On the September 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Dobbs failed to inform viewers of guest Frank Sherwin's overt support for creationism, a literal belief in the biblical account of how the universe and human life were created. Dobbs also left unchallenged Sherwin's disingenuous statements on the views that he and his group, the Institute of Creation Research, are advocating.
Sherwin appeared alongside Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education, to discuss a recent decision by the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania to teach high school students about "intelligent design" (ID). Intelligent design purports to be a "scientific theory" maintaining that "life is not the result of purely natural processes, but that it was in some way designed by an 'intelligence,' " according to the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center (IDEA), a group that claims its mission is "to promote intelligent design theory." The debate between Sherwin and Scott echoed the Dover case, where several families have argued that teaching intelligent design in school classrooms violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which calls for the separation of church and state. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing these families, has argued that proponents of intelligent design are engaging in a thinly veiled effort to import the biblical account of creation into public school classroom. The school district has defended its actions by denying that it is promoting a religious explanation for life and claiming; rather, the school board claims that it seeks only to show students the genuine controversy and skepticism over evolutionary theory.
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Sherwin spoke in favor of intelligent design against Scott, who opposed teaching the theory in classrooms. But in introducing Sherwin, Dobbs merely stated that he represented "the Institute of Creation Research" and is a supporter of "teaching the theory [intelligent design] to students," without providing details on the organization's clear goal of advancing creationism as a Christian orthodoxy. As the Institute of Creation Research's (ICR) website proclaims:
We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead Biblical Christianity's defense against the godless and compromising dogma of evolutionary humanism. Only by showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ and the Bible, will Christians be successful in "the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4,5).
The founder of ICR, Henry M. Morris, was an early and significant advocate for a movement known as Young Earth Creationism. Young Earth Creationism considers the story of Earth's creation in the book of Genesis to be a completely accurate and factual account of events roughly 10,000 years ago.
In addition to ICR's explicitly Christian affiliation, Sherwin has previously been quite open about his own belief in the religious doctrines motivating his theoretical perspective. In a speech at Eureka College in Illinois, Sherwin declared that "[t]his issue is a debate of 'In the beginning, God,' versus 'In the beginning, hydrogen' ... We are creationists, and we believe in the Bible from Genesis 1:1" [Bloomington, Illinois, Pantagraph, 4/7/01].
The clarity with which he has previously spoken about his religious beliefs and his creationist agenda notwithstanding, Sherwin, echoing comments by some members of the Dover school board, denied that he was pushing such an agenda: "[W]e're not saying that we advocate that God did it. We are simply leaving that up to the student." Sherwin further suggested that "if you [Scott] think this is creationism through the back door of American public schools, then evolutionary naturalism as it is presently being taught in American taxpayer-paid public school is bringing atheism in through the front door." Dobbs did not challenge Sherwin's assertion nor point out that his organization does in fact "advocate that God did it."
From the September 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Joining me now with two very different views on this issue: from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Eugenie Scott, she's the executive director of the National Center for Science Education and fighting intelligent design in the classroom along with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]. And from San Diego, Frank Sherwin, he's from the Institute of Creation Research and co-author of The Human Body: An Intelligent Design, supporting teaching the theory to students. Thank you both for being there.
DOBBS: Now, that tells me what it isn't, Frank. I'm asking you in your judgment, in one sentence, is the origin of life?
SHERWIN: OK. With the origin of life we believe a creator is behind an origin of life.
SCOTT: Because what intelligent design says is that there exists incredibly complicated things out there in nature that by their nature are incapable of being he explained by a natural cause. Therefore, they are off the table. God did it. That's a religious view, although they tend to be fairly coy about who the intelligent agent is, but everybody knows it is God.
SHERWIN: What we're saying simply is that life is so complex, it shows an irreducible complexity that points to a creator. Eugenie, you're wrong, we're not saying that we advocate that God did it. We are simply leaving that up to the student. Now, if you think this is creationism through the back door of American public schools, then evolutionary naturalism as it is presently being taught in American taxpayer-paid public school is bringing atheism in through the front door.