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Ken Ham, who runs a tax-exempt nonprofit and has received various tax breaks and subsidies from the city and the state, writes,

“The Nation’s T. Rex” will be a centerpiece for the Smithsonian–a museum funded by our tax dollars. In reality, then, the government is imposing the religion of evolution and millions of years on children visiting the Smithsonian, while also claiming a supposed separation of church and state! Our tax dollars are funding the religion of naturalism (atheism) and its evolutionary story to be exhibited in the Smithsonian in the nation’s capital!

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It’s sad when governments tell the factual, verifiable truth to children, when others really want to tell them untruths unopposed.

It’s not like truth-telling is important to Ham’s religion. At least not when and where untruths support his religion better.

Glen Davidson

“The Nation’s T. Rex” will be a centerpiece for the Smithsonian–a museum funded by our tax dollars. In reality, then, the government is imposing the religion of evolution and millions of years on demonstrating physical reality to children visiting the Smithsonian…

There. I fixed it for Ken.

Ham also writes:

“Now, what makes Ebenezer unique is that this skeleton has one of the six to seven best-preserved Allosaurus skulls ever discovered.”

“Unique”: I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Thanks for revealing the fundamentally political nature of your whole corrupt enterprise, Ken Ham.

The “evolution is a religion” meme is typical legalistic/political nonsense. No-one mistakes a scientific theory for a “religion”, not Ken Ham, not anyone else.

That meme is another example of something that creationists never get tired of - childish word games.

The self-same people who would talk about the “religion of evolution” would quickly turn around and parrot “ID isn’t religion” in a different context.

Because the Supreme Court said that sectarian religion can’t be preached in taxpayer-funded science class. So their response has been, literally, to claim that science is religion and religion is science.

I wonder what’s the current total dollar value of all the tax breaks currently enjoyed by the nation’s various religions. Perhaps we should call that the Curse of Ham.

Seversky said:

I wonder what’s the current total dollar value of all the tax breaks currently enjoyed by the nation’s various religions. Perhaps we should call that the Curse of Ham.

That’s a difficult number to pin down. According to this study, by a sociologist at the university of Tampa, the annual government subsidy of religion is approximately $71 billion per year. This is a very conservative estimate, leaving out such things as local income and property tax subsidies, the donor tax-exemption subsidy for religious giving, and a number of others items which would add billions to their figure. No matter how you slice it, it’s not chump change.

Incredible irony that they don’t realize tax exemption is de facto subsidization.

tomh said:

Seversky said:

I wonder what’s the current total dollar value of all the tax breaks currently enjoyed by the nation’s various religions. Perhaps we should call that the Curse of Ham.

That’s a difficult number to pin down. According to this study, by a sociologist at the university of Tampa, the annual government subsidy of religion is approximately $71 billion per year. This is a very conservative estimate, leaving out such things as local income and property tax subsidies, the donor tax-exemption subsidy for religious giving, and a number of others items which would add billions to their figure. No matter how you slice it, it’s not chump change.

And let’s not forget the tax breaks and favored treatment that Ham himself is getting from the state for his creationist “museum” and “ark” projects.

Welcome to Ken Ham’s wacky opposite-land! Where naturalism=atheism, atheism=evolution, evolution=millions of years, millions of years=biology, science=religion, dogma=fact.

More coherent thinking can be found in a pile of rocks*. This shows everyone (again) that YEC’s are not just anti-evolution, they are anti-science.

*My apologies to the rocks of the universe.

david.starling.macmillan said:

Incredible irony that they don’t realize tax exemption is de facto subsidization.

Oh, I think they do, it’s just that it’s very difficult to quantify.

tomh said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Incredible irony that they don’t realize tax exemption is de facto subsidization.

Oh, I think they do, it’s just that it’s very difficult to quantify.

Sorry, I now realize you weren’t talking about the study, you were talking about Ham and his cohorts.

tomh said:

tomh said:

david.starling.macmillan said:

Incredible irony that they don’t realize tax exemption is de facto subsidization.

