Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Smithsonian Snookered by Discovery Institute

This message was forwarded to me by a friend and colleague at the Smithsonian Institution regarding the Discovery Institute's upcoming film screening in their Baird Theatre on 23 June.

Subject: Message to the NMNH Museum Community

To the Museum Community,

After considerable discussion with NMNH staff and in consultation with the Secretary and his staff, we have agreed to issue the following statement regarding the planned presentation of the Discovery Institute film, "The Privileged Planet," in Baird Auditorium on June 23. Please feel free to share this statement with your colleagues. I will look forward to discussing this further with each of you in the very near future.

Statement by the Director, National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film "The Privileged Planet." Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the Discovery Institute or the film "The Privileged Planet." However, since Smithsonian policy states that all events held at any museum be "co-sponsored" by the director and the outside organization, and we have signed an agreement with this organization, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

6 Peer Reviews:

Blogger James said...

Interesting. I had to scope out some of the responses that I knew would be found over at The Panda's Thumb to get a sense of what people feel is happening here. Someone there made the point that this was the right thing to do, i.e. show the film as the museum is contractually obligated to do, but put out a clear disclaimer regarding the film's content and the museum's endorsement of it. I have to agree that this does seem to straddle a few issues of concern, i.e. the DI can't claim that they're being locked out because of their controversial but "equally justifiable" claims to explaining creation, and the museum makes clear that it's not in anyway endorsing the film.

The linchpin to this decision, though, seems to be the contract --- i.e. the film is going to be shown because a contract was signed. I have to wonder how it is that the DI was allowed to sign a contract to begin with given its clearly stated mission in life. If this had been the KKK or the American Aryian Brotherhood, would the museum have similarly allowed them to sign a contract, and then later disown association, or ... is this something that's apt to happen again in the future?

11:58 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

And that, James, is the $64,000 ($16,000?) question! Based on what I've seen from the Smithsonian in the recent past (10 years or so), my guess is that similar mistakes will happen again in the future.

I wish that this world-class natural history museum also had world class people running the place.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

Very interesting....not that many people posting with this perspective...keep writing and best of luck to you!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

I did email someone at the museum and she had not heard about the ruckus at that time. Glad that you are getting this better perspective.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

hmmm. what is the priviliged planet about? sounds controversial...
an interestingly worded letter you received for sure.

8:02 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Privilidged Planet, according to my sources and to the quotes I've gotten from the film itself, is a religious zealot's perspective on why the earth and planets, etc., must have been created by an "extraterrestrial intelligence" rather than occuring as a result of the big bang. According to the ID ilk, the film covers cosmology and astronomy (I have linked to, and tried to view, the film trailers, but to no avail; their trailers crash my computer).


7:16 AM  

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