The Corpus Callosum

Lawsuit Against Ca Science Center…

…for canceling the showing of a creationist film, Darwin’s
Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record
.  The
background is on Greg Laden’s Blog, href="http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/10/los_angeles_venue_cancels_inte.php">Los
Angeles Venue Cancels Intelligent Design Film:

You’ll recall that it was recently reported that the
California Science Center, which is loosely affiliated with the
Smithsonian Institution, had planned a screening of “Darwin’s Dilemma:
The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record” which is apparently a
creationist documentary.

Well, now, the venue has cancelled the showing and the ID people are
all lathered up about it.

There is some dispute about the reason for the cancellation. 
Whatever the reason, the cancellation has spurred a lawsuit by the id="RDS_Site">American
Freedom Alliance
against the href="http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/">California Science
Center.  The AFA issued a press release lauding themselves for
their action.  It’s available in a PDF href="http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/newsletter/images/press-release11-24-09.pdf">here.

As far as I can tell, the press release was not picked up by any
serious news organizations, but it is out there on the Internet and on
a few religious sites. 


Their sub-headline: GROUP CLAIMS CANCELLATION OF “DARWIN’S DILEMMA”
RESULTED FROM ORGANIZED EFFORT BY SCIENCE CENTER TO SUPRESS [sic]
DISCUSSION.

I’m not sure what the implication is of the allegation that it was an
“organized effort” by the Science Center.  I supose that makes it
a more heinous matter, than if it had been a disorganized effort. 

I’m not a lawyer, as the saying goes, but the suit seems as trivial as
one could imagine.  They allege that “the museum officials were
fearful of having intelligent design discussed in any context.” 
Even if true, so what?  They go on to say “It is Orwellian when a
public institution tries to suppress particular ideas it deems
unsavory. It can be likened to a public library removing certain books
from its shelves because the librarian disagrees with the viewpoints
expressed in them.”

No, it is not comparable.  The resources involved in putting a
particular book on a shelf are not at all comparable to the resources
that would have to be devoted to screening a movie.  Furthermore,
the mission of a public library is to provide access to a wide variety
of viewpoints.  The mission of a science center is, presumably, to
provide access to scientific information and scientifically-oriented
educational material. 

The go on:

The pro-evolution film, “We Are Born of
the Stars,” was meant to provide balance to a discussion about life’s
origin. The other film, “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian
Fossil Record,” argues against evolution by questioning the absence of
any fossil record predating the Cambrian period. When the screening was
cancelled, the AFA scrambled to find an alternative venue and was
forced to cancel the screening of “We are Born of Stars” in the 3D IMAX
format.

The lawsuit alleges that CSC officials conspired to drop the event
because they did not want the museum to be viewed as legitimizing
intelligent design as a scientific theory. It alleges that the museum’s
CEO/President, Jeffrey Rudolph, was pressured to cancel the event by
colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Southern
California, the Huntington Library and elsewhere. The complaint further
alleges that because the CSC is a state agency, it violated AFA’s First
Amendment right of free speech by attempting to suppress legitimate
discussion of the controversial topic.


This is nonsense.  It is not a conspiracy unless two or more
persons colluded to do something wrong.  You have to prove
wrongdoing before you can say there was a conspiracy.  The
allegations that the CEO was pressured by others is irrelevant. 

The only part that might have some merit is the bit about the Center
being a State agency.  But is access to an 3D IMAX theater a
necessary part of freedom of speech, and are all state-operated IMAX
theaters obligated to rent out their facilities to anyone who wants to
use such a facility? 

The AFA href="http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/AboutUs-Mission.aspx">“About
Us” page describes their activities:

The organization promotes networking, activism and education in the
following six areas:

  • The Islamic penetration of Europe:  View
    the content  and video recordings of  AFA’ s famous 2007
    international conference  The Collapse of Europe? 
    held at Pepperdine University, the Identity Crisis 
    International Conference held in Rome , the AFA International
    Fellowship Program, the European Freedom Alliance Website and more.
  • Academic freedom: View  the content and
    video recordings of  AFA’s acclaimed 2008 international
    conference  How Free Is the University? held at the
    University of Southern California in Los Angeles and find resources you
    can employ to advance academic freedom.
  • Media Bias:  View  details of AFA’s
    2009 International Conference  Is the Real News Dead? 
    held at Pepperdine University in Malibu  and discover resources
    you can use to promote balance in the media.
  • Missile Defense:
    Visit the website for the EMPACT America National Conference: 
    Permanent Continental Shutdown and obtain links to the website for the
    International EMP Council ( IEC). 
  • AFA Programs: Learn about  AFA’s monthly
    programs  The Literay [sic] Cafe, Cinema
    Gateway
    and Annual Lecture Series.   And its weekly 
    programs  The Western Word Newsletter and Western
    Word Radio
    .

Notice that they mention that there are six areas, then list only
five.  Whatever.

Anyway, say that they wanted to use the Science Center’s theater to
show a film about “The Islamic penetration of Europe.”  Would the
Center be obligated to show it?  Of course not.  It has
nothing to do with the mission of a Science Center, because it has
nothing to do with science.  Likewise,
“Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record,” has
nothing to do with science.  It is propaganda, nothing more. 

It might be possible for the AFA to argue that they are merely
promoting honest discussion, if it turned out that they simply were
uninformed about the topic.  But they list their “Vision” as
follows:

The American Freedom Alliance aims to build a national
alliance of
people of faith  and which involves writers, academics and
thinkers
from around the world , who will  join together through seminars,
conferences, publications and activist networks, to promote and protect
moral values, democracy and freedom.

It is not clear what this has to do with American Freedom, but there it
is, for what it is worth. 

I agree with Bora Zivkovic, that href="http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2009/12/all_science_vs_religion_confli.php">All
Science vs. Religion Conflicts are Essentially and Primarily Political
Conflicts.  The idea is that this is about power, not truth or
anything else.  Previously, I have argued that the Discovery
Institute in particular is exploiting this false “dilemma” as a means
of making money.  But this, in Bora’s view, is a subset of all
power struggles: money is useful only as a source of power.

Comments

  1. #1 Benjamin
    January 1, 2010

    Looks like the people at the CSC are up to speed, and if you consider the ruling in Dover Pa. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beta/evolution/intelligent-design-trial.html
    Where GW Bush appointed, conservative, federal judge, (self proclaimed born again Christian and Boy Shout leader), ruled in the Dover Pa trail that ID is nothing more than creationism and is not science. He also said the DI people were fundamentally dishonest.
    Judge Jones said…
    “The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. [...]
    The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

    So sounds like the DI is up to the same MO. They know they can gain as much or more out to the controversy, than if they had gotten away with dishonest press release.

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