The California Science Center, The Intelligent Design Movement, And Me

I have often half-joked that I have a gift for being at the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to making my life easy and comfortable. I was seemingly born for odd “coincidences” where I happen to be in places at dramatic times, which has made for an exciting life full off odd stories but more than than usual amount of stress and anxiety (for I am a far more anxious and sensitive person than most people I meet). One such bizarre “coincidence” has come to a head over recent months in a scientific dispute between the Discovery Institute, a think tank for the Intelligent Design movement (a movement I deeply support, and am an extremely minor participant in) and the California Science Center, where I worked for three years as a work study student in the Accounting and Education departments between 2000 and 2003 as a student at the University of Southern California.

It is perhaps easiest to start from the present and work our way backwards. Today I received an e-mail from the Discovery Institute. (I am on their regular e-mail list, and though being in Thailand has made it impossible for me to attend any of their events—as they do not have any in Chiang Mai—I did attend their events in the Tampa Bay area on a regular basis, including buying books, chatting with presenters after meetings, and acting questions publicly in Question & Answer sessions.) This e-mail stated that my former employers, the California Science Center, had to pay $110,000 to the Discovery Institute as part of a settlement of a First Amendment censoring case [1] after e-mails had shown a deliberate attempt on a part of the California Science Center to suppress Intelligent Design [2], partly on pressure from the Smithsonian Institute as well as my alma mater, the University of Southern California, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (which is also next door to the University of Southern California) [3] [4], after having breached a contract to host an event sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance. As part of the settlement the California Science Center has agreed to host the event originally canceled. To bad I can’t go—that would be well worth the experience.

Now, all of this occurred after my time at the University of Southern California and the California Science Center, but still, this is the sort of official climate in the area where I spent four and a half of the happiest years of my life. They would have been far less enjoyable, I suppose, had my open and public support of the ID movement, expressed not only in my purchasing and positive reviews of ID books on amazon.com, but my attendence of seminars in the Los Angeles area where research by such ID luminaries as Michael Denton, Michael Behe, and Philip Johnson was discussed, but also in my authorship as an undergraduate history student of my own philosophical criticism of the attempts of evolution scientists to define the shaky Theory of Evolution as a core aspect of the definition of science [5], which I submitted as part of my coursework in a historiography course while I was student at USC [For the record, I got a B+ in the class—not too shabby for what I knew was very controversial research].

Even as an undergraduate student (and this is certainly no less true now), I have long been interested in the history and philosophy of science. As a philosopher my main interests are in epistomology, the theory of knowledge (a subject in which I became passionately interested as a teenager, at the latest, thanks to some early studies in philosophy as an International Bacchalaureate student in high school), and as a historian one of my many areas of research interest is the history of science. In particular, I have a strong interest in the implications of scientific worldview on freedom and political ideology. My own Sabbitarian biblical beliefs, my commitment to freedom, and my hostility to slander, libel, and dishonest intellectual practice are all deeply related. As a deep-thinking (and deep-feeling) person I take personal offense at those who promote bogus worldviews by seeking to control institutions of research and instruction, as it shows a lack of faith in the intellectual honesty and prowess of one’s students.

As for my thoughts on the scientific merit of the question, my belief in any aspect of science is that the evidence should decide. Neither Intelligent Design, nor Youth-Earth Creationism, nor Evolution needs (or deserves) to be shielded from the harsh light of empirical day by friendly courts or governments. Scientific theories and projects ought to stand or fall on the merits of the case. Furthermore, in a popular government such as the United States, those scientific projects that receive funding from taxpayers need to reflect the beliefs of the people who are paying the bills (namely ordinary citizens). The fact that only 10-15% of Americans are believers in Darwinian (or Neo-Darwinian) evolution, and over 40% are believers in Creationism, and another 40 or so in theistic evolution, suggests that Darwinian tactics such as those of the California Science Center are based on a lethal combination of intellectual arrogance, scientific ignorance, and recognition of a lack of broad-based popular support. In stark contrast, the Intelligent Design movement has a significant amount of popular support, and it is already making some excellent and testable theories with regards to the area of constrained optimization (an area of science where I have particularly strong personal interests as an engineer).

In short, the California Science Center caved to pressure from insecure bullies, in a part of the world where I spent a significant (and especially intellectually fruitful) part of my life, in a subject where I am passionately interested. It is sad for me to see the University of Southern California and the California Science Center, two institutions where I spent a great deal of time, embarrass themselves in such a humiliating and unethical manner It is my hope that they repent of their errors and seek in the future to support their belief systems in a more public and upstanding manner. Such intellectual dishonesty is unworthy of the proud intellectual bastions they present themselves to be. For I too once walked their halls and openly believed and researched Intelligent Design while there. Would they be ashamed of that? I for one am ashamed of them, to be connected to such institutions who engage in such immoral and illegal behavior.

[1] http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/08/california_science_center_pays050081.html

[2] http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/08/evidence_revealed_in_californi050191.html

[3] http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/10/how_smithsonian_institution_pr039131.html

[4] http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/10/an_enclave_of_intolerance_anti039141.html

[5] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-pseudoscience-of-naturalism-a-popperean-analysis-of-biologys-most-dangerous-assumption/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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