April 13, 2012
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.” 
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.
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.