Oh, I think they do, it’s just that it’s very difficult to quantify.

Sorry, I now realize you weren’t talking about the study, you were talking about Ham and his cohorts.

Right – they whine about the government supporting science museums and science education while they themselves are receiving de facto subsidization.

Someone at Tomh’s link above regarding the enormous subsidy to religious organizations has recommended this Petition [to the White House] to End the Tax Exempt Status for All Churches and Religious Organizations. Only a few days left, and don’t tell anyone at my synagogue, but I confess I signed it.

Sometimes I try to claw my way out of the hypocrisy, untruths, ironies, and plain stupidities and wonder why Ham is really doing all this. Is he just running another scam, or is he justifiably fleecing those with their heads up their Jesus? He has to be smart enough to know that his output is both idiotic and inconsistent, since he’s smart enough to find his mouth with his food. Maybe as a nation we NEED Ken Ham as a walking, lying cautionary example of what happens to the brain on religion. Without a huge audience of dain-bramaged suckers, Ham wouldn’t even be a footnote.

Flint, it may seem like a complete non-sequitur, but there is such a thing as the con artist who begins to believe the scam. One of the most boggling things I have heard of recently is the Nigerian exponent of internet scams who pumped a great deal of ill-gotten money into … some other conman’s Nigerian internet scam.

Ham has, it is true, shown the marks of the conman from ‘way back. He rid himself of partners and took absolute control of the operation early on. He took the show from the sticks of Queensland to the best pitch in the world for it - it always reminds me of Big Daddy in the Rhythm of Life. He pays himself half a million a year, plus a free house, cars, travel and what-all, and his sons are on the gravy train as well - this in flat defiance of the direct instructions given by the man he calls God at Matthew 10:9.

Does he believe it himself? In a sense, in part of his mind, I think he does. He must know, somewhere else, that he’s living a whole series of lies. That, too. But mental compartmentalisation is a weird thing. Conmen can come to believe the scam.

There may be a controversy about this tax relief for churches, but do remember the charity work they do.

The churches often get paid for that work, too, Marilyn. Adoption agencies, soup kitchens, schools, food banks, hostels, medical services - all are usually subsidised, sometimes to 100%, by taxpayers. There’s a residue, sure, but suppose this work were not done piecemeal, by groups consisting of people who are following what amounts to a personal whim, but that the tax breaks given to religion plus payments made to them for running charities, were plowed into social services provided by agencies operating with economies of scale?

I strongly suspect that the real amount of relief, social services, improvement of poverty and opportunity would increase. Further, the distribution would be fairer and more consistent.

Dave Luckett said:

Flint, it may seem like a complete non-sequitur, but there is such a thing as the con artist who begins to believe the scam. One of the most boggling things I have heard of recently is the Nigerian exponent of internet scams who pumped a great deal of ill-gotten money into … some other conman’s Nigerian internet scam.

Ham has, it is true, shown the marks of the conman from ‘way back. He rid himself of partners and took absolute control of the operation early on. He took the show from the sticks of Queensland to the best pitch in the world for it - it always reminds me of Big Daddy in the Rhythm of Life. He pays himself half a million a year, plus a free house, cars, travel and what-all, and his sons are on the gravy train as well - this in flat defiance of the direct instructions given by the man he calls God at Matthew 10:9.

Does he believe it himself? In a sense, in part of his mind, I think he does. He must know, somewhere else, that he’s living a whole series of lies. That, too. But mental compartmentalisation is a weird thing. Conmen can come to believe the scam.

1) Thank you for stating this. I have tried to make the same point many times.

Once you stray outside that realm of objectively supported, emotionally neutral scientific facts, there is a vast spectrum of deliberate deception, self-serving bias, brainwash, etc.

