The central Florida Fox affiliate, Channel 35 WOFL, ran a story tonight at 10 and 11 about Sen. Wise’s antievolution bill. The story itself was OK. The person interviewed in favor of the bill, Jim Stemberger, claimed religion has no part in any of this, and said that all they want is a critical analysis of evolution in the schools. What, exactly, this critical analysis will consist of no one will say. I did a fairly long interview with the reporter and covered a lot of ground, but only a short clip or two were used, which is to be expected in TV news. I was fine with what made it into the story: I said the bill is an embarrassment to the state and that the details concerning what “critical analysis” will consist of are missing. The reporter also used a bit of information from our news release.
So, the story was OK, but the promotion was horrible. It was teased as “evolution vs. creationism” and other sensational language. The worst part was an online poll the station had on their website. It started off asking the question “Do you believe evolution should be taught as a theory instead of accepted fact? Yes or No.” The question makes no sense. Evolution is a fact and a scientific theory. Of course, what happened there is that the person who created the poll confused the common use of the word theory — meaning essentially a guess — with the scientific use of the word — meaning a well-supported and tested explanation for a set of facts. (See the article Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould. Also, our media fact sheet-pdf about this subject from 2008 is still relevant today.) Nonetheless, the poll easily swung the sensible direction, with 90% of voters saying no. In other words, the vast majority of voters were saying that evolution should be taught as fact and not a “guess-theory”. But then a little while later, the station changed the question to say: “Do you believe evolution should be taught as a theory? Yes or No.” And they didn’t reset the poll, instead keeping the results with 90% voting no, thus completely changing the meaning and the results of the poll now that the “instead of accepted fact” part was edited out! This is the steep uphill climb we face, folks. The news media is constantly reinforcing the misinformation out there.
Link to the story (but I don’t know how long the story will be available).