Thursday, November 06, 2003

Darwin's Revenge

Kevin Drum has a pretty interesting example today of the press's increasing desire to avoid controversy not just by ignoring one side of an issue, but also by pretending that more division exists on a given issue than actually does. The issue at question is evolution, which is again in the news as the Texas School Board gets ready to pick textbooks or whatever it is they do. (This is an issue of national import because textbook publishers don't want to spend extra money to have one set of books for Texas and another for the rest of the country, so whatever Texas wants in its books, the rest of us get.)

The article Kevin links presents a profile of a "scientist by trade" who works in academia and, being an Evangelical Christian, disbelieves evolution -- the result being to create the impression that there is considerable controversy over evolution in scientific circles to this day. But then, Kevin points out the things the article's profile leaves out: that none of the guy's professional credentials involve biology, he doesn't actually have a degree in science at all, he's worked for Creationist organizations, and so forth.

The press likes to do this kind of thing: insist on covering both sides of issues that are actually pretty-close to one-sided. In this case, the scientific community is very much not divided on evolution, as this study (which I saw the other day via Pharyngula) demonstrates: In the United States, where Creationism is strongest by far, less than five percent of scientists in all disciplines disbelieve evolution. And when you actually look at the specific sciences relevant to evolutionary theory, that percentage drops to less than .15 %.

Say what you want about evolution versus Creationism, the simple fact is that a vanishingly tiny minority of scientists believe in it. It would be nice if the media would stop acting like this is a controversy in scientific circles, because it isn't.

(Dominion has more on the whole Texas textbook business.)

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