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Local PA Paper Gets DI Position Right, Washington Post and Major Media Don’t

A local paper in Dover County, Pennsylvania has outperformed The Washington Post and much of the rest of the national newsmedia. In a recent story, reporter Lauri Lebo of the York Daily Record (Some allies question Dover board’s policy, 12/19/04) discusses Discovery Institute’s disagreement with the policy on intelligent design recently adopted by the Dover school board. While there are some errors in Lebo’s story (especially in the way she describes intelligent design theory), Lebo does what many national news reporters have thus far failed to do: Correctly report that Discovery Institute does not favor mandating the teaching of intelligent design, and that it has urged the Dover school board to withdraw its current policy.

If you are surprised to learn about Discovery’s position opposing the requiring of intelligent design, you can thank the major newsmedia, which have been doing their best not to report our position. We have consistently told reporters that we don’t favor requiring the teaching of intelligent design, and that we do not favor the Dover policy. But the reporters who interview us often refuse to disclose this fact to readers.

A prime example is The Washington Post. In the article “Fresh Challenges in the Old Debate over Evolution” (December 7, p. A-14), Post reporter Valerie Strauss writes at length about supposed efforts around the nation to impose the teaching of intelligent design. Strauss cites Discovery Institute in her story, but fails to disclose Discovery’s opposition to mandating the teaching of design. As I told Ms. Strauss in our interview,

Discovery Institute does not favor mandating the teaching of design. We merely recommend that schools teach evolution more critically–exposing students to some of the peer-reviewed scientific (not religious) criticisms of modern evolutionary theory along with the scientific evidence favoring evolutionary theory. We have advocated this approach in a number of states, including Ohio and Minnesota.

I told Ms. Strauss that the model lesson plan on the critical analysis of evolution adopted by the State Board of Education in Ohio is a good example of what we favor. That model lesson plan does not teach intelligent design or any other alternative to evolutionary theory. Yet nowhere in the Post article is Discovery Institute’s real view presented. Instead we are misleadingly cited as part of a movement to insert intelligent design into school curricula across the nation. While we support academic research and writing on intelligent design, we do not advocate requiring intelligent design to be taught in public schools. Why did the Post essentially suppress our real viewpoint from the story? Don’t readers have the right to know our real view rather than a caricature of it?

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.