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UPDATED New York Times Corrects Mistaken Quote

Update, 8:42am, 8.3: The New York Times web desk has corrected the misquote. Now we will see about a correction in the print edition of the newspaper.

Update, 7:25am, 8.3: Contrary to promises issued last night, the web edition of The New York Times has yet to correct the misquote it printed. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to actually get this correction made.

George Keough on the Times night desk has promised that the New York Times will correct an erroneous misquote they printed and attributed to Dr. Stephen Meyer.

The Times printed that Dr. Meyer said: “We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins.” This is inaccurate. In fact, Dr. Meyer was referring to biological origins, not “biblical origins” as mistakenly quoted by the Times.

The New York Times article about President Bush’s remarks on the debate over evolution — “Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution” — by White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller got off to a rocky start when it turned the debate over evolution into a battle between “religious conservatives” and scientists.

Unfortunately, Bumiller reiterates a mistaken definition of intelligent design theory: “intelligent design proponents say that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.” By now most people know that the scientific theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. No matter what the New York Times or any other media outlet claims, intelligent design theory does NOT claim that science can determine the identity of the intelligent cause. Nor does it claim that the intelligent cause must be a “divine being” or a “higher power” or an “all-powerful force.” All it proposes is that science can identify whether certain features of the natural world are the products of intelligence.

Bumiller also misstates the issue in Kansas:

“Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.”

In fact, the Kansas State Board of Education categorically denies this (and lest there be any doubt we’ve copied the text of their rationale below and here) and The New York Times, the Associated Press, and many other news outlets have accurately reported that the issue in Kansas has nothing to do with mandating intelligent design in the classroom. That is just flat out wrong.

It should be noted that in his most recent remarks Bush was simply echoing something he said to Science magazine last year. According to the White House:

“He has said that going back to his days as governor. [H]e also said in those remarks that local school districts should make the decisions about their curriculum. But it’s long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that’s what he was reiterating yesterday.”

Below the Kansas State Board of Education makes clear what they want in Kansas classrooms.

Rationale of the State Board for Adopting these Science Curriculum Standards

We believe it is in the best interest of educating Kansas students that all students have a good working knowledge of science: particularly what defines good science, how science move forward, what holds science back, and how to critically analyze the conclusions that scientists make.

Regarding the scientific theory of biological evolution, the curriculum standards call for students to learn about the best evidence for modern evolutionary theory, but also to learn about area where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory. These curriculum standards reflect the Board’s objective of 1) to help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist on this topic, 2) to enhance critical thinking and the understanding of the scientific method by encouraging students to study different and opposing scientific evidence, and 3) to ensure that science education in our state is “secular, neutral, and non-ideological.”

From the testimony and submissions we have received, we are aware that the study and discussion of the origin and development of life may raise deep personal and philosophical questions for many people on all sides of the debate. But as interesting as these personal questions may be, the personal questions are not covered by these curriculum standards nor are they the basis for the Board’s actions in this area.

Evolution is accepted by many scientists but questioned by some. The Board has heard credible scientific testimony that indeed there are significant debates about the evidence for key aspects of chemical and biological evolutionary theory. All scientific theories should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered. We therefore think it is important and appropriate for students to know about these scientific debates and for the Science Curriculum Standards to include information about them. In choosing this approach to science curriculum standards, we are encouraged by the similar approach taken by other states, whose new science standards incorporate scientific criticisms into the science curriculum that describes the scientific case for the theory of evolution.

We also emphasize that the Science Curriculum Standards do not include the theory of Intelligent Design. While the testimony presented at the science hearings included both advocates and critics of the theory of Intelligent Design, we do not include it in these curriculum standards. The Board does not take a position on this topic.

Kansas Science Education Standards Draft 2: June 9, 2005

Robert Crowther, II

Robert Crowther holds a BA in Journalism with an emphasis in public affairs and 20 years experience as a journalist, publisher, and brand marketing and media relations specialist. From 1994-2000 he was the Director of Public and Media Relations for Discovery Institute overseeing most aspects of communications for each of the Institute's major programs. In addition to handling public and media relations he managed the Institute's first three books to press, Justice Matters by Roberta Katz, Speaking of George Gilder edited by Frank Gregorsky, and The End of Money by Richard Rahn.