidence that abortion can be harmful to the woman and her own body, or that abortion can be used as another means for men to control women. Don't get me wrong; I am an adamant proponent of equal rights for women, and to me that also means equality for mothers, whether they choose to work or choose to stay home and devote a period of their lives to their children.
However, there are a number of little discussed implications relating to women's control of their bodies. One is the fact that sex is not an appetite that must be satisfied, the fact that celibacy and abstinence never hurt anyone, male or female. Sexual self-control always has been and always should be considered a virtue. Therefore, men must accept that a woman's "no" means "no." There are many levels of disrespect, coercion, and abusive control between violent rape (which usually shuts down a woman's body in ways that prevent pregnancy) and the wonderful joyful love filled relations to start a wanted new life.
The same levels of disrespect, coercion and abusive control that men use to get what they want in bed can also be witnessed as these same men force women to enter abortion clinics against the woman's will.
Abortion is also proving very disrespectful to women as seen in the disproportionate numbers of baby girls aborted in the (father's) desire to have sons rather than daughters, which indicates a continued devaluation of women.
There are also significant medical risks associated with abortion. For some women, it means no more pregnancies, no baby ever. For many women, it leads to depression. Breast cancer is shown to increase with interrupted pregnancy.
There is also the loss of the economic activity generated by each person, from the consumption of the baby and child to the productivity of the adult. We need our babies.
Returning to science, it is fact that a human being's genetic structure is determined at conception, at least for the present. Some medical procedures are being performed on babies while within the womb. Huge amounts are expended to keep some babies alive while other perfectly healthy ones are garbaged.
Adoption remains a caring choice.
All of these are valid factors that should be part of the debate, but are silenced by the emotional hype that disregards both science, reason and experience. One narrow viewpoint is exaggerated while related issues on all sides are ignored. Our mass media are doing us a great disservice by concentrating on the negative, the critical, the emotionally charged side of issues rather than doing the research to present the related scientific, reasonable and moral aspects. Media hype makes it hard to avoid unrecognized ignorance.
What has this to do with my usual emphasis on being Christian? Two things. First, if we are to think Christianly about the world and culture in which we live, we must know the truth and significant aspects of the various issues as well as understanding our faith and how it applies to life. Obviously, mass media is not a source of the balanced information we need. Secondly, recognizing the fact of mass media hype helps us to understand why the Christian viewpoint is either mishandled or ignored. Recognizing the problem is a first tiny step to positive change.
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