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Eric Metaxas on Canaanite DNA and “Fake News”

Metaxas

The phrase “fake news” get tossed around a lot, sometimes simply to designate views and reports of information you find disagreeable. But if anything deserves the name, it was the flurry of phony news stories about how Canaanite DNA, analyzed in a study from the American Journal of Human Genetics, refuted history reported in the Bible. It turned out that DNA from modern Lebanese supplied a surprising match with human remains from the ancient Canaanite city of Sidon.

In a typically incisive BreakPoint broadcast, Eric Metaxas takes note of our reporting on that:

Even the journal Science joined the debacle with the headline, “Ancient DNA counters biblical account of the mysterious Canaanites.” Science soon issued a casual correction, saying, “The story and its headline have been updated to reflect that in the Bible, God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites, but that some cities and people may have survived.”

“May have?” Uh, these reporters might want to re-read their Bibles. Or maybe read them for the first time. Because far from claiming the Canaanites were wiped out, Scripture records in numerous places that large Canaanite populations survived and thrived in the region.

As David Klinghoffer at Evolution News points out, “The first chapter in Judges lists all the places in Israel where the Canaanites persisted…‘for they [the Israelites] did not drive them out.’”

And in the next chapter, God rebukes Israel for not driving the Canaanites out, saying “They shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” Much of the remainder of the Old Testament is the sad fulfillment of this prophecy.

Read the rest, or listen to it, here. Our interest in this matter isn’t so much to do with ancient prophecy, but rather with the culture of present day media reporting, whether the subject is genetics, evolution, history, or a range of other things, and where a slippery relationship with accuracy is noticeable when ideology is at stake.

What is going on here? Commenting for National Review Online on the notorious recent firing at Google, our colleague Wesley Smith offered a helpful insight. What we are seeing, says Wesley, is the “French Revolution Attacking the American Revolution.”

The Google firing confirms a working hypothesis I have been pondering recently. The French Revolution is attacking the American Revolution.

The American Revolution was sparked by the Enlightenment, Judeo-Christian moral beliefs, mixed with Greek and Roman philosophy and political theories. At its best, the American Revolution promotes universal human equality — a work still in progress –individual freedom, freedom of thought and speech, the rule of law, etc.

The French Revolution, in contrast, is Utopian, collectivist, authoritarian, intolerant, and punitive. It is anti-religion generally and anti-Christianity specifically. It accepts the belief that the ends justify the means.…

In its more mundane iterations, French Revolution ideologies express as the social fascism we increasingly witness today, such as the stifling of free speech on college campuses and thought control pogroms that cost professionally competent people their jobs for expressing disfavored opinions.

When ideologies reign, one of the first victims, invariably, is truth. The narrative is supreme, and it deforms how information is interpreted. So an innocuous result of genetic and historical research that actually confirms the Biblical account, because that account is ill favored by the ideologues, is distorted to deliver a message diametrically opposed to its true meaning. It’s then taken up and repeated mindlessly by an extended tag team of media spokesmen.

We’ve seen this many times, not least in the debate about Darwinian evolution versus intelligent design, where advocates of evolutionary ideology have found they can get away with saying anything they like about design proponents. Tarring ID as “creationism,” as the play toy of “Christian Fundamentalists,” is a favorite and false accusation.

“You can’t always believe what you read in the press,” Eric Metaxas mildly points out. You can say that again.

Photo: Old souk, modern Sidon, Lebanon, by MARTYR-92 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.