A person deliberately lying for personal gain, an honest actor using techniques to identify convincingly as a fictional character, an effective salesperson who uses techniques to pump up her confidence in the product she sells (regardless of whether it really is better than the competition), a con man who at times gets so into his role that he transiently feels as if he believes himself, etc. If you count obsessive gambling behavior as getting conned, then con artists who get conned are commonplace. Many con artists gamble all their ill gotten gains away. There is a spectrum of “reality denial” behavior, and the bald faced liar who simply tells mistruths with ice in his or her veins is not that common a figure. There are both ethical and unethical reasons for which people engage in elements of reality denial.

There’s an old saying that “you can’t con an honest person”. That isn’t true, but the point is that con games nearly always manipulate some kind of less than savory instinct. Financial cons frequently imply that the reason their deal is so sweet is because it is some kind of not totally ethical “insider” deal. This also often prevents victims from going to law enforcement.

Creationists (if able to read and write and over the age of twelve or so) fall somewhere in this spectrum. They all, always have doubts. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need constant reassurance that science is a good way to understand the physical universe. Creationists need a constant stream of reinforcing propaganda to maintain their beliefs. Casey Luskin and the gang at AIG are paid to rush out and denigrate every scientific thing that could cross a creationist’s path for a reason.

They all always have doubts, but they all, always mainly “believe” themselves at the conscious level. They live with denial and nagging unconscious sensations. (I’ve noticed when I use the term “cognitive dissonance” that people assume it refers to a conscious sense of choosing between two alternatives. It doesn’t, it refers to a hypothetical but well-supported idea that humans experience unconscious tension and use unconscious, non-rational strategies to resolve it, when their biased perceptions are strongly challenged.)

This is one of the three things you have to get about creationists if you want to predict how they will behave. They obsessively believe themselves but in a deeper sense they doubt themselves, and they react to the unconscious doubt by doubling down on the denial. Or behave exactly as if that was what was going on, if you prefer.

The other two things you have to understand is that they support anything that ever seems to “attack evolution” regardless of consistency, and that they are totally allied with, and essentially represent the religious arm of, the standard US Limbaugh/Fox/Republican Party right wing movement (and its equivalent in other countries).

2) Tax exemption for religion is one of the stupidest ideas ever, but also one of the most difficult imaginable policies to get rid of.

harold said:

Creationists need a constant stream of reinforcing propaganda to maintain their beliefs. Casey Luskin and the gang at AIG are paid to rush out and denigrate every scientific thing that could cross a creationist’s path for a reason.

That term – “constant stream” – very aptly describes the flow of front-page posts from groups like AiG. They feel the need to comment on anything and everything they possibly can.

Doubts are always there. But we never admitted we felt them. We were much, much more likely to admit doubts about our salvation (e.g. the validity of our presumed relationship with God) than admit the slightest doubts about creation science. The problem always had to be with us, never with the system. Doubt was always directed away from the theology and toward ourselves so that the more doubts we had, the harder we would try to maintain our beliefs.

The constant stream of reinforcement was the only way creationism could survive. Every time I went to the AiG website, I felt reassured. “Okay, I’m not crazy, there really are tons of people who know what they’re talking about.” Of course, they’re getting a bit frantic now. They’ve posted no less than twenty-one articles attacking the recent Noah film from Paramount. That’s insane.

From Ham’s website.…

Now, what makes Ebenezer unique is that this skeleton has one of the six to seven best-preserved Allosaurus skulls ever discovered. … Our allosaur is exceptional because rather than being mixed and scattered in the Morrison formation—as almost all the fossils there are—Ebenezer’s bones were found together, with many in their articulated position. Here are some pictures of the fossils being prepared for display:

Dang! I just realized that we missed out on the all-time best prank in the whole history of the planet!

Imagine if we could have snuck into the warehouse where they were storing the skeleton, pecked a few little holes into the sandstone matrix surrounding the bones… and cemented in some rusty bits of old saddle hardware!

Flint, it may seem like a complete non-sequitur, but there is such a thing as the con artist who begins to believe the scam.

Might that apply to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism?

