Monday, March 14

Don't Bother With Rewrite, I'm Just Phonin' It In

The Washington Post's Peter Slevin brings us up to date on the battle over teaching evolution:

WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

Right off the bat, the cynical reader of, say, my approximate height and shoe size will predict the piece will cover the first trope (the intensifying battle) and ignore the second (the question of science). Gee, right again. Maybe these people should spend some effort battling cynicism. While we're in full Kreskin mode let us risk a few specific predictions. And, once again, I have never met any of the participants prior to today's show:

1) We will inform the readership that public opinion polls say the majority believes in creationism or creationism with a water chaser.


2) Since our theme here is "the battle over the right's strategy" the first quote goes to them, and probably to a religious spokesman.

Check and check.

3) The second quote naturally goes to the opposition, however, it will merely restate or reinforce the prevaling theme while saying nothing about the actual issues.


4) This will be followed by at least two more quotes from the right on our way to maintaining at least a 2-1 advantage.


5) The scientific value of ID will be upheld by using weasel words like "studies", "research", and "scientists" with no attribution. Any academic quoted who does not have credentials in any related field will be identified as "Doctor", or "Professor", or by a note that he has "studied" the problem.

Check, check, check, check, and close. Mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski is identified as a "scholar".

6) One or two actual scientists from relevant fields will get to debunk the "science" of ID, but rather late in the game.

Bzzzzzt! Never happens. Oh, well, only God's Own Design is perfect.

One comes away from the article knowing no more than what's in the first sentence. Meanwhile the IDers are propped up with the panoply of modern science. They fund scientists! They produced a DVD shown on PBS! They're gonna start a research lab!!! Or my personal favorite, they sell books in secular and Christian bookstores. Nevermind that the "scientists" are funded to work as mouthpieces and authors of those popularizations, or that none has published the first piece in a peer-reviewed journal. Hell, nevermind the concept of peer-review. Let's not even ask how you come to the conclusions first and fund the research lab second. It's all about politics, besides, there are only so many column inches to be had. Aren't there?

Did I forget to mention Rick Santorum?

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