Free Speech Icon Free Speech
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design
News Media Icon News Media

Celeste Biever’s History of Factual Errors and Bias in Stories about ID

Casey Luskin

Yesterday we reported how New Scientist writer Celeste Biever has used a fake identity to contact people for a story on intelligent design (ID). (As documented here, Biever falsely identified herself as “a student at Cornell” named “Maria” to the Cornell IDEA Club.) Apart from her latest tactics, Biever has a history of extremely inaccurate and biased reporting when it comes to the issues of evolution and intelligent design:

(1) Kansas Science Standards. In an article that reads like a Kansas Citizens for Science press release, Biever falsely claimed that the 2006 Kansas State Primary elections “ousted two radical conservative school board members” and reported that the current board “opposes the teaching of evolution.” Ignoring the “radical conservative” invective, there are two glaring factual errors here. First, only one incumbent lost: Connie Morris. The other seat to which Biever refers was left open by Iris Van Meter, who chose not to run for re-election. Second, current board members do not “oppose the teaching of evolution.” Kansas’s science standards teach students more about evolution, not less: arguments in favor for evolution are presented, but scientific arguments against evolution are also included. Biever further claimed that the standards define science so as to “include supernatural causes” and “change the definition of evolution to imply that evolution conflicts with belief in God.” These claims are flatly false, as explained here.

(2) ID and Peer-Review. Biever asserts that, “Only one paper that supports ID has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but the phrases ‘intelligent design’ and ‘irreducible complexity’ had to be removed before the paper was accepted.” Again, that’s false. Stephen C. Meyer’s 2004 peer-reviewed paper in a mainstream biology journal explicitly argues that “intelligent design… [is] the most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals.” Moreover, a peer-reviewed article in Annual Review of Genetics asks, “to what extent can any of the TE-incited rearrangements contribute to the origin of novel genes and new gene reaction chains as well as the genesis of irreducibly complex structures?”

(3) Misrepresenting the Relationship between Michael Behe’s Religious and Scientific Views. Biever employs the fallacious and discriminatory Creationism’s Trojan Horse argument by writing “[Behe] admits, however, that he personally believes the designer is God.” So what? Doesn’t Behe have the right to his personal religious beliefs? The real issues are whether Behe’s scientific beliefs are based on religious premises and whether he thinks one can prove the existence of God through empirical science alone. Behe is perfectly clear on both points: “I myself do believe in a benevolent God, and I recognize that philosophy and theology may be able to extend the argument. But a scientific argument for design in biology does not reach that far. Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open.” (emphasis added)

(4) Misdefining ID. Biever misdefines ID as a negative argument against evolution that appeals to the supernatural. She claims ID argues that “some things in nature are simply too complex to have evolved by natural selection, and therefore must be the work of an intelligent designer” and that intelligent design is “the assertion that living things are the work of a supernatural ‘designer’.” Both claims are wrong, as explained here and here.

Systematic Anti-ID Bias and Prejudice from New Scientist
New Scientist as a whole has a history of bias and misrepresentation in its reporting on ID. As noted earlier on this blog, William Dembski reported how a New Scientist reporter misled Dembski to believe that the reporter wanted to “remedy” the fact that “the media coverage of intelligent design has mostly failed to present your case on scientific grounds.” Yet this “news” article editorialized, supporting the claims of critics by asserting “Crucially, ID does not make testable predictions.” (See “A sceptic’s guide to intelligent design,” New Scientist, by Bob Holmes and James Randerson, July 9, 2005.)

New Scientist‘s bias was also seen when it published an unrebutted editorial from anti-ID physicist Lawrence Krauss making ad hominem attacks that ID proponents lack “honesty” and “knowingly and willingly distort the truth.” In order to combat ID, Krauss urges scientists to use “the weapons of sound bytes and emotional arguments” and to “deploy all the tools that are used to sell cars, [and] diet drugs….” Perhaps Celeste Biever has taken Krauss’s misguided advice to heart.

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.



__k-reviewCeleste Biever