paul’s words

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BALANCED NEWS

‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.’
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed,
Until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies.

Is this not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

Joshua 10:12 & 13

So the sun stood still; our Earth is the center of the universe. Ptolemy explained the orbits of stars and the planets, the sun, and the moon - all travel in peculiar paths (circles upon circles, or epicycles) around the Earth. We explain what we see based on what we have been taught. Centuries after Kepler and Copernicus gave us a new and better explanation, should we give Ptolemy equal space and time, for “balance”? Must we teach “creationism” to “balance” our children’s education?

Little if any space or time is given to respond to the anti-smoking campaigns. Second-hand smoke, they say, increases by 30 to 40% the risk that a non-smoker bystander will contract lung cancer. What is the actual risk? Made-up numbers illustrate the puzzle: if the ordinary non-smoker, never exposed to smoke, runs a 3 in 10,000 risk of contracting cancer, then the non-smoker who inhales others’ smoke runs (at a 33% increase) a 4-in-10,000 risk. The increase in risk is the same whether the actual risk starts at 3 in 100 or at 3 in 10 million. How great is the risk? Could we get “balance” on this?

We used to have a legal principle (“the fairness doctrine”) that required broadcasters to present differing viewpoints about “controversial issues of public importance”. Now, the media “balance” what they want to, when they want to, and in whatever way they want to.

W. Paul Wharton