The free-thinkers at the Smithsonian Institution have decided to further restrict the range of ideas that can be considered under their roof. First they fired a scientist for allowing a peer-reviewed intelligent design (ID) article be published in their journal. (Oh, the shame!) Now after having given permission for screening of an ID-type film at the National Museum of Natural History, they're twisting themselves into rhetorical contortions to salvage their politically correct reputation.
The first item I mentioned is the firing of Rick Sternberg, who committed the sin of allowing an article by Steve Meyer to be published Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. More about the case here.
The second item is the screening on June 23rd of Priviledged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe. The story was first broken by the Post-Darwinist blog. Once the major media (New York Times, Washington Times, Washington Post 1) got wind of it, "enlightened people" everywhere were outraged ("questioning Darwinism is unthinkable!" Living in a thought-free fantasy world is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment, isn't it?).
The PC thoughtpolice accused the Smithsonian Institution (SI) of "selling out", which is to say, only allowing the film screening because they were receiving $16,000 fee from the Discovery Institute (DI). SI's reaction was curious. SI wrote Mark Ryland, the director of DI's DC office, to distance itself from the film:
Upon further review, the Museum has determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research. Due to this fact, we will, of course, honor the commitment made to provide space for the event to the Discovery Institute, but the museum will not participate or accept a donation for the event. (posted along with the Discovery Institute's take on the controversy: "Wonders of the Smithsonian")
"not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research" (despite having been vetted).
Credit SI for honoring its agreement with DI to show the film. But it is ironic that in order to avert a stain on its PC reputation, SI will be hosting the film screening free of charge! (Of course this "freebie" is courtesy of you and me, the American taxpayers. How easy it is to spend somebody else's money!)
From the Post article:
When asked if the Smithsonian had made a mistake in initially agreeing to host the event, spokesman Randall Kremer says: "We don't look at it in terms of whether we made a mistake or not. Our statement speaks for itself."
Could Bill Clinton have simulataneously wiggled and stonewalled better?
Denyse O'Leary at Post-Darwinist points out another irony: the aversion of old-guard biologists to even discussing ID is actually stimulating students to look into it (founding IDEA clubs—Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness, etc.). Nothing so attractive as forbidden fruit!2
I think we're rapidly approaching that "tipping point" in any intellectual development, in which opposing the obvious becomes as futile as stopping an avalanche. Remember CBS's Rathergate and Newsweek's Korangate? Like the major media, scientists are merely destroying their credibility by vainly insisting there is no "man behind the curtain."
The linebacker is down. Before you know it everyone will be piling on.
1. Interesting that the New York Times ran with the story before the more local Washington Post did. Perhaps this reflects the authority the Times still carries in the American journalistic hierarchy, as if the Gray Lady were the Church of Rome.
2. Another irony: this is the same sociological force that powered the success of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
Steve Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117:2 (2004), 213-239.
John Schwartz, "Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution," New York Times (May 28, 2005).
UPI, "Smithsonian to screen anti-evolution film," Washington Post (May 29, 2005).
Tommy Nguyen, "Smithsonian Distances Itself From Controversial Film," Washington Post (June 2, 2005), C01.
David Klinghoffer, "The Branding of a Heretic: Are religious scientists unwelcome at the Smithsonian?" Opinion Journal (January 28, 2005).