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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Think I’m overreacting about legacy media?

Read this. George Will cites the following statistics in "Media Meltdown":

The circulation of daily U.S. newspapers is 55.2 million, down from 62.3 million in 1990. The percentages of adults who say they read a paper "yesterday" are ominous:

- 65 and older — 60 percent.
- 50-64 — 52 percent.
- 30-49 — 39 percent.
- 18-29 — 23 percent.

Americans ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes a day with media of all sorts but just 43 minutes with print media.

The combined viewership of the network evening newscasts is 28.8 million, down from 52.1 million in 1980. The median age of viewers is 60. Hence the sponsorship of news programming by Metamucil and Fixodent. Perhaps we are entering what David T.Z. Mindich, formerly of CNN, calls "a post-journalism age."

Writing in the Wilson Quarterly, in a section on "the collapse of big media," he rejects the opinion of a CBS official that "time is on our side in that as you get older, you tend to get more interested in the world around you." Mindich cites research showing that "a particular age cohort's reading habits do not change much with time."

This is not a good time for legacy media to simply refuse to get the fact that Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins are wrong. The universe and life forms do show evidence of intelligent design. So their views should not be treated as public truths.

Tomorrow’s blogs ( or even tonight’s, if I get a chance) will be about ID issues generally. I am pumped about mainstream media right now, having just done a show on its shortcomings. We never get to say all we want on a TV show, or even half. As my favorite host, Richard Landau, warns inexperienced guests, "TV is shallow." Hey, it's a great medium for starting to unpack a topic, but you have to switch to other media to go deeper.

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

Simple explanation of intelligent design controversy

Here’s a clearly written article published at Beliefnet by philosopher Jay Richards, one of the intelligent design mavens. Quote this if you want to know what ID is—and what it isn’t, and why the legacy media don't get it. Quote the dead tree and big hair guys of the legacy media when you really need dead trees and big hair.

Some excerpts:

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave, you’ve heard of "intelligent design" (ID) and some of its leading proponents—Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski. Unfortunately, you probably got the mainstream media’s spin. It’s so predictable, I sometimes wonder if reporters aren’t using computer macros. The reporter types control-alt "CE" and out pops the witty headline: "Creationism Evolves." Control-alt "Scopes Trope" and out pops a lead referencing the old Spencer Tracy film "Inherit the Wind," a cartoon-like caricature of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial over evolution in the classroom.

Control-alt "Conspiracy" and, presto, a paragraph about the religious right and its scheme to smuggle Bibles into the science class as the first step toward establishing a theocracy. Next comes a quotation supposedly representing the view of all "serious scientists," with the phrase "overwhelming evidence" thrown in for good measure. The story practically writes itself, and it possesses this virtue: it saves the reporter the bother of actually investigating what design theory really is.

So what is ID, really? ID is not a deduction from religious dogma or scripture. It’s simply the argument that certain features of the natural world—from miniature machines and digital information found in living cells, to the fine-tuning of physical constants—are best explained as the result of an intelligent cause. ID is thus a tacit rebuke of an idea inherited from the 19th century, called scientific materialism.

Natural science in the Victorian Age, or rather, its materialistic gloss, offered a radically different view of the universe: (1) The universe has always existed, so we need not explain its origin; (2) Everything in the universe submits to deterministic laws. (3) Life is the love child of luck and chemistry. (4) Cells, the basic units of life, are essentially blobs of Jell-O.

Onto this dubious edifice Charles Darwin added a fifth conjecture: All the sophisticated organisms around us grew from a process called natural selection: this process seizes and passes along those minor, random variations in a population that provide a survival advantage. With this, Darwin explained away the apparent design in the biological world as just that—only apparent.

Each of these 19th-century assumptions has been undermined or discredited in the 20th century, but the materialist gloss remains: There is one god, matter, and science is its prophet. It hides behind its more modest cousin, methodological naturalism. According to this tidy dictum, scientists can believe whatever they want in their personal lives, but they must appeal only to impersonal causes when explaining nature. Accordingly, any who discuss purpose or design within science (the founders of modern science generously excepted) cease to be scientists.
But the critical question is, is materialism a correct statement about the nature of the universe? What if it is not? If you are a materialist, how would you ever know? Read the rest of Richards’s article at Beliefnet. Do the big hair later for laffs.

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

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Wired starts posting corrections to stories where quotes cannot be sourced.

Many of us who cover the intelligent design controversy are bored and frustrated with dead-tree and big-hair media who cannot be bothered to get and keep facts straight, and instead try to cover the intelligent design versus Darwinian evolution controversy as if it were a replay of Inherit the Wind, without Spencer Tracy.

However, some media are still trying to get stuff right. Wired magazine seems to be trying to stop the epidemic of fiction writing under the label of fact. The mag has started to post notes to stories where the journalist was unable to confirm all the sources.

Of course, one thing this exercise does is demonstrate the superiority of online media over dead-tree/big hair media. Remember how useless it always was to get a “correction” to a dead-tree/big hair story, as in “Councillor John Honest has never been arrested for drunk driving. The Daily Flub regrets the error.”? (Yes, but why did the Flub go with the story without sourcing it properly? Shades of Newsweek.)

A fellow writer advises that Wired News will require freelance reporters to submit contact information for all named sources, and that therefore, writers may expect print magazines to begin doing the same soon, “so make sure you keep impeccable records from now on.” She’s right, of course, but we were always supposed to have been doing that anyway. I always did it without even thinking about it. What slipped at some of these places? Did they begin to believe in “survival of the fibbest”?

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

No blogs on May 18th?

Sorry for not blogging yesterday. I was down the highway taping a TV show, Behind the Story, on which hacks perched on barstools discuss the way news media treat various hot items. We are NOT especially protective of our own trade. If you can get Canadian TV, and in particular, Crossroads Television Services (CTS), you can watch Behind the Story this coming Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. EST. The little broad in the red suit is me. On the show, I say something about the New York Times editorial misrepresenting the Kansas controversy. Classic legacy media stuff. We talk a lot about legacy media. Nostalgia, you know. Now back to blogging.

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

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