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By Refusing to Correct Inaccurate Statements Science Magazine Engages in Unethical Editorializing

Casey Luskin reported last week about Science magazine's Constance Holden dubbing Discovery Institute "creationism's main think tank."

The current issue of the journal Science gave us further proof that the AAAS has no interest in being a neutral or fair participant in the debate over ID and evolution. In what purports to be a news article, Constance Holden wrote:

It's "a victory as it throws out the problematic ruling [made by] the trial court," says Casey Luskin, a lawyer at The Discovery Institute, creationism's main think tank in Seattle, Washington.
("Court Revives Georgia Sticker Case," by Constance Holden, Science Vol 312:1292 (June 2, 2006))

By labeling Discovery Institute "creationism's main think tank," Holden engages in blatant editorializing and abandons her role as reporter for that of mouthpiece for ID's critics.

I contacted Holden and news editor Colin Norman. Only Holden bothered to respond. Here's our exchange.

>>> "Robert Crowther" 6/2/2006 5:50:55 PM >>> Constance,

In your article, TEACHING EVOLUTION: Court Revives Georgia Sticker Case, (Science 312, 2 June 2006) you write: "Both sides seem pleased with the decision. It's "a victory as it throws out the problematic ruling [made by] the trial court," says Casey Luskin, a lawyer at The Discovery Institute, creationism's main think tank in Seattle, Washington."

This is simply false. Discovery Institute is NOT a creationist think tank, and we do not advocate creationism. As you know Discovery Institute is a public policy think-tank that has many different programs, of which the Center for Science & Culture (which deals with the controversy over evolution) is just one of those programs.

I am asking that Science issue a clarification that sets the record straight on this point. If there is someone else there that I need to address this issue to please let me know. This needs to be corrected.

Thank you,

Her response:

Dear Rob,

I have fowarded this to the letters editor. I guess it depends on the
degree to which ID is regarded as a version of Creationism.

Best, Constance

And my reply:
>>> "Robert Crowther" 6/5/2006 12:58:01 PM >>> Constance, There is no "degree" of creationism involved. Discovery Institute simply is NOT a creationist think tank. To claim otherwise to the readers of science is misleading, and to not correct such an error after it's brought to your attention is dishonest.

Regardless of what one might think about either intelligent design or creationism, the fact of the matter is that Discovery Institute is a public policy center that deals with dozens of issues, only one of which has anything to do with this topic.

When we are sometimes referred to by other reporters as a transportation think tank --because of the work of the largest program of the Institute, the Cascadia Center, which deals solely with transportation issues in the pacific northwest-- I make the same request to them to properly identify the Institute.

I would think that as a news publication, Science magazine would want to make sure that all stories are accurate. Identifying Discovery Institute as a creationist think tank is completely inaccurate and I really think that a correction is required.

Robert

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics says that "Deliberate distortion is never permissible." Now that Science has been informed that they've mislabeled Discovery Institute, if they don't correct the record then I'd have to say that they're engaging in deliberate distortion. Of course, as Holden and Norman work for the institutional mouthpiece of the anti-ID AAAS an argument can be made that such employees at Science aren't journalists at all and therefore need not follow journalistic ethics.