Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

And you still read newspapers … why, again?


In “All the News That’s Fit to Forget: Why you’re not hearing much about embryonic stem cells these days” (Weekly Standard, Nov 28, 2011), Wesley J. Smith reflects on the single-minded determination of legacy mainstream media to make human embryonic stem cells a viable form of treatment , even when they aren’t, and to diminish the role of adult stem cells even when they are working:

Indeed, with the laudable exception of the Washington Post—which outshines its competitors in reporting on biotechnology, as when it debunked the widely reported and groundless assertion that embryonic stem cell research could have cured Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease—most of the same news outlets that gave Geron star treatment when it was heralding supposed breakthroughs provided only muted coverage of the company’s retreat into producing anti-cancer drugs.

The Los Angeles Times may be the most egregious offender. A chronic booster of Geron’s embryonic stem cell research, it reported the FDA’s approval of a human trial on January 24, 2009, in a story that began, “Ushering in a new era in medicine … ” The paper stayed on the story. In October 2010, it reported that the first patient had received an injection, then a few days later it ran a feature about the study under the headline “Hope for Spinal Cord Patients.” During the same period, however, the paper did not report the encouraging results of early human trials of treatments for spinal cord injury developed using adult stem cells.

Then last May, the Times celebrated the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine’s $25 million loan to support Geron’s study, noting that the company’s stem cell product had performed as hoped in rat -studies. Yet the day after Geron’s embryonic stem cell research unit was laid off, the Times couldn’t find the space to print the story, though the following day a blog entry ran on the Times website.

Similarly, the San Francisco Chronicle, which had given front-page exposure to a local company when Geron’s trial got underway, reported the failure of that trial in a small report on the back page of the business section. The New York Times, always quick to applaud embryonic stem cell research, placed a small story at the bottom of page two of the business section. Other outlets carried muted reports, many focusing either on the business consequences for Geron and its stock price, or on the two other human embryonic stem cell trials currently underway, for eye conditions, run by Advanced Cell Technology.

No it’s not ID, but that’s just the point: ID is only one of many subjects on which the distortions are now so gross that mainstream media are becoming a source of disinformation, not just biased information. You could come away from reading all the LA Times’ glowing screeds on Geron’s HESCR successes without knowing that the unit is being shut down. This is, of course, a “People’s Republic” level of mendacity. But if we are not living in a People’s Republic, we are responsible for the consequences of accepting such sources at face value. Fortunately, there has never been a time when it was easier to get at the truth.

The misleading coverage and the ease with which one can correct it are, of course, related developments. It’s the MSM’s growing irrelevance that enables them to increasingly live in a fantasy world.

People sometimes ask us when, if ever, MSM will understand that Darwinism has become a drag on biology. Answer: They. Won’t. Ever. Understand. That. They will go under first.

UD News advises people to develop a string of reliable sources of the news they really need (do you care if Jennifer Aniston dyes her hair red? Or shaves it all off?), and to support those sources.

Hat tip Wintery Knight

As a former journalist, I find myself wincing every time I see a new headline about ID or Evolution or really anything science related, because I know the writers and editors are going to botch the story. Horribly. A part of it is the simple fact that information is going to be lost when a writer on deadline is trying to summarize and interpret complex scientific data that even the professionals aren't quite sure what to make of. But a lot of it is also willful, agenda-driven ignorance. APM

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