New York Times on the Smithsonian Affair

| 28 Comments

Museum Quits as Film Sponsor

After the news of the showing caused controversy, however, officials of the museum screened “Privileged Planet” for themselves.

“The major problem with the film is the wrap-up,” said Randall Kremer, a museum spokesman.

“It takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that’s where we part ways with them.”

The DI seems to be hurting by the loss of co-sponsorship,

The editorial also knowingly hides the fact that the Smithsonian did “co-sponsor” the Discovery film event. The writer had seen a copy of the letter from the Smithsonian declaring its co-sponsorship and she knew from several sources that the co-sponsorship was not sought by Discovery, but actually was required by the Smithsonian. That the Museum withdrew a gift that was never requested fails to draw her interest at all

The co-sponsorship of an approved event is automatic when an organization makes an unrestrictricted donation to the Smithsonian. I would venture to guess that 16K is the minimum… The website is clear that such donation would automatically come with a co-sponsorship. Does this mean that the DI did not seek co-sponsorship?

Corporations and organizations making an unrestricted contribution to the National Museum of Natural History may co-sponsor an event in celebration of their gift. Your gift helps to support the scientific and educational work of the Museum. Personal events (i.e. weddings, etc.), fund raising events, and events of a religious or partisan political nature are not permitted.

What must be hurting is that the SI withdrew not only the co-sponsorship but also commented that the content of the Privileged Planet was not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research.

The Washington Post and the New York Times articles show that the media, despite efforts by the Discovery Institute, is starting to appreciate the relevance of the Wedge.

28 Comments

“It takes a philosophical bent rather than a clear statement of the science, and that’s where we part ways with them.”

It seems that although it has long been universally recognized that science has an unavoidable philosophical dimension, the Smithsonian has decided to draw a clear line between science and philosophy (by definition including not only metaphysics, but also ethics).

They apparently don’t know that this is impossible, absurd, and socially reprehensible.

It strikes me as just a bit disingenuous that the Discovery Institute keeps implying that they just happened to pick the Smithsonian Institution–a bastion of evolutionary biology and biological research–as a convenient location to show this film, and had no idea that such events held at the Smithsonian are automatically co-sponsored by the Smithsonian. Did they really not know that, and were they really not trying to get some credibility for themselves by capitalizing on the Smithsonian name and reputation? To say the least, I’m skeptical.

It seems that although it has long been universally recognized that science has an unavoidable philosophical dimension, the Smithsonian has decided to draw a clear line between science and philosophy (by definition including not only metaphysics, but also ethics).

I see you can’t read. The SI didn’t say that the film utilizes philosophy in its consideration of science matters and therefore we can’t be a part of it, but focused its criticisms on the lack of a clear scientific statement. Philosophy and science are not the same thing, despite their overlap, and SI isn’t a venue for philosophical speculation in the absence of proper evidence for the conclusions in the wrap-up of the film.

Twist the truth as much as you have to in order to get through the day, but your lack of regard for the truth won’t play well here.

They apparently don’t know that this is impossible, absurd, and socially reprehensible.

Your dishonesty is all of those, while I see nothing to suggest that SI’s statement even approaches your claims.

“Dishonesty”?

OK, Glen. But talk is cheap, given your ability to make such an accusation without fear of being called dishonest in return. For to be dishonest, you need to be able to distinguish between true and false assertions, and you evidently find this overly challenging.

That, of course, is a shame. But if you want to talk, tone it down. I’m not a sounding board for torrents of irrational hostility.

No matter how the DI spins the event, they undoubtedly went after a showing “…the national premiere…” with their eyes wide open. They craved the respectability that the Smithsonian’s name would give them and they knew, as any literate person visiting the Smithsonian’s website and reading their policy on celebrating gifts to the museum, that co-sponsorship was in the offing. The entire venture was a effort to use the Smithsonian for the DI’s purposes and they and their acolytes would (and may still) have used the museum’s good name again and again. With the Smithsonian finally having regained its backbone, we can see some light at the end of the tunnnel. Both the NY Times and the Washington Post seem to understand the issues now, and the odds of a PBS station broadcasting the PP locally has just slipped from one in five to maybe one in a hundred. Like any con artist, the DI can fool some of the people some of the time, but they can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Sooner or later, people get wise.

