Though media evolve with alarming speed, they can devolve even faster. Witness The Wall Street Journal . Its hard edged business section goes on grinding out Pultizers, but its electronic back end, Opinion Journal has become a video arcade that hands out Kewpie Dolls for semantic aggression: "This column is highly skeptical of global warmism, and we wonder if those who claim to believe in it really do." writes Editor James Taranto
Though he seems to echo Rush Limbaugh in criticizing inconvenient science as "politicized" and styling criticism of creationism " appalling in its arrogance and ignorance." he claims to "lack the time, the inclination and possibly the intellect to delve deeply into the science." which may explain why gravitationism and germ theory of diseasism have so far escaped his attention.
Though Taranto denies being part of the Republican Base :" As we noted... we are not a religious believer," and numbers himself "among the 26% of Americans who hold a strictly naturalistic view of life's origin," he gives benefit of doubt to Intelligent Design, denouncing "the view that anyone who believes in the biblical account of creation is unqualified to do...science " as" a complete non seqitur."
His unique view of the scientific method may provide a measure of relief from the fact checking of the WSJ's news section, but it is by the sanctioned confusion of fact and opinion that both Science Wars and fortunes are lost. With half the market in technology stocks, heaven help the Dow Jones analyst who lets a dubious science IPO pass with: "what is it but an act of bullying to deny that there is any room for honest disagreement?"
The survival of his Best Of The Web column into The Age Of Fisking owes much to its populist appeal : "The truth is that American democracy's preoccupation with the silly and the mundane is a sign of political health." True enough, but to students of biology, a column that treats contemporary science with the contempt Richard Dawkins reserves for God presents an evolutionary mystery.
Cognitive scientist Donalf Hoffman may have solved it. He notes the assumption that evolution favors truth is "wrong in theory, because natural selection hinges on reproductive fitness, not on truth, and the two are not the same...fitness in a particular niche might, for instance, be enhanced by reducing expenditures of time. The cockroach... sees little of the truth, but is quite fit...computational simulations...in which virtual animals that perceive the truth compete with others find that true perception generally goes extinct."
The Base has a family tree of startling biodiversity. Given that
Huckabee and Gore share more political genes than humans and chimps do
DNA, whole antediluvian phyla may still flourish in Talk Radio's
shadows. If political descendants of the Creature From The Black Lagoon linger in Venezuela, why not fossil talking heads in the yack TV backwaters of New York ?
Memes can mutate fast as storm drain alligators in urban legend. With biblically correct
science and antisense DNA writhing together at the interface of the WSJ's Technology section and Ed Page, there should be evolutionary room for new
species of anti-science journalists. Neanderthals have already popped into
commercials and niches of prime time, so we had better get used to behavioral throw backs like Tarantola gleasoni. Properly stimulated, these creature can
recapitulate all the embryonic stages of Bad Media Science , from the lab coated chameleon two-step of Moe, Larry and Curley , to the upright moon walk of The Great One, and the
Kermitose chorusing of "hoax! hoax!" by scientifically threatened Senate staff reptiles.
At first, meme-hopping from DC focus groups seemed a likely explanation for Opinion Journal's genetic instability, but three months after the electronic gatekeeper of the WSJ's Ed Page assured a Harvard journalism seminar it remained open to critical commentary, the feedback link of his own column went missing entirely. Miraculously, the same syndrome has been replicated in a similar evolutionary context- the bottom of the web page -- by the greatest living proponent of Intelligent Design.
Still, this defensive reflex must give anthropologists joy. Forget Lamarck. It proves the unbroken continuity of Journo sapiens descent from the Cro Magnon publisher who installed the first stone wall in the caverns of Lascaux to ward off Neanderthals angered by the editorial cartoons on the cieling.