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Friday, May 20, 2005

New York Times weighs in on the Kansas evolution hearings, and stumbles

On May 17, 2005, the queen of legacy media, The New York Times weighed in on the Kansas evolution hearings, in “The Evolution of Creationism” (From such a lame title as that, you knew not to expect anything much, right?)

It gets better: “Students of these battles will recall that in 1999 the Kansas Board of Education, frustrated that the Supreme Court had made it impossible to force creationism into the science curriculum, took the opposite tack and eliminated all mention of evolution from the statewide science standards.”

Jonathan Wells comments that in the 1999 decision,

What actually happened was that the Kansas State School Board INCREASED the discussion of evolution in the state science standards -- in fact, if one goes simply by word-count the Board increased the treatment of evolution five-fold. The Darwinists, however, wanted it increased nine-fold, so they complained to the mainstream media that the Board had "de-emphasized" evolution.

Mere word count doesn't fully describe what happened, though. The five-fold increase dealt only with microevolution. The Board wanted to include an expanded treatment of macroevolution, as well, but wanted to temper it with some acknowledgement that there is a scientific controversy over this aspect of evolutionary theory. The Darwinists (then, as now) opposed any such acknowledgement, and the Board lacked the votes to include it, so they ended up eliminating references to macroevolution altogether.

In other words, the real controversy was that the Darwinists wanted Darwinism treated as the religion of the school system, and the board—showing remarkable courage in the face of a politically correct consensus—declined to do that.

The big danger today, according to the Times, is that the intelligent design proponents are now calling for “more emphasis on the limitations of evolution theory and the evidence supposedly contradicting it.” In other words, they don’t want Darwinism treated as a sacred scripture of science, above question. And why should it be?

I’ve thought a lot about how to understand legacy mainstream media today. It would have been no trouble for the New York Times to get the Kansas curriculum battle of 1999 right, but they see no need to bother. This, I think is principally because they have made one overriding assumption up front: Naturalism is true. There is nothing in the universe beyond matter and energy and anyone who thinks otherwise is merely deluding themselves, perhaps elaborately.

If you are certain that naturalism is true, the details of any controversy over intelligent design are not important, because design must be false in principle. So why bother with the facts? You just have to pump up your audience with rhetoric about the dangers of the “religious right.”
Now, if the legacy mainstream media were in sync with their readers on all this and if there were no alternative media sources, they might succeed in putting their view across convincingly. But they aren’t succeeding, and here is why: Most North Americans are not Darwinists or naturalists; for good reasons, they don’t believe that mind comes from mud.

Here is a 2004 poll result for The New York Times

Which statements reflect your views on the origin of human beings?
1. We evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process.
2. We evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided this process.
3. God created us in our present form.
Evolved w/o God 16% 9% 13%
Guided by God 28% 23% 27%
Created by God 51% 66% 55%
Unsure 5% 2% 5%

Source: CBS News/New York Times poll, Nov. 18-21, 2004
These figures have changed little for many decades, so the Times is preaching to the unconverted and probably unconvertible. And it is doing so at a time when alternative media, such as blogs, are now widespread and dirt cheap to operate.

To find out more about my book on the intelligent design controversy, go to By Design or by Chance?


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