Tuesday, April 17, 2012

David Zucchino Just Confirmed the LA Times is Not Running a Correction to Their Glaring Misrepresentation of That New Academic Freedom Law

Remember that new Academic Freedom law that allows the scientific evidence to be examined for theories such as evolution, and the theory to be criticized? And remember how the Los Angeles Times falsely reported the story, literally contriving a false narrative and misinforming their readers? I explained the problem to the Times here, and they responded with an absurd, categorical denial which made no sense. I followed up a second time with this message below to journalist David Zucchino, but Mr. Zucchino has now responded, as before, that no correction will be printed.

April 13, 2012

David Zucchino
Los Angeles Times

Dear Mr. Zucchino:

You state that a close reading of the new Tennessee law shows that it requires competing viewpoints to evolution (such as creationism), be discussed in science class. I don’t know how you could possibly arrive at that conclusion from a close reading of the amendment. I am delighted that you read the amendment closely, but it makes no such requirement. If you could indicate the particular portion of the amendment that you think stipulates this requirement then I could clear this up.

Your conclusion has two major problems. First, the amendment does not require any types of classroom discussions, competing or otherwise. There simply is nothing in the amendment that makes any such requirement. What the amendment does state is that the Tennessee schools shall encourage scientific questions and critical thinking skills, assist teachers in presenting the science curriculum, and not prohibit teachers from helping students to understand the scientific strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories covered in the curriculum. There is no such requirement of a classroom discussion.

Second, the amendment says nothing about competing theories, such as creationism. In fact, the language explicitly rules this out. It repeatedly stipulates that it is strictly in reference to the state’s curriculum framework. I don’t know how you could have inferred otherwise.

You also stated that the sponsors of the new law specifically point to evolution as a subject of “debate and disputation” and that therefore competing viewpoints should be discussed in class, according to the law.

Again, you seem to be avoiding the clear, obvious statements of the amendment. There is no mention or support given to competing viewpoints in the law. I don’t know how the language could be any more clear on this. The critical thinking, analysis of evidence, review of strengths and weakness are all of the science involved, and all deal with the state’s curriculum. There is absolutely nothing in the amendment that goes outside of the approved curriculum. And on top of that, the amendment explicitly states that it “only protects the teaching of scientific information.”

You seem to be confused about this. For instance, you stated that creationism is allowed under the law because whether or not it has scientific validity is a subject of “debate and disputation.” That would be an incredible contortion of the amendment. Whether or not creationism, or any other scheme, is or is not scientific is completely irrelevant.

The amendment is not allowing for whatever theories or viewpoints anyone wants to inject, just because someone argues that it is scientific. I am astonished you could have concluded this upon a close reading of the law. The language is crystal clear that it is addressing only the state’s curriculum.

Even creationists understand this. For instance AIG, one of the world’s leading creationist organizations, writes that: “media reports asserting that Tennessee law has introduced ‘creationism theory into science curriculum,’ and similar claims are simply wrong. The law does not permit or promote the teaching of intelligent design or creation science.” [1]

You also asked the question, if allowing discussion of challenges such as creationism isn’t the purpose of the law, then what is? This is troublesome for me for two reasons. First, you are divining a hidden, underlying purpose of the law, which not only is not in the law but is explicitly not allowed by the law, and then presenting that hidden purpose to your readers as an objective reading of the law. The fact that you are unable to imagine why legislators two thousand miles away would pass such a law does not give you the right to misrepresent the law to your readers.

Second, your question reveals that you are unaware how difficult it can be for students to raise scientific questions about theories. There is a hostile environment in our educational system, at all levels, to skepticism. Believe me, as one who has been blackballed by evolutionists, and one who has interacted with school boards and teachers, everything from passing grades to career options are at stake. This has nothing to do with creationism.

You also hypothesized that the amendment sponsors appear to have calculated that including “creationism” or “intelligent design” in the bill’s language would make it difficult to pass, so they resorted to much more general language that allows broad interpretation under the term “scientific subjects.”

