Monday, September 14, 2009


W. T. F. ?

According to Reuters:

Darwin's Dilemma will be screened at Kerr Auditorium in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, with a post-film discussion featuring two leading intelligent design scientists, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, and Dr. Jonathan Wells, biologist and author of Icons of Evolution.

First of all, Meyer is not a "scientist" (unless undergraduate degrees in physics and geology and a stint at Atlantic Richfield Company hunting for oil counts). His Ph.D. is in the philosophy and history of science. This is a mistake that appears in the popular press often enough to make you wonder if it is entirely accidental. Wells has abjured objectivity by declaring that he set out not to pursue science but "To defend and articulate Unification theology especially in relation to Darwinian evolution."

The film supposedly "explores" the "sudden appearance" in the fossil record during the Cambrian Explosion of "dozens of major complex animal types" without the "gradual transitional steps" predicted by Darwin. In other words, it will be mangling all the actual evidence that it isn't busily hiding from its target audience.

No doubt the museum is renting out its auditorium without endorsing the groups coming up with the gelt ... but surely there should be some consideration of avoiding lending an aura of legitimacy to pseudoscience.

Abbie at ERV will be watching this up close and personal. Watch that space.

Apart from the fact that neither Meyers nor Wells are scientists, the curious phrase "intelligent design scientists" has to be an oxymoron, ranking right up there with "Jumbo Shrimp".
You are correct that the Sam Noble Museum is not endorsing this film or this school of thought. As an equal opportunity institution, and part of the University of Oklahoma, the museum rents its facilities out to any organization able and willing to pay for the space.

A tour of our terrific Paleozoic exhibits will provide lots of fascinating, factual information on the current scientific understanding and interpretation of the Cambrian Explosion.
Meyer isn't an historian or philosopher either. Since obtaining his PhD, he has demonstrated zero engagement with the professional HPS community and has published nothing in the literature.

I second Linda's comment - having talked at SNOMNH in February and seen the exhibits, there is no doubt in my mind that the Museum doesn't support ID shenanigans.
While, as an attorney, I understand full well the difficulty the museum faces once it starts renting its facilities to outside groups. However, that does not mean that the museum does not also have a responsibility both to the public and to the science it represents to make sure that its reputation is not hijacked by pseudoscience. At the very least the museum should issue a statement in the strongest terms that the use by ID advocates of its facilities is not in any way an endorsement of ID or of claims that there is any scientific controversy about the general correctness of evolutionary theory or about the scientific fact of common descent.

It would be an appropriate discharge of your duty to the public to organize and present post haste some program countering the propaganda use that your facility will be put to, which should not be all that difficult as you have the resources of the university's science and philosophy departments at hand. Your exhibits are, no doubt, fine expositions of our current scientific understanding but, as is the case with all such exhibits, they will have the most impact and influence on those who already have an appreciation for science over pseudoscience. I suggest that, as an abettor, however unwillingly, of pseudoscience, it is your institution's duty to go outside the four corners of the exhibition walls and make an effort to reach out to those who may be mislead by this event.
I don't know if I can make it (Sept. 29th is a Tuesday) but if I can, maybe I can help warm a seat, bring a plate of spaghetti as an offering to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.?
SNOMNH have got this covered:

Good folks :)
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