Fox channel news story & poll

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).

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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2 Responses to Fox channel news story & poll

  1. We don’t have to wait for these anti-science folks to announce things here. We have the record of the “critical analysis” experiment as it played out in Ohio from 2002-2006. I noted this in my blog post discussing the SB1854 bill here. The anti-science faction made all the same noises about how this had nothing to do with religion and especially nothing to do with “intelligent design”, but what got handed to the Department of Education to teach was all the same tired, refuted religious antievolution argumentation familiar to anyone watching “creation science” and “intelligent design”.

    In future meetings with the press, please remember to bring up the Ohio fiasco. It is a concrete piece of history the anti-science folks can’t [credibly] deny.


  2. Michael Suttkus, II says:

    The brilliance of changing the poll question is that no matter what answer won, they could spin it the way they wanted. Voting yes is a vote for “Don’t teach it as a fact!” while voting no says, “Don’t teach Evolution at all!” Heads they win, tails we lose!

    Of course, the only reason we got a 90% correct answer in the poll to begin with was because PZ Myers sent his squad of minions out to set it. Hey, whatever works.

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