June 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Media Becoming Ambivalent on How to Spin Evolution

Anti-evolutionists remain the whipping boys of science, but some reporters, at least, seem to be waffling on the effectiveness of the torture.  For others, the heat of the battle is apparently wearing them down.  Some even seem to be entertaining treasonous thoughts that the Darwinists are unable or unwilling to provide the promised reinforcements.

  • Chimp off the old block?  Richard F. Harris in Current Biology1 surveyed media coverage of a Nature story that human and chimp ancestors might have crossbred.  At first, Harris expected the anti-evolutionists to suffer the most over this seemingly bitter pill:

    A recent survey found that half of all Americans believe our species was not a product of evolution, but instead a direct creation of God (and Brits aren’t much different).  So imagine how hard that half of the population swallowed after reading the latest reported twist in human evolution.  Our relatives, it seems, were more than just kissin’ cousins, when it came to the early chimp line.

    Harris sampled some of the bawdy lines this story generated in news stories.  Later, however, he admitted the evidence is not all that clear:

    Whether it’s the truth or not remains to be seen.  In a paper in Nature, David Reich and colleagues are careful to say they just “suggest a provocative explanation” for their surprising genetic results.  Science journalists didn’t dig too deeply for other possible explanations.  They did, however, seek out some words of caution….
    In fact, nobody has a good picture of what these early hominids and chimp ancestors looked like.

    How an uncertain claim could prove distressing to anti-evolutionists, therefore, was not explained.  Time, however, won Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for spinning confusion into certainty and clubbing the anti-evolutionists with it.  Quoted by Harris, the magazine announced confidently,

    It’s sure to be seized on right away, though, by anti-evolutionists, who will undoubtedly claim that evolutionary theorists will once again be forced to rewrite the theory in the face of inconvenient facts – and that this proves it’s not a valid theory.  But that’s bogus…. A mystery like this poses no threat to evolution – it just makes it more interesting.

  • Hands Off Policy:  CEH got mentioned on MSNBC on Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log.  He took a look at media coverage of the duck “missing link” story, including ours (see 06/16/2006) and the load of email he got, and decided to go on a diet of sorts: “This tongue-lashing over ‘missing links’ is enough to make me swear off the term from now on – even if the researchers themselves use it, or even if other news outlets apply the term to Gansus or past finds such as the Tiktaalik ‘fish out of water’” (see 04/06/2006 story).
  • Fear of Godless:  Ann Coulter told Fox News she was surprised at the reaction to her new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism.  The surprise was not that there was a reaction, but the target of the reaction.  Most critics focused on her description of four widows of 9/11 victims, whom she claimed were profiting from their anti-Bush celebrity.  She expected the biggest negative response would come from the Darwinists.  “Liberal’s creation myth is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is about one notch above Scientology in scientific rigor,” she had opened chapter 8; “It’s a make-believe story, based on a theory that is a tautology, with no proof in the scientist’s laboratory or the fossil record—and that’s after 150 years of very determined looking.”  On that point, the reaction from the scientific community and the mainstream media was an unexpected silence.

1Richard Harris, “A chimp off the old block,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 12, June 2006, pages R435-R436.

Readers can propose their own explanations for the lack of outrage against Coulter’s irreverence for Father Charlie (which only intensifies after her opening paragraph).  Either this book is completely off their radar screen (though a New York Times best-seller and the talk of the talk shows the week of June 12); or, they don’t want to dignify the views of an articulate woman they probably wish to characterize as a dumb blonde; or, they have no answers to her hard-hitting accusations.  It does seem strange to see no response at all from the Darwin Party against a high-profile columnist whose books are flying off the shelves.  It wasn’t long ago that any criticism of Darwin met swift and strident censure.  (Buy the real book, by the way, not the awful things liberals are saying about it.)
    If the Darwinists had such a strong case, they could trot it out every time some upstart calls their bluff.  They could produce the Emperor’s elegant robes, and the argument would be over, just like displaying the dead body of Jesus on the streets of Jerusalem would have snuffed out the Christian church on Pentecost afternoon.  That the Darwinists do not produce the goods is a strong indication that they know they cannot.  They used to keep the peasants in line with bluffing, authority and evasion.  Now that more writers, speakers and websites like CEH are challenging their authority and exposing their Emperor’s nakedness, their only recourse is diving into their holes and waiting it out, or by “finding a court to hand them everything they want on a silver platter,” as Coulter puts it (p. 200).
    Indications that some news sources are toning down their rhetoric (except for incorrigibles like Time) is an encouraging sign.  It probably means that the relentless public challenges to the Darwinist elitist rule are having an effect.  If so, it’s only a start.  Darwinist dictatorship will assert itself again at the slightest sign of weakness.  (Their only ethic is survival of the fittest, after all.)  There were strident attacks against Darwin’s book as soon as it was written and for a decade after, but they were effectively silenced by the shenanigans of Darwin’s four musketeers (see 01/06/2004 commentary).  This is a long-term conflict.  The noble-minded Visigoths (05/09/2006) who want to defeat the Darwin Party’s stranglehold on science must be willing to stay in the battle for the long term.  If you do write letters to the editor, please do so effectively.  Poorly-written missives with faulty reasoning do more harm than good.  Alan Boyle printed some particularly shoddy examples on his MSNBC column; hopefully these were exceptions.  Before saying anything, master the Baloney Detector, spelling, and grammar.  Know the issues, keep it succinct, stay on point, keep away from questionable arguments and claims, and your arrows will not miss the mark.
    So Time thinks the new claim about human-chimp ancestry poses no threat to Charlie’s tale, but just makes it more “interesting.”  That’s about the best spin that could be put on it.  It illustrates our running argument that what Darwinists care about is not truth but an entertaining plot line.  The more twists and turns, the better; they add suspense.  The show must go on, regardless.  Nothing can possibly falsify their open-ended tale, because the preface and conclusion were agreed on in advance.  The story may turn out to be more “interesting” than they can stomach.  (Perhaps hidden in some chapter in the middle, within some hopelessly convoluted situation appearing impossible to resolve, a sentence will jump out and say, “Do not finish this book.  To continue for the surprise ending, jump to this other book.”)  As the Chinese fortune cookie equivocally wishes, “May you live in interesting times.”

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man, Genetics

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