March 18, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Agnosticism Loses: Arkansas Science Must Be Atheistic

Updated 05/08/2005:  “What I’m trying to do here is not to deal directly with the existence or non-existence of God, but restore to science the agnostic viewpoint that there could be or could not be rather than the dogmatism that actually currently exists… that absolutely precludes the existence of God.”  These were the words of Republican state legislator Mark Martin in Arkansas, who introduced a bill in the legislature to allow for inclusion of intelligent design in public high school science classes: specifically, that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause and not by an undirected process such as natural selection.”
    Though favored by a 14-6 majority in the Education Committee, the bill was assigned by the Speaker of the House to the Rules Committee, “because he knew he could kill it there,” according to Martin, who contacted us with further details.  Since the Arkansas legislature is 75% Democrat, the outcome was predictable: “After explaining his aims with the legislation,” wrote Laura Kellams in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “no one on the committee made a motion to recommend the bill to the House.”
    Martin’s proposed bill can be read in PDF format at the Arkansas State Legislature website.

Kellams distorted Martin’s words in her article to emphasize any possible religious motivation behind it, even though the bill explicitly stated that intelligent design theory, “Does not claim that science can determine the identity of the intelligent cause, nor does it claim that the intelligent cause must be a divine being or a higher power or an all-powerful force.”  She wrote:

Martin, who is a biomechanical engineer, said he’s not sure about the theory of evolution but that there’s enough scientific evidence to show that there’s “a lot of truth” to it.  “I don’t consider it in conflict with my strict Christian beliefs, or, quite frankly, my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture,” he said.  “I don’t believe that they have to be in conflict. I don’t have the answers to that stuff.”
Martin’s own school-aged daughter is taught at home because he wants her education to be Bible-based, he said.

This selection is a case study in reporter bias. 

  1. In the first place, she took his words out of context, because his uncertainty was about microevolution, not Darwinian macroevolution.  Small-scale variation is what he told her was not in conflict with his Christian beliefs.  She left out his elaboration about robust engineering and optimum design that explained his position more fully.  By omitting this key distinction between micro and macro, she made it seem like he was wishy-washy about evolution in general.
  2. Secondly, she cropped a quote: he said, “I don’t have all the answers to that stuff, and neither do the Darwinists.”  By omitting that last phrase, she portrayed him as uninformed and indecisive. 
  3. Thirdly, she ended her article with the Bible-based home-schooling item, making it appear he said this as part of the interview, when in fact he said it earlier during the campaign when asked why he home schooled his children.  Including this irrelevant detail used the power of suggestion to make it seem Martin was trying to impose his beliefs on students but keep his own children out of the public schools.
  4. Lastly, Kellams omitted the political shenanigans of the Speaker of the House who intentionally doomed the bill in the Rules Committee to avoid giving it a fair hearing.

With these tricks, Kellams perpetuated the media stereotype that opposition to evolution is religiously motivated, and deflected attention from the many and profound vulnerabilities of Darwinism (see our curriculum).
    Our original commentary on this story was very derogatory toward Martin, being based on Kellams’ article, because his religious statements seemed destined to feed the media stereotype, and portrayed him as uninformed about the meaning and intent of intelligent design theory.  As such, it appeared his actions in the legislature would do more harm than good.  Rep. Mark Martin contacted Creation-Evolution Headlines to clarify what he actually said and meant and what had happened to his bill in Committee.  His input changed the picture substantially.  We apologize to Rep. Martin and turn our criticism where it belongs, to the biased reporting in the media.
For a humorous lesson on the fine art of vituperation, read how David Berlinski dealt with a hot-headed critic: see  The critic blasted him for spouting “misconceptions, deceptions and lies.”  Berlinski is a master of adroitness with words.  Calmly but firmly, he put the loudmouth in his place.  Don’t try this at home unless you are good at it and know what you are talking about.

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