But again, you are assigning motives that you imagine and projecting that onto the law itself. Even if your conspiracy theory was correct, that wouldn’t change the law. But I can also tell you that there is no such conspiracy. People I know involved with this legislation have no such calculation. And furthermore I know many people, myself included, who support these types of academic freedom bills who do not want to see creationism or intelligent design taught in our schools.

Let me be frank. I know journalists have time constraints and that you probably spent a grand total of a couple hours, if that, on the story. And I know that journalists are not experts in specialized fields. You probably haven’t thought much about biology since your high school class, and you probably know even less about the complex debate over evolution that has been on-going for years. You probably view the debate from afar through a political lens that casts evolutionists as the scientists and skeptics as the fundamentalists. Believe me, the debate is far more nuanced and complex than this. And again, it has nothing to do with creationism.

The bottom line is that your piece does need a correction. Without it you harm the reputation of yourself and your employer. You pointed out that the Los Angeles Times is one of many news outlets reporting that the bill will allow classroom discussion of creationism or other alternatives to evolution. I trust you realize this doesn’t justify false reporting. In fact, that is part of the story.

What the Los Angeles Times missed here was an opportunity to report on an often misunderstood story, particularly in the broad news media (this is not left versus right), and dig down a level beyond the usual cultural memes that continue to confuse the story.

Sincerely yours,

Cornelius Hunter

1. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/04/12/teacher-protection-academic-freedom-act

Yet there will be no correction. No matter how grievous the yellow journalism, a correction would not be possible because this is evolution. Journalist David Zucchino and the Los Angeles Times have violated the fundamental ethic of journalism.

We all make mistakes but when a person willfully misrepresents the truth, then it is no longer merely a mistake. Unfortunately this is the story of evolution. Its endless trail of scientific misrepresentations goes uncorrected and denied, in spite of patient observers informing evolutionists of their “mistakes.” And since evolution is far more than a mere scientific theory, but a religious-cultural movement, this dynamic is seen in more than the mere scientific disputes. The LA Times has provided an unfortunate example of this.

Here is how one writer recently explained the increasing irrelevancy of news outlets such as the Times:

Couple of things to keep in mind about legacy media:

1. Their news gathering model is out of date, which is why they are bleeding circulation from every outlet. Essentially, on many subjects today, you can usually find out more accurate information more quickly by doing your own straightforward Internet search than you can by reading a “newspaper of record.”

2. One outcome of slow decline is that such media attract conformist journalists who spout a party line because they really haven’t any better ambitions or ideas.

3. They also attach themselves to establishment figures and causes, for protection, which leads to a loss of news gathering independence. They begin to act with a degree of irresponsibility that we used to associate with the tabloid press.

4. Remember the “air traffic controller” rule. The more vital the information is, the less biased the provider can afford to be. The ATC is allowed only one bias: Getting planes down safely. Now turn that around: In a world where people can learn about events quite easily without the legacy media, the legacy media slowly begin to write fiction that pleases themselves and their remaining readers.

Thus, it actually doesn’t matter to them what the Tennessee bill says, or what its outcome will be. They are constructing a work of fiction pleasing to themselves and their readers. The news story is simply an inspiration for an alternative reality. Read it if you like – but not for news.

What we are witnessing here is a tragedy. We’ve all heard about journalistic bias, the problems with legacy media and so forth. Here we have a clear example. This is not merely a case of media bias. This is not an example of an Op-Ed with an over-the-top political slant. This is an outright lie in a supposed news story. What I discovered is that there is no intent to cover the story accurately. There is no journalistic integrity here. The intent is to prop up an absurd and obviously false narrative. That’s a tragedy.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

12 comments:

  1. Why don't you post their rejection letter, for the sake of honesty and balance.

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    1. Waiting for permission on that. We report, you decide.

