Last year, the American Freedom Alliance, a California based Don’t Think Tank, attempted to insert, Trojan style,* a creationist film called Darwin’s Dilemma into the repertoire of films shown at the California Science Center.

The film is a pro-Intelligent Design film, and behind this insulting and immature ruse was, you guessed it, the Discovery Institute.


When the California Science Center reviewed the film, they found its science content lacking in accuracy, truth, integrity, and stuff and canceled the showing. In so doing, the CSC was carrying out its obligation to promote excellent science and acted well within their legal rights, as the contract for screening states that only material that passes muster after review will be shown.

The AFA got all first amendmenty about it (inappropriately so) and sued the CSC.

The complained alleged that the film was canceled as part of a conspiracy of “a broad network of Darwin advocates”

Indeed. We’re called the community of scientists that does its best to promote, teach, and develop consensus based on the preponderance of evidence.

Well, now the California Science Center Foundation has struck back! They have filed a complaint that

“AFA and the Discovery Institute consistently communicated and collaborated on the Event up to, and even after, its cancellation. … AFA was cognizant that its publicity efforts might impact[] its alleged contractual relationship with the Foundation. … [The Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther] noted in his email to the AFA: ‘Once we let the jinni [sic] out of the bottle it’s likely all hell will break loose.’ … And in a later email, [the AFA's] Avi Davis admits that the Discovery Institute warned AFA that a cancellation might happen due to the Discovery Institute’s publicity”

According to the CSCF’s complaint:

  • The AFA “materially breached the alleged contract” by issuing publicity, both in coordination with the Discovery Institute and on its own, about the screening without seeking the approval of the CSCF, as required by the contract.
  • This violated “the covenant of good faith and fair dealing” (p. 7) even if it was not a material violation of the contract.
  • Since “AFA entered into the alleged agreement with the Foundation and agreed to seek pre-approval of any publicity materials, all the while coordinating with the Discovery Institute to promote the Event and never intending on planning to obtain such pre-approval and fulfill its obligations of the alleged contract” (p. 10), the AFA committed actual fraud.

The CSCF is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. A jury trial is currently scheduled to begin on June 13, 2011. This could be interesting.

Numerous important documents pertaining to this case are organized and available by your friends at the National Center for Science Education, here.

The information in this blog post comes from the grapevine and this press release.
______

* as in Trojan Horse. Why, what were you thinking?

Comments

  1. #1 Timberwoof
    November 15, 2010

    In so doing, the CSC was carrying out its obligation to promote excellent science and acted well within their legal rights, as the contract for screening states that only material that passes muster after review will be shown.

    … makes it seem that that is the basis on which the CSC is suing, but it is not.

    I agree that since it is the mission of the CSC to present good science to the public, they were within their rights to not show pseudoscientific garbage. However, suing on the basis of unauthorized outside publicity will be seen by many as technical lawyering. I expect he AFA and the DI will start spreading a disinformation campaign about how the CSC is censoring them. I hope that the legal battle doesn’t drain the CSC of funds and strength of will to counter the nonsense.

    I think this is a teachable moment. People are no doubt curious about Intelligent Design and what it is claimed to do. A properly fair and balanced lecture about ID and the whole geologic/biologic chain of evidence and the theories it supports would do a lot to promote critical thinking in the public. Of course, by “properly fair and balanced” I mean one that evaluates the hypotheses for scientific rigor, supporting evidence, and contributions to scientific knowledge.

    Hm. I think an organization such as the California Science Center could attract a lot of people with lectures examining the popular pseudoscientific hypotheses out there, turning each one into a mini lesson on the methods of science and applying it to the subject at hand.

    (Now I’m off to RTFA!)

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 15, 2010

    … makes it seem that that is the basis on which the CSC is suing, but it is not.

    I certainly didn’t mean to give that impression. That may be their counter argument to the suit against them, but it is not there “counter suit” … the reasons for that are given in the bullet list farther down in the post.

    I expect he AFA and the DI will start spreading a disinformation campaign about how the CSC is censoring them.

    As I recall, they totally did that already. Hasn’t had much of an effect.

    Of course, by “properly fair and balanced” I mean one that evaluates the hypotheses for scientific rigor, supporting evidence, and contributions to scientific knowledge.

    Yes! Let’s propose that the CSC do a series of talks, one on Intelligent Design, one on Bigfoot (that’s a topic of widespread interest in California) and one on the newly proposed idea that we live on a “carbon starved” planet ( http://tinyurl.com/23vw3nf ) for the inaugural.

