A majority of US states have seen some form of challenge to the pre-eminenceThis 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:
of Darwinian evolution theory in the curriculum of publicly-funded schools since
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.
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.