Karen S. said:

Flint, it may seem like a complete non-sequitur, but there is such a thing as the con artist who begins to believe the scam.

Might that apply to Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism?

Of course it’s always possible that Mormonism is the one true faith. I have no opinion on that. Obviously I don’t think it is, or I’d convert, but I can’t prove it isn’t.

Having said that, yes, great example.

I know the existence of bias makes people uncomfortable. However, all our cognition is intensely biased except when we make an effort to be objective. Bias is less evident when we deal with the very concrete and obvious, but kicks in as soon as the slightest level of abstraction is possible.

It’s unlikely that Joseph Smith didn’t consider himself a prophet, at least most of the time. Yet he may have done things that were at odds with that. His brain may have allowed him to at times be deceptive, yet consciously believe himself.

As I said, three things to remember about creationists -

1) They nearly all “believe” themselves (ice-blooded pure liars for money probably exist in this field but are rare) but it is an insecure “belief” that causes a lot of unconscious tension and requires a constant stream of reassurance to maintain.

2) They support essentially anything that “attacks evolution” regardless of consistency.

3) They are part of the standard Fox/Limbaugh/Tea-Republican Party right wing alliance. Virtually all members of that alliance always at least pander to them, and they are strongly attached to the other aspects of that ideology, which technically have nothing to do with evolution denial. Thus they effectively all deny climate change, may deny or downplay cigarettes/health, endorse right wing economic policies and fantasies, etc, even if those aren’t technically related to evolution.

Understand those three things and you can predict them pretty well.

There’s also the possibility of the con game growing into a monster – succeeding far more than the conman originally envisioned. What does one do if he sets himself up as a ‘prophet’, seeking power, recognition, riches, sexual favors, or whatever, and then discovers a few years later that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, have bought fervently into the scam, and REALLY BELIEVE IT. Does the phony ‘prophet’ come clean and admit that he made up the thing out of whole cloth? The golden tablets, or the aliens who exist on another plane, or a commitment to a biblical interpretation that strokes people’s egos? Does he admit it’s bogus and always was?

Not if he values his life.

Just Bob said:

There’s also the possibility of the con game growing into a monster – succeeding far more than the conman originally envisioned. What does one do if he sets himself up as a ‘prophet’, seeking power, recognition, riches, sexual favors, or whatever, and then discovers a few years later that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, have bought fervently into the scam, and REALLY BELIEVE IT. Does the phony ‘prophet’ come clean and admit that he made up the thing out of whole cloth? The golden tablets, or the aliens who exist on another plane, or a commitment to a biblical interpretation that strokes people’s egos? Does he admit it’s bogus and always was?

Not if he values his life.

Yes, of course, but I think that’s a bit rare. Why is it rare? Because the type of con man who can convince all those people has to be very, very good. And to be that good, it really helps if you can convince yourself, too.

And all those initial people who were “convinced” are convinced mainly by emotional bias, with need for reassurance.

I know some people would like to model all creationists as either Snidely Whiplash, privately throwing back his head in evil laughter, or as utterly sincere Forrest Gump types, but it just doesn’t work that way. They believe but it’s an insecure, emotional biased based belief.

For whatever reason, the obvious fact that human cognition is massively impacted by bias makes people uncomfortable. Some would rather believe in scheming fiends, than accept that other people are biased.

It’s not that hard to understand. You suspend disbelief when you watch your favorite movies. Good actors “become” the role transiently. Good salespeople could undoubtedly pass a polygraph, and feel totally comfortable, while presenting an obviously biased advocate’s view of their product.

There is such a thing as essentially unshakable assumption, and there is such a thing as a bald-faced lie, but most human beliefs are along a spectrum of accurate perception of reality tinged with varying amounts of bias.

The objective evidence for the theory of evolution is overwhelming. Accepting biological evolution is way, way on the “virtually no contribution of emotional bias required” end of the spectrum. And creationism is on the opposite end, at least for educated 21st century people, with massive emotional bias and mental games required to over-ride reality.

