Fossils at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History have been used to prove the theory of evolution. Next month the museum will play host to a film intended to undercut evolution.
The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, "intelligent design," is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum "are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception" on June 23 for the movie, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."
The film is a documentary based on a 2004 book by Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University, and Jay W. Richards, a vice president of the Discovery Institute, that makes the case for the hand of a creator in the design of Earth and the universe.
News of the Discovery Institute's announcement appeared on a blog maintained by Denyse O'Leary, a proponent of the intelligent design theory, who called it "a stunning development." But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. "It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video," he said.
The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.
When the language of the Discovery Institute's Web site was read to him, with its suggestion of support, Mr. Kremer said, "We'll have to look into that."
He added, "We're happy to receive this contribution from the Discovery Institute to further our scientific research."
The president of the Discovery Institute, Bruce Chapman, said his organization approached the museum through its public relations company and the museum staff asked to see the film. "They said that they liked it very much - and not only would they have the event at the museum, but they said they would co-sponsor it," he recalled. "That was their suggestion. Of course we're delighted."
Mr. Kremer said he heard about the event only on Thursday. He added that staff members viewed the film before approving the event to make sure that it complied with the museum's policy, which states that "events of a religious or partisan political nature" are not permitted, along with personal events such as weddings, or fund-raisers, raffles and cash bars. It also states that "all events at the National Museum of Natural History are co-sponsored by the museum." [Emphasis added - Ed]
Evolution has become a major battleground in the culture wars, with bitter debates in legislatures and school boards, national parks and museums. Although Charles Darwin's theory is widely viewed as having been proved by fossil records and modern biological phenomena, it is challenged by those who say that it is flawed and that alternatives need to be taught.
When asked whether the announcement on the Discovery Institute's Web site meant to imply that the museum supports the film and the event, Mr. Chapman replied:
"We are not implying in any sense that they endorsed the content, but they are co-sponsoring it, and we are delighted. We're not claiming anything more than that. They certainly didn't say, 'We're really warming up to intelligent design, and therefore we're going to sponsor this.' "
Send comments to Randall Kremer, Smithsonian Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be polite, but forceful -- there's no way that the Smithsonian should be lending the weight of its name and facilities to supporting creationism. "Intelligent Design" is not science, it is at core a religious belief, based in fath and not factual evidence. The Smithsonian's own policy against religious events should preclude the showing of this film in their building.
Despite the contention of some that the culture war has been all but won, so we don't need to hassle the small stuff, the battle against creationism is ongoing, and it's one we're in serious danger of losing ground on.
Write to: Office of the Inspector General Smithsonian Institution 750 9th Street, NW Suite 4200 MRC 905 Washington, DC 20560-0905
Update: From The Brights comes this statement by the Smithsonian (6/1):
The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film "The Privileged Planet." Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the views of the Discovery Institute or the film "The Privileged Planet." Given that the Discovery Institute has already issued invitations, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event, but will not participate or accept a donation for it.
Unfortunately, as pointed out by the co-directors of The Brights, this leaves open the probablity that the Discovery Institute will advertise the film by saying something like "This film premiered at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History", without mentioning that the Smithsonian disassociated itself from the film and repudiated its content.
Which means this continues to be a win for the forces of ignorance.
Yesterday, the WN team viewed the film. It went beyond the “intelligent design” of humans. It seems the busy Designer-In-The-Sky also designed a planet for us. Not just a place to live, but a room with a view, perfectly situated to let us discover the rest of the universe. It’s the old anthropic argument that the laws of Nature are fine tuned to make life possible, but with a discovery requirement tossed in. So what does the Smithsonian do? It lets them in free. That means taxpayers are subsidizing the Discovery Institute.
A very good point. Park also delves a bit into the financing of the film.
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Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
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George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
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Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
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Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
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Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
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Arthur C. Clarke
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Philip K. Dick
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Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
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