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The Smithsonian goes to the Dogma - Speciation and Genome Evolution

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Previous Entry The Smithsonian goes to the Dogma May. 31st, 2005 @ 12:55 pm Next Entry
I'm surprised no-one's mentioned this here yet - has anyone noticed that The Smithsonian is showing an intelligent design film?

Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution
Published: May 28, 2005

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."

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.' "

(that's copied and pasted here to save you the hassle of registering on the site)

All of which seems perhaps above board except for the stated policy of the institution that "Personal events (i.e. weddings, etc.), fund raising events, and events of a religious or partisan political nature are not permitted." And if you've paid any attention AT ALL to the IDist crap, you'll know perfectly well that rather than being a 'competing scientific theory' as they so often bleat, it is in fact wholly a politcal exercise, yet another extension of the many-headed Hydra that is the frightening facist religious right in this country and now around the world, hellbent on rocketing us back to another fucking darkage.

For those curious, here is the overly large and very inclined to crash your computer preview for said film. And before you start on 'but it doesn't seem that bad' and 'that's a NASA scientist' let me say, firstly, don't get me started on fucking physicists, and secondly, its pretty damn clear that what is being intended here is the usual crap - a dissertation on how terribly 'unlikely' it is that 'random chance' (and therefore, by implication and the usual misunderstanding, misdirection and misinformation, evolution) is responsible for the existence of that pinnacle of nature, man(and yes, I use the term advisedly)kind. Here are much better reasoned arguments than I can provide right now as to why this is wholly unacceptable, if you needed convincing.

Were it just the money, as this implies, then here is both an offer, and very sensible take on the situation. I too, belive the great benefactor of the Smithsonian to be rotating in his grave at the perversion, and prostitution, of his vision.

And for the final sucker-punch, the terrifying blogger here has nicely pointed out, for those of us who may be mystified by the sudden defection of one of the pre-eminent scientific institutions in the world: "the Smithsonian depends for over 80 percent of its funding on the American federal government (approximately 67 percent from direct appropriations and over 13 percent from grants from federal agencies) and its new projects require the approval of Congress. An insider suggests that the US government is leaning on the venerable science institution to behave better toward people who want to talk about intelligent design".

The recent, and very disturbing trend to science-by-jury is bad enough, but outright partisan governmental interference in Science, not simply in the governance of ethics, but in the actual decisions as to what truths are to be accepted and disseminated is completely and utterly unacceptable.

(x-posted like all hell)
Current Mood: angryangry
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Date:May 31st, 2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
That was a really bad deal on part of the Smithsonian. 16 grand for your credibility? ouch.
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Date:June 1st, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)

not really all that

I saw this issue covered over at pharyngula.org. The Smithsonian Institute had this to say about the film ... (see post there for more of the text)

"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 Discovery Institute or the film "The Privileged Planet."

Not really much of an endorsement. The commentary at pharyngula also noted that this response discredits the film while honoring their contract. All is not lost friends!

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Date:June 2nd, 2005 04:17 pm (UTC)

Re: not really all that

I'll refer you here and here, rather than bother the community further with the topic - just be warned that on my personal journal there's a fair bit of invective..
Date:June 5th, 2005 11:34 pm (UTC)

You think that's bad

If you think that is bad, the committee for one of our NSF grants has an intelligent designer on it who works at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. Not sure why this guy got placed on the Polyploid Genome Evolution committee, but he is on there. Personally, that internal rotting of our funding structure caused by the Bush administration's influence is much scarier to me as a scientist than the Smithsonian showing a ID movie.
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