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CA Science Center sued for canceling Darwin's Dilemma

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  • Carol Smith
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2010
      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.


      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:

      For NCSE's coverage of the NMNH incident in 2005, visit:

      For NCSE's collection of documents in AFA v. CSC et al., visit:

      For NCSE's collection of documents in Discovery Institute v. CSC, visit:


      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:


      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:

      For the sample from the book (PDF), visit:

      For Goldsmith's review, visit:

      For subscription information for RNCSE, visit:

      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

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