A week or so ago, I posted on Ben Adler's New Republic story interviewing conservative pundits on various questions related to the theory of evolution, intelligent design theory, and the teaching of both. In that post, I took for granted that Adler had reported the answers accurately, but now I'm not so sure. Mike Rappaport at The Right Coast notes David Frum's objection that Adler's reporting may not have been fully accurate. As Rappaport writes:
I previously posted on the responses that conservatives gave concerning evolution. Now it appears that the New Republic may not have reported the answers fairly. David Frum, one of those interviewed, claims that Ben Adler played fast and loose with some ellipses. I had wondered about those ellipses. Sadly, you can't be too careful these days.
Then he [Adler] asked me about whether I thought evolution should be taught in public schools. Here's the answer that he quotes in his survey:
"How evolution should be taught in public schools: 'I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle.'"
Two ellipses in three sentences should stand as a warning to the reader that there's funny business going on here. Those are my words all right - but they are not words given in answer to the question in italics. They are answers to questions posed later in the interview, when Adler embarked on a very argumentative and tendentious line of queries about who should decide what gets taught.
I have no idea what proportion of Americans object to the teaching of evolution, but I very much doubt that it's 90% or even 50%. I was responding rather to a question about who should decide on public school curricula: parents or professionals. My sympathies are ever and always with the parents, in the full knowledge of how wrongheaded parents can be. At the same time, as I didn't go on to say, because I was losing patience with the argumentative Adler, I think that one of the great advantages of a system of private higher education is that it enables universities through their admissions criteria to influence the choices that parents make. I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision.
To my mind, that is certainly a very substantial difference in the interpretation of Frum's answers, in that he is plainly referring to the political question of who should set education policy, rather than questions of science.
Does anyone know whether other participants in the survey have come forward to object to how they were quoted?(TZ: Added "have" to this sentence to fix the typo).