Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Litigious Larry Libeled?

Larry Caldwell who is suing the Roseville, California school district over its teaching of evolution now claims he was libeled by an article Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, wrote titled "In My Backyard: Creationism in California" for California Wild.

See "Litigious Larry" for an earlier post on the libel suit by Red State Rabble.

Now, in true right-wing echo chamber style, Discovery Institute is piling on with a post on its Evolution News and Views blog:

"WorldNetDaily has an article about the false smear of California parent Larry Caldwell by Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. According to the article, Scott has yet to respond to Caldwell's request for a retraction."

Jason Rosenhouse, an assistant professor in the Math Department James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who writes EvolutionBlog, has withdrawn a link to Scott's article with this post:
"In Monday's post I linked to, and quoted from, an article by Eugenie Scott published in the magazine California Wild. Some of the facts in the passage that I quoted are currently in dispute. For that reason I have decided to remove that post until the situation is resolved."
Red State Rabble likes EvolutionBlog -- we maintain a permanent link to it under Blogosphere in the sidebar. We read it often and regularly find many thoughtful posts on the site. Because the original post is now off-line, RSR can no longer read what EvolutionBlog originally quoted from Scott's article -- and therefore we want to say up front that we are dealing with incomplete information. We also don't know if Rodenhouse is somehow in possession of information that we are not.

With those caveats in mind, Red State Rabble is still reluctant to back away from Scott's article.

News of Caldwell's libel suit is reported in WorldNetDaily, which features articles such as: "Illegal aliens invading U.S.: Expose puts you on southern border as citizens battle human flood," "Why Are Christians Losing America? How the U.S. is becoming anti-Christian despite an 80% majority of believers," and "Warriors of Honor: The faith and legacies of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson."

Caldwell tells WorldNetDaily that says Scott claimed:

"that I purportedly subscribe to a number of creation science beliefs discussed in the article -- none of which I in fact agree with; and that I purportedly advocate a number of creationist activities in public schools that are enumerated in the article -- including the banning of evolution from science classes, and the use of the Bible in science classes."

In fact, Scott does nothing of the sort. In a long article that recounts many battles over creationism and intelligent design from all over the country Scott makes two points, first:

The history of creationism has followed a pattern. First, creationists attempted to ban evolution, then to teach creation science, next to teach ID, and now, most commonly, they lobby to teach EAE (evidence against evolution, RSR). The creationism/evolution controversy that occurred in the northern California community of Roseville during 2004 is a microcosm of this history.

Second, she writes, in the section devoted to Caldwell and the Roseville controversy:

In June 2003, the Roseville district was choosing a textbook for high school biology courses. One local citizen, Larry Caldwell, protested that the book favored by teachers took a "one-sided" approach to teaching evolution. Like all commercial textbooks, the Holt, Rinehart, and Winston textbook includes evolution but no creationist or antievolution content. Caldwell said that the textbook did not invite students to "think critically" about the subject of evolution and offered a stack of supplemental books and videotapes that would redress the book's deficiencies. These were an odd mixture of ID and creation science: DVDs promoted by the Discovery Institute; a young-earth creationist book, Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Safarti; and the Jehovah's Witness book Life: How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or Creation? Thanks to its free distribution, this book is probably the most widely-circulated creation science book in the country.

Scott correctly writes -- not that Caldwell advocates a number of creationist activities in public schools -- but rather that he advocates teaching the "evidence against evolution," the current Discovery Institute strategy. Caldwell, an attorney, has filed a 96 page (!) complaint against the Roseville school board saying that it ignored his complaints about the Holt, Rinehart, and Winston textbook and for refusing to bend to his demands that it supplement course material from a list which included the Jonathan Wells' book Icons of Evolution.

Wells is an intelligent-design "theorist" and fellow at the Discovery Institute. His book claims that some of the best-known evidences for evolution -- such as the peppered moths, the Miller-Urey abiogenesis experiment, and the finches of the Galápagos islands -- are false, fraudulent or misrepresented in college-level textbooks.

Wells is also a minister in the Unification Church -- A "Moonie" who obtained a Ph. D. in biology for the express purpose, he himself says, of discrediting evolution. He's hardly the poster child of scientific objectivity.

Red State Rabble has been searching for the entire list of "supplemental materials" submitted by Caldwell, but we have not been able to lay our hands on it yet. This seems the only possible remaining area where Scott's article might have gone wrong -- and we are by no means conceding that. RSR would be grateful to any readers who have access to that list, if they would forward it to us, or tell us where it can be found.

Even so, back when the school board voted against Caldwell's proposal, KXTV News 10 in Sacramento reported a parent's reaction to the "supplemental materials" (emphasis by RSR):

Caldwell and his supporters insist they are not interested in introducing religious concepts into the public schools, but other parents who have seen the alternative materials say they touch on religious theories about the creation of life. "These supplemental materials are religious in nature," said parent Pam Herman. "They don't belong in our science curriculum."

Having read the entire, mind-numbing 96-page brief (which can be found on the Discovery website) complaining that his rights to free speech, religious freedom, equal protection were violated by the Roseville school board, RSR agrees with a legal evaluation of the suit by Joe McFaul, on his Law Evolution and Junk Science blog which says of Caldwell's suit:

This is a terrible complaint and in fact is a risky strategy because there may be yet another U.S. District Court ruling addressing the Christian motivation underlying all evolution attacks. Keep up the good work.

It will take more than an article on WorldNetDaily, a post on the Discovery Institute blog, and another frivolous lawsuit to convince RSR that Scott has gotten it wrong. Certainly, on the evidence that can be checked today, Caldwell and WorldNetDaily are clearly wrong, and Scott has got it right.


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