Old News That’s not Fit to Print

Sometimes you have to wonder about the New York Times. It printed a long, breathtakingly written, scientific-sounding piece that just had one problem: It wasn’t news. Now, why would it do that? The article, titled “Still Evolving, Human Genes Tell New Story,” was run prominently on the front page of the New York Times last week. The reporter excitedly announced that scientists had found “the strongest evidence yet that humans are still evolving.” That’s big news. What was the evidence? “Researchers have detected,” the story says, “some 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, within the last 5,000 to 15,000 years. The genes that show this evolutionary change,” the reporter continued, “include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin color, and brain function.” In other words, human beings over time have adapted to their surroundings, and they continue to do so to this day. This is news? I hate to throw cold water on the Times’s big story, but the fact is that most people are well aware of natural selection and how it works. Whether one believes in Darwinian evolution or not doesn’t apply here; it’s common knowledge that groups of people and animals routinely experience this kind of change. What this does not mean is that one species ever evolved into another. As Dr. Jay Richards of the Acton Institute explains, “All we’re talking about here is the action of natural selection on an already existing population. . . . There’s nothing in this story about the emergence of new genes via a mutation merely under selection pressure. . . . At most,” says Richards, “it would refer to a tweaking of an already existing gene under selection pressure, which isn’t inherently problematic.” To sum up, there’s nothing here that is new or exciting. So why is this non-story given more than fifteen hundred words on the front page of the New York Times? It’s not too hard to guess. The Times has been on a crusade of late against the intelligent design (ID) movement—“crusade” putting it mildly. Recent headlines in the paper include “Unintelligent Design” and “Intelligent Design Derailed”; another headline referred to ID proponents as “Politicized Scholars.” According to the Times editorial section, they’re also “misguided,” “inane,” often “ignorant,” and guilty of “recklessness.” So why the non-story? Well, it’s a pretty safe guess that this latest piece is just one more effort in that direction. What better way to give evolution a boost and strike a blow against intelligent design? Just print an innocuous piece reminding your audience how natural selection works, and trust that most of them will automatically assume that it helps prove Darwinian evolution. Funny it didn’t go on to report that Darwin himself spent years doing pigeon-breeding experiments, all of which showed adaptation, but not one species becoming another. Well, let’s just say that with this misleading and downright lazy strategy, it is not the intelligent design movement that is made to look out of touch.


Chuck Colson


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