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Responses to the San Diego Union Tribune’s anti-ID editorial

The recent actions by the Kansas State Board of Education have given a site like Evolution News and Views, which is dedicated to helping to correct misinformation in the media about the debate over Darwin, an endless supply of material. This time, however, the IDEA Center has also posted some good responses to the San Diego Union Tribune’s (SDUT) recent anti-ID editorial chastely titled “Voodoo Science.” The SDUT piece makes a number of mistakes about the recent events in Kansas.

Firstly, the piece asserts that intelligent design is being taught in Kansas:

“The decision earlier this month of the Kansas school board to adopt new standards that essentially redefine science — so as to allow the teaching of “intelligent design” in science class — was a triumph of zealotry over rationality.”

If Kansas “redefined” science, then the rest of the country is in trouble, because Kansas has simply brought their definition of science into line with how 40 other states defined science. I give the SDUT credit for not claiming that intelligent design has been mandated–but if they are right, then apparently intelligent design is allowed in most states. Why do they just focus on Kansas? Just where, might I ask, did the Kansas State Board of Education inject intelligent design into their curriculum? Of course, this question is never answered in the editorial–it’s made as an assertion without a single quotation from the actual standards themselves, which contain a clear disclaimer saying that intelligent design is not mandated for teaching in Kansas schools.

As explained in the IDEA responses, the SDUT also tries to pacify the religious “zealots” by quoting extensively from George Coyne, a Vatican astronomer who opposes ID, while ignoring the fact some other Catholic authorities–including the leading Cardinal Schönborn (see also this link) has been critical of evolution, and the fact that a man who many consider the Pope has at least supported the philosophical notion of design in nature.

The SDUT apparently feels that employing the tactic of “ridicule” is more important than getting their facts straight:

“‘Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square,” wrote columnist Charles Krauthammer. “But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.’ Amen.” (“Voodoo Science“)

So the SDUT’s official position is that people should be publicly ridiculing Kansas. This follows a long entrenched tradition the SDUT has of ignoring the facts in favor of their sarcastic, straw version of this debate.

For example, this past June, their science writer Scott LaFee published an unbalanced article against intelligent design in which he interviewed and apparently provided unedited print-space to 13 San Diego area anti-ID scientists but apparently contacted ZERO pro-ID scientists or organizations (and I know there are a good number of them in my prior residence of San Diego) to offer their perspective.

Having apparently consulted only critics, LaFee then called intelligent design an explanation which says that aspects of life “defy scientific explanation and can only be attributed to the handiwork of an unidentified, supernatural creator.” Who wouldn’t reject such a non-scientific approach? Of course, his characterization of intelligent design was a pure fabrication for 3 reasons: (1) intelligent design says life can be explained scientifically, via intelligent design, (2) intelligent design is not a negative argument against other scientific theories like evolution, and (3) intelligent design is not an argument in favor of the supernatural. This is all responded to in Inaccurate Discussion: A Response to Scott LaFee’s “Intelligent Discussion”.

Through the efforts of myself and others, IDEA Center did its best to inform Mr. LaFee of the actual nature of ID after the editorial was printed: we sent free complimentary copies of some ID literature and materials at our own expense. When the President made some pro-ID remarks this past summer, we contacted Mr. LaFee hoping he would take the opportunity to correct some of the prior mis-statements about ID in the SDUT.

Mr. LaFee never responded to my e-mail. But suspiciously, a few days later, Mr. LaFee printed an op-ed where he compared teaching ID to teaching alchemy, graphology, or the flat earth. I suppose that was their way of correcting the record: “ridicule.”

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



__editedSan Diego Union TribuneScott LaFee