So we have a National T. Rex?! Cool. I’ll have to go see it when I’m at my daughter’s wedding in D.C. in a few months. Thanks, Ken Ham, for letting me know about that amazing scientific treasure. Good like with your weird little carnival.

gregpeterson144 said:

So we have a National T. Rex?! Cool. I’ll have to go see it when I’m at my daughter’s wedding in D.C. in a few months. Thanks, Ken Ham, for letting me know about that amazing scientific treasure. Good like with your weird little carnival.

Please do visit the museum(s), however, be aware that the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur exhibit hall will be closed for renovations, starting this Monday, and probably won’t reopen for at least a year or two. I don’t know whether they will put the T-Rex up in some other part of the museum in the interim.

If you have kids, another fun thing to do at that museum is to go to the live tarantula feeding every Sunday. The kids get to sit in a circle, they put the tarantula down in the middle, and it grabs a cricket. Fun stuff. They also bring out a bunch of live exotic bugs that the kids can see and that the braver ones can hold.

eric said:

gregpeterson144 said:

So we have a National T. Rex?! Cool. I’ll have to go see it when I’m at my daughter’s wedding in D.C. in a few months. Thanks, Ken Ham, for letting me know about that amazing scientific treasure. Good like with your weird little carnival.

Please do visit the museum(s), however, be aware that the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur exhibit hall will be closed for renovations, starting this Monday, and probably won’t reopen for at least a year or two. I don’t know whether they will put the T-Rex up in some other part of the museum in the interim.

If you have kids, another fun thing to do at that museum is to go to the live tarantula feeding every Sunday. The kids get to sit in a circle, they put the tarantula down in the middle, and it grabs a cricket. Fun stuff. They also bring out a bunch of live exotic bugs that the kids can see and that the braver ones can hold.

That’s nice of David “Koch Brothers” Koch to give that $35M for a new dinosaur room.

Unfortunately, David Koch does far more harm than good to science. He’s a climate change denier, and although he claims to be a “libertarian” and to support such things as gay marriage, he gives a vast amount of money to anti-science right wing politicians. Which makes sense, since he is anti-science. You don’t get to pick and choose. It’s very nice that he seems to accept that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, but so what? He denies the scientific evidence when it suits him.

Some damn lickspittle bureaucrat has already decided to name the new dinosaur exhibit after Koch, so now the Natural History portion of the Smithsonian will have a major exhibit named after an ill-educated billionaire who aggressively funds anti-science propaganda. And the total amount that David Koch has spent on climate denial probably far exceeds even the $35M he is spending on this dinosaur room.

I doubt if there was any need of a new room. He probably wanted to give his science denial more credibility, by funding an exhibit on science he doesn’t deny. And the corrupting influence of money made that easy.

eric said:

If you have kids, another fun thing to do at that museum is to go to the live tarantula feeding every Sunday. The kids get to sit in a circle, they put the tarantula down in the middle, and it grabs a cricket. Fun stuff. They also bring out a bunch of live exotic bugs that the kids can see and that the braver ones can hold.

Heh. Reminds of the campus station I volunteered at for a while: they had a PSA about the shark tank feeding time at the aquarium.

harold said: I doubt if there was any need of a new room. He probably wanted to give his science denial more credibility, by funding an exhibit on science he doesn’t deny. And the corrupting influence of money made that easy.

The exhibit has not been updated since the ’70s. It was okay, but not very informative or interactive; just your standard “bones and placards.” Also the upstairs section (with the pteradons and so on) had been closed for years; I’m not sure why, but if it was structural, then they really *needed* to renovate.

In any event, I am glad they decided to renovate it. I am glad that they got the money to do it. Its the Smithsonian, so I trust them to use the money right and to appropriately credit the donors (i.e., de minimis signage). I’m sad that the renovation will probably take a couple of years, but that seems to be pretty standard these days. The National Archives was closed to the public for something like 5 years when they renovated that in the 2000s.

harold said:

That’s nice of David “Koch Brothers” Koch to give that $35M for a new dinosaur room.

