Friday, January 12, 2007

Stupid journalism

A Times report on a recent archaelogical find includes the following:

An ivory carving appearing to show the head of a human being marks Modern Man’s first attempt at figurative art, archaeologists believe.
How on earth would anyone know whether or not this carving was modern man's first attempt at figurative art? In fact, given the nature of archaeological evidence, we can say with confidence that it is no such thing. It might be the earliest such attempt so far found, but that is all.

Journalism has to condense, and there is a danger of simplification approaching innaccuracy whereby the simplified description is no longer the phenomenon being discussed - this problem is particularly acute with popular science books on subjects like quantum mechanics - but there is neither need nor excuse for it in this report.

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