Feature Article - May 2001
by Do-While Jones

Copyright Law as a Censorship Tool

Are scientific theories "Intellectual Property" which can't be discussed without permission?

To Quote, or Not To Quote?

The full title of our newsletter is, "Disclosure of things evolutionists don't want you to know." Contrary to the claims of critics who have made their minds up without reading any of our articles, our goal is NOT to suppress all discussion of the theory of evolution. On the contrary, we want the general public to be exposed to both sides of the issue. We quote extensively from evolutionary sources, and comment on them.

We have to quote evolutionary sources for a very good reason. If we don't, we get criticized for "setting up a straw man that is easy to knock down." Our critics often claim that we are making up silly evolutionary arguments just to make them look silly. If we don't quote, then we are no more credible than the evolutionists who say that creationists are against science and still believe the earth is flat.

In case you missed it, we just made our point with an example. We did not quote any particular evolutionist who said that creationists are anti-science, or said that creationsts believe the earth is flat. Therefore, you may be wondering if evolutionists really say that or not. We could produce email messages that we have received, calling us anti-science flat-earthers (and worse), but that wouldn't prove anything. You have no way of knowing if we made up those email messages or not. So, in order to prove our points, we have to quote from some evolutionary sources that are publicly available.

Since most members of the general public don't read Science or Nature to keep up on the latest news about evolution, we can't assume that the public has read the articles we discuss. We have to quote from them. We prefer to quote from Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, etc. because these sources are much more readily available to most people. This makes it easier for you to read the complete source article and see if we are fairly portraying the evolutionary position or not.

The popular press attempts to take technical information from journals like Science or Nature and explain it in simple terms that most people can understand. We think that is great. We do that, too.

Articles in scientific journals tend to present alternate interpretations of the data. Often, we feel, the popular press presents only the evolutionary side. Or, they put the evolutionary premise in bold type in the headline, but later in the article dismiss the contrary point of view in just a sentence or two. We try to balance the report, and also point out the bias in the popular press so you are more likely to recognize it.

How Much to Quote

So, from our perspective, the issue isn't really whether or not to quote evolutionary sources. The issue is how much to quote. If we quote too little, we run the risk of being criticized for "quoting out of context." The only way to avoid that risk would be to quote the entire article. Although we have the technology to download complete articles (with diagrams) from technical journals such as Science and Nature and post them on our website, we choose not to do that for two reasons.

First, subscriptions to these journals cost well over $100 / year, and there is a substantial extra fee for online access to complete articles. I subscribe1 to these journals, and other magazines, and have full access to the online articles. If we were to post entire articles, then anyone who logs onto our website would be able to read them for free. That is "theft of service," which is both illegal and immoral.

Second, the entire articles are often very boring. We like to get right to the point and quote just the portions of interest.

So, we try to quote just enough to fairly report what the author has said, but not so much as to steal his work, or bore the reader.

Intellectual Property

The concept of "intellectual property" has arisen in the last decade or so. Modern technology makes it easy to mass produce text, sound, and images. This makes it inexpensive to reproduce and sell the creative works of others without paying for the privilege. People who originally created those works deserve protection from pirates.

Clearly fictional works belong to their creators; but what about facts? Are facts "intellectual property?" If Fourier and Laplace had made their discoveries today, would we have to pay them every time we took a Fourier (or Laplace) Transform? Imagine all the money Issac Newton could have made from his invention of the calculus, if not for the unscrupulous Math Pirates who take integrals and derivatives every day without paying him! Einstein never collected a cent from anyone who wrote down, "E = MC2".

We joked about copyrighting mathematical algorithms and equations in the previous paragraph, but it really happens. The "GIF" Graphical Interchange Format uses the patented LZW compression algorithm. So, I can legally write a program that computes Fourier Transforms of digital images, but I can't legally display the result in GIF format.

We don't want to be sidetracked by a debate on the merit of copyrights or patents on software algorithms. We merely want to establish the fact that there is currently some valid disagreement about what knowledge is intellectual property that cannot be disseminated without permission and payment.

Who Owns the Copyrights on Evolution?

The question we really want to ask is, "Who owns the rights to publish the theory of evolution?" Certainly one deserves to be paid for the first article describing a new explanation for how evolution supposedly works. But after it is published, cannot the news media tell the general public what has been reported in a technical journal? Can't the news media summarize the report? More importantly, can't people discuss an idea without permission of the original author?

Imagine what would happen if people were allowed to suppress criticism by suing anyone who reported their ideas. Suppose President Bush sued people who criticized his tax plan on the grounds that his tax plan was intellectual property which critics do not have the right to publish. We certainly would not stand for that in politics. Why would we stand for that in education?

Who Owns the Copyrights on Eosimias?

Of course we have a personal reason for asking all these questions. As you may recall, there was a great deal of hoopla last year about an alleged human ancestor called Eosimias. It was second 2 on Popular Science's list of "Top 10 Science Stories 2000."

Here is one of two pictures that ran in Time for Kids showing all the fossil evidence ("each bone is about the size of a grain of rice") and the creature that was reconstructed from those bones. (The other picture is the picture the artist won't let us show you.) Notice what Time for Kids tells our children.

Researchers from the U.S. and China announced earlier this month that they had found fossils of tiny prehistoric monkeys. Each critter was about the size of a human thumb. ... Markings on some of the bones suggest that prehistoric owls liked to swoop down and munch on the little monkeys.

Most scientists believe animal species change over thousands of years, transforming into new species as they adapt to changes in their environment. According to this theory, known as evolution, walking primates--like apes and humans--developed from tree-climbing primates. Eosimias seems to have appeared just as this change was occurring. Its foot bones have features of both climbers and walkers, says [paleontologist Dan] Gebo [of Northern Illinois University, who led the research team]. 3

Bones and reconstruction

It is tempting to talk about how unscientific it is to determine what owls enjoy doing based upon two bones the size of rice grains. We did some of that in the September, 2000, newsletter. But that isn't what this article is about. This article is about propaganda, indoctrination, and using copyright laws to assure that only one side is presented.

Time For Kids also ran a second picture (which was also printed in Newsweek) showing a little monkey sitting on a thumb. Neither Time for Kids, nor Newsweek, gave credit to the artist. We gave credit to Newsweek for the picture because it was Newsweek's picture we scanned for the newsletter, and put on the web page.

Recently we received this email regarding that picture.

Subject: Tiniest Fossil Primate Graphic
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 08:26:10 -0500
From: Kim Reed-Deemer & Milt Deemer
To: comments@ScienceAgainstEvolution.org

To whom it concerns,

It has come to my attention that you have posted my illustration of the tiniest fossil primate on your website without my express permission. Northern