Friday, January 01, 2010

Another "Beside the Point" Diatribe from the Discovery Institute

John West has written a column for the Discovery Institute's Evolution News & Views page in which he castigates the California Science Center's decision to not show Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record. He writes:
It’s amazing to me how many Darwinists are willing to embrace government censorship in order to prop up their favored theory. It’s equally amazing to me how few Darwinists understand the key difference between what private groups can do (they can sometimes discriminate based on viewpoint) and what government agencies are allowed to do (they must treat all citizens equally, regardless of viewpoint). These issues are coming out with full force in discussions spurred by the Los Angeles Times story this week highlighting the California Science Center’s censorship last October of a privately-sponsored screening of the pro-intelligent design film Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record.

On a radio show this week, someone defended the Science Center’s censorship of Darwin’s Dilemma by equating intelligent design to Holocaust denial and arguing that the Science Center’s censorship was no different from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (a private group) denying someone permission to screen a Holocaust-denial film at its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Sure would be nice to know who that person was on the radio but since we don't have the relevant information, we cannot evaluate the claim. The NCSE also posted a story about the flap, as did the site ERV, the author of which writes this:
The cancellation of 'Darwins Dilemma' had everything to do with the DI press release. Because if you look at CSCs website, you can see, quite plainly, that they have to approve every PR release that mentions events hosted at CSC:
It is required that the Event Services Office approve, for technical and factual accuracy, all promotional materials mentioning the California Science Center produced for your event (including invitations, programs, press releases, etc.) prior to printing or broadcast. Please allow sufficient time for this approval.
Apparently, the DI is once again above silly 'laws' and 'contracts' us plebeians are expected to follow, thus they took it upon themselves to issue press releases without CSCs approval, violating the terms of CSCs contract.
To be sure, there was a great deal of heat and it may be that they were looking for an excuse to cancel the showing. Nonetheless, this is not a case of censorship, as the DI claims. West concludes his essay with this:
If you are a proponent of Darwin’s theory, I’d urge you to think long and hard about how far you are willing to go down the path of trashing the Constitution. Are you really willing to jettison the First Amendment in your obsession to shield Darwinian theory from scrutiny? Are you that insecure? Do you think that the evidence for your theory is so weak that you need to resort to government censorship to prevent anyone from even hearing another point of view?
Interestingly, at no point in this editorial, does West address why the scientific community is not supportive of the film. For one, there is evidence that the scientists interviewed for the film were questioned under false pretenses. The trailer for the film mentions interviews with Simon Conway Morris and James Valentine. Conway Morris is well known as a researcher in the Cambrian and an outspoken Christian. Laelaps recounts what Conway Morris says with regard to the interview for the film:
... I wouldn't know [how] they managed to obtain any such material nor if they did how they are able to use it without my permission. I certainly wouldn't give it ...
Secondly, does the content of the film belong in a science center? Biologist John Humphreys has a somewhat lengthy review of the film here. Here is what he thought of it:
To draw this novel length critique of Darwin’s Dilemma to a close, let me re-emphasize that although lacking historical accuracy, scientific legitimacy and professional integrity the film’s production value and underlying truth-manipulating strategy make it a dangerous opponent to education and reason. The people behind the film are dishonest, unethical and immoral; they lie, doctor evidence and misrepresent science as a whole. In the process of attacking evolution, they falsify history and tear down the sciences of geology and chemistry.

Though they are fundamentalists and propagandists, they are also cunning and well funded… Take caution.
Read the entire review. He is quite specific and quite damning in his charges. And they all stick like glue. Putting the theory of evolution to scrutiny is one thing. Distorting and lying about it (there are no transitional fossils, evolution can come up with no new information) is something else. Even without the contractual problems, such a film doesn't belong in a "science center." Reasoned discourse is perfectly fine but not when one side continually lies about the evidence.

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