Evolution in the News - December 2009
by Do-While Jones

Journalistic Credibility

Journalists tell us that Sara Palin believes evolution is true—but can you believe journalists?

This time of year newspapers love to reprint the letter eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the editor of New York's Sun that was printed on Sept. 21, 1897. In her letter she asked if there is a Santa Claus. She asked the Sun because, “Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'” These days, newspapers don’t have the same respect. They have lost respect and circulation. Now the primary difference between a newspaper and a supermarket tabloid is that the tabloid has sexier pictures and is more likely to be true.

People don’t believe what they read in newspapers or hear on the TV news anymore because there are so many instances in which journalists report things that their readers or viewers know to be false.

Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, got lots of media attention when it was published last month. It sold 300,000 copies the first day with total sales exceeding 1 million so far, with expected sales of 2.5 million (if you can believe the newspapers ). Some of the TV news talk show hosts (or guests) said that Sarah wrote that she believed in evolution (or, as some said, was ambiguous about her belief in creation).

Typically we would quote the particular person who made the false statement, but we won’t this time. It would be unfair to quote one or two individuals because we would necessarily have to omit some other self-proclaimed authorities from the list of people who got it wrong. It is not our intention to discredit one or two particular journalists—instead we want to discredit a widely circulated error about evolution.

The millions of people who actually read the book will realize that the news media lied to them again, and trust the media even less. Why do journalists say things that their audience can easily tell are untrue?

Three Possibilities

In particular, why would someone say that Sarah Palin doesn’t believe in creation when anyone can walk into a bookstore, turn to pages 217 to 219 and read that she does? There are at least three possibilities.

Some would say that the lie is politically motivated: They hope that they can reduce her chances of getting elected by making conservative voters angry at her. The second possibility is that they think they can get conservatives to accept evolution by telling them that a popular conservative leader believes in evolution. As likely as these political and religious motives might be, we will ignore them both.

The third possibility, which is the one we will address, is that the journalists are simply too stupid to understand what Palin wrote. Since Palin presented the view shared by the major creationist organizations, and since it was apparently misunderstood, we will attempt to explain it in terms so simple even a journalist can understand it.

We are not endorsing creationism, or a political candidate. We are explaining a position that evolutionists typically distort. You have probably heard their distortion at one time or another.

Here is the creationist position as expressed by Sarah Palin:

Back out in the living room with Salter and Schmidt, the conversation turned to the topic of theories of origins. And that, it seemed, was when the big guy hit the pause button. He knew my position: I believed in the evidence for microevolution—that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time. But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings—thinking, loving beings—originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believe we came about through a random process but were created by God.

“But your dad’s a science teacher,” Schmidt objected.

“Yes.”

“Then you know that science proves evolution.”

“Parts of evolution,” I said. “But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt.”

Schmidt winced and raised his eyebrows. In the dim light, his sunglasses shifted atop his head.

I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground. My dad, who is not particularly religious but certainly sees God’s hand everywhere he looks in Alaska, had spent many evenings around our dinner table discussing treasures from his classroom with me and my siblings. …

[She then presents two paragraphs of examples of the scientific discussions around the dinner table.]

But in eighteen years of impromptu supper-table lessons and expert-guided field trips to America’s national parks, never had Dad or anyone else convinced me that the earth had sprung forth conveniently stocked with the ingredients necessary to spontaneously generate life and its beauty and diversity; in fact, I thought that the idea flew in the face of the evidence I saw all around.

I got where Schmidt was coming from. I know the word “creationism” evokes images of wild-eyed fundamentalists burying evidence for any kind of evolution under an avalanche of Bible verses. 1

Microevolution

Let’s look at the sentences evolutionists tend to jump on. She said, “I believed in the evidence for microevolution—that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time.”

Microevolution is accepted by every serious creationist we know. Microevolution is minor variation within a species caused either by random combinations of existing genetic information or loss of genetic information. This is entirely different from the fanciful process called “macroevolution” which claims that new species can arise by spontaneous generation of genetic information.

We can’t stress this too much. Microevolution works by natural selection causing certain disadvantageous genes, or disadvantageous combinations of genes, to be eliminated from the gene pool. Macroevolution supposedly works by some magical random process adding brand new advantageous genes to the gene pool.

Evolutionists falsely claim that microevolution produces small changes and that given enough time these small changes add up to big changes, which they call macroevolution. This is as silly as believing that if you lose a little bit of money every day, eventually you will lose enough to become a millionaire. (That only works if you were a billionaire to begin with.)

Gradual Geology

We all, like Sarah, do see gradual geologic changes today. But that does not mean that every geologic feature was formed gradually. Some dramatic geologic features were formed rapidly through massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or floods. Her acknowledgement that there are some gradual geologic changes does not imply that she believes all geologic changes are gradual, or that the world is billions of years old.

God and Evolution

The second oft-misinterpreted sentence is, “But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt.”

Biblical creationists believe that all the so-called races of man “evolved” from Noah’s three sons and their wives. That is, certain human populations tend to be shorter or taller, or have predominantly different hair color, eye color, or skin color. There insignificant differences are the result of random combinations of genes which have become more frequent than other combinations of genes in that particular group of humans.

Furthermore, various combinations of genes do allow plant and animal species to survive better than others in certain environments. This allows them to “adapt” to the environment.

Finally, she says, “I know the word “creationism” evokes images of wild-eyed fundamentalists burying evidence for any kind of evolution under an avalanche of Bible verses.”

She has correctly observed that some people (including journalists we might add) have (intentionally or ignorantly) advanced an incorrect image of what creationists believed

Journalist Malpractice

Whether Sarah Palin is right or wrong is irrelevant. The relevant point is that TV and print journalists incorrectly reported what she wrote about evolution in her book.

It is our contention that journalists routinely report incorrectly. Here is an instance where several people on multiple television networks misquoted what someone said about evolution, even though there are more than a million printed copies of what that person actually said readily available to anyone who wants to read it. Such journalistic malpractice can’t go unmentioned.

If you are a regular reader of this newsletter you are probably tired of us saying this, but we need to constantly repeat it. Don’t believe something just because we say it, or because a scientist says it, or because a religious leader says it, or because a politician says it, or because a journalist says it, or because a teacher says it. Always check out the facts for yourself.

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Footnotes:

1 Palin, Going Rogue, 2009, pages 217-219