Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Practicing Press Relations

In another example of the vast media power of the Discovery Institute, it's managed to get a piece planted in something called "Cybercast News Service," the bastard stepchild of an even more doubtful enterprise called "Media Research Center." Both are organizations founded by L. Brent Bozell III, a nephew of William F. Buckley and a member of the board of Bill Donohue's Catholic League. But enough of genealogy ...

The piece repeats the Discovery Institute's claim that the "Briefing Packet for Educators" issued by PBS in connection with the NOVA showing of "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" is somehow encouraging unconstitutional teaching. It is notable, however, that the DI, no doubt intentionally, keeps calling the Briefing Packet the "teaching guide," which is, in fact, a separate document PBS has provided, that has no mention of religion whatsoever. Nonetheless, according to the DI:

In the booklet, teachers are instructed to use such discussion questions as: "Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion?" The answer to that query is provided as: "Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently antireligious is simply false."

"This statement is simplistic and not neutral among different religions, and in that sense arguably inconsistent with Supreme Court teachings concerning neutrality," said attorney Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at the institute.

"The Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that the government must maintain 'neutrality between religion and religion,'" said Randal Wenger, a Pennsylvania attorney who filed amicus briefs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School District case.

"Because the briefing packet only promotes religious viewpoints that are friendly towards evolution, this is not neutral, and PBS is encouraging teachers to violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause," Wenger added.

First of all, the mere mention of the existence of religions and religious viewpoints that accept evolution in connection with a program that deals with a case where, as the DI itself admits, it was "correctly found that the Dover School Board members had religious motives" for their actions, would hardly be out of place. It is not "favoring" religions that accept science to simply note that the views of the board members are not universally accepted among religious people.

But, perhaps more importantly as far as this particular bit of whining is concerned, the booklet is not "instructing" teachers as to what questions to ask in class but is, as clearly stated at page 3, intended to give "clear, easily digestible background information to guide and support educational leaders and other stakeholders in their understanding of and response to challenges to the teaching of evolution in public schools." [Emphasis added]

Isn't it nice to see that some verities still exist ... like the Discovery Institute's pressing interest in the truth?

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