NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/01/01
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A lawsuit against a science center for canceling the screening of a creationist film is in the headlines. Plus NCSE's list of the top ten stories in the creationism/evolution controversy for 2009, and previews of two reviews forthcoming in Reports of the NCSE in 2010.
LAWSUIT AGAINST SCIENCE CENTER OVER CREATIONIST FILM A lawsuit charges that the California Science Center violated both the First Amendment and a contract to rent its Imax Theater when it canceled a screening of Darwin's Dilemma, the Los Angeles Times (December 29, 2009) reports. The lawsuit was filed by the American Freedom Alliance, a Los Angeles-based organization that describes itself as "a movement of concerned Americans advancing the values and ideals of Western civilization," in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 14, 2009. The Times added, "The AFA seeks punitive damages and compensation for financial losses, as well as a declaration from the court that the center violated the Constitution and cannot refuse the group the right to rent its facilities for future events." The AFA had arranged to screen Darwin's Dilemma -- "a feature-length documentary that criticizes Darwin and promotes intelligent design" according to the Times -- along with the 11-minute film We Are Born of Stars at the CSC on October 25, 2009, as part of a series of events "offering compelling arguments and insights from both sides of the divide between evolutionary theory and intelligent design." The AFA's president Ari Davis told the Times that "his group has no position on Darwinism and intelligent design but is concerned that debate is being stifled by the scientific establishment," although on the AFA's website evolution is described as teeming with "gaps" and holes" and acceptance of evolution is accused of undermining civilization. Helping to promote the event was the Discovery Institute, which issued a press release touting the premiere of Darwin's Dilemma at the CSC, which it described as "the Smithsonian Institution's west coast affiliate." (It is one of twenty.) The director of the Smithsonian Institution's affiliate program asked the CSC to correct the error, perhaps mindful of the 2005 incident in which the Discovery Institute arranged for a screening of The Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. After the screening was touted as evidence that the NMNH was "warming" to "intelligent design," the museum withdrew its nominal cosponsorship of the screening, and refunded the Discovery Institute's $16,000 fee, although the film was nonetheless screened there. Shortly after the complaint from the Smithsonian Institution, the CSC canceled the AFA's screening on the grounds that the Discovery Institute's press release violated the terms of the rental contract, which provides that all promotional materials for events must be submitted to the CSC before they are disseminated. In its lawsuit, the AFA argues that it is unfair to hold it responsible for the actions of a third party, contends that the contract issue was a "false pretext" for cancellation of the screening of Darwin's Dilemma, and claims that "a broad network of Darwin advocates," including the Smithsonian Institution (which is not a defendant in the case and which declined to comment to the Times), "jointly conspired" with the CSC to cancel the screening. "The first ruling in the case came Oct. 14, when Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant denied the AFA's initial request that he order the science center to permit the Oct. 25 screening," the Times reports. "But the suit for damages is moving forward, with a pretrial hearing scheduled Jan. 26." NCSE is providing important documents in the case, AFA v. CSC et al., on its website. In a separate lawsuit against the CSC, the Discovery Institute is complaining that the CSC failed to comply fully with its request under the California Public Records Act for documents and e-mails about the decision to cancel the screening. The complaint in the case, Discovery Institute v. CSC, is also available on the NCSE website. For the story in the Los Angeles Times, visit: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-et-science-center29-2009dec29,0,6400745.story For NCSE's coverage of the NMNH incident in 2005, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2005/06/intelligent-design-at-nmnh-00726 For NCSE's collection of documents in AFA v. CSC et al., visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/american-freedom-alliance-v-california-science-center-et-al For NCSE's collection of documents in Discovery Institute v. CSC, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/discovery-institute-v-california-science-center TOP TEN EVOLUTION/CREATIONISM STORIES OF THE YEAR In a press release issued on December 31, 2009, NCSE listed its picks for the top ten stories in the creationism/evolution controversy for 2009. The 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species led the list, followed by Ray Comfort's distribution of copies of the Origin with his misleading "special introduction," the debacle of the flawed state science standards adopted in Texas, and the continuing fallout from the passage of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. For the press release containing the full top ten list, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2009/12/top-ten-evolutioncreationism-stories-year-005250 TWO END-OF-THE-YEAR REVIEWS As 2009 and its celebrations of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin near their end, NCSE is pleased to bid them farewell by offering a peek at two reviews forthcoming in 2010 in Reports of the NCSE. First, David B. Richman reviews Michael Keller's Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (Rodale, 2009), writing, "The idea of a graphic version of the Origin of Species is a good one, since many casual readers will never get through the original. ... Keller has produced a mostly accurate and reasonably complete book that introduces the intelligent layperson to the principles of and evidences for evolution by natural selection." A sample chapter is available on NCSE's website. Richman is College Professor and Curator of the Arthropod Museum at New Mexico State University. Second, Timothy H. Goldsmith reviews Richard Dawkins's The Genius of Charles Darwin (Athena, 2009), which originally aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and which was released, with over five hours of bonus material, for the home market on DVD. "This is an excellent program," Goldsmith writes, "both for Dawkins's clear presentation of evolutionary principles and the informative display of vacuous arguments by evolution's critics. ... The Genius of Charles Darwin shows wonderfully the science that Darwin set in motion ..." Goldsmith is Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. If you like what you see, why not subscribe to Reports of the NCSE today? The next issue (volume 29, number 6) contains articles focusing on the teaching and learning of evolution, as well as the latest dispatches from the front lines of the evolution wars. Don't miss out -- subscribe now! For Richman's review, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/30/1/review-origin-species-graphic-adaptation For the sample from the book (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Illustrated%20Origin--Darwin--small--credit.pdf For Goldsmith's review, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/30/1/review-genius-charles-darwin For subscription information for RNCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/membership Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- With best wishes for the new year, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership