John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

CNN Sends Fabricator of Texas Textbook Story to Kansas; Nixes Debate between Meyer and Miller

Published at Evolution News

CNN Reporter Ed Lavendera, who two years ago fabricated part of his story about the Texas textbook battle, has now been sent to Kansas to report on the controversy there. Not surprisingly, Ed gets the basic facts about Kansas wrong as well. He even recycles an old clip from his previous story while creating impression that it came from Kansas!

Lavendera’s Kansas report was on CNN Newsnight last night with Aaron Brown. The segment was supposed to include a debate betwen Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer and Darwinist Kenneth Miller. That debate was taped but not aired. Instead they only used a brief comment from Meyer (who was misidentified as high school teacher John Courage; and Courage was mididentified as Meyer). Meyer’s comment was on point, even if Lavendera’s report was not. Meyer said:

We’ve had 150 years of one dogma ruling biology. What we’re asking for is that Darwinian evolution be taught to students, but also the current scientific criticisms of the theory.

Lavendera started his report by misframing what is going on in Kansas:

It’s the latest fight to bring the theory of intelligent design to a classroom near you. The Kansas State Board of Education is considering new science curriculum standards that offer a more critical view of evolution.

Actually, Kansas is not the “latest fight to bring the theory of intelligent design” into classrooms. The Kansas Board of Education has repeatedly and explicitly made clear that intelligent design is not being considered as part of the Kansas science standards. It is considering teaching criticisms of evolution as well as the evidence for evolution, but that is not the same thing as introducing intelligent design.

Lavendera next provided a butchered definition of intelligent design:

Intelligent design, or I.D., as it’s often called, is the idea that the universe is so complicated that some things cannot be explained by science alone, that there must be some intelligent source behind the world’s creation.

First, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out on this blog (and to reporters), intelligent design is not based on the idea “that the universe is so complicated… that there must be some intelligent source.” It is based on the idea that a certain kind of highly-ordered complexity (“specified complexity”) is best explained (not “must be” explained) as the product of an intelligent cause. Second, intelligent design theorists claim that pointing to intelligent causation is a scientific explanation. They reject the claim that to invoke intelligence means going outside of science.

Finally, although Lavendera is supposed to be reporting from Kansas, he recycles a clip originally filmed at the Texas Board of Education hearings in 2003—without identifying it as such:

LAVENDERA: …skeptics say intelligent design simply disguises religion in a shroud of science. Critics often call it science fiction.

JOHN COURAGE, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER [misidentified on-screen as Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer!]: If we put intelligent design into our biology textbooks, based on the misrepresentation of real scientific fact and the conjecture that its proponents rely on, then we may as well add the study of flying saucers and aliens from outer space to our biology and physics books.

In an embarrassing slip-up, CNN misidentified Mr. Courage onscreen as Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer. If CNN had properly identified Mr. Courage, most viewers would have been left with the impression that he is a Kansas high school teacher commenting on the Kansas science standards contoversy.

Not so. When he made these comments, Mr. Courage was in fact testifying at the Texas Board of Education hearings in 2003. How do I know this? Mr. Lavendera used this very same clip in his bogus July 2003 report!

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.
Discovery Institute