Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Discovery Institute can't separate "chance accident" from "design"

Freudian Slip at The New York Times? The Paper of Record Mangles Quote from DI's Spokesman, Substituting "Biblical" for "Biological":
Here is what Steve Meyer actually said to Bumiller in praising President Bush's comments:
"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biological origins."
But here's how the The Times reported Meyer's comment:
"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins."
DI tries to spin this as an example of media bias, and the reporter having an agenda of some sort.

As I see it, an error like this can have four origins.
  1. Meyer misspoke
  2. Bumiller misquoted him intentionally
  3. Bumiller mistranscribed
  4. Meyer intentionally said "biblical" in order to turn around and smear the Times for misquoting him
How are we to distinguish between the two simple, chance errors, and two acts of intentional design?

First, I'll say that that's an easy typo to produce. A fast typist will zoom past that, especially if she was typing while she interviewed, or was typing from hasty notes. I'm sure Bumiller takes notes in shorthand, but even so, a bad connection and transcription error could lead to this without a Freudian slip.

Second, I don't have any reason to think Bumiller would intentionally miswrite a story. Her reputation is that of a Washington insider, one who interviews DC sources and transcribes insider conventional wisdom. You don't get there by intentionally mangling quotes.

Meyer, however, is evasive at best and dishonest at worst. He twists words and ideas to fool people and simply to overwhelm less well-credentialed audiences. Does that mean he'd intentionally feed a quote to a reporter and then claim it was wrong? I don't know. Can someone calculate the "specified complexity" of that?

What about the CSI of an intentional misquote? 'Cause I don't know how to calculate it, but I'm not a professional design theorist. I'm surprised the pros at the Discovery Institute didn't do the math and prove that this was done out of malicious design.

Maybe it's my "naturalistic bias" or "faith in human goodness," but I think this was an honest mistake on someone's part, but I don't know whose part.