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  2. If newspapers are increasingly irrelevant, why do you bother sending letters o the editor? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

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    1. Well, we're not going to lie down and let them spread their lies unopposed, do you? You might be surprised to know that truth is still important to some people.

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  3. Yes, helping students to understand the scientific strengths of evolution...

    Let's see..

    um, well...
    no wait, um...
    Yes, um...
    um...

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  4. The LA Times practices much more than yellow journalism. For decades, they've looked the other way while the worst kind of corruption runs rampant at the Los Angeles Superior Court just a few blocks from their downtown headquarters. The LASC is a cesspool of malpractice and corruption where the poor get shafted and the rich get away with murder. I know. I was a recent victim of two blatantly corrupt court commissioners, Robert Harrison and William Dodson. These two receive illegal payments (probably through their association) from apartment owners in return for favorable rulings. Owners routinely get away with fabricating false documents in order to evict tenants who refuse to pay their illegal rent increases. This is well known, not only by the LA Times but also by LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina and County Sheriff Lee Vaca. Yet they do nothing about it. Every lawyer who does business at LASC is aware of it.

    My advice is, don't invest money in LA and don't move your business to LA. The corruption there is worse than in a third world country. Above all, don't read the LA Times.

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  5. Congrats Louis, you just took it to a new level.

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  6. Ethics of Journalism? There are no "ethics" in journalism...just get over it. It's ALWAYS been about misrepresentation...I mean where is the fun in the truth?

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  7. Cornelius, looks like par for the course.

    http://www.allegedthemovie.com/pages/scopes.html

    The Scopes Trial

    If one wanted to know in approximately six minutes what happened at the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925, one might watch the famous CBS News reporter Edward R. Murrow's mini-documentary of the event, Darrow, Darwin and Dayton.

    Murrow, in the limited sense of representing the mainstream media's usual view of the trial, gets it exactly right:

    The State of Tennessee outlawed evolution in 1925. Lucky for us, Clarence Darrow for the ACLU represented Scopes and argued in favor of science and open-mindedness over the ignorant belligerence of the fundamentalist statesman, William Jennings Bryan. Darrow technically lost the trial, but achieved a great moral victory brimming with decency and hope for a more enlightened future.

    What We Know that Isn't So
    Most of what Edward Murrow reports, however, isn't so. For instance, as is depicted in his documentary and reported in countless articles about the Scopes trial even today, we are constantly told that the State of Tennessee outlawed evolution in 1925. But it did not. Not even close.*

    We are also told, most memorably in the film classic Inherit the Wind (1960), that William Jennings Bryan was a veritable fount of demagogic nonsense regarding evolution, the Bible, and even sex. (See dozens of examples with video clips from ITW at www.themonkeytrial.com.) Bryan is consistently depicted as bigoted, scientifically ignorant, prudish, simple-minded, hypocritical, conservative, and—perhaps above all—cowardly.

    The above characterizations of Bryan are manifestly not true as historians all know. Yet many of them are repeated today by The New York Times, the ACLU, and just about everybody else. Bryan is regularly cited as being a literalist, for example, and thus holding to a six-day creation (with the creation "beginning on the 23rd of October, 4004 BC, at 9:00 am," according to Bryan's testimony in Inherit the Wind). Yet according to the widely available trial transcript, Bryan specifically testified that, in his opinion, the "days" in Genesis were not 24 hours each but were of an unspecified length and could have been millions of years each. Inherit the Wind, in other words, gets the historic facts exactly wrong and on purpose.

    In addition to Tennessee allegedly outlawing evolution outright and Bryan being a believer in a literal 6-day creation, we are often inaccurately informed that Scopes actually taught his students evolution in school, that he was jailed for his offense, that he feared for his life at the hands of his fellow townspeople, that Darrow crushed Bryan in a two-hour cross-examination, and that Bryan was indignant that Scopes was only fined $100 for his offense. In every case, the truth is nearly the opposite of what we've been told."

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