“Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Who Really Won?

By now you may have read enough about the settlement of what we’ve been calling the Darwin’s Dilemma Exhibition Case, but we ask you to bear with us this one more time. As you know, the actual case name is American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center, California Science Center Foundation, Jeffrey Rudolph, et al. It’s sometimes abbreviated AFA v. CSC.

At first we wrote a misleading post based on creationists’ claims and press releases that the settlement was a great victory for them. See: Nightmare Settlement! Then we found more accurate news and we posted The Full Story.

After that, when the creationists launched an all-out blogging and press-release campaign to promote their claim that it was they who had won, we posted The Empire Strikes Back. The whole thing is getting silly, but at this point there may be some lingering confusion. So where are we?

These are the facts: The case was settled before the trial. There was no judicial decision, which means that there’s no possibility of any appellate decisions — thus there is no legal precedent whatsoever as a result of this case. The CSC’s press release makes it clear that the settlement agreement explicitly states that no party admits fault or liability, and they say the settlement is a means to avoid the costs of further proceedings. As an additional part of the agreement, the Science Center Foundation and AFA (the creationist plaintiff) 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.

In other words, the “invitation” was a sham — well, a legal fiction — presumably a face-saving gesture in lieu of an apology which the Science Center wouldn’t make. Instead of an apology, the parties agreed to a carefully choreographed script. It wasn’t really an invitation because it wouldn’t have been issued unless it was agreed in advance that the creationists would decline it and their film wouldn’t be exhibited at the Science Center.

The California Science Center paid nothing, although their insurance company paid $100K, and the Science Center Foundation (the operator of the theater) paid an additional $10K. So money changed hands, and it wasn’t peanuts — the creationists got $110K. Fine, but does that payment mean the creationists won?

Yes, it does, according to 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).

In this post at the Discoveroids’ blog, California Science Center Issues a Press Release Full of Misleading Claims: A Point-by-Point Response, Casey Luskin says, with bold font added by us:

[I]t is noteworthy that CSC’s statement makes no mention whatsoever of the $110,000 price tag they were willing to pay to settle the case and avoid trial. It seems that major detail is too embarrassing to them to be disclosed, because it implies some kind of culpability on their part.

How does it imply culpability, when it was specifically agreed that neither party admits fault or liability? Casey’s implication is flatly contradicted by the clear wording of the settlement agreement, but he attempts to deal with that. He says:

While this claim [that neither party admits fault or liability] is technically correct, its importance is difficult to take seriously. Not only is this boilerplate language, common in settlement agreements and thus virtually meaningless, it ignores an important fact: What matters here is which party is paying to settle the lawsuit. In this case, $110,000 is changing hands — paid by the California Science Center to the American Freedom Alliance. While there is of course no official admission of guilt by either party in the settlement (again, this is common), it’s clear that the CSC is willing to pay a lot of money to avoid having to face trial.

Yes, the creationists collected $110K. No doubt about it. It was mostly insurance money, but that doesn’t matter to the party receiving it — and although we’re repeating ourselves, it’s vital to note that the case was resolved without creating any precedent favorable to the creationists.

Although there was no trial decision, the creationists have been endlessly trumpeting the settlement as a great First Amendment victory against the “Darwinist bullies” which supports their legally-untested concept of “viewpoint discrimination” against creationism, and which somehow heralds a new era of “academic freedom.”

Despite the substantial payment of funds, we must raise a few questions. If the creationists were so certain of their inevitable victory (which is how they explain the payment of $110K) then why would they settle on the eve of trial — which was set for 12 September? Winners don’t quit just before they reach the finish line. Well, a contestant might quit if he’s paid to do so, but then he can’t also claim to be the winner — especially if he’s agreed in writing that he’s not the winner. Regarding this problem, Casey says:

So why did CSC settle so late when the marginal cost of going to trial was comparatively small? Probably because they had just seen William Becker’s legal briefs filed on behalf of AFA in opposition to CSC’s motion for summary judgment. These briefs showed AFA had a very strong case, and CSC knew that if the case went to trial, an even more expensive and embarrassing loss could likely occur.

If that were true, and the CSC caved at the mere sight of Becker’s legal papers, then why did the creationists agree to a settlement stating that there was no admission of fault or liability by the CSC? Wouldn’t a courtroom victory have been far better? Why would they compromise such a key point? If, as Casey says, the creationists were assured of victory, why would they agree to a settlement that plainly took their victory away just weeks before the start of the trial?

We suggest that the settlement — with no admission of liability and no exhibition of the creationist film — was for exactly the opposite reasons than those given by Casey. We think it was the creationists who were facing certain defeat at trial, and they knew it. The CSC sensed the creationists’ weakness, and probably their panic, and offered pay them off. But why pay them anything?

We think the payment was made to put an end to the mess, and — more importantly — to avoid the years-long drama of appeals (and creationist press releases) which would surely have followed a creationist courtroom defeat. So the CSC dangled some insurance money in front of the creationists — $100K, probably the policy limits — in exchange for a no-liability settlement agreement. It was almost enough. The lawyers were probably happy with it, but their creationist client wanted an apology. That wasn’t going to happen, so for another $10K they all agreed to the silly kabuki dance about the fictitious “invitation” to exhibit the film. That clinched the deal.

In spite of the creationists’ blog articles and press releases declaring “They paid us, so we won!” our interpretation is that the creationists were paid off and they lost. Wait — we see a hand in the back. Okay, what’s your question? But if the creationists were paid, then what did they lose?

Are you kidding? What were they trying to achieve? They lost their hope of bogus legitimacy for their film by having it exhibited at the Science Museum. They lost their chance to win a victory for “viewpoint discrimination” and all their other slogans. They lost literally everything they were fighting for. But their lawyers did okay, so all’s well that ends well.

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

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6 responses to ““Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Who Really Won?

  1. With loser pays would the creationist have even filed the claim?

  2. I’m still confused about the outcome. Was it “heads,” in which the scam artists won, or was it “tails,” in which case the “Darwinists” lost? 😉

  3. Frank, I would say “Edge of the coin”, the lawyers won.

  4. Apparently one of the overall patterns that hold up with the ID/If they have a paper turned down or rescinded as a result of peer review, creationist’s socio/political meddling is to foist the costs of their meddling onto their victims.

    sue. If they don’t get the job they want, sue. If they want ID/creationism in the public schools, elect ID/creationists to the schools boards, ram it through and make the people sue and the school district pay if it looses.

    Ok, that’s the way they operate; but scientists and the scientific community don’t operate that way. ID/creationists are simply reaffirming that what they are peddling is not science, and is not put forward the way science is in the scientific community.

    So secular society effectively pays to expose these IDiots, but who says the world is fair? It’s the price society has to pay to protect itself from the inevitable existence of charlatans who will always be there to game the system.

    The Hoosier State also managed to convince the federal government that it is the state that is most susceptible to terrorist threats; hence making it eligible for lots of federal money for “enhanced security.”

    There are plenty of scams out there; and yup, the lawyers won.

  5. Looks like one of the sentences in my post above got dragged out of position in the process of my attempting to edit some punctuation. Sorry.

  6. Don’t worry, Mike. According to the “theory” of ID, spending a lot of time at the Panda’s thumb makes one editorially challenged. The Curmudgeon will attest to that, given how many times he has had to correct my typos.

    BTW, to me the ID scammers are lawyers, if not by official job title, in at least the same sense that ID “is” creationism.