Spinning Libelously

| 26 Comments

Yesterday, Focus on the Family issued a press release stating how pleased they were that Genie Scott has clarified statements she made about an “intelligent design” proponent in the California Wild. This comes on the heels of similiar cheering by the Discovery Institute, WorldNetDaily, and Quality [sic] Science Education for All.

With this chorus of cheers, you’d expect that Scott’s clarification admitted to some serious mistakes undercutting her entire article and our campaign to protect and promote science education. So what exactly did she clarify?

Having reviewed my article, “In My Backyard: Creationism in California” (Spring, 2005), I would like to make some clarifications.

The Cobb County, Georgia, evolution disclaimer referenced in the first sentence initially was introduced in March, 2002; the November, 2004 date referenced was when a challenge to the policy by parents was tried in federal court.

Further investigation suggests that the books Refuting Evolution and Life: How Did It Get Here? were submitted to the Roseville school board by other residents, not by Larry Caldwell, and were not considered after submission. (Note also that the surname of the author of Refuting Evolution is Sarfati, not Safarti.) Members of the board of education did not formally recommend the antievolutionist materials, though they supported their use. Of the two incumbents not re-elected, one, who supported Caldwell’s position, did not seek re-election; the other never identified himself as a creationist, although members of the community perceived him to support the antievolutionist efforts.

Finally, the person described by a scientist as having a “gross misunderstanding of the nature of science” in his analysis of the Holt textbook was not Caldwell.

Eugenie C. Scott National Center for Science Education Oakland, CA

Wow, is that it? What a let down! Given the clamorous lovefest of the chorus, I expected Scott to have at least called someone a whore or blamed creationists for the tragic mass murder at Columbine. But I can’t find anything approaching such tabloid quality journalism.

But let’s look specifically at how Larry Caldwell has reacted to these clarifications.

Caldwell added, “It’s a shame it took a lawsuit to get Scott, the author of the article, to retract some of the more outrageous factual misstatements in her article.”

“Unfortunately, Scott and the NCSE have a long history of libeling people in the debate over how evolution should be taught in our public schools; my case is only the most recent example. Hopefully, it won’t take any more libel lawsuits to teach them how to stick to the truth.”

I suspect that Caldwell has some how read a different clarification than I. I don’t see how he can find any “outrageous factual misstatements” in her clarification. But if Caldwell considers Scott’s remarks to be outrageous factual misstatements, I wonder what he thinks about the numerous factual errors in creationist literature like, Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution. Is accusing the scientific community of lies, fraud, and dogmatic behavior more or less outrageous than accusing an individual of promoting books he never heard of?

26 Comments

“Safarti.”

I like that. It’s as good as Bill Dumbski, which is pure gold.

The question remains: what the hell was Scott thinking? Whether outrageous or not, why all those lazy inaccuracies? What was the point?

The NCSE really needs to get its act together. I think it’s time for a change in leadership. Fresh blood. People who are not afraid to go after the Discovery Institute and rip apart the curtains with sharp knives that leave a long lasting impression.

When are the next NCSE internal elections?

Focus on the Family Wrote:

“This is a rare, and certainly begrudging, concession from one of Darwinism’s leading advocates to a practice that is actually quite commonplace: the use of bad facts and bad science to prop up an intellectually bankrupt education policy,”

Can anyone think of a single example, ever, in which a genuine scientific controversy has been settled by resort to the courts?

Can anyone think of a single example, ever, in which a genuine scientific controversy has been settled by resort to the courts?

Not since the Dark Ages.

And still it moves.

JK, H. Humbert: that’s because the Evil Scientific Establishment™ has been holding a monopoly on Scientific Truth ever since Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake. We need to free science from the clutches of the Evil Scientific Establishment™ and return it to its rightful place, in the hands of cranks, quack doctors, and religious wackos.

– bi (http://fzort.org/bi/)

Let me make sure I understand this: Essentially Caldwell is saying that he was libeled for being called “creationist,” and for being identified with creationist publications?

Since when is being a creationist all by itself, defamatory?

