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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

News brief: Darwin lobbyist's retraction of accusations against ID advocate published in California Wild

In a move that may be a victory for reasonable discussion of the problems around Darwinism, National Center for Science Education's executive director, Eugenie Scott, has retracted her assertions against California lawyer and ID advocate, Larry Caldwell. She states in a Letter to the Editor :

Further investigation suggests that the books Refuting Evolution and Life: How Did It Get Here? were submitted to the Roseville school board by other residents, not by Larry Caldwell, and were not considered after submission. [ ... ]

Finally, the person described by a scientist as having a "gross misunderstanding of the nature of science" in his analysis of the Holt textbook was not Caldwell. [ ... ]
and her name appears below it.

(Note: If this is not the story you were looking for, see the Blog service note below or the stories listed in the sidebar. )

That letter is followed by Caldwell's own letter, where he says, among other things,

Contrary to false statements and implications in Scott's article, I never asked the district to ban or limit the teaching of evolution in biology classes, or to present the Bible or the Genesis account of creation in biology classes, or to teach creation science, or young-earth creation, or intelligent design theory in biology classes, and our district's board of trustees never considered implementing any such policy for its biology classes. Contrary to Scott's claim, our board also never "declared that . . . [any] creationist materials would be 'recommended' but not required."

Contrary to false statements and implications in Scott's article, I never asked the district to ban or limit the teaching of evolution in biology classes, or to present the Bible or the Genesis account of creation in biology classes, or to teach creation science, or young-earth creation, or intelligent design theory in biology classes, and our district's board of trustees never considered implementing any such policy for its biology classes. Contrary to Scott's claim, our board also never "declared that . . . [any] creationist materials would be 'recommended' but not required."

Scott also falsely claims that I purportedly "offered a stack of supplemental books and videotapes that . . . [included] a young-earth creationist book, Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Safarti; and the Jehovah's Witness book Life: How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or Creation? Thanks to its free distribution, this book is probably the most widely-circulated creation science book in the country."

The truth: I had never even heard of these two books until I read Scott's article. I never proposed these books, or any other "young-earth creationist," "creation science," "creationist," or ID books or materials for use in the classroom.

As I said in the beginning, Eugenie Scott's article contains much more science fiction than fact about me and my QSE Policy, and about what really happened in the evolution debate in the Roseville Joint Union High School District.

The public policy debate over how we should teach evolution in America is too important to be based on such science fiction. At stake is whether our students will receive a quality science education, in which they learn the truth about evolution, or a science indoctrination, in which the truth is hidden from them.

Wow. I have covered this beat for years, and this is the first time I can recall seeing anyone like Caldwell actually allowed to just explain the facts of the case without any mainstream legacy media spin at all. Things must be changing. (Mind you, it helps to be a California attorney ... )

Groups like NCSE that claim they want to improve science education should be happy to co-operate with the process of getting basic facts right without the threat of a lawsuit. Let's hope that the outcome is more open discussion of the problems of Darwinism. But even if that does not happen any time soon, justice was served in this case.

Here's a link to the original story about the California Academy of Sciences agreeing to correct potentially libellous statements about attorney Larry Caldwell, who thinks that students should know about weaknesses as well as strengths of Darwinian evolution theory.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

California Academy of Sciences settles potential libel claim; provides redress for ID sympathizer

When I spoke to him last night, California attorney Larry Caldwell told me that it sure helps to be a lawyer. Especially when it comes to dealing with a series of non-fact-based allegations against one’s good judgement and character.

Caldwell, a parent who thinks that students should be taught the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the Darwinian theory of evolution, was accused by a leading Darwinist of, among other things, proposing odd little books for adoption by the school system, books that he had never seen!

Service note: If you are looking for my extended review of Privileged Planet, go here. If you are looking for information on the showing of Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian, go here and here to start, and then this one will bring you up to date.
The article was authored by Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc. (NCSE). Scott's article, entitled “In My Backyard: Creationists in California,” appeared in the Spring print and online editions of the Academy’s California Wild magazine, and was linked on the NCSE website.

Caldwell filed suit, but the California Academy of Sciences has settled by agreeing to 1) permanently remove all on-line access to the Scott article, 2) publish a lengthy letter by Caldwell and 3) publish a retraction letter by Scott in the upcoming Summer 2005 edition of California Wild , which will be available in print and on the Internet in early July.

Caldwell says that his letter will correct a number of factual misstatements in the Scott article.

(Note: Copies of that article are probably as scarce as elbow pads for snakes right now, and I don’t have time to search - but if anyone knows of a link, you could put it in the Comments box, and much thanks.)

He also says that
Unfortunately, Scott and the NCSE have a long history of libeling people in the debate over how evolution should be taught in our public schools; my case is only the most recent example. Hopefully, it won't take any more libel lawsuits to teach them how to stick to the truth.

Other critics of Darwin's theory have been personally attacked on the basis of misrepresentations in similar cases where the Darwinists claim that the critics' professional statements or qualifications are false," said Caldwell. "The difference between them and me is that I decided to take legal action. Darwinists need to get the message: engage in civil discourse without defamation or prepare to answer in court.
Personally, I am delighted by this turn of events. As a journalist, I initially found it difficult to cover the intelligent design controversy, on account of the swamp of false allegations about what intelligent design theorists thought, said, and did.

I wish I could be surprised that it took the threat of a libel suit to get a science organization to correct a record that should never have been so wrong in the first place. Unfortunately, I am not surprised.

Here’s another example of the kind of stuff that irks me: David Berlinski, a secular Jewish mathematician who disputes Darwinism, has been called in some quarters, a creationist , about which he says, “Some readers seem to have been persuaded that in criticizing the Darwinian theory of evolution, I intended to uphold a doctrine of creationism. This is a mistake, supported by nothing that I have written.”

Similarly, ID theorist Michael Behe, a Roman Catholic biochemist, has been called a creationist, even though he has told me explicitly that he thinks that all the information in the universe was probably coded in at the Big Bang. That would make him a theistic evolutionist, of course. His doubts about Darwinism are based on biochemistry, not religion, just as Berlinski’s doubts are based on mathematics, not religion.

As I understand it, creationism means the effort to align science findings with a sacred text (Bible, Koran, tribal tradition about origins). I don’t see anything wrong with such an enterprise, but anyone who does not acknowledge a given sacred text won’t care, so it’s not properly a public issue.

However, while covering the intelligent design controversy, I met a number of scientists and mathematicians who had very good, non-religious reasons, based in their own disciplines, for doubting Darwinian evolution (from goo to you in a zillion easy steps).

I suspect some Darwinists resort to name calling and misrepresentation, in the hope that future evidence will vindicate a theory that they themselves have privately begun to doubt. As I said in a previous post, I am glad Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog, never lived to see this stuff.

Whether Darwinism turns out to be right or wrong, it must face scrutiny without the help of all the name-calling. Maybe the California settlement will help in that process.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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