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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

UPDATED News alert! Smithsonian Museum warming to intelligent design theory


(See below this original post for updates regarding the Smithsonian.)

In the middle of the burgeoning controversy over whether the universe and life forms show detectible evidence of intelligent design, the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is co-hosting — with the Discovery Institute — the “national premiere and evening reception” for The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe

The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe is a documentary by Illustra Media featuring philosopher Jay Richards and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, arguing for the intelligent design of the universe. Both Richards and Gonzalez are associated with the intelligent design community, and have coauthored a book, also called The Privileged Planet.

I have just received an invitation to attend this event, which will be held on Thursday, June 23, 2005 at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithsonian, at Constitution and Tenth Avenues in Washington, D.C.

The documentary will be shown at 6:00 p.m. in the Baird Auditorium, with a reception to follow in the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.

Key question: Will Richard Sternberg, the Smithsonian scientist who was practically driven from his post because he permitted an ID-friendly paper to be published be invited? I hope so, and if he isn’t, I’ll give him my ticket and cover the event from the ceiling fan.

What is the Smithsonian Institution?:

James Smithson, a British scientist who died in 1826, left over $500,000 to go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution , an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Founded by an Act of Congress in 1846, the Institution was set up as a trust to be administered by a board of regents and a secretary, who serves as the chief executive officer.

What is the relationship between the Smithsonian and the United States’ government?

According to the Web site, the Smithsonian depends for over 80 percent of its funding on the federal government (approximately 67 percent from direct appropriations and over 13 percent from grants from federal agencies). New projects require the approval of Congress.

Who oversees the Smithsonian?

It is under the congressional committee on Appropriations, led by C.W.Bill Young.

The Inspector General of the Smithsonian, an office created to improve management and efficiency and cut back on fraud, submits semiannual reports to Congress that are separate from the normal budget requests, and focus more on ways to improve the overall structures of the institution, like physical infrastructure, financial performance, strategic management and human capital.

Who runs the Smithsonian?

Congress has given the responsibility of administration of the institution to the board of regents, made up of various lawmakers, scientists and corporation leaders.

Board of Regents must always include 17 members, meets 4 times a year, and includes

- the Chief Justice of the United States
- the Vice President of the United States
The President pro tempore chooses 3 members of the senate (board members for the length of elected term)
The Speaker of the House chooses 3 members of congress (the length of their elected term)
Nine citizen members nominated by the board and approved by congress. (6 year terms)

Congress vests responsibility for administering the Institution in the Board of Regents.

Current office holders are:

William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, ex officio, Chancellor
Richard B. Cheney, Vice-President of the United States, ex officio
Thad Cochran, Senator from Mississippi
Bill Frist, Senator from Tennessee
Patrick J. Leahy, Senator from Vermont
Sam Johnson, Representative from Texas
Xavier Becerra, Representative from California
Ralph Regula, Representative from Ohio
Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Anne d'Harnoncourt, the George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a resident of Pennsylvania
Manuel L. Ibáñez, President Emeritus and Professor Emeritus (Biochemistry), Texas A&M University in Kingsville; a resident of Texas
Walter E. Massey, Physicist and President of Morehouse College in Atlanta
Roger W. Sant, chairman emeritus and cofounder of the AES Corporation and chairman of the board of The Summit Foundation in Washington D.C.
Alan G. Spoon, managing general partner in Polaris Venture Partners, former President of The Washington Post Company; a resident of Massachusetts
Patricia Q. Stonesifer, co-chair and president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; resident of Washington State
Robert P. Kogod, Washington philanthropist
Eli Broad, chairman of AIG SunAmerica, Inc., founder-chairman of KB Home (formerly Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation)

Who are the staff?

The current Secretary is Lawrence M. Small, elected in 2000. The secretary is not a voting member of the board of regents There are 13 Museum directors that are in charge of the different venues and specific works of the Smithsonian institute.
There are also 10 Research center directors that have focuses in areas such as Environmental Research, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Asian Pacific American Program.

(Note to those who believe that science cannot consider the possibility that the universe shows evidence of intelligent design or that Earth is a unique planet: You can get hold of these people’s e-mail addresses and pelt them with abuse, but bear in mind that they probably have staff who read the mail, so it is not the same thing as hounding an individual scientist alone in his lab. And for your own sake, don’t make threats. - Cheers, Denyse)

To find out more about my book on the intelligent design controversy, go to By Design or by Chance?


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