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Washington Post Editorial Page on Evolution: Fact-Free and Proud of It

Last week, I talked at length with a Washington Post editorial writer named Jo-Ann Armao. Ms. Armao said she was working on a possible editorial about the academic freedom bills on evolution currently being considered by legislatures of various states. I gave Ms. Armao a lengthy interview, providing a lot of background information and correcting various errors that have appeared in news coverage of the bills. The Post has now published its editorial on the topic, and it's now evident that Ms. Armao simply didn't care about facts. Ms. Armao had her spin, and even though the facts didn't substantiate it, she was going to stick to it.

Predictably, the Post asserts that the academic freedom bills are about "inviting creationism back into the classroom." Except that they aren't. In fact, the bills repeatedly and explicitly state that they only protect the presentation of scientific information, and that they don't authorize the promotion of any religious doctrine. I pointed this out to Ms. Armao in some detail. But it now turns out that the actual language of the bills didn't matter to Ms. Armao. She already had the line she was going to take, and if the facts didn't substantiate it, she obviously didn't care.

The Post also absurdly claims that offering criticisms of Darwinism is tantamount to "question[ing] the existence of gravity or... suggest[ing] that two plus two equals anything but four." Tell that to the more than 700 Ph.D. scientists at institutions such as Princeton, MIT, Ohio State, and the University of Georgia who have expressed their skepticism of the central tenet of Neo-Darwinism. Or to National Academy of Sciences biologist Lynn Margulis (no friend of intelligent design!), who has written that "Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies. No evidence in the vast literature of heredity change shows unambiguous evidence that random mutation itself, even with geographical isolation of populations leads to speciation." (Acquiring Genomes [2003], p. 29). I gave Ms. Armao an entire list of scientific controversies involving key aspects of biological and chemical evolution, including the origin of the first life, the role of mutations, the limits of natural selection, and the origination of animal body plans during the Cambrian Explosion some 500 million years ago. Such controversies are already discussed in the mainstream scientific literature--but teachers are being forbidden in many places from telling students about them.

I guess facts just don't matter when the issue is evolution and you're a writer for the Washington Post editorial page. After all, Post editorialists have a proud history of producing fact-free editorials on the topic (see here, here, and here). And the big media wonder why many citizens are turning to alternative sources for news and commentary?