Unfortunately, David Koch does far more harm than good to science.

Quite right. And Koch’s name on the exhibit shows the downside of having museums rely on large donors. It is a bit like Enron Stadium in Houston, which got hastily renamed, but only after Enron wasn’t around to sue.

This interview of David Koch from 2009 is of interest. He is interviewed by the execrable Susan Mazur, a journalist from New Zealand who is determined to show that “Darwinism” is dead. She tries and tries to get Koch to go along with her dissing of evolutionary biologists, but he won’t.

Mazur wrote a book entitled The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. We evolutionary biologists are apparently an “industry” defending its profits. But here she is interviewing David Koch of Koch Industries, and she seems not to have noticed his massive science-denial.

Joe Felsenstein said:

harold said:

That’s nice of David “Koch Brothers” Koch to give that $35M for a new dinosaur room.

Unfortunately, David Koch does far more harm than good to science.

Quite right. And Koch’s name on the exhibit shows the downside of having museums rely on large donors. It is a bit like Enron Stadium in Houston, which got hastily renamed, but only after Enron wasn’t around to sue.

This interview of David Koch from 2009 is of interest. He is interviewed by the execrable Susan Mazur, a journalist from New Zealand who is determined to show that “Darwinism” is dead. She tries and tries to get Koch to go along with her dissing of evolutionary biologists, but he won’t.

Mazur wrote a book entitled The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. We evolutionary biologists are apparently an “industry” defending its profits. But here she is interviewing David Koch of Koch Industries, and she seems not to have noticed his massive science-denial.

If someone calls themself a “libertarian” half of what they say will be outstandingly good, the problem is the other half. So Koch says more things that I agree with than, say, Michelle Bachmann does. But he’s also more harmful in the long run.

To his partial credit Koch doesn’t personally pander to evolution denial. But, while hypocritically calling himself “libertarian”, he funds an authoritarian political movement that does.

And he denies science when it suits him.

The naming thing is interesting. I think that early “robber barons” who made their own money and actually did create jobs were less offensive than inherited wealth types like the Koch brothers, but Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt were controversial and deserved it. But their names are associated with wonderful instituions. But there is a difference; Carnegie didn’t publicly scorn the value of reading and advocate illiteracy, for example. If he had, “Carnegie Library” might be a more awkard phrase.

I’d prefer a Smithsonian with the guts to say “the new exhibit will be named after a pioneering historical scientist in the study of dinosaurs, not after a science denying billionaire”, and bluntly, it’s possible that they could still have raised plenty of money. An argument can also be made that a more modest exhibit, yet uncompromised by association with science denial, would be equally good. There’s also the fact that the Smithsonian is a public institution. And David Koch opposes public institutions, as well. It’s really quite a questionable idea to name this after him. I’ll do more research. Having said that, I do think that the Smithsonian should take his money.

As always, I remind everyone that I am strongly in favor of making money, I just don’t find fawning behavior based on money to be very tasteful. I think that giving a lot of money to the Smithsonian is a wonderful thing for Koch to do with his money. I personally recommend that he give all his money away to great museums and cease wasting it on right wing politics. I just think that naming major science exhibits after science deniers is a suboptimal thing to do.

harold said:

Joe Felsenstein said:

harold said:

That’s nice of David “Koch Brothers” Koch to give that $35M for a new dinosaur room.

Unfortunately, David Koch does far more harm than good to science.

Quite right. And Koch’s name on the exhibit shows the downside of having museums rely on large donors. It is a bit like Enron Stadium in Houston, which got hastily renamed, but only after Enron wasn’t around to sue.

This interview of David Koch from 2009 is of interest. He is interviewed by the execrable Susan Mazur, a journalist from New Zealand who is determined to show that “Darwinism” is dead. She tries and tries to get Koch to go along with her dissing of evolutionary biologists, but he won’t.

