March 10, 2004

More junk science from the BBC

Last time it was a telepathic talking parrot. Now it's a "three-headed frog", which has "stunned a BBC wildlife expert" who is totally ignorant about frogs, as Ray Girvan explains. We surmise that BBC experts (whose bodies have been taking over by changelings from the supermarket tabloids) are measuring the frogs' English vocabulary as we go to press.

The "expert" named in the BBC frog story does seem to exist, and is identified in other BBC stories as "biologist, Mike Dilger". He is also one of the 331 "BBC employees, presenters, reporters and contributors" who signed this statement in support of Greg Dyke. The political allusion is not completely gratuitous here: confronted with three frogs mating, found by "children in a nursery", the Beeb's expert biologist Dilger said "I have never seen anything like this", and "it could be an early warning of environmental problems." The first statement was no doubt true, but he might have continued "but of course I don't know anything about frogs", instead of taking an allegedly expert poke at environmental problems. Though there are no doubt many environmental problems afflicting amphibians, this seems to be a pretty clear example of the tendentious, politically-driven "reporting" that got Andrew Gilligan and his editors in trouble.

More than five days after the frog story appeared, no follow-up or retraction by the BBC can be found (at least by searching for "frog" on their web site), despite what seems to be moderately widespread merriment among those who understand amphibians. The same can be said for the N'kisi story, except that that one was about six weeks ago. Isn't it time for the BBC to have an ombudsman, as the NYT now does?

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 10, 2004 02:06 AM