The Claim

“I was not taking a position in favor of creationism, I was writing about intelligent design…. And having merely written on a subject was enough to put you on this blacklist. If you give any credence to it whatsoever, which means just writing about it, you’re just finished as a journalist.” (Pamela Winnick, Expelled)

The Facts

Winnick’s earliest known writing on intelligent design appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during the adoption of the Pennsylvania science education standards in late 2000. At the time, her articles regularly used phrases and characterizations about evolution that derived from intelligent design talking points. Her position did not necessarily support intelligent design in particular, but communicated the general notion that “fairness” required access to the marketplace of ideas and that students were somehow poorer for not hearing about intelligent design (and similar alternatives that falsely claimed scientific status).

However, this relatively innocuous coverage was only the beginning. In February 2001, Winnick interviewed intelligent design proponent Michael Behe with a collection of softball questions and presented his answers uncritically. Later that year she wrote a review of PBS’s Evolution series where she criticized it for not covering “the Intelligent Design movement, which began about a decade ago when serious scientists – many with doctorates from prestigious universities – began to tackle evolution on scientific grounds.” This is not “just writing about” intelligent design. This is an endorsement.

So Winnick was advocating intelligent design. Even so, this sounds like a poor basis for being blacklisted as a journalist – but there is no evidence that this ever happened. As a supposedly “blacklisted” reporter, Winnick continued to write for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette until August 2002, almost two years after she began her supposedly career-ending articles on intelligent design; she continues to write occasional guest columns for them (including an anti-evolution opinion piece in December 2005), and has written recent articles for the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal.

A Jealous God coverShe also wrote a book, A Jealous God: Science’s Crusade Against Religion, published in 2005, which was described by the foundation funding her research as “analyzing why there seems to be little tolerance for teaching creationism in America.” The book received a negative review from a writer at her previous employer, the Post-Gazette – which nonetheless still publishes her work.

So no evidence was presented in Expelled that Winnick was blacklisted as a journalist, and there’s evidence to the contrary. She may have been criticized for her shoddy journalism or for advocating bad science – Jeffrey Shallit describes her book as “not a fair, reliable, or objective look at the battles between science and religion,” for example – but it is insupportable and absurd to characterize such criticism as blacklisting.

Read More

Winnick, Pamela R. Proposed Rules Boost Teaching Creationism; Critics Say It’s Not Science and is the Same as Teaching Religion. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 29, 2000, Pg. A-1

Winnick, Pamela R. State Panel Rejects Teaching Creation; Science Standards Endorse Evolution. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 12, 2001, Pg.B-1

Winnick, Pamela R. Board passes teaching standards. Evolution focus of science classes. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 13, 2001