Regarding the Smithsonian and the Discovery Institute
Apparently, the scientists at the Smithsonian are also mystified as to what is happening between their museum and the Discovery Institute. This comment (below) by Scott Wing, who is the Chairman of the Paleobiology Department at the Smithsonian Institute, was posted yesterday to the Panda's Thumb. The Panda's Thumb readers are embroiled in an interesting debate regarding the IDiot mess that the Smithsonian placed itself into the middle of when they agreed to screen the creationist film, The Priviledged Planet.
Scott Wing writes;
In spite of renting the Baird Auditorium for the showing of the “The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe,” I know that the staff and the administration of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History endorse the statement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on intelligent design, specifically:
“Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;
Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;
Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;
Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called “intelligent design theory” makes it improper to include as a part of science education.”
I don’t know how the Smithsonian ended up renting the auditorium to the Discovery Institute, and neither do the other Smithsonian staff I have consulted in the last few hours. The rental certainly does not reflect any endorsement by the staff or the administration of intelligent design.
Chairman, Dept. of Paleobiology
National Museum of Natural History
I suspect that the Discovery Institute will present the Smithsonian's screening of this film as representing their tacit support for ID beliefs. These powerfully mixed signals from the Smithsonian Institute will only serve to further confuse the vast majority of the public who do not know what the evolution-ID argument is really about.
I also found the trailer for the film indexed in a variety of formats, which deals with astonomy and cosmology and only indirectly attacks evolution and the Big Bang. After going to their trailer index, I tried to view the trailer and it crashed my computer, so be careful! But some people saw the trailer and lived to tell about it. They have a few things to say;
Correction for The New York Times: Documentary at Smithsonian Isn’t About Biological Evolution by Jonathan Witt
The New York Times has a story reporting on the June 23rd screening of The Privileged Planet at The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. A factual error in the story’s headline and lead sentence suggests that the science documentary makes a case against biological evolution. In fact, the film doesn’t even touch on the subject.
The Privileged Planet focuses on cosmology and astronomy, and on Earth’s place in the universe. One could be a strict Darwinist and still agree with the argument in The Privileged Planet. In fact, that accurately describes at least two of the prominent scientists who endorsed the book.
(Posted by Jonathan Witt at 02:35:27 pm)
Think again, Jonathan! Here's a quote posted by Albion (also in The Panda's Thumb comments) that reveals Jonathan is either deliberately lying or he is merely a tool;
“Is it possible that this immense, symphonic system of atoms, fields, forces, stars, galaxies, and people is the result of a choice, a purpose or intention, rather than simply some inscrutable outworking of blind necessity or an inexplicable accident? If so, then it’s surely possible that there could be evidence to suggest such a possibility…
“Perhaps we have also been staring past … a signal revealing a universe so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we’ve been willing to expect or imagine.”
Do these IDiots think that rational, thinking humans don’t understand what is meant when they claim there is “an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we’ve been willing to expect or imagine.” Or perhaps they are now asking us to believe in space aliens?
I am convinced this film screening is in direct violation of the Smithonian Institution's Special Events Policy, which states that "Personal events (i.e. weddings, etc.), fund raising events, and events of a religious or partisan political nature [italics mine] are not permitted." This screening also damages the proud tradition of the Smithsonian Institution's reality-based scientific research.
The only option is to protest. In addition to the Smithsonian contact information link that I provided yesterday, Pat Hayes provides more contact information for the Smithsonian so you can make a more direct presentation of your displeasure (remember to be polite);
Public Affairs can be contacted at
Here are the numbers for Public Affairs staff:
Randall Kremer: 202-633-0817
Michele Urie: 202-633-0820
The Special Events e-mail address is: email@example.com
I also plucked their snailmail address from the web (Correction: a friend sent this updated address -- an unfortunate result of the anthrax events);
National Museum of Natural History
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
Call, write, email AND FAX your displeasure to these people.
Some things to remember when writing effective protest letters:
1. Your words as well as your numbers are important -- numbers are determined by the number of letters received and the method of delivery used to send them (US mail receives the greatest respect but is the slowest to be delivered).
2. Deliver your letter of protest using both email and USmail at least. If you have access to a FAX machine, use that delivery method, too.
3. In your letter, clearly state; (a) the problem (screening of the creationist film, The Privileged Planet), (b) your disapproval and (c) your desired solution (do not screen this film at the Smithsonian Institution).
4. Concise and clearly-worded letters (250-500 words) are most effective.
5. Sign your letter with your name and contact information (unsigned letters or letters without contact information are ignored and discarded).
Other things to include in your protest letters;
I suggest you get as much mileage as you can from your letters of protest. Because the Smithsonian is directly funded by congress, let your congresscritters know of your displeasure. If you are a constituent of any of the political animals who are on the Smithsonian's board of trustees or who are otherwise involved with this decision, be sure to tell them how their reaction to this event will affect your future vote. You should mention in your letter if you or your family and friends already are (or plan to become) members of the Smithsonian Institute and how their screening of this film will affect your future membership plans. Hit 'em in the pocketbook!
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