John G. West Political Scientist and Cultural Critic

Lauri Lebo’s Amnesia

Published at Evolution News

I first came to know Lauri Lebo when she was a local reporter for the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania, for which she covered the now infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover court case. Lauri was not the absolutely worst reporter I have encountered, but it was pretty clear what side of the controversy she was rooting for. She certainly was not a disinterested observer. Although most of our conversations were at least civil, I still remember one that turned into a shouting match after she repeatedly berated me as “dishonest” because I wouldn’t agree with her that a point made by biologist Jonathan Wells in the Icons of Evolution documentary was wrong. (Wells wasn’t wrong.) Lauri also liked to defend the mangled definitions of intelligent design she offered in her stories by lecturing me that she knew more about intelligent design than I did. Impartial she was not.

After Lauri left the world of mainstream reporting, whatever quality controls that may have been imposed on her reporting by her editors were obviously lifted. Styling herself a latter-day H.L. Mencken, she tried to cash in on the Dover case by writing a book about it that was lauded by one reviewer not only for its “unapologetic indictment of intelligent design” but also for its indictment of “American journalism’s insistence on objectivity”! Lauri continues to offer herself as an expert on the debate over Darwinism and intelligent design. In her latest article, she insists that “there is no such thing as ID research, which has not yet produced one single legitimate peer reviewed paper.” David Klinghoffer deftly disposes of that false claim. Lauri also rewrites history by suggesting that the focus on the critical analysis of Darwin’s theory (rather than the teaching of intelligent design) is somehow a post-Dover development:

As always, since intelligent design was ruled unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the introduced bills rely on such creationist code words as “teaching the controversy,” “academic freedom,” or “critical analysis.”

Actually, the focus on the critical analysis of Darwinian theory was the educational policy supported by most members of the intelligent design community well before Dover, especially those at Discovery Institute.

Consider the following press release issued by Discovery Institute in early 2004 (well before Dover was even a blip on journalists’ radar):

Discovery Institute called it a victory for students, academic freedom, and common sense when the Ohio state board of education today voted 13-5 to adopt a model lesson plan on the “Critical Analysis of Evolution.”

“The board’s decision is a significant victory for students and their academic freedom to study all sides of current scientific debates over evolutionary theory,” said Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute. “It’s also a victory for common sense against the scientific dogmatism of those who think evolution should be protected from any critical examination.”

Chapman added that the lesson plan is exactly the approach to teaching evolution that Discovery Institute has advocated all along, helping students learn both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory…

The lesson plan does not discuss religion or alternative scientific theories such as intelligent design…[emphasis added]

“Ohio’s science standards and this lesson will stand as a beacon to other states as they review their own approach to how evolution is presented in the classroom,” said Chapman. “This is a common-sense approach that avoids the extremes and focuses on teaching students about the scientific debates over evolution.”

Discovery Institute articulated the same critical analysis approach two years earlier in Ohio, and it did the same in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and other states… all before the Dover lawsuit.

Nor did Discovery Institute change its tune when Dover adopted its intelligent design policy. Instead of supporting the policy, the Institute made clear that it disagreed with it. This disagreement was made known as soon as the policy was adopted, well before the lawsuit against Dover was filed. As an article in the York Daily Record stated on October 20, 2004:

John West, Discovery’s associate director for science and culture, said intelligent design is still a fairly new concept. Consequently, he said, his organization prefers that school districts require the full, fair teaching of evolution, including the flaws.

“We don’t endorse or support what the Dover School District has done,” West said. “This is not what we recommend.”

[“Dover curriculum move likely a first; Even some supporters of intelligent design suggest the board might have
York Daily Record, October 20, 2004, emphasis added]

Who happened to be the lead author of the above article? None other than the illustrious Ms. Lebo herself. In other words, although she now insists that the “teach the controversy” and “critical analysis” of Darwinism approach was developed after the Dover case, in 2004 — before the lawsuit against Dover was even filed — she reported otherwise.

She seems to have a very selective case of amnesia.

Lauri Lebo takes re-writing history to a whole new level. She even rewrites herself.

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