“Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: The Full Story

We made a big mistake in our earlier post about the settlement of this case. It was titled Nightmare Settlement!

Our mistake was that we relied on an early-morning post by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Late in the evening of the same day the other side became known, and we want to retract our earlier post from this morning and admit our error — which was accepting information provided by creationists. We should have known better, and we sincerely apologize for posting incorrect information.

The other side of the story comes from the California Science Center Foundation’s Statement Regarding Resolution of Legal Dispute with AFA. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The California Science Center Foundation has settled a long-running legal dispute with the American Freedom Alliance (“AFA”). The settlement agreement explicitly states that no party admits fault or liability, and the settlement is a means to avoid the costs of further proceedings. As part of the settlement, the Foundation and AFA agreed to a joint statement that the Foundation would invite the AFA back to hold its private event, and the AFA would decline that invitation. The Foundation is satisfied with the terms of the settlement, which includes a cost of defense payment from the Foundation’s insurer, to avoid the expense of further litigation.

You will recall from our post this morning that the Discoveroids claimed a great First Amendment victory against what they call “viewpoint discrimination,” which we call VD. They were ecstatic that the Science Center had agreed to exhibit the creationist film. Now it appears that the “invitation” was part of a carefully choreographed script. The “invitation” was a sham, because it was agreed in advance that the creationists wouldn’t exhibit their film at the Science Center. Let’s read on:

[A]lthough the AFA asserted that the offending press releases were issued by an entirely independent third party (the Discovery Institute), it was uncovered that the AFA and the Discovery Institute actually had been secretly coordinating the publicity efforts and were intentionally trying to make the publicity that led to the cancellation as provocative and controversial as possible. One email among Discovery Institute individuals talked about “letting the jinnie out of the bottle” when “all hell will break lose.” The Foundation was certainly entitled to cancel the AFA’s private event.

That’s what we had thought, until we saw the Discoveroids’ version of the settlement. We continue:

Unfortunately, it appears that neither the AFA nor the Discovery Institute have learned from their mistakes and false and misleading press releases continue to be issued. For instance, although the Discovery Institute’s August 29, 2011 press release states that the “state-run Science Center” paid a settlement amount, the reality is that the Science Center did not pay a dime. Likewise, although the Discovery Institute contends that it was “dragged into the case,” the fact of the matter is that the Discovery Institute knowingly and inappropriately issued offending and false press releases leading to the lawsuit. The court in Seattle agreed with the Foundation’s discovery position, and forced the Discovery Institute to turn over its embarrassing emails. And although the Discovery Institute touts the fact that the joint statement includes the Foundation’s inviting AFA back to hold its event, they ignore the fact that AFA declined such invitation.

Our embarrassment is profound. Our earlier post should never have relied upon the Discoveroids’ version of the settlement. Here’s the end of the Science Center’s statement:

The cancellation was never about the content of the program, as indicated by the fact that the Foundation was willing to have the event in the first place. It was about the false and misleading press releases that the Discovery Institute and AFA issued. Unfortunately, it appears that neither the Discovery Institute nor AFA have learned their lesson.

So there you are, dear reader. The creationists collected some money from the Science Center’s insurance carrier and dropped the silly case. There was no court decision, no First Amendment victory for creationism, no legal precedent, and the Science Center won’t be exhibiting the creationist film.

We’ll repeat something we said in a comment to our earlier post. ABC News, in CA Science Center Pays $110,000 Over Canceled Film says:

Under terms of the settlement, reached last month, neither side admitted wrongdoing and the alliance agreed to decline the center’s invitation to screen the film.

“Even though the AFA has no interest in returning to the IMAX theater, they at least feel by being invited back they have been vindicated. The invitation represents a form of apology,” said attorney William J. Becker Jr., who represented the alliance.

So even the creationist side of the settlement agrees that the sham “invitation” to exhibit the film was a substitute for an apology, which the Science Center apparently wouldn’t make.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to ““Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: The Full Story

  1. we want to retract our earlier post from this morning and admit our error

    Post? What post? To what are you referring? (Yes, I’m kidding, but if this is the worst thing that happened to you today, you had a good day.)

    Unfortunately, it appears that neither the AFA nor the Discovery Institute have learned from their mistakes and false and misleading press releases continue to be issued.

    I’m shocked… SHOCKED, I tell you!

    The creationists collected some money

    Don’t you mean “The creationists’ lawyers collected some money”?

  2. I wonder if the AFA is in violation of the terms of the settlement by issuing false or misleading information regarding it? A legal settlement that includes a symbolic face-saving measure on both sides (such as extending an invitation-that-wasn’t), is concerned with appearances and avoiding negative publicity. Although there’s apparently no “gag order,” it at least indicates the two sides are honor-bound to be truthful. The less than honest crowing of the AFA/DI doesn’t seem to be in the same spirit as the decision.