OK, Glen. But talk is cheap, given your ability to make such an accusation without fear of being called dishonest in return. For to be dishonest, you need to be able to distinguish between true and false assertions, and you evidently find this overly challenging.

He is saying you are dishonest as you deliberate twist the SI position, in that they are not affected so much by the philosophical nature of the conclusion, they are taking exception to the fact it’s not a *scientific* conclusion or one that can be fairly made based on the scientific evidence. Again, to prove a designer you need to have more than a few shaky associations. Again, can you or can you not infer something about the exact nature of the original designer based on the solar system? If not, then how can you make any reasonable claim that it was designed?

Dishonesty”?

OK, Glen. But talk is cheap, given your ability to make such an accusation without fear of being called dishonest in return. For to be dishonest, you need to be able to distinguish between true and false assertions, and you evidently find this overly challenging.

I see you can’t back up any of your initial false claims, but only are capable of piling on the falsehoods. Well, you’re obviously not able to deal with anything that you wish to discuss. Are you Michael Finley, btw, or are you just another victim of bad philosophy pretending to have something to say about matters that you don’t begin to have the capacity to discuss competently?

But if you want to talk, tone it down. I’m not a sounding board for torrents of irrational hostility

And why would I want to talk when you stupidly write of “irrational hostility”. I’m certainly hostile to your approach, your dissembling, and your feigned superiority, but I’m certainly not irrational in the least. I only seem that way to those who don’t care about dealing with data in an epistemologically sound fashion and reading the Washington Post in a reasonable and non-tendentious manner.

No, I’ve learned that people who come in with a bunch of false charges like you did are unlikely to be able to engage in useful discussion. Making this clear is the only recourse left.

This film apparently thinks it’s remarkable that we have a clear atmosphere that allows in “visible light” so we can see. Well, the electromagnetic radiation we call “visible light” is only “visible light” because eyes evolved to take advantage of its properties…one of which is locating objects (like predators and prey) in space. The fact that bees use ultraviolet light outside the spectrum we can see, and pit vipers use heat sensors that detect infrared radiation that we cannot, proves, to my mind, that there is nothing especially spooky about “visible light.”

Don’t get me wrong–I think being able to see things is way cool. But if all the arguments in the film are of this sort, I think I’d find it pretty unconvincing. That just reminds me of Doug Adams’ bit about a sentient puddle finding it simply miraculous that it so perfectly fits the indentation in which it finds itself.

The problem I have with the whole anthropic principle argument is that it assumes we know way more than we really do. Based on a sample of one and wild speculation, what of any value can be said about whether intelligent life can emerge naturally? Human life is one out of how many? Could life have existed in some other way; not, say, carbon-based but silicon-based? Not breathing oxygen, but some other element? I don’t know. It actually seems kind of unlikely. But with so many unknown variables, I just don’t see what sort of case could be made one way or the other. If I were handed five cards, dealt from a deck the size of which I did not know, playing with rules I didn’t fully understand (maybe a full house is a BAD thing), I think it would be pretty hard to know if the deck was stacked or not merely on the basis of that one hand.

The Smithsonian’s press release on the “The Privileged Planet” and its withdrawal is quite brief …

On the Private, Invitation-only Screening of the “The Privileged Planet”

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 views of the Discovery Institute or the film “The Privileged Planet.” Given that the Discovery Institute has already issued invitations, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event, but will not participate or accept a donation for it.

But note that the DI will still get to show the film, minus the co-sponsorship of the Smithsonian, but at no cost; the Smithsonian is apparently returning their $16,000. I’ll be interested to see how the DI chooses to spin this turn of events. What I’m sure of, however, is that this won’t stop their acolytes, and possibly even their own fellows, from claiming Smithsonian’s endorsement of the PP and its conclusion. At minimum they’ll drop the Smithsonian’s name at every microphone from Seattle to Miami. They don’t shy from lying, if it will serve their purposes.

