Sunday, May 27, 2007


The Controversy That Wasn't

Nothing is more telling about the declining fortunes of the intelligent design movement than the news media's collective yawn over Iowa State University's denial of tenure to ID activist and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez.

Despite a frenzy of posts on Gonzalez at Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog and other ID outlets, almost no one has picked up the story.

Not long ago, school boards here in Kansas and across the country seriously considered "teaching the controversy." The notion that ID might actually be a scientific alternative to evolution received widespread -- sometimes sympathetic -- news coverage in the major media. President Bush even went on record as saying that ID should be taught in the nation's public schools.

All that changed after Judge John Jones ruled in 2005 that ID is religion not science. ID supporters were voted off school boards in Dover, Ohio, and Kansas, and ID-inspired criticism of evolution was subsequently removed from their science curriculums. Politicians read the tea leaves and moved on. Editors and reporters studied Jones' decision and came to the conclusion that ID's 15 minutes were up.

This morning Red State Rabble did a Google search on the terms "Guillermo Gonzalez" and "tenure." The search returned a paltry 65 results. Of those, 21 are from the Discovery Institute. Seven right-wing or religious websites such as Town Hall and Baptist Press also picked up the Discovery news release. Science blogs and the Chronicle of Higher Education published six, mostly skeptical, reports. The news of Gonzalez' tenure denial was picked up by just three local television stations: two in Iowa and one in Illinois. Six other reports -- five of them in the Des Moines Register -- round out the coverage.

To put news coverage of Gonzalez' tenure denial in perspective, the 64 hits returned by Google were nearly matched by 62 hits for a story about an elderly Chinese woman who says her cat "grew wings" after being sexually harrassed.

As the widespread coverage of the opening of Answers in Genesis' young earth Creationism Museum clearly demonstrates, the manufactured controversy over intelligent design is clearly last week's news.

Hat tip to Doc Bill for the tip. Enjoy the barbeque!


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