Bill Nye

Must reporters take a man at his word? UK paper caught in a 'Quaker' conundrum

Must reporters take a man at his word? UK paper caught in a 'Quaker' conundrum

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all.”

-- From "Through the Looking Glass," by Lewis Carroll

A story in a local newspaper in the U.K. caught my eye this week, raising questions on the nature of truth and the craft of journalism.  

The news that the Rev. Philip Young was standing for election to Parliament in the forthcoming General Election is of interest to the retired vicar’s family and friends -- and the electors of Suffolk no doubt. But I expect little notice to be taken of the news.

What I found of interest, from a professional journalist’s perspective, is the descriptors the subject of the story used in talking about himself. Young is identified as a retired clergyman of the Church of England -- but also as a Quaker and a Franciscan.

Young’s claim raises the philosophical question for journalists: to what extent may a person identify themselves? What shapes reality? Is it the social construction given by the subject of a story, or an outside arbiter -- an eternal truth, natural law, the Associated Press Stylebook? Which, to borrow from Humpty Dumpty, is to be master?

This issue arises on questions of gender these days. Is it Bruce or Caitlyn Jenner?

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Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Gold star for follow-up in the Religion News Service's story on scientist Bill Nye's visit to the Ark Encounter theme park. But a half-star for trying to do it by remote.

When last we saw Bill with  Ken Ham, the developer of the replica of Noah's watercraft, they were debating creationism versus evolution.  As I wrote on Friday, RNS' onsite story outperformed national media like The New York Times.

What a great opportunity to lengthen its lede, eh? Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The follow-up just pulls public statements, creating a follow-up with a detached, superficial feel to it.

Here is how the article tells it:

And it was "like the debate all over again but more intense at times," according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on Friday (July 8).
"Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed," Ham said on Facebook. "It was a clash of world views."

Just a Facebook post? (Actually, Ham also posted the story on Answers in Genesis.) Well, hmm. What content did they discuss? On what topics did they most challenge each other?  

Good questions for a phone interview, no? But if RNS tried one, it doesn't say. Further down, the article has Ham quoting Nye saying "not crazy to believe we descended from Martians." Ham answers, of course, that it's no more crazy to believe that "we descended from Adam and Eve."

And what did the "Science Guy" say about the visit? We get another non-answer:

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10 years of GetReligion: Labels, labels, labels, labels!

It is my understanding that there was some kind of Jerry Springer-esque debate last night between young-earth creationist Ken (hello dinosaurs) Ham and Bill (The Science Guy) Nye. Let me state up front that I am not terribly interested in what either man had to say.

However, I am curious to know if any of the thousands of religion-beat pros who live and move and have their being on Twitter can answer the following questions:

(1) At any point in the broadcast, was the term “creationist” defined? Did the definition involve six 24-hour days or was the emphasis on God being meaningfully involved in creation, period?

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