Mazur wrote a book entitled The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. We evolutionary biologists are apparently an “industry” defending its profits. But here she is interviewing David Koch of Koch Industries, and she seems not to have noticed his massive science-denial.

If someone calls themself a “libertarian” half of what they say will be outstandingly good, the problem is the other half. So Koch says more things that I agree with than, say, Michelle Bachmann does. But he’s also more harmful in the long run.

To his partial credit Koch doesn’t personally pander to evolution denial. But, while hypocritically calling himself “libertarian”, he funds an authoritarian political movement that does.

And he denies science when it suits him.

The naming thing is interesting. I think that early “robber barons” who made their own money and actually did create jobs were less offensive than inherited wealth types like the Koch brothers, but Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt were controversial and deserved it. But their names are associated with wonderful instituions. But there is a difference; Carnegie didn’t publicly scorn the value of reading and advocate illiteracy, for example. If he had, “Carnegie Library” might be a more awkard phrase.

I’d prefer a Smithsonian with the guts to say “the new exhibit will be named after a pioneering historical scientist in the study of dinosaurs, not after a science denying billionaire”, and bluntly, it’s possible that they could still have raised plenty of money. An argument can also be made that a more modest exhibit, yet uncompromised by association with science denial, would be equally good. There’s also the fact that the Smithsonian is a public institution. And David Koch opposes public institutions, as well. It’s really quite a questionable idea to name this after him. I’ll do more research. Having said that, I do think that the Smithsonian should take his money.

As always, I remind everyone that I am strongly in favor of making money, I just don’t find fawning behavior based on money to be very tasteful. I think that giving a lot of money to the Smithsonian is a wonderful thing for Koch to do with his money. I personally recommend that he give all his money away to great museums and cease wasting it on right wing politics. I just think that naming major science exhibits after science deniers is a suboptimal thing to do.

Well, this turned out to be uncontroversial. No-one arguing strongly in favor of naming the Smithsonian dinosaur exhibit after the Koch Brothers.

I guess it makes sense.

1) Science supporters would prefer to have it named after a major figure in the scientific study of dinosaurs, of course. Naming such things after donors rather than intellectual contributors raises the issue of conflict of interest. This case is a significant example, but of course, even worse examples can be imagined.

I’m certainly glad that David Koch decided to do something decent with this particular $35M, but the naming thing is an issue. It may be a coincidence, or it may be that David Koch is trying to purchase credibility for his climate science denial by funding some other area of science in a highly public manner. At any rate, associating a major scientific exhibit, in a mainly taxpayer-funded institution, with a major type of science denial propaganda, is questionable, even if no conscious effort to do so was present.

2) Creationists are mad at David Koch for funding something related to evolution.

3) Less creationist Foxbot types are mad at David Koch for failing to pander sufficiently to the evolution deniers, who are a significant component of the reality-denying right wing alliance, and whose loyalty is critical to their success.

4) Libertarians are mad at former Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Koch, too. They disapprove of the Smithsonian because it’s a public institution, and disapprove of his impurity in associating himself with it.

So, there doesn’t seem to be much controversy here. Nobody but David Koch and those who directly grovel to David Koch is likely to claim to be happy about the proposed naming of this exhibition.

harold said: associating a major scientific exhibit, in a mainly taxpayer-funded institution, with a major type of science denial propaganda, is questionable, even if no conscious effort to do so was present.

[My browser’s acting up, so I apologize if this is a repeat…]

AFAIK, such support for Smithosnian exhibits is not at all unusual, and there are lots and lots of private donors. Acknowledgements and donor-related signage is kept small and tasteful. A brick-sized plaque with “This exhibit brought to you by John and Jane Doe” on it, that sort of thing. The Smithsonian also displays tons of privately owned objects (most if not all of the museum’s gems and jewelry, for example), and in those cases too the donors typically don’t get much more than their names or “from the estate of…” on a small card.

