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Eugenie Scott’s “Mea Culpa” in Libel Lawsuit Draws Attention of Science

John G. West

Science magazine has published an article about what it is calling a “mea culpa” by Eugenie Scott of the NCSE for spreading false information about California parent Larry Caldwell. (For background on Scott’s defamation of Caldwell, see here.) Science writes:

In the face of a libel suit, the head of an organization that tracks the ongoing battle over teaching Darwin in schools has agreed to publicly acknowledge errors in a recent article.

This spring, Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California, published an article in California Wild, the magazine of the California Academy of Sciences, mentioning that lawyer Larry Caldwell had proposed the names of two creationist books to his local school board and quoting a scientist accusing him of “gross misunderstanding” of science.

In April, Caldwell slapped Scott and the center with a libel suit. Although it does not mention the magazine, editor Keith Howell agreed to remove the online link to Scott’s article and to publish a letter from Caldwell as well as a mea culpa from Scott. The latter acknowledges that Caldwell did not introduce the two books, and that the comment about misunderstanding science referred to someone else.

Science neglects to mention that Eugenie Scott and the NCSE originally stonewalled when Caldwell asked them to correct the record. That’s why he had to file lawsuit in the first place, and only under the threat of a lawsuit did Eugenie Scott see fit to retract her defamatory statements. I wish a reporter would ask Scott why she had to be sued before she was willing to tell the truth about Caldwell.

According to Science, Caldwell also faults Scott for wrongly labeling him a “creationist” in the past, but Scott now insists that she stopped doing this as soon as Caldwell objected. Really? In an e-mail to me, Larry Caldwell reported:

It’s interesting that Scott claims that she stopped calling me a “creationist” after I complained to her about being labeled a “creationist activist” on the NCSE website [in 2003], yet Scott chose to feature me in an article subtitled “Creationists in California” in 2005. This just underscores why I felt it was necessary to file a lawsuit against Scott and NCSE this time. Hopefully, now they’ll get it.

Yes, one hopes that members of the NCSE will stop their campaign of disinformation against those with whom they disagree. At the very least, perhaps the newsmedia will be more careful in the future before simply recycling claims put forward by Scott and the NCSE without verification.

A final observation about the way in which Science covered this story: Although the story itself is OK, the headline, “Creationism Skirmish,” displays blatant bias. As the article makes clear, Caldwell was FALSELY accused of promoting creationism in his school district. Thus, Caldwell’s lawsuit wasn’t about creationism, it was about a Darwinist group FALSELY claiming that Caldwell was promoting creationism.

Given Science’s track record when reporting about evolution, I guess I should be happy that at least the text of the article was accurate. After all, those of you who read about my $100 challenge to Science a couple of weeks ago know just how inaccurate Science news stories can be. (By the way, Science never did take up my earlier challenge, nor did it correct the misstatements in its previous story.)