Intelligent Design

The Smithsonian’s ID Troubles

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Check out the following article in The Scientist:

… And Smithsonian has ID troubles
By Trevor Stokes

http://www.the-scientist.com/2005/7/4/13/1

The Smithsonian Institution screened the film The Privileged Planet late last month, but it is feeling less than privileged after the controversy surrounding the showing. Jay W. Richards, one of the authors of the book on which the film is based, is vice president of the Center for Science & Culture at the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent design think tank. The film makes astronomy-based arguments for intelligent design, and the Smithsonian has drawn criticism from groups such as the American Geophysical Union for showing it.

Narrated by Hollywood actor John Rhys-Davies, the film’s main thesis is that Earth is the best place in the universe for making scientific discoveries because of its astronomical placement and its ability to support life. “It seems then that whatever the source of the Universe, it was intended that it contain observers who can discover,” says Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrobiologist and coauthor of the book upon which the film is based.

But according to Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, we are “supposed to be left with the image that God created the Earth so we could discover His hand.”

Near the end of the film, Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist at the Australian Center for Astrobiology and author of The Mind of God, says, “What a thought: that we can glimpse at the mind of God and figure out how God put the Universe together. There’s a hidden subtext in nature which can be exposed through this pursuit we call science.”

Creative Response Concepts, a public relations firm that represents clients ranging from Disney to the Christian Coalition in addition to the Discovery Institute, initially contacted the Smithsonian on February 18th on behalf of the film’s producers about a showing of the film. After an internal review, the Smithsonian agreed on April 6th to screen the film. Randall Kremer, director of public affairs at the Smithsonian, says the PR firm “followed all the ground rules to hold a private event.” However, conflict arose once the film’s contents were reviewed again. According to Kremer, one requirement is that an event “has to be consistent with the mission of the [Smithsonian]. We erred by not employing this [policy] on the first review of the film.”

“The scientific content for the most part is accurate,” Kremer says. “The problem we have is that the science is used to draw a philosophical conclusion.” Kremer emphasizes: “The private event was no way an indication that our science had changed.” Scott agrees: “We don’t have to fear that the Smithsonian Institution is weak on creationism.” The Smithsonian had a “sloppy procedure, and they got caught in the crossfire,” she says.

The film’s premiere isn’t the only conflict the Smithsonian is having over intelligent design. Richard von Sternberg, former editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington and a Smithsonian fellow, filed a complaint about job discrimination in October after the controversial publication of a pro-intelligent design paper during his tenure as editor. The circumstances of the complaint are unclear, as von Sternberg was unavailable for comment.

The von Sternberg case has received the attention of US Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who plans to hold hearings on the matter. “Now they’ve [Smithsonian] cut him off from grants, cut him off from other jobs,” Souder said last month. “In the process of him filing a complaint about job discrimination, we’ve come up with lots of E-mails apparently that show clear religious bias.” Kremer says the Smithsonian can’t discuss pending complaints.

10 Replies to “The Smithsonian’s ID Troubles

  1. 1
    Benjii says:

    Bill, I want to say that I admire your writings. I think they are clear and scientific. Furthermore, I believe you have argued clearly that ID is science. Contrary to what skeptics say, ID is an amazing method that can be tested and falsified. Nonetheless, I’m interested in this controversy. Thus, I tried e-mailing you but if backfired. I also tried calling you from NJ to your office at Baylor. No one answered. Bill what is your real e-mail? Please, I would like to exchange Q&A with you. I am in utter agony to see this movement succeed.

  2. 2
    TomG says:

    “The scientific content for the most part is accurate,” Kremer says. “The problem we have is that the science is used to draw a philosophical conclusion.”

    So–this is the first time anyone’s ever drawn a philosophical conclusion from science? What a horrifying offense that must be! I’ll bet you could spend weeks at the Smithsonian–especially the natural history exhibits–and not find another philosophical conclusion being drawn (LOL).

    You know, Kremer didn’t even say “theological,” he said “philosophical.” He didn’t say “incorrect,” “unwarranted,” or even “questionable;” he just said “a … conclusion.” The science is accurate–that’s not Kremer’s complaint. So what’s the problem?

    But according to Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, we are “supposed to be left with the image that God created the Earth so we could discover His hand.”

    I wonder what inaccuracies in the film are are supposed to lead us to that conclusion. According to Kremer, none.

    I haven’t seen the film, but it’s not hard to guess what’s really going on. The problem, for one thing, is the Discovery Institute’s involvement. It’s guilt by association with ID; it’s ad hominem all the way.

    Also, just maybe, the problem is fear that the film makes an effective case for wondering how this planet came to be so privileged.

    And Ms. Scott sounds like she’s afraid someone will draw a conclusion from viewing accurate information about the natural world. Maybe she would prefer we wouldn’t have to do that; after all, we have her and others like her to tell us what to think.

  3. 3
    O'Leary says:

    If anyone wants to know what is in the Privileged Planet film but – for some reason – cannot just buy it at http://www.privilegedplanet.com or persuade Marian the Librarian to order it at the local library, go to
    http://post-darwinist.blogspot.....-keep.html

    where I provide an exhaustive inventory of the film’s actual contents – as opposed to its rumoured contents.

    That took me four working days, but was worthwhile as a public service.

    Anyone who complained to the Smithsonian that the film is “anti-evolution” should nominate themselves for “idiot of the week” – but only for that week.

    For any further week, they can make up their minds to be more skeptical about the Internet alarm sites that play on their biases, and take the many opportunities offered, to better inform themselves about the intelligent design controversy.

    cheers,

    Denyse O’Leary
    Toronto

  4. 4
    Benjii says:

    Denyse, are you a christian?

  5. 5
    mynym says:

    according to Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, we are “supposed to be left with the image that God created the Earth so we could discover His hand.”

    Lately evolutionists at the Panda’s Thumb have been hitting the theme of “Darwinism doesn’t contradict theism, only rubes think that!” pretty hard. Yet the public face of Darwinism is still the same. They say one thing on the internet and let their organizations and spokes people do another in public policy, editorials, etc. I’ve never once seen a theistic Darwinist write an editorial correcting an atheistic Darwinist from using Darwinism as a prop for atheism. (Which is not to say that they don’t exist. But it certainly is not typical.)

  6. 6
    Charlie says:

    Benjii, if Ms. O’Leary doesn’t spot your question here you can check out her referenced Post-Darwinist blog site for the answer.

  7. 7
    Benjii says:

    I still don’t know the answer?

  8. 8
    Charlie says:

    Hi Benjii,
    This from Ms. O’Leary’s blog yesterday …
    ” As a Catholic Christian myself, ”

    Hope this helps.

  9. 9

    […] Indeed, it’s hard to think of one that has even been a source of huge controversy since the Sternberg affair at the Smithsonian in […]

  10. 10

    […] Indeed, it’s hard to think of one that has even been a source of huge controversy since the Sternberg affair at the Smithsonian in […]

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