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Dear Lauri Lebo, Please Help Me Understand Your Conspiracy Theory

At Religion Dispatches, Lauri Lebo has a perplexing post up criticizing Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman for being "disingenuous." He had written at the American Spectator website against the move by school board members in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, to explore teaching "creationism" to students. In Chapman's comments, Lauri Lebo finds evidence of cowardliness as well as deceit:

Once again, after pushing for anti-evolution language that opens the door to teaching creationism, the good fellows at the Discovery Institute bravely turned around and ran away from the local creationist-talking school board members who want to champion their cause.
She's referring to the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, which establishes the parameters under which teachers may introduce scientific supplements in the classroom with a view to developing critical thinking skills including on Darwinian evolution. The law specifically forbids promoting religion, which would in turn forbid teaching creationism.

Ms. Lebo seems to think that in supporting the LSEA, Discovery Institute intended to ease the way not merely for what the law clearly indicates, but for the teaching of Biblical literalist creationism. It's hard to believe that Ms. Lebo, a journalist who wrote a whole book about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, isn't aware of the enormous difference in content between creationism on one hand, and the scientific critique of Darwinism, or the related theory of intelligent design, on the other.

You can think they are all bogus, but to fail to see they are hugely different in what they say would be evidence, on the part of a journalist, of either astonishing ignorance or incredibly sloppy thinking.

Giving Lauri Lebo the benefit of the doubt on this score -- she seems bright enough -- the only explanation for her outburst must be that she thinks Discovery supports critical thinking on Darwinism with the secret aim of providing a path for something wildly different, incompatible and contradictory -- namely, for creationists to teach the Bible as a science text book.

However, in this conspiracy theory -- shared, if I understand correctly, by others such as Barbara Forrest -- many things don't compute. If Discovery's real goal is to make way for Biblical literalist creationism, why support a law that unambiguously countermands teaching creationism? And why would Bruce Chapman criticize an attempt, on the part of school board members, to teach creationism?

Again, the conspiracy theory apparently holds that Discovery intended all along that citizens like those in Livingston Parish would take legislation like the LSEA as permission to teach Bible pseudo-science. We're only responding negatively now because word leaked out.

Did we think creationists would institute Bible science classes around Louisiana without Darwin activists ever finding out about it and publicizing the fact? Did we imagine that Barbara Forrest, who's been all over this case and teaches at a college in the next parish over from Livingston, less than 20 miles away, would never realize what was going on in her own backyard? One thing you can't say against the Darwin people is that they are lax about discovering and punishing those who disagree.

I'm sorry, whatever you think of the scientific questions involved, just at the simple level of journalism this makes no sense at all.