"Undoing Darwin" in Columbia Journalism Review


Chris Mooney and Matthew C. Nisbet's "Undoing Darwin" -- the cover story of the September/October 2005 issue of Columbia Journalism Review -- is essential reading for anyone bemused by the spate of media coverage of the creationism/evolution controversy. After alluding to recent events in Kansas, Cobb County, Georgia, and Dover, Pennsylvania, Mooney and Nisbet argue that "[a]s evolution, driven by such events, shifts out of scientific realms and into political and legal ones, it ceases to be covered by context-oriented science reporters and is instead bounced to political pages, opinion pages, and television news. And all these venues, in their various ways, tend to deemphasize the strong scientific case in favor of evolution and instead lend credence to the notion that a growing 'controversy' exists over evolutionary science. This notion may be politically convenient, but it is false." Although "political reporting, television news, and opinion pages are all generally fanning the flames of a 'controversy' over evolution," they argue, "journalistic coverage that helps fan the flames of a nonexistent scientific controversy (and misrepresents what's actually known) simply isn't appropriate." Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed and author of the new book The Republican War on Science (Basic Books 2005); Matthew C. Nisbet is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University, where his research focuses on the intersections between science, the media, and politics.