So what you’re complaining about has probably been fait accompli for years if not decades. I would certainly be upset if the museum treated the Koch brothers differently and gave them more signage/more content control than they give to other donors. But if they treat them as just another donor, I don’t see a problem. The museum isn’t going to be ‘tainted’ any more than they were by the thousands of other private donations they’ve already taken, the signage for which most visitors blithely and completely ignore as they view the exhibits.

eric said:

harold said: associating a major scientific exhibit, in a mainly taxpayer-funded institution, with a major type of science denial propaganda, is questionable, even if no conscious effort to do so was present.

[My browser’s acting up, so I apologize if this is a repeat…]

AFAIK, such support for Smithosnian exhibits is not at all unusual, and there are lots and lots of private donors. Acknowledgements and donor-related signage is kept small and tasteful. A brick-sized plaque with “This exhibit brought to you by John and Jane Doe” on it, that sort of thing. The Smithsonian also displays tons of privately owned objects (most if not all of the museum’s gems and jewelry, for example), and in those cases too the donors typically don’t get much more than their names or “from the estate of…” on a small card.

So what you’re complaining about has probably been fait accompli for years if not decades. I would certainly be upset if the museum treated the Koch brothers differently and gave them more signage/more content control than they give to other donors. But if they treat them as just another donor, I don’t see a problem. The museum isn’t going to be ‘tainted’ any more than they were by the thousands of other private donations they’ve already taken, the signage for which most visitors blithely and completely ignore as they view the exhibits.

If that’s what they plan, I have not the slightest objection. That’s routine at many of the museums I admire most. In fact, I’d object to failing to give David Koch credit for making the donation.

I’ll have to reread your link. I thought that it did imply some sort of extra-special naming.

So, to fully clarify -

Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall with a subtle, tasteful acknowledgment that David Koch provided funding - I don’t object in the slightest. His money is, if I may say without irony, just as “green” as anyone else’s.

“David Koch Dinosaur Hall” - I have an objection. Especially if other donors don’t get the same treatment. But even if they do. Even if it’s “David Koch Dinosaur Hall” and “George Soros Planetarium” (imaginary example for the sake of illustration), I’d object to the excessively prominent naming of scientific or artistic exhibits after mere donors, rather than intellectual contributors. I’d object to that at a purely private institution with ambitions for credibility, and I really, really object if that goes on in an institution that receives public funding.

The Koch brothers have become unpopular public figures, and it’s possible that their negative reputation is leading me to worry that David Koch might be more likely than the average donor to demand excess kow-towing, or indeed, to attempt to politicize a neutral scientific exhibit, as a condition for his donation. Perhaps that is unfair. On the other hand my “cynical” predictions have a way of being depressingly accurate. I’ll try to keep an eye on the story as it develops.

harold said: Smithsonian Dinosaur Hall with a subtle, tasteful acknowledgment that David Koch provided funding - I don’t object in the slightest. His money is, if I may say without irony, just as “green” as anyone else’s.

“David Koch Dinosaur Hall” - I have an objection. Especially if other donors don’t get the same treatment. But even if they do. Even if it’s “David Koch Dinosaur Hall” and “George Soros Planetarium” (imaginary example for the sake of illustration), I’d object to the excessively prominent naming of scientific or artistic exhibits after mere donors, rather than intellectual contributors.

Hmmm…well, in the Smithsonian system, we have the Einstein planetarium (obviously not named after a donor). But we also have the Udvar-Hazy building, which was named after a donor who gave $66 million. Situation is a bit different there, because that donor was an aircraft industry mogul donating to an aircraft museum. So he is kinda famous “in the business” as well as being the donor. But, he did get his name on the building and let’s be honest, if he hadn’t been a huge donor the name would’ve been different. So your concern is not farfetched.

I suggest you contact them if you’re really concerned. This page says that the renovation project has its own facebook page and that they welcome public input on it.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on April 20, 2014 2:01 PM.

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