Sunday, January 30, 2011

Correspondent Gets it Wrong

A lot has gone wrong with the "science" and "medicine" that Liliane Parbot-Johnson gushes in today's "Feeling Fit" feature about North Port's Warm Mineral Springs.

Parbot-Johnson's reporting for the Charlotte Sun newspaper flies the usual red flags, but one of its larger alerts stems from the writer's careless use of superlatives, her naïve acceptance of what someone says, her failure to attribute, and her decision to not check claims. Parbot-Johnson's "stoopid science" begins with the headline that picks up her essay's flawed, main theme: swimming in mineral water cures what ails you. But there's more than a Lourdes mentality working here. She rewrites history without so much as a nod to a credible source.

During the 1970s', the mineral springs, she reports, became the site of archaeological research:

During that decade, archeological research done by the state of Florida resulted in making Florida the oldest area inhabited by human beings in the Western Hemisphere. Previously, the title had been held by Mexico, but at Warm Mineral Springs, human remains were recovered from an underwater shelf.

Ignoring the illogical last clause, we ran an Internet search, turning up several reports of the area's archaeology, centered at nearby Little Salt Spring. George Wisner writing for "Mammoth Trumpet" reports scientists believe a Stone Age hunter enjoyed a meal of turtle at this site about 12,000 years ago. Other artifacts at the spring include a 7,000-year old greenstone pendant, and a carved spear handle believed to be between 8,000 and 9,000 years old.

Impressive -- but hardly the oldest artifacts in the Western Hemisphere that Parbot-Johnson claims, all on her own without attribution. Here are just a couple of recent reports:

One of the oldest radiocarbon-dated sites in North America is along the Savannah River, Allendale County, S.C. Albert Goodyear, a University of South Carolina professor, says findings suggest this site, called Topper, "is the oldest radiocarbon dated site in North America. However, other early sites in Brazil and Chile, as well as a site in Oklahoma also suggest that human were in the Western Hemisphere as early as 30,000 years ago ..."

In 2009, University of Colorado anthropologist Douglas Bamforth, identified 83 artifacts that have been dated to "nearly 13,000 years ago" found by a Boulder, Colo., landscaping crew under a customer's front lawn.

It's hard to tell from her sloppy reporting, but OWW believes Parbot-Johnson has confused the country of Mexico with the state of New Mexico. The prevailing theory that the first humans arrived in the Americas about 12,000 years ago is based on a famous archaeological dig near Clovis, New Mexico.

1 comment:

  1. The story lede refers to Paleo Indians as if that is a tribal name. "Paleo-" is a prefix meaning stone and the term "paleoindian" refers is general to an indigeneous Stone Age people. -- Archie