A good but depressing Boston Globe editorials examines why the Smithsonian would allow intelligent design to taint its scientific work.
Intelligent design got another museum boost Thursday night when the Discovery Institute hosted an invitation-only showing of ''The Privileged Planet" at the museum. This film contends that the life-sustaining position of Earth in its galaxy suggests the hand of an intelligent designer. The museum was supposed to be a cosponsor of the event in exchange for a payment of $16,000, but it refunded the money and took its name off the program when a furor erupted among scientists.
The push to make intelligent design respectable is part of a campaign to have it taught in public schools alongside evolution. The Discovery Institute is trying to increase the respectability of the theory by attaching it to legitimate scientific enterprises, such as the proceedings of the Biological Society and the Smithsonian.
The Museum of Natural History gets 70 percent of its funding from the federal government, which may explain why it allowed ''The Privileged Planet" to be shown amid the furor over the Sternberg case. Having gotten wind of the Sternberg case, US Representative Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana, is considering holding hearings on the back-and-forth over the film. He has demanded all relevant documents from the museum. As chairman of a subcommittee of the House panel that oversees the Smithsonian, he's within his rights to examine activities of the museum, but he should not use the controversies over von Sternberg and the movie as pretexts to lend the authority of Congress to intelligent design. Congress needs to focus on expanding scientific knowledge in the United States, not on worrying about dead-end, unscientific theories.
Remember, the Republicans running the country today are not small-government Republicans. They're big-government Republicans. They'd love nothing more than to use taxpayer money to perpetuate their anti-science religious beliefs.