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Actions Speak Louder: Exposing Kirk Fitzhugh’s Denial of Suppressing Freedom of Thought on Intelligent Design

Casey Luskin

In the previous post in this series, we saw that Natural History Museum of LA County (NHMLAC) scientist Kirk Fitzhugh denied that academic freedom for intelligent design (ID) is “being suppressed.” After reviewing the severe misconceptions that Dr. Fitzhugh has about ID, we come to the California Science Center and its decision to cancel the screening of Darwin’s Dilemma last year. In that decision, Kirk Fitzhugh played no direct role but he did participate in the correspondence surrounding it. On October 15, under the subject heading “DI spin,” NHMLAC scientist John Long e-mailed Fitzhugh about attending the rescheduled American Freedom Alliance (AFA) event on October 25. He wrote: “I enjoy reading your commentary on the ID issues. Will catch you feeding the leeches on Sat night.” Kirk Fitzhugh replied — without protesting John Long’s description of ID proponents as “leeches” — but merely pointing out that AFA’s event is on Sunday night, not Saturday.

Fitzhugh further elaborated his views on ID in a November 24, 2009, e-mail to colleagues. Reporting on the November, 2009 Meyer-Sternberg/Shermer-Prothero debate in Los Angeles, he claims that Meyer and Sternberg misrepresented science with “shenanigans.” Fitzhugh calls Meyer’s Signature in the Cell “An amusing diatribe replete with some of the most astounding, and comical misapplications of philosophy of science one can imagine.” Yet Fitzhugh fails to give a single example of what Stephen Meyer — who holds a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Cambridge — got wrong in the book. Fitzhugh closes by referring to Richard Sternberg as the “lowest of lows” in the scientific community.

Fitzhugh has come a long way since his graduate student days. “Leeches,” “shenanigans,” “comical misapplications,” “lowest of lows”–those are just some of the labels Fitzhugh and his colleagues at NHMLAC use to describe ID proponents and their arguments. Unfortunately, such attitudes are not uncommon in the scientific community. This probably reflects the mindset not just at the NHMLAC but also at the California Science Center.

With that in mind, consider this: We saw in a recent post that Fitzhugh’s colleagues at NHMLAC drafted a letter advising the CSC to cancel AFA’s pro-ID event, as follows:

Both the University of Southern California and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County feel strongly that the implied endorsement of this film by the CSC will seriously undermine the credibility and reputation of CSC as a leader in science education in the Los Angeles Basin. Media attention to this event could prove devastating in terms of CSC’s reputation as a science education institution.

We also question whether many of your current supporters and donors, including the State of California, would continue to support CSC if it became known that you had, knowingly or otherwise, eschewed the presentation of solid science and instead offered a venue for spreading religious propaganda that masquerades under the name intelligent design.

We urge you to cancel the event. (emphasis added)

While Fitzhugh himself did not draft this letter, he said regarding it, “Kudos to all who crafted the letter. It’s very good.”

Dr. Fitzhugh may claim that “In the context of ID, such a claim of overt suppression is inaccurate,” but actions speak louder than words. He in fact supported censorship of pro-ID speech by the government-operated forum at the California Science Center by urging them to cancel a pro-ID event. This confirms what I wrote previously: “Intolerant people are usually blind to their own intolerance, and smart intolerant people are often quite adept at rationalizing intolerance. Kirk Fitzhugh is no exception to these rules.”


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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