Skip navigation

About IDEA Center

News & Events



IDEA Student Clubs


Contact Us


News & Events

Press Releases

New Scientist Reporter Attempts to Deceive IDEA Club - October 6, 2006

The IDEA Center and affiliated IDEA Clubs have a long history of happily cooperating with reporters, including reporters from hostile scientific journals. Our philosophy as an organization is to be upfront and honest about our beliefs and activities, even if that brings us criticism; our usual experience with past reporters has been that they too have been upfront and honest in their intentions and identities.

Yet the Cornell IDEA Club has documented how a reporter from New Scientist has been using false identities and impersonating a Cornell student named "Maria" in an "unnecessary ruse" to extract information from them for an article. The Cornell IDEA Club thus sent the following letter to New Scientist: I am the president of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club at Cornell University. In late September, 2006, we were contacted by someone writing us saying "I am a student at Cornell and am interested in coming to an IDEA meeting" and identifying herself as "Maria." This person subsequently wrote us via e-mail using the e-mail address "Cel Biever <>" At the time I was surprised at the incongruency between her assumed name and email, and later discovered that Celeste Biever is a New Scientist reporter who is presently interviewing numerous people for a story about intelligent design.

As a club, we promote a civil and informed discussion of intelligent design where all viewpoints—whether hostile or friendly—are always welcome. Therefore we are happy to have anyone come to our meetings, including hostile reporters. But it appears that your reporter acted unethically and lied to us about her identity and falsely claimed she was a Cornell student in an unnecessary ruse to obtain information from us. Is it your policy to have your reporters misrepresent their identities?


Hannah Maxson,
President, IDEA Cornell

Given that IDEA Center and IDEA Clubs are generally more than happy to talk to anyone, none of Biever's deception was even necessary to extract the information she sought for her article. Biever's behavior thus violates various journalistic codes of ethics: "Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public."
Code of Ethics issued by the Society of Professional Journalists

"Staff members should disclose their identity to people they cover (whether face to face or otherwise), though they need not always announce their status as journalists when seeking information normally available to the public. Staff members may not pose as police officers, lawyers, business people or anyone else when they are working as journalists."
New York Times Journalistic Ethics Code
On Evolution News and Views, Casey Luskin has also documented that Biever has a long history of biased and inaccurate reporting about intelligent design. Now she is unnecessarily using false identities in violation of journalistic codes of ethics. The IDEA Center does not condone such behavior and will not encourage it by participating further in this article. We are happy to cooperate with future media who uphold the values of forthrightness and honesty which we hold in the highest regard. Following these values will foster informed discussions, leading to better understanding and communication in this debate. We welcome media who share this vision.