Intelligent Decision on 'The Privileged Planet'?

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The June 3 editorial "Dissing Darwin" defended the Smithsonian's decision to drop its co-sponsorship of "The Privileged Planet," a film exploring the ways Earth and the cosmos are fine-tuned for life and scientific discovery. The Smithsonian will still allow the film to be shown on June 23 but said in a statement that the film's content is not consistent with its scientific mission [Style, June 2].

The editorial said, "While 'The Privileged Planet' is an extremely sophisticated religious film, it is a religious film nevertheless. It uses scientific information . . . to answer, affirmatively, the philosophical question of whether life on Earth was part of a grand design."

Notice that The Post granted that the film explored scientific information. It is the film's conclusion that The Post and the Smithsonian find inappropriate. Curiously, the museum has no problem sponsoring events that advance the opposite conclusion. "The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be," Carl Sagan regularly intoned in his PBS series "Cosmos." Yet the Smithsonian sponsored "Cosmos Revisited: A Series Presented in the Memory of Carl Sagan" in 1997.


Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

Port Orchard, Wash.

The writer co-authored the screenplay of "The Privileged Planet."

The Smithsonian Institution is to be commended for distancing itself from the showing of "The Privileged Planet." Co-sponsorship of the creationist film would tarnish the Smithsonian's reputation in the scientific community.

The Smithsonian should consider sponsoring a program on cosmology and evolution featuring reputable, mainstream scientists.


President, Americans for Religious Liberty

Silver Spring


As a onetime employee of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, I was puzzled that one of the world's premier museums engaged in research on evolution was co-sponsoring a screening of a patently religious and nonscientific interpretation of the origin and diversity of life. Museum policy bars events of a religious or partisan political nature. Despite what its apologists claim, the Discovery Institute is a de facto Christian organization.

The logical pursuit of scientific facts has been plagued by religious dogma for centuries. In the case of evolution, the plague began after publication of "The Origin of Species" in 1859. As Benjamin Dann Walsh, a correspondent of Charles Darwin's and a Smithsonian associate, wrote in The Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Philadelphia in 1866, "Surely, therefore, upon general principles, a hypothesis, which accounts clearly and satisfactorily for a great mass of phenomena, is more likely to be a correct one, than a hypothesis which accounts for nothing, and, while it mercifully spares our Reasoning powers, draws most largely and exorbitantly upon our Faith."

Evolution is a fact. Natural selection is a theory that explains how evolution takes place. Intelligent design is a hypothesis based on faith, not science.



Darwin Correspondence Project

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University



Why must the Smithsonian reverse itself on "The Privileged Planet"?

Intelligent design offers a meaning beyond matter and ourselves. We want to know if God and science can coexist without destroying one another.

I accept that because the Smithsonian depends on federal funds, it should not promote religion. But should it discriminate against an idea?

Intelligent design is an intellectual starting point. People should decide for themselves if the intelligence needs a capital "I."


New York

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