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Seattle Post-Intelligencer Profiles Discovery Institute’s Role in Debate over Teaching Evolution

John G. West

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article discussing Discovery Institute and its role in the debate over how to teach evolution, “Evolution debate has new player:

Group treads delicate territory, promotes ‘intelligent design.'” The article is non-hysterical in tone and accurately reports my comments that Discovery does not support trying to require the teaching of intelligent design:

John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said the Center for Science and Culture believes teachers should be able to present criticism of Darwinian theory.

“The Discovery Institute does not — does not — favor trying to require the teaching of intelligent design, and we are not pushing for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, period,” he said. “We advocate teaching more about evolutionary theory.

“That means all of the evidence that favors it … but students also need to know the areas of the theory which have legitimate scientific controversies.”

The article also discusses two teachers who are trying to teach students about some of the scientific controversies over Darwin’s theory. It further mentions the travails faced by former Burlington, Washington public school teacher Roger DeHart when the local Darwin posse effectively drove him out of town.

On the bad side, the article completely mangles its brief discussion of what intelligent design is about. Take this absurd sentence:

“intelligent design”… holds that some complex features of the universe cannot be explained by science.

Intelligent design does not propose that these features cannot be explained by science. It argues that they can’t be explained by neo-Darwinism and its mechanism of chance and necessity. There is a huge difference.

Other parts of the article are also misleading, such as the comment that Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture “spends more than $1 million a year on polls, advertising and research.” The wording here makes it sound as if the Center spends much of its budget on polls and advertising, which is false. As reported much later in the article, about 85% of its budget goes to support scholarly research and writing by scientists and other scholars. Why wasn’t this fact stated up front in the intial part of the article?

The article also allows defenders of Darwin’s theory to make wild and unsubstantiated charges without reporting the response by the other side. Perhaps the worst example is Eugenie Scott’s desperate claim equating skeptics of Darwin’s theory with Holocaust deniers. Last time I checked, respected academic publishers like Cambridge University Press and Michigan State University Press weren’t publishing books by Holocaust deniers. Nor were there hundreds of historians with doctorates from mainstream American universities and colleges who were expressing skepticism of the Holocaust. Nor were there growing numbers of professors of history at American universities and colleges who were raising doubts about the Holocaust. Yet there are hundreds of doctoral scientists — many of whom teach and research at the same universities where Darwinists reside — who are challenging Darwin’s theory. The comparison of Darwin skeptics to Holocaust deniers is outrageous and shows just how over-the-top Darwinian fundamentalists like Eugenie Scott can be. I said all of this to the reporter, but none of my response was quoted.

The article also doesn’t cover my response to the boilerplate claim that there are no scientific disputes over Darwin’s theory to tell students about. I provided a detailed discussion of some of the scientific debates over modern evolutionary theory, like the question of whether microevolutionary processes can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary events. These are the sorts of issues that Discovery Institute encourages schools to cover. As I told the reporter, if scientists can read about these debates in their science journals, why can’t students study them in biology class?

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.