Friday, December 23, 2005

BBC correction

A couple of days ago, in an article about the Dover/Intelligent Design/Evolution court case, the BBC wrote that:
A majority of US states have seen some form of challenge to the pre-eminence
of Darwinian evolution theory in the curriculum of publicly-funded schools since
2001.
This struck me as fairly unbelievable, so I wrote to the BBC requesting the data to back up the claim. Today I received the following e-mail in response:

Dear Mr Callahan

Thank you for your e-mail.

You are right - this is a mistake that appears to have slipped through our checking process. What the article should have said - as it does now - is that some 20 states have seen challenges at local level.

Thank you again for your interest in our coverage.

Regards

BBC News Website


So, not only were the challenges in less than a majority of states, they were in fact local, not statewide, challenges. The difference is not insignificant. The original claim clearly instills, (and is almost certainly designed to instill) the impression that challenges to evolution are sprouting up all over the US. But to give you some perspective, there are 47 local school districts that begin just with the letter "B"... in New York State alone. Across the whole of the US there are literally thousands of local school districts. The fact that 20 states have seen challenges at the local level indicates nothing whatsoever about how common such challenges are, and in and of itself certainly does not merit the attention paid to the fact by the BBC.

I am willing to give the (anonymous) author of the BBC piece the benefit of the doubt, and accept that it was an honest mistake. But it is almost certainly a mistake that was born out of the same prejudiced view that so often finds its way into BBC pieces, and adds to the mounds of evidence which suggests the BBC is in dire need of some mindset and ideological diversity. It is instructive, I think, that these "slips" in the "checking process" inevitabely seem to err in the same direction. It is inconceivable that a similar BBC piece might err by claiming that the Dover case was the only of its kind in America, and hence portray it as an aberration. Even if a writer made the claim, it would almost certainly not get by a skeptical editor. Manifestly, the same cannot be said about inflated claims of American religiosity.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the learned BBC journalist who wrote the article will no doubt be aware of the debate that has been going around the rarified heights of the physics community regarding the Anthropomorphic Principle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphic_principle of which Intelligent Design is just a subset. The argument centres on the fact that the physical laws that govern how the universe works seem to be quite arbitary and if they were even slightly changed the stars, the galaxies, the whole cosmos would have developed in an entirely different way and we wouldn't be around to witness it. As it is the way atoms interact that lies at the root of evolution some theorists have even proposed that the eventual development of intelligent beings may be hardwired into the very structure of the universe. And they've done that without mentioning God or American Fundimental Christianity once.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous mamapajamas said...

I agree with "Anon" above. Further, the support of ID does not necessarily preclude support of Darwin. Large numbers of ID supporters contend that ID is just the "what"... and Darwin is the "how", showing that the concepts are not mutually exclusive; that they are, indeed, not even talking about the same thing.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Poshboy said...

I'm just bloody impressed that the BBC and the Guardian actually give a damn enough to write you back and respond to your blog. Well done!

--Poshboy, innoparticularorder.typepad.com

4:57 AM  

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