Wash. Post overlooked apparent Bush administration contradiction on intelligent design


Six months after his own science adviser said that "intelligent design is not a scientific theory," President Bush stated on August 1 that the concept -- whose proponents claim that life is so complex that only an intelligent guiding force could have created it -- "ought to be properly taught" alongside evolution in public schools. Yet, unlike reports by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, an August 3 Washington Post report on Bush's remark failed to address the statement of the adviser, John H. Marburger III, even while citing conservative claims that intelligent design is, in fact, scientific.

An August 3 Los Angeles Times report noted that Marburger's statement "seemed to differ with the president." Similarly, a New York Times report the same day pressed Marburger to explain the apparent discrepancy.

But the Post article, by staff writers Peter Baker and Peter Slevin, noted that "[m]uch of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory" without mentioning that Bush's own science adviser is among that contingent. Similarly, the report neglected to include Marburger's assessment that intelligent design is not "scientific" even while reporting claims by Bush and several other advocates of the theory suggesting that it is:

John G. West, an executive with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank supporting intelligent design, issued a written statement welcoming Bush's remarks. "President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution," he said.


At a morning briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was simply restating long-standing views. "He has said that going back to his days as governor," McClellan said. "I think he also said in those remarks that local school districts should make the decisions about their curriculum. But it's long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that's what he was reiterating yesterday."

In comments published last year in Science magazine, Bush said that the federal government should not tell states or school boards what to teach but that "scientific critiques of any theory should be a normal part of the science curriculum."


The president's latest remarks came less than two months after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and an influential Roman Catholic theologian, said evolution as "an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection" is not true.

"Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science," Schonborn wrote in the New York Times. He said he wanted to correct the idea that neo-Darwinism is compatible with Christian faith.

The New York Times quoted Marburger reiterating his previous statements on the issue -- that "intelligent design is not a scientific concept," a claim he made in February before the National Association of Science Writers, according to the Los Angeles Times, and that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology," made during a March 2004 online discussion at The Chronicle of Higher Education's website. The New York Times added that Marburger attempted to "play down the president's remarks" by indicating that "Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the 'social context' in science classes."

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