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Documents Reveal Intolerance Towards Intelligent Design at the California Science Center

Casey Luskin

This past June, Discovery Institute announced it was settling its public documents lawsuit against the California Science Center (CSC). The lawsuit had been filed last December after CSC refused to disclose public documents pertaining to its cancellation of a rental contract with American Freedom Alliance (AFA) to allow AFA to show a pro-intelligent design video at CSC’s facilities. Per the terms of the settlement, CSC was to deliver to Discovery Institute many of the documents which we originally requested. Those documents have now been delivered, and combined with other previously known documents, they reveal striking evidence of CSC’s viewpoint discrimination against intelligent design (ID) in AFA’s case.

For starters, multiple individuals within CSC expressed animus towards ID:

I personally have a real problem with anything that elevates the concept of intelligent design to a level that makes it appear as though it should be considered equally alongside Darwinian theory as a possible alternative to natural selection. In other words, I see us getting royally played by the Center for Science and Culture resulting in long term damage to our credibility and judgment for a very long time.

That’s Ken Phillips, a curator at the California Science Center, claiming that allowing a showing of Darwin’s Dilemma is somehow getting “royally played,” because ID (for one evening at the CSC IMAX) could then be considered as a possible alternative to Darwinism. Phillips’ words are significant: He has a problem with “anything” that makes ID appear to be considered equal with Darwinism. Of course he has the right to disagree with ID, but he doesn’t even want anyone or “anything” to have the opportunity to hold or express a different view.

While it’s perfectly fine for CSC administrators to hold and express views that oppose ID, their animus extended further in that they wished to limit freedom of speech and equal access to government facilities for those who support ID. Thus, another high level CSC staff member made the following statements:

“A science center should not even be asked to partner w/ any group associated w/ debating Darwinism – it’s not our place”

“their topic of Darwinism and the nature of their controversial approach is likely not a good fit to partner w/ a Science Center.”

Another CSC staff member asked, “Why on earth were we going to show this film in the first place?!”

Phillips wasn’t the only intolerant member of the LA science elite, nor was CSC the only intolerant institution. At other institutions, such as the University of Southern California and the LA Museum of Natural History, academics reacted with horror at the ghastly prospect of an hour long movie on intelligent design being screened at CSC’s public theatre. John Long, a vice-president at the LA Museum of Natural History, had this to say:

I took this issue to Dr Jane Pisano (President and CEO of LACMNH) this afternoon and she was horrified that CSC are allowing this to happen. Her immediate reaction was to ring up the CEO there, Jeff Rudolph, and find out why they are doing this. (emphasis added)

So Pisano is “horrified” that CSC might be allowing free speech. Without thinking twice, she immediately transitions to stage two: arm-twisting. After all, if CSC is going to allow such horrifying activities to occur, it won’t be without significant pressure from neighbor institutions, aimed at silencing the unacceptable film.

In another particularly egregious example of academic intolerance, Hilary Schor, a USC professor wrote,

I have to say, I’m less troubled by the freedom of speech issues than why my tax dollars which support the California “Science” Center are being spent on hosting religious propaganda?

This is a concise, uncommonly honest, and elegant statement of the intolerance seething inside of many ID-critics. It represents the exact kind of mindset inspiring pressure upon the CSC to cancel AFA’s event.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Are Darwin’s defenders so paranoid that they are afraid of a single night’s movie showing? The evidence would indicate that the answer is “yes.” The evidence also shows that the showing was cancelled precisely because of that paranoia. This presents troubling implications for CSC because such viewpoint discrimination has repeatedly been held illegal and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, for academics like Schor, such concerns are less important than suppression of the ID dissenters.

And that’s just the point. Members of the Darwinian intelligentsia aren’t troubled by “freedom of speech issues,” as long as it’s their opponents who are being repressed.

Subsequent posts will reveal more evidence of exactly why CSC cancelled AFA’s contract to show the pro-ID documentary Darwin’s Dilemma.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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