A documentary based on an ISU professor’s book in support of Intelligent Design theory is planned to be shown at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. later this month.
Assistant astronomy and physics professor Guillermo Gonzalez co-authored “The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery” in 2004 with Jay Richards, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. The book and the documentary examine and express support for the controversial theory of Intelligent Design.
Intelligent Design is “a theory that nature and complex biological structures were designed by intelligent beings and were not created by chance,” according to Dictionary.com.
Gonzalez said the basic thesis of “Privileged Planet” is that the rare conditions which make Earth habitable show it was designed for humans. He said the book also goes a step further by arguing the universe was meant for discovery and that Earth’s rare conditions make it the optimal place from which to study the universe.
Gonzalez said he became a proponent of Intelligent Design in 1995 after viewing a total eclipse in India and believing it was not a coincidence that he could see it from Earth as a result of the Earth’s conditions.
The 60-minute documentary is scheduled to be shown June 23 to a private audience at the Smithsonian. It is also slated to run on some Public Broadcasting Service channels in June and July.
“It brings Intelligent Design public awareness. Anytime publicly more people hear about issues somebody can be convinced. People should take time and see what all hoopla is about,” he said.
The showing of the documentary was originally co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History and the Discovery Institute. The Smithsonian has since withdrawn its sponsorship of the movie and returned $16,000 to the Discovery Institute, but has not canceled the screening.
According to a Smithsonian press release, “Upon further review, we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research.”
The Discovery Institute is a non-profit Seattle-based public policy think tank.
The institute promotes a point of view that brings to its work a belief in “God-given reason and the permanency of human nature,” according to its Web site.
Critics of the controversial Intelligent Design theory, such as Hector Avalos, associate professor of religious studies, call the theory another attempt at creationism and view it as more theology then actual science.
Intelligent Design is a religious concept cloaked in the language of science, Avalos said.
Retired professor John Patterson called Intelligent Design “scientifically bankrupt.”
He described his thoughts in a book review, “And should bewildering mysteries remain, it is always better to address them with the time-honored methods of modern science, than to posit things like Intelligent Designers, Supernatural Creators and such, that serve only to increase the levels of confusion and mystery around us, rather than clear it away.”
Avalos stated that the screening of the film at the Smithsonian is similar to a group renting a room at the Memorial Union at Iowa State.
“However, I fear that ID people will try to represent such a screening as legitimizing their pseudo-science,” he said.