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Could Science and the Chronicle of Higher Education Be Any More Biased — or Wrong?

scientifcideas.jpgThe documentary Expelled keenly observes that scientific ideas begin in the academy, but if they’re to get out to the people, they must pass through a series of barriers and “checkpoints,” which means they can be hindered or stopped at any point along the way. In the film, the first checkpoint is the academy, which polices journals and controls research grants and funding. The second checkpoint is comprised of watchdog groups, like the NCSE, that work hard to organize and kindle opposition against Darwin-skeptics. The next checkpoint is the media, which carefully selects the sources of information it will broadcast to the public on this issue. When all those checkpoints fail, the final checkpoint is the courts. (This idea is explained in the diagram at left.) The film features various animated sequences explaining how Darwinists use these “checkpoints” to prevent scientific dissent from evolution from reaching the public.

Some members of the media don’t like being seen as a “checkpoint,” so they have been working hard in their coverage of Expelled and academic freedom legislation to misinform the public on these topics. The latest examples are a biased and error-filled post at the Chronicle of Higher Education by Richard Monastersky and a one-sided article about academic freedom legislation in the journal Science

Monasterky’s post unashamedly praises the fact that “University professors have joined other science advocates to battle so-called ‘academic freedom’ bills under consideration in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, and Missouri.” Monastersky does his part to oppose academic freedom legislation, never quoting the actual text of the bills (which state that they “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine”) and instead quoting Barbara Forrest, who reportedly “called it a ‘stealth creationism bill.'” Monastersky apparently missed the fact that just last week, University of Missouri Professor of Medicine John Marshall testified in favor of an academic freedom bill before the Missouri House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Monastersky shows his true colors in this debate by favorably referring readers to the NCSE and Panda’s Thumb for more information on the legislation. He even quotes Panda’s Thumb’s self-description as a blog for “defenders of the integrity of science.” In the one sentence where Monastersky mentions the proponents of the legislation, he writes: “The Discovery Institute, which promotes the teaching of intelligent design, supports the passage of the legislation.” He misrepresents our position because Discovery Institute has long opposed mandating intelligent design in the classroom, and these bills are not about pushing alternatives to evolution into schools. In fact, the bills in Michigan, Louisiana, and Missouri have language that would not even protect the teaching of scientific alternatives to evolution, such as intelligent design.

Science also recently published an article about the bills, which wrongly equates intelligent design with creationism and then states that “creationism is a mutating virus.” The article quotes no supporters of the bill, and only quotes critics of the legislation. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of of the NCSE, was quoted echoing Barbara Forrest’s talking points, falsely claiming that the academic freedom bills, “provide a permission slip for teachers to teach creationism.” Again, Science chose not to even report any of the actual language of the bills (see above), which could never sanction the teaching of creationism.

What we see here is members of the media checkpoint working closely with the watchdog checkpoint to endorse the misinformation coming from the academia checkpoint. Collectively, they coordinate efforts to promote distorted and one-sided information about academic freedom legislation to the public. It seems that balanced and objective reporting on evolution has been expelled from Science and the Chronicle of Higher Education.


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.



aaasAmerican Association for the Advancement of ScienceCHEChronicle of Higher Educationscience