February 19, 2009

Exaggerated Claims

I am always puzzled when people make claims that can be quantified but apparently made no effort to verify the facts before making the argument. One recent case is a Baptist Press column by Mike Licona of the North American Mission Board. Licona ended a piece attacking evolution last Thursday with this claim:
The fact that Darwin was mentioned far more on Feb. 12 than Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves and shares the same 200th birthday, is just another clue to how important the philosophy of naturalistic evolution is to the priests of secularism.
The claim about attention did not match my perception, so I checked it out. According to a LexisNexis search of articles in major newspapers and newswires, Charles Darwin was mentioned in 80 articles on February 12 while Abraham Lincoln was mentioned in 388. Thus, Lincoln was actually mentioned nearly 5 times as much as Darwin. Licona's claim is not even close to accurate (maybe because his piece came out in the middle of the afternoon of February 12th, so it was impossible for him to actually know the facts yet). Even if one considers the whole week, Darwin got only 279 mentions (still not as many as Lincoln got on the one day) and Lincoln got 1,226. The Baptist Press, however, mentioned both men in 3 articles on February 12.

The rest of Licona's column contains exaggerations as he compares the academic community's support for evolution to "fascism." Such a comparison is inaccurate and inappropriate. Of course, he grounded his belief on the fact that he thought Darwin got so much more attention. If he was wrong about that, then maybe he needs to reconsider his larger argument.


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