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Evolution News and Views

Bah! Humbug! From the Cranky Sounds of Darwinists, It Must Be Christmas

You can tell when the Christmas season is approaching--by the nip in the air, and by the jump in the level of crankiness exhibited by Darwinists in the blogosphere. This year Christmas apparently has come early for internet Darwinists, who have been raising a kerfluffle on their blogs about Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski's usage of a clip of some Harvard-commissioned animation of the cell in a few of his lectures. In typical high dudgeon, Darwinists have accused Dr. Dembski of all sorts of nefarious violations of intellectual property law. Some have even claimed (as usual, without an iota of evidence) that Discovery Institute supports the disregard of copyright laws or even had something to do with Dr. Dembski's usage of the animation in question. (Wrong on both counts.)

It's nice to see that internet Darwinists have suddenly become the protectors of America's copyright laws. However, it's a rather peculiar role for them. Check out Google Video or You Tube and you will regularly find examples of Darwinists uploading (without permission) huge chunks of copyrighted videos featuring various Discovery Institute Fellows. Indeed, the other week, we discovered a Darwinist who had uploaded the video of Icons of Evolution online in order to denounce it--not just a couple of minutes of the video, mind you, but nearly the entire thing. In the past, we've come across other Darwinists who have archived for public use (again, without permission) whole sections of DI's website. Unlike the internet Darwinists, we don't usually make a cause celebre out of such wanton violations of the copyright code, although we have been known to contact the parties involved privately and ask them to cease and desist. Now that the internet Darwinists have discovered the glories of copyright, may we hope they will begin to police their own supporters?

Back to Dr. Dembski: Contrary to what some Darwinists seem to suppose, we have better things to do with our time than pre-screen every lecture delivered by the nearly 40 Fellows of Discovery's Center for Science and Culture, all of whom are quite capable of giving lectures without our aid, and many of whom (like Dr. Dembski) are unsalaried and hold full-time positions at other institutions. In the present case, Discovery Institute played no role whatever in the use, alteration, or dissemination of any animation clip from Harvard that our esteemed colleague may have included in some of his lectures. When we first learned several weeks ago that someone had concerns about Dr. Dembski's occasional use of this particular clip, we contacted Dr. Dembski directly, and he told us that he had stopped using the material as soon as these concerns had been raised with him. Of course, you can still find the cell animation in question posted all over the internet by persons other than Dr. Dembski from places as far away as Latvia. It will be interesting to see if anyone goes after those sinister Latvians for violating Harvard's copyright--or, for that matter, the hundreds of professors and teachers who are likely showing the clip to their classes without permission.

For the record, those of us at Discovery Institute do believe in--and respect--intellectual property rights. We certainly empathize with the legitimate concerns of the Harvard professors who commissioned this animation. They unquestionably have the right to control and safeguard the use of their intellectual property.

What I find difficult to take seriously are the recent histrionics by members of the Darwinist internet posse. If would take them more seriously if they applied their concerns a tad more consistently. For example, some of the very Darwinists who are now browbeating Dr. Dembski also posted on their blogs video from his lecture, presumably without his permission.

What is apparent from all of this is just how bare the Darwinists' cupboard must be these days. Every time they try to shift the evolution-ID debate away from the scientific evidence--whether it be by fake reenactments of the Dover trial a la PBS, or through overblown controversies such as this one--they expose the weakness of their position. After all, if they had the evidence on their side, they would be arguing it. Since they don't, they try to change the subject.