You would need to be explicit about which courts. For religious courts, the answer is going to be “just about anything and everything”. For kingly courts (especially with divine right pushed hard) it would be “probably”, with “sex of baby” being my first easy suggestion from UK history. For secular courts making some attempt at meritocracy, it’s more likely to be “never”.

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

But if Caldwell considers Scott’s remarks to be outrageous factual misstatements, I wonder what he thinks about the numerous factual errors in creationist literature like, Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution.

Apparently Caldwell has no trouble with Wells’ book since that is one of the books that he is advocating for inclusion in schools.

When are the next NCSE internal elections?

Right after DI’s.

So when are the creationists going to apologize for calling scientists baby-eating satanists and evil, oppressive conspirators against the Twuth of Gawd’s Cweation?

*crickets chirping*

On one hand, this appears to be something of a Pyrrhic victory for the creationists. Based on the corrections, they appear to have initiated a very trivial lawsuit. And more importantly, their whole point seems to be “although I may be a creationist, I have not expressed my support for creationism quite as strongly as Scott said I did”.

Despite the pessimism of Krugman’s column in the Times today, the tide does seem to be turning against the latest round of efforts to get creationism in schools. When you get people suing to deny that they support their own movement, that’s almost certainly a good sign for opponents of said movement.

I assume a big issue here is protecting themselves against far less trivial lawsuits for their role in violating the rights of Cobb County students.

On the other hand, it does seem that Scott should have been more careful. We are dealing with very hostile people, who have substantial financial resources (for now).

harold Wrote:

On the other hand, it does seem that Scott should have been more careful. We are dealing with very hostile people, who have substantial financial resources (for now).

… And nothing better to do with them than litigate over trivialities. Gee, imagine all the science that could be funded with all those lawyers’ fees! I wonder why they don’t hop to it?

Everyone seems to be missing what’s going on. They’re lieing about what the “retraction” states. How many of their sycophants are going to actually read it? Zero to none. Unless the NCSE folks pop a cog and haul the liers back into court for libelous statements about their libel settlement, the creationists have successfully staged an event where they’ve convinced their followers to launch, and threaten to launch, frivolous lawsuits.

What’s the best way to counter this? How about insisting on an end to treating this as an academic debate, and letting them define everything out of fear of offending them. We are dealing with liers, and scam artists. The majority of the uninvolved public knows what creationism is, and doesn’t want it in public school science classes. The creationists are more successful at convincing them that some supposed “compromise” should be allowed. Anyone that calls them anything but creationists from now on gets a nail removed without anesthetic. The “compromise” of whatever the hell they want to call it is off the table? Now they want to teach “evidence against evolution”. They are desperate that people not call it what it is: creationism. Screw ‘em. It’s creationism. Make certain everyone knows it.

Earlier post on Caldwell’s suit.

It important to note that in the process of his bitter complaints about libel, which as we see, turns out to be much ado about nothing, Caldwell made numerous blatantly false statements about Scott. The man has no shame.

I agree with Mike - For Focus on the Family to claim that others use “bad facts and bad science” is not only a clear act of projection, but it is itself libelous, it seems to me!

Fight fire with fire!

Nuke-A-Poll!

http://www.afa.net/petitions/intell[…]keSurvey.asp

This is the American Family Association poll about intelligent design… go there, give them your vote too, and spread the address around. Let’s do a little bit of experimental sociology and see if they will post it on their webpage when the NO’s win ;)

(sorry for the semi-spammy comment, but these people should be beaten with their own FUD).

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 117, byte 117 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

“Everyone seems to be missing what’s going on.  They’re lieing about what the “retraction” states.  How many of their sycophants are going to actually read it?  Zero to none.  Unless the NCSE folks pop a cog and haul the liers back into court for libelous statements about their libel settlement, the creationists have successfully staged an event where they’ve convinced their followers to launch, and threaten to launch, frivolous lawsuits.  “ Mike, an extremely similar thing happened today on FOTF. On Wed, Aug. 3, Dobson made comments equating embryonic stem cell research with the Nazi experiments on humans in the Holocaust. Many people, including rabbis and legislators, expressed their dismay at this equation which seemed to trivialize the Nazi atrocities, and asked for an apology. Dobson’s (and his crew’s) response this morning? He intentionally twisted the facts and claimed that his critics were calling him sympathetic to the Nazis, when of course he isn’t; and furthermore, then demanded an apology from his critics! How many FOTF listeners are going to recognize the way Dobson moved the target on his critics, twisted the truth, and never addressed the points his critics were really making? I’ll bet almost none.

