The Washington Post’s Secular Fundamentalism

The Washington Post delivered an almost unbelievable demonstration of secular extremism in its June 3 issue, publishing an editorial that many readers must have hoped was a parody. Regrettably, the editorial appears to be genuine.
In “Dissing Darwin,” the paper expresses relief that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History had pulled the plug on a showing of “The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe.”
Here’s how the editorial introduced the issue: “The invitation was straightforward enough: ‘The Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Discovery Institute are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception for The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe,’ on June 23. But for the museum’s directors, the decision to allow this film to be shown in one of their auditoriums turned out not to be straightforward at all. The Museum of Natural History is known, among other things, for its collection of fossils and its displays describing Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, by contrast, is known for its efforts to undermine the teaching of Darwinism in schools and to promote the theory of “intelligent design” — life is so complicated it must have been designed by an intelligent creator.”
In other words, the editorial simply implies that it would be very bad form for the National Museum of Natural History to allow any consideration of intelligent design to be held on its premises. Very bad form, indeed. “For these reasons, the Smithsonian and its Museum of Natural History should have been wary of this project. But the film itself also should have given them pause.”
The editorial explained that the museum’s policy is to allow private groups to use its auditorium, so long as the program or material “is not religious or political in content.” In this case, the museum charged and was paid a fee of $16,000 for the use of its auditorium. So . . . where’s the problem?
Look very closely at the editorial’s argument: “While ‘The Privileged Planet’ is an extremely sophisticated religious film, it is a religious film nevertheless. It uses scientific information — the apparently ‘perfect’ position of Earth in its orbit and in its galaxy, the uniqueness of its atmosphere — to answer, affirmatively, the philosophical question of whether life on Earth was part of a grand design, and not just the result of chance and chemistry. Neither God nor evolution is mentioned. Nevertheless, the film is consistent with the Discovery Institute’s general aim, which is to drive a wedge into the scientific consensus about the origins of life and the universe and to give a patina of scientific credibility to the idea of an intelligent creator.”
That’s right, pilgrims–The Washington Post declares “The Privileged Planet” to be religious, even though it admits that the film never mentions God.
In its conclusion, the paper’s editorial chides the museum for not recognizing its error more quickly. “The museum was naive or negligent not to recognize this, and more naive not to anticipate the backlash. When news of the film showing recently began circulating, one Web site that supports intelligent design asked enthusiastically whether this meant the Smithsonian was ‘warming up’ to the theory of an intelligent creator. In a newspaper interview, Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, also said how delighted he was that the Museum of Natural History would ‘co-sponsor’ the event despite the fact that the evening was intended to be a private affair. This is precisely how the intelligent design movement has gotten as far as it has: by advocating outwardly inoffensive ideas in ever-more prestigious places, thereby giving the movement scientific validity. This week, after protests from within and outside the museum, the directors returned the $16,000 auditorium rental fee and issued a statement declaring that ‘the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research.’ It’s an embarrassing about-face, but not as embarrassing as the original decision.”
Let’s look more closely at the logic of this radical argument. The paper insists that a film about intelligent design is religious, even though it never mentions God. Actually, the film explains what cosmologists call the “Cosmic Anthropic Principle,” an argument that is based on the fact that planet Earth is precisely arranged so that fragile human life can exist. Even as the paper seems to be puzzled by the concept, it is a well-established principle of science. Move the planet just slightly away from the sun, and the atmosphere is too cold for life. Move the planet just a bit closer to the sun, and the seas boil and evaporate. You get the point. Sadly, The Washington Post doesn’t.
The editorial’s secularist agenda goes far beyond ordinary hostility to Christianity. Now, a film that merely suggests that the pattern of the universe shows evidence of design is rejected as “religious,” and thus disallowed by the museum’s policy.
This is clear evidence of what even the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas recognized to be a secularist religion. The Washington Post‘s secular fundamentalism blinds the paper to its own hypocrisy. If an argument that the universe shows intelligent design is “religious,” so is the counter argument that there can be no evidence of intelligent design. Both are based in foundational worldview assumptions. Both make a judgment about the possibility of intelligent design. Both are religious.
For the paper to be consistently opposed to any “religious” displays, programs, or exhibitions at the museum, it should call for a removal of the displays “describing Darwin’s theory of evolution.” As we learn on the playground, fair is fair.
Evolutionary theory is a cherished central doctrine of the religion of secularism. Every religion needs a cosmology, and that cosmology is tied to meaning and morality. If the universe was brought into being and ordered by a Creator, we are obligated to know, honor, and obey Him. If there is no Creator, there are no fixed moral laws, no absolute truths, no accountability, no divine judge.
That’s why The Washington Post is so outraged by the very thought that a film about intelligent design would be shown at the National Museum of Natural History. That museum is now a temple for the worship and propagation of secular naturalism, and the paper is defending that monopoly with a fundamentalist fervor.
INTELLIGENT LINKS FOR THE INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED: Web site for “The Privileged Planet”, Coverage at Evolution News and Views, The Discovery Institute, Questions and Answers about the film, “Smithsonian Distances Itself from Controversial Film” [The Washington Post, June 2, 2005], discussion at The Panda’s Thumb [pro-evolution].