  3. #3 =^skeptic cat^=
    November 15, 2010

    It’s always entertaining to get Creationists into court where they’re forced to say stupid stuff like “dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons on Noah’s Ark” and “UFOs come from Satan” … I just wish it wasn’t so darn expensive. Also, judges apparently don’t care for having crazy people testifying over weird stuff they don’t care about like dragons and UFOs in their courts either. Ha, one judge in Alabama said it “impugned the dignity of his courtroom.”

  4. #4 HiEv
    November 15, 2010

    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Please try to keep up with this story so we can find out who “won” and why.

    Thanks.

    FYI – You wrote “in appropriately so” above, but I believe you mean “inappropriately so”. Very different meaning. ;-)

  5. #5 MadScientist
    November 16, 2010

    I hope the CSC wins and is awarded punitive damages as well. The problem with kook shops like the Disco Institute is that they believe they have a god-granted inalienable constitutional right to force everyone else to believe their bullshit.

  6. #6 g724
    November 16, 2010

    I’m going to disagree with Timberwoof about CSC getting into the biz of hosting debates on science vs. nonscience & nonsense. Doing that will just lead to getting entangled in a bunch of digressions that the promoters of nonsense will use as ideological frenzy-fodder.

    Better to remain above all that and just stick to teaching science. If the nonsense pops up from time to time, whack it good & hard right on the spot, but don’t go seeking it out.

    The way to deal with creationists (and climate denialists, etc. etc.) isn’t by _explaining_, it’s by hitting them with blunt ridicule that is calculated to make their positions as socially unacceptable as picking one’s nose at the dinner table. Take advantage of social and tribal psychology wherever possible, to isolate them and isolate their followers.

    That said, the lawsuit is a splendid idea, so long as it’s a slam-dunk to win. The goal should be to drain creationist coffers as far as possible. Realistically, those coffers will quickly be topped-up again by the usual extremist funding sources, but those sources have their limits too. Think in terms of attrition: wear them down over time.

    When it becomes too expensive for plutocrats to support theocrats, the plutocrats will turn elsewhere and the theocrats will be left high & dry.

  7. #7 Timberwoof
    November 16, 2010

    g724, based on various discussions about “debates” of the type you’re thinking of, I agree that they are a bad idea. But I did not propose a debate; I proposed “a properly fair and balanced lecture”. In other words, as you said, “teaching science”.

    One would have to be careful to accurately present the pseudoscientific claim and not enrage the Tone Trolls by pulling a Galileo. The Mythbusters have a good model for this: they present the claim, do some experiments, and present their conclusions. They don’t denigrate the people who believe foolish notions; they just show they’re wrong (and blow stuff up).

    For example, “What predictions can be made with the theory of evolution? Let’s say you were a fisherman and you only kept fish that were larger than some arbitrary limit. About once a month you visit your favorite stream and remove all the big fish. Evolution predicts that after a while, fish that for whatever reason don’t grow larger than your limit will begin to breed more than the ones you eat all the time. Eventually, there will be no more big fish in the stream.

    “As it turns out, there were two very similar streams in Canada, one that got fished and one that no one ever visited. The first stream has a healthy population. The fish in the second stream are undersized and malformed. So the Theory of Evolution predicts that the six-inch limit is a bad idea and here’s an example that confirms that prediction.*

    “What kind of prediction can we make about Intelligent Design? Well, we don’t know how they did their work or exactly what they did, so for wildlife management, ID is useless.”

    * Let Me Google That For You. I can’t remember where I read about that, but it was within the past year or two.

  8. #8 Rob
    November 17, 2010

    You don’t need [sic] next to jinni. That’s spelled correctly. I’m really surprised at someone from the DI using that spelling.

  9. #9 scifreak48
    November 18, 2010

    Why is the CSC even WORKING with the Discovery Institute in the first place, when they know DI’s dangerous agenda? In the name of “balance”? “Inclusion”?

    Why not invite the Flat Earth Society? Or the Earth-centrists?

    DI has zero interest in real science, and uses every dirty trick and political advantage it can to discredit serious science that conflicts with their Medieval belief system. They are headhunters on a “mission from God.”

    These people don’t seek discourse. They don’t want discussion or compromise. They aren’t looking to understand scientific point of view.

    They want to utterly banish centuries of progress in the name of religion. And they will use whatever means it takes to discredit and destroy you.

    What scientists fail to understand is that this is war from Christian fanatics.

    You don’t seek cooperation with people who are out to destroy you.

  10. #10 Stephanie Z
    November 18, 2010

    scifreak48, why would you assume that the DI represented itself honestly in this? And why would slam the CSC as though the DI had been honest after reading the first two paragraphs of this post?

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    November 18, 2010

    They were not working with DI. They were had, duped, taken to the cleaners, dodo’ed, Trojan Horsed as it were (see original post). The DI connection wasn’t discovered until much later in the process.