Greg Peterson:

If I were handed five cards, dealt from a deck the size of which I did not know, playing with rules I didn’t fully understand (maybe a full house is a BAD thing), I think it would be pretty hard to know if the deck was stacked or not merely on the basis of that one hand.

I hope you are not serious, but at the risk of beating a dead horse into the ground redundently:

You have the hart before the course here. FIRST you just kind of know that the god(s) you were trained to believe in have magicked reality into existence by means knowable only to gods, for the purpose of, ahem, YOU. That is, providing you a pleasant world to live in, dominion over everything else (which is of course “lesser” and created for your convenience, etc. etc. etc.)

SECOND, you deal yourself a hand which is of course the most spectacularly winning hand possible. You also know this without needing to look at the cards. You know this because this is what you were trained your god(s) do, because you are so wonderful. Aren’t you? Of course you are!

THIRD, you look at the cards and, by golly, they are the only possible hand that could have been dealt to you, because you couldn’t exist in your current form with any other hand. How could something this unlikely be coincidence?

Now, if reality had some other characteristics, is it possible that you also would necessarily be very different, yet using the same logic you would of course come to the same conclusion? Well, no, because you were created in the image of your god(s), weren’t you? Of course you were!

But isn’t it the case that many peoples have with equal sincerity believed in many totally different gods in different times and places? Well, this isn’t a question of sincerity, it’s a question of being right. We define our beliefs as right. Since our beliefs ARE right, the universe must have been created to MAKE our beliefs right.

And these are the rules of the card game: Define whatever hand you get as being the only possible winning hand out of a potentially infinite number of hands. This being the case, there is no particular reason to examine the hand.

Flint, I think you and Greg are basically talking past each other.

Both of you, in fact, are arguing against Heddleian probability.

neurode wrote (you can see it above!) –

“Dishonesty”?

OK, Glen. But talk is cheap, given your ability to make such an accusation without fear of being called dishonest in return. For to be dishonest, you need to be able to distinguish between true and false assertions, and you evidently find this overly challenging.

That, of course, is a shame. But if you want to talk, tone it down. I’m not a sounding board for torrents of irrational hostility. –

What a crock! What an prize bull of nonsense and dishonesty! What a lost, egotistical ass!

And I wasted my time ANSWERING him (no woman writes THIS way that I’ve met) on the older thread! We can all note with sad resignation the arrival of yet another self-appointed Wile E. Coyote: super-genius.

Flint missed by point by roughly a galaxy. I am a militant atheist. How he got design out of what I wrote is big old mystery to me.

Yo, Flint, I just read your post more closely, and you’re an obnoxious twit. Not only did you completely miss my point, which is basically the same one you tried to make but not just a bunch of pointless bluster, but you are deeply offensive. I am very pleased indeed to be free of superstitions, but I’m even more glad that I’ve never sounded like you, you pretentious, condescending ignoramus.

If you take a moment before dashing off a screed to understand what you are attempting to respond to, it would go some distance toward preventing you from looking so much like clueless bully.

Although ths is not my thread, on behalf of Panda’s Thumb crew, this is an appeal to Greg Peterson: please abstain from using the offensive tone you used in comment 33469. There are many ways to argue against the posts and comments you disagree with, and we at PT really wish to keep the discussion free of personal insults and abusive language.

Are you Michael Finley, btw

Speaking of the Devil . …

It seems as if Finley, FL and Heddle all decided to fly the coop at more or less the same time.

I guess they found that they weren’t as holy as they thought they were . … . …

Are you Michael Finley, btw

We need a sockpuppet playlist. Finley is “Piltdown Syndrome”. Finley does not appear to be “neurode”.

We need a sockpuppet playlist. Finley is “Piltdown Syndrome”. Finley does not appear to be “neurode”.

Ah, so he didn’t fly the coop — just changed the color of his feathers.

Any time you have a testible scientific theory of ID, Finley, you let us all know, OK?

I think Flint is being flippant and is making fun of “fine tuning” as being logically trivial and a self-deception by religious individuals. At least I hope he is.

Awesome post Flint. I need to find a philosophy PT sight.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 390, byte 390 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Flint, I think you and Greg are basically talking past each other.

