Intelligent Design

When reporters write what they “know” …

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Last night, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. offered a panel discussion on the theme of the book, edited by an old friend Paul Marshall, Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion.

By the by, in Chapter 8, “Getting Religion in the News Room,” Terry Mattingly discusses a recent “dropped ball” in coverage of the intelligent design controversy:

Consider one of the most loaded terms in religion news – “fundamentalist”. In a New York Times story, reporter Jodi Wilgoren described the beliefs of Discovery Institute fellows highly critical of Darwinian evolution. In the final-edition version of the story, Wilgoren wrote: “Their credentials – advanced degrees from Stanford, Columbia, Yale, the University of Texas, the University of California – are impressive, but their ideas are often ridiculed in the academic world. … [Most] fellows, like their financiers, are fundamentalist Christians, though they insist their work is serious science, not closet creationism.” But the group included Episcpalians, Catholics, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Baptists, and several strains of Presbyterianism. What does the world “fundamentalist” mean in this context? (p. 148)

It means a person to whom Jodi Wilgoren considers herself immeasurably superior, even though she has probably not got the least idea why anyone would doubt the Big Bazooms theory of evolution. Mattingly continues,

On top of that, a bible of journalism – the Associated Press Stylebook – warns against using the divisive term in precisely this manner. It states: “fundamentalist: the word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent yeas, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.”

Apparently, the Times had to retreat on this one, and it offered a correction in the digital archives. Mattingly comments further,

To avoid having to make that correction, all that was neecdd was to consider the Associated Press Stylebook or allow members of the group to describe their own ideas and beliefs, rather than using labels assigned to them by their enemies? (Pp. 148-49)

Well, I don’t know. Given that the whole point of the Times’s coverage is to suck up to the DI group’s enemies and to reassure those enemies that nothing is happening – nothing that can’t be contained by propaganda and crackdowns – why not just continue to use the labels? And when the group’s enemies can no longer pay for the persecution, hit on the government!

Think that won’t happen? Look here where Jonah Goldberg notes,

… journalistic Brahmins, who last year would have spontaneously combusted at any hint of government meddling in the Fourth Estate, now openly debate whether we should revive the Federal Writers’ Project to give jobs to scribes thrown out in the cold by newspaper downsizing.

I myself have had to leave at least one prominent Canadian writers’ organization because members are obviously far more interested in writers’ welfare than intellectual freedom. So yes, it is in the air.

Never mind, I have a trade for Terry Mattingly: Here Wilgoren’s colleague Elisabeth Bumiller substitutes “biblical” for “biological” when interviewing a Discovery Institute fellow – and can you guess the results?

Honestly, as I have said here, I think legacy media will either go under or get legislation that forces everyone to listen to them. In which case, further discount anything you hear from them.

11 Replies to “When reporters write what they “know” …

  1. 1
    russ says:

    …I think legacy media will either go under or get legislation that forces everyone to listen to them. In which case, further discount anything you hear from them.

    In the U.S., there are plans afoot to reduce the license term for radio stations from eight years to two years and invoke a previously-ignored provision requiring “local” content. “Localness” would be determined by boards chosen by some political process. In this way, the government will be staring over the shoulder of broadcasters waiting to yank lessons, and using the the “local” provision to block successful programs, which by their very nature become popular and cease to be merely “local”.

    This is aimed primarily at conservative talk. Conservative talk shows are the only ones that will give a forum to ID. The new government will go after talk radio primarily in order to abridge freedom of speech that’s political, but in the process, they’ll abridge speech that is scientific, or if ID opponents are correct, “religious”.

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    A call for a new topic. Haven’t you heard, ID has been defeated. Check out: http://www.physorg.com/news148741334.html
    Specifically the tag line reads, “Here’s another argument against intelligent design…”

  3. 3
    MikeKratch says:

    No, they said it was an argument against, not a declartion of defeat.

    bFast, where specifically do you think their reasoning or research is invalid?

  4. 4
    squeehunter says:

    I don’t see the argument against ID there. They have a hypothesis on what the common ancestor to all current organisms are. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t solve any of the problems that any of the other models have.

  5. 5
    bFast says:

    MikeKratch: bFast, where specifically do you think their reasoning or research is invalid?

    The suggestion made by the posters is that the existance of a LUCA would invalidate ID. While it is true that some IDers do not hold to universal common descent, even they do not base their ID position on this point.

    There is nothing in the sited research that challenges ID, yet the yahoos at physorg continue to see a conflict between universal common descent and ID.

  6. 6
    feebish says:

    OK, I admit it – I followed the link to the Big Bazooms theory of evolution. I’m a guy. What can I say?

    It really is hard to see how these people can tell these Just So Stories with a straight face! Sheesh. I think the ID explanation is more sensible here, that the designer designed males to be attracted to big bazooms. I’m not sure why that would be, but I imagine ID predicts that there is a good reason for it.

  7. 7
    russ says:

    broadcasters waiting to yank lessons

    I meant “waiting to yank licenses”

  8. 8
    MikeKratch says:

    bFast

    There is nothing in the sited research that challenges ID

    At what point do you believe that intelligent intervention was required in the origin of life then?

    Did a LUCA arise and then was tweakned, or is the LUCA itself a product of intelligent design?

  9. 9
    William J. Murray says:

    #8:

    The article wasn’t about origin of life, it was about common descent, and imagining convenient gene-regulation and expression scenarios that would have allowed an organism to exist in early earth conditions convenient to their RNA hypothesis.

    The article does nothing to address the information problem either in the origin of life or in the development of various novel body plans. It is the ID position that generation of such specified, complex information requires ID.

  10. 10
    William J. Murray says:

    I said: “It is the ID position that generation of such specified, complex information requires ID.”

    Rather, it is the ID position that the best explanation for the generation of such specified, complex information is ID.

  11. 11
    bFast says:

    MikeKratch, “At what point do you believe that intelligent intervention was required in the origin of life then?”

    This is the great question that brings ID into the fold of producing a plethora of questions that science must explore.

    Certainly we have the great, precisely balanced, big bang event. (If, after all research is done, only the strong anthropic principle remains, then ID remains.)

    Did the necessary environmental balance that happened on earth to support life arrive purely by chance, or was it guided? I understand, for instance, that our earth with all of its other life-compatible characteristics was bombarded by a planet-sized meteor to create the moon. If the moon’s gravitational pull and the tides are an essential ingredient of life, either this was a darn lucky break or it was guided.

    Even in light of this article, there is a vast information gap between non-life and life. Most IDers expect that this gap was only crossed by intervention.

    The cambrian explosion is normally seen as an ID event.

    The development of most organs (all?) appear to be guided or directed.

    The bacterial flagellum challenge still is far from being met.

    Humans are genetically much more different from chimps than can be accounted for by the theory.

    How do these things come about? The flagellum, for instance. Did it just suddenly appear in a bacterium? Did the code for the flagellum grow over multiple reproductions? Was there a de-novo creation of a flagellum-based bacteria? (I doubt this.)

    These are some of the places where I suspect that ID events can be established. I suspect, however, based upon my own experience with providence, that there are scads of smaller ID events which will forever go undetected.

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