The Evolution of Urban Myths: Or, How Paul Nelson May Now be Forever Misquoted
We often report on the misreporting about the debate over evolution, and point out the misinformation that is spread not just by our critics, but also by the media itself.
How does it happen that urban myths, such as the one claiming that the Kansas state science standards include intelligent design, spread and catch on? Or what about one that is growing right now from an egregious misquote of CSC Fellow Paul Nelson?
Former journalist and media consultant Mark Mathis explains it this way in his excellent book "Feeding the Media Beast":
Repetition does not make any distinctions between what is accurate and what is not. With so much intentional and unintentional disinformation out there, fact and fiction can become a muddled mess.One obvious example of this happening is the widespread use of an incorrect definition of intelligent design. Many reporters simply regurgitate a definition they've seen elsewhere such as "life is so complex it must have been designed by a higher authority." This is just a strawman caricature of intelligent design that does not accurately represent the theory in part or in whole. Intelligent design theorists do not say "life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source" or a higher power, or a creator, or an alien, or god, or whatever you want to tack on to the end of that particular caricature. Intelligent design theory is not an argument based on what we don't know, but rather an argument from what we do know. (see here for more on this)
The pressure to pump out news product has become so intense that reporters often don't have the time to check each other's work. The "facts" presented by one reporter are assumed to be accurate. Consequently other reporters will use them in their stories. If the facts turn out to be erroneous, before long the inaccuracies get repeated so many times by so many reporters that they are generally accepted as truth.
If a mistake is repeated a few times, it becomes harder to kill because many people have seen, read, or heard this "fact" and will continue to believe it true. If the issue resurfaces in the future, reporters, anchors, and producers may write new stories based on a tainted memory and it all starts over again.
But, now we can see how this happens.
Today there is another urban myth building up a head of steam, and being helped along by Darwinists, about Discovery Fellow Paul Nelson. Gaurdian reporter Karen Armstrong reports: 'Great shakings and darkness are descending on Planet Earth,' says the ID philosopher Paul Nelson, 'but they will be overshadowed by even more amazing displays of God's power and light.' And yet this is pure rubbish because Nelson never said anything like this, and it turns out that Armstrong never even interviewed him. Nelson points this out in his letter to the Guardian demanding a correction. (Note to Paul: don't hold your breath)
Recently there has been much misinformation being spread around about the Kansas state science standards, which lead to our launching the www.standupforscience.com website to defend the standards. It is our hope that such efforts will help to stave off poor reporting based on reiteration of faulty "facts."