  3. Mike Elzinga

    I wonder if we are beginning to see the emergence of an overall strategy on the part of the ID/creationists here.

    Granville Sewell schlepped a bogus thermodynamics paper past a naive reviewer at Elsevier, got caught, acceptance of his paper was rescinded, Sewell sued, and his lawyer got $10,000, with Elsevier not having to publish the paper. A nuisance settlement, apparently.

    We also see the crackpots at the Westboro Baptist “Church” taunting people and cities in order to be able to sue them.

    It appears that these “Christians” are adopting the tactic of precipitating an “accident” in order to fake “injuries” and collect huge damages.

  4. Our mistake was that we relied on an early-morning post by the neo-theocrats …

    I think everyone understood that any discussion was dependent on the DI’s statement at least resembling reality … something DI statements rarely do.

    I still have some questions about the settlement … the amount paid (by the insuance company with “a small payment by the Foundation”) still seems high if the facts were as clear cut as the CSC says and how do they parse the statements that the Foundation made a payment but “the Science Center did not pay a dime”?

    Still, it’s good to see the good guys come out swinging so the DI’s version is not the only one out there.

  5. John Pieret asks:

    and how do they parse the statements that the Foundation made a payment but “the Science Center did not pay a dime”?

    They’re two separate entities. The Science Center Foundation operates the theater and they’re the party that had the contract for the film exhibit.

  6. I think we all speculated that this was a payment to avoid cost of further litigation. Actually, the way it played out is better than expected – it provided an opportunity for the CSC to both restate it’s position and specifically illustrate the dishonesty of the DI, the AFA, and their attorneys. If the DI had kept quiet, the CSC would most likely have issued a simple statement to the effect that the matter was closed, if they issued a statement at all.

    Did the DI actually believe that the CSC would remain silent? And…how will they respond now that their duplicity is exposed? I anticipate amusing blog posts in the near future.

  7. Mike Elzinga says:

    I wonder if we are beginning to see the emergence of an overall strategy on the part of the ID/creationists here.

    I don’t see anything, but I think I can smell an incipient First Amendment scam. About a dozen years back there used to be a racket involving a few lawyers and their clients in wheelchairs. They’d go around and sue various hotels, restaurants, etc., for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act {“ADA”). Maybe the place didn’t have a ramp, or the right kind of bathroom, etc. No warning, just Blammo! — a lawsuit for big bucks, and a statutory award of legal fees. For a time the lawyers were collecting big settlements. Here’s an article involving one such case against Clint Eastwood’s resort, which he had the stones to take to trial: Clint Eastwood Verdict Makes My Day

    If you substitute creationists for disabled persons, and the First Amendment for the ADA, you can imagine a similar scenario. At least I can.

  8. They’re two separate entities.

    I figured that … but it seems rather technical hair-splitting when they’re basically saying that the DI violated the AFA’s contract. It’s hard to believe that the Foundation doesn’t coordinate with the Center.

  9. The DI didn’t violate AFA’s contract, AFA violated the contract by instructing the DI to issue press releases without first having them cleared by the CSC Foundation. The AFA was using the DI to create promotional material.

    The smoking gun email was specific: “We’ve got the contract signed! Unleash the attack gerbil !”

    What really annoys me, however, is that I was taken in by the DI press release, too. It was a self-fulfilled expectation that the DI would crow loudly if things went their way and so they did. Alas, I ignored my own maxim that creationists are only capable of lying.

    The next shoe to drop will be Becker’s remaining creationist client, poor old Coppedge. I’ll be ready for the spin when it comes and come it will.

  10. John Pieret says: “but it seems rather technical hair-splitting”

    There’s a lot of that going around. It’s true that the Discoveroids are separate from the AFA, but the email evidence showed that they were used as the AFA’s agents in issuing the unauthorized press release. The master is liable for the acts of his servant. it’s also true that the Science Center Foundation is separate from the CSC; and it was the Foundation — not the CSC — that paid some money to the creationists. Yeah, that’s hair-splitting when the CSC says that “they” didn’t pay. Okay, but I see these two situations as apples and oranges.

  11. It’s true that the Discoveroids are separate from the AFA, but the email evidence showed that they were used as the AFA’s agents in issuing the unauthorized press release.

    I can’t give you a course in “agency” in the comments but I don’t think the word means what you think it does. Anyway you slice it, this is going to be a PR coup for the DI, which they are already exploiting:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/08/settlement_of_intelligent_desi050161.html

    If people don’t want to hear why it turned out this way and learn from it, I can’t make them.

  12. “… this is going to be a PR coup for the DI, which they are already exploiting …”

    And in the end, science and science education cares not a whit about such misleading exploitation. The DI’s goals aren’t coming to fruition. Rather, the DI is beginning to resemble those departing leaders in certain Middle Eastern countries.