sigh. This is going to be one of those posts in which I have to take a position contrary to my own personal beliefs, but this has got to be said.
The only thing I know of this whole situation is the OP and this NY Times article (reg req). The Times article reads, in part, “The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, “intelligent design,” is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum “are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception” on June 23 for the movie, “The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe.” [snip] But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. “It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video,” he said. The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.”
Now, it appears to me that the Smithsonian is simply renting out theater/reception space to some organization that wants to show their supporters some silly movie. If the Smithsonian does, indeed, sometimes serve as little more than convention space, I would have a very serious problem with them turning down an event solely because it was based upon what is fundamentally a religous belief, rather than hard science. So long as the material being presented in any of these events is not blatantly offensive, purely political, or an outright celebration of a particular religion, then I don’t see how the Smithsonian is justified in turning down whatever organization for meeting space.
If this film were to be shown as part of an exhibit on natural history, so that the public would go from a diorama on geology to a exhibit on Neanderthal sociology to a film on intelligent design, I’d object in that the film cannot possibly pass scientific muster, and therefore should not be shown in a manner that would imply scientific credibility.
But to the best of my understanding, again, the Smithsonian is simply renting out a room for an invitation-only screening of a film and a reception to follow. I would find it very objectionable if Randi (I’m a huge fan of his, BTW) could buy off the Smithsonian in order to prevent a peaceful assembly in our Nation’s Capital.
Of course, I’m opposed to the Smithsonian selling out to all these corporations, from this Discovery Institute to Calvin Klein and Microsoft. But as long as they’re doing it, they ought to be fair about it and not discriminate against organizations simply because they’re a bit barmy.