This is the American Family Association poll about intelligent design… go there, give them your vote too, and spread the address around.

OK, I did it. Here are the results so far:

“Yes, students should be exposed to the theory of intelligent design in public schools. 54520 votes - 95.30% “No, the theory of evolution is the only theory which should be taught in public schools. 2687 votes - 4.70%”

I ignored that the theory of gravity shd also be taught and answered “No.”

Darn, that’s so obviously a loaded poll question. “Exposed to” and “taught” aren’t the same thing.

I don’t agree with Mike: even though ID is largely stealth creationism, at least a few pro-ID people aren’t creationists, so starting a pro-science argument with a false point is a bad tactic. What you can do, however, is refer to the Creationism - Intelligent Design movement, and point to creationist verbiage by some leading IDists. In other words, rather than fruitlessly arguing about whether Behe is a creationist, quote Phillip Johnson as saying, “Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools” and as saying that scholars such as Behe “enable us to get a foothold in the academic world and the academic journals. You have to prepare minds to hear the truth.” Also, in local battles over ID, religious people in the trenches can be relied upon to fail utterly to finesse the separation of religion and ID. Watch for it, and exploit it when it happens.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

Since when is being a creationist all by itself, defamatory?

It’s been a long while since last I practiced law but I believe a statement that one suffers from a… ah, socially communicable disease… is actionable as libel. So is a statement that one is of low moral character. :-D

…go there, give them your vote too…

… and you will also (to get that vote counted) be asked for your name, email address, state, & zipcode.

I wouldn’t advocate giving false witness on any of the above, but you should consider carefully before giving your info to the Wildmon family (aka the Always Fearful Americans, aka Am. Fam. Ass’n). I’m sure they have employees who know how to profile the opposition as well as their own flock, so this data may be (statistically) used for tactical purposes.

At least they don’t seem to have sent me a cookie, but I’m expecting some interesting emails from Mississippi before long. Please note that I collect wingnut discourse by the megabyte - others’ tastes may differ.

Tally when I voted was -

Yes, students should be exposed to the theory of intelligent design in public schools. 61617 votes   -  95.17% No, the theory of evolution is the only theory which should be taught in public schools. 3128 votes   -  4.83%

Comparing the two tallies, about 6 hours apart, it seems the American Families are voting at better than 1,000/hr: this “poll” (quite possibly being promoted by an AFA radio broadcast) is already nuked…

to get back for a second to the topic of Caldwell vs. Scott, does anyone know whether he is still suing NCSE? correction of minor factual errors (and boy, do these look minor) are not that uncommon – the New York Times has a full staff of fact checkers but they still issue corrections. and their willingness to set the record straight only bolsters their reputation.

having said that, I am not sure how Scott can be faulted either for the minor errors that appeared in her article or her willingness to correct them.

wasn’t it the case that Caldwell never asked for a retraction, he just sued? and I think he may have also sued the SF Chronicle in the past for similar “libel” (being called a creationist). so, he is one of those lawyers who gives the profession a bad name, a litigious bully who will abuse his easy access to the courts at the drop of a hat.

but now that the record has been set straight, it would be interesting to know whether he is still hounding NCSE with litigation. Scott’s story about the efforts of Caldwell and his cronies to get ID and then, no, not ID just arguments against evolution, introduced into the school program, remains, as far as I can tell, substantively unchanged. they still look like a pretty goofy crowd with the backing of Caldwell the litigious-lawyer’s own wacky pseudo-science organization. but if that is the truth (and the minor factual errors have been corrected), does he still have the chutzpah to sue?

From Caldwell’s description posted on the DI website: “I never submitted such books to the school district,” Caldwell said. “In fact I had never even heard of either of these books until I read Scott’s article.” Not true. He denied submitting those very books. He may not know much about “those books” but he has heard of them. It’s a minor point but that’s what he’s picking on.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on August 4, 2005 11:59 PM.

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