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The Dangers of Conducting Journalism by On-the-Fly Internet Research

Marco Rubio.jpg

National Review Online news editor Daniel Foster comments on the Rubio/age-of-the-earth flap by citing "the highest Wikithorities" and "Wikipedia's best comparative theologians" for his, or rather Wikipedia's, contention that Hindu theology may match modern cosmology better than any other major religion. That might or might not be true -- we haven't put in the study time to be able to say.

If we were going to offer such an assessment, not that there would be much point in it, we sure wouldn't rely on Wikipedia's say-so. Not even in the light-hearted manner that Mr. Foster does. When it comes to anything relating to the origin and evolution of life, the online encyclopedia is hopelessly untrustworthy as we have repeatedly documented here.

We bring that up because Foster's article goes on to remind us again of the dangers of conducting journalism by on-the-fly Internet research. He winds up to his punchline, which is to offer Rubio some advice on alternative strategies:

Asking Marco Rubio about the age of the universe was an invitation to out himself as an anti-scientific rube, not an invitation to reflect on the intersection of religious and scientific truths.
That is true enough, as we said already. But then this:
If it was the latter, there are a number of intriguing and learned attempts to square just that circle. Think of evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's "non-overlapping magisteria" or the Vatican's rejection of both "crude creationism" and "intelligent design" and its affirmation that the Bible is not "a source of scientific knowledge."
Mr. Foster's evidence for the Vatican's "rejection" of intelligent design? A 2006 article off the Internet featuring George Coyne, the ex-head of the Vatican Observatory. As Daniel Foster surely doesn't know, Coyne was unceremoniously retired that very year after drawing attention for his repeated heterodox statements, including a claim that God himself didn't know whether human beings would develop since evolution is an unguided process.

Coyne disputes that he was fired over his critical comments about intelligent design, but they sure didn't earn him a promotion from the current Pope whose own views run counter to Coyne's. Last time we checked we found that the Pope, not the abruptly retired head of the Vatican Observatory, runs the Vatican.

Foster is right that Rubio and other prominent Republicans should be careful to think ahead of time about how they will respond to inevitable questions about evolution and earth history. Do some real research, gentlemen. Winging it on such matters, which are profound, important, and not simple, is bad strategy whether you're an ambitious Republican senator or an online conservative news editor.

Image credit: Wikipedia.