Both of you, in fact, are arguing against Heddleian probability.

Well not quite. I think Greg overreacted to Flint’s…ahhh…error, and Flint completely missed the point of Greg’s post.

I think Flint is being flippant and is making fun of “fine tuning” as being logically trivial and a self-deception by religious individuals. At least I hope he is.

Right, Flint’s other error though is strongly implying that Greg believes this.

I think so far everybody, save neurode, is pretty much on the same page, the anthropic principle is not the big deal the IDers are making it out to be.

Sigh. Greg Peterson is entirely correct, the creationist position is not logically supportable. My point is that the creationist position is not arrived at by logical reasoning; the “logic” is rather ginned up to support a priori assumptions not open to question. The “you” in my post was the creationist making the very argument you (Greg Peterson) have properly demolished. In re-reading my post, I see that Greg Peterson might reasonably interpret that “you” as being HIMSELF, rather than the intended generic creationist. I admit I was not clear, and I apologize to Greg Peterson for any confusion.

I think Greg Peterson and I see things quite the same way: That any possible life in any universe constructed according to any fundamental constants, if it gets intelligent enough, will notice that the architecture of its universe MUST BE what it is, for their particular life form to arise. What an incredible coincidence, right?

I call this the “shattered crockery argument.” We toss a china saucer into the air, it falls onto a tile floor and the shards go everywhere. We observe the exact locations of every shard, and marvel that the probability of every shard ending up precisely where it did is infinitisimally unlikely. We must have observed a miracle!

The recent spate of high-falutin’, philosophy-of-science, meta-discourse posts contributed by certain PTers brought to mind the following links:

http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/commu[…]tmodern.html http://dev.null.org/dadaengine/ http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/ http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/

At the first link is a paper entitled, “On the Simulation of Postmodernism and Mental Debility Using Recursive Transition Networks”. It describes software that can be used to generate fake papers in a given domain by feeding it an appropriate grammar.

It might be instructional for a card-carrying “Darwinbot”, or perhaps some IDers that are concerned about the legitimacy of their movement, to concoct such a grammar and generate a few ID papers for submission to seemingly ID-friendly journals. This practice has, in the past, served as an excellent indicator of, shall we say, lack of rigour in the science press (see the third link for an example). For the True Believers in the ID camp, such a tool could automate their trolling of PT, thus saving themselves time and effort.

Regards,

Rob

Regarding the Smithsonian showing the film “for free” this is not a reference to the viewers being charged to see it (which they never were), but a reference to the fact that the Discovery Institute is being let out of its commitment to donate $16,000 to the Smithsonian in exchange for being able to use a Smithsonian auditorium to show the film, even though the event is proceeding as planned. (Unfortunately the Smithsonian is very much the financial loser in this transaction, as it incurs costs –salary for security guards, cleanup, etc.–that will not be reimbursed.)

What has been lost in all this discussion is that the screening is a private event for a private organization and is invitation-only. Such events happen all the time at the Smithsonian, in part because the Smithsonian desperately needs money. The primary issue for the Smithsonian is that “cosponsoring” the film (as all events by outside groups taking place at the Smithonian are cosponsored, probably to both get credit and publicity for the Smithsonian) gives the perception that the Smithsonian, as well as the Director of the Natural History museum–whose title and/or name must appear on all announcements for such events–somehow endorse or approve of the film and/or the organization showing it (a misperception that was amply demonstrated when Denyse O’Leary crowed “Smithsonian Warming to Intelligent Design”, and a misperception that I suspect the Discovery Institute would have been delighted to see after the fact).

I suspect the Smithsonian will be taking a long and hard look at its review process for providing space for outside organizations, as well as its policy of automatically co-sponsoring such events.

WingNutDaily has a story on the Smithsonian/Privileged Planet affair. See Smithsonian backs off intelligent design film

Flint: Apology accepted, and please accept my apology for overreacting.

What’s striking about the NY Times article is its title: The writer falsely tells us that the Smithsonian has cancelled its co-sponsorship of the DI movie. In fact, it is still co-sponsoring it.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on June 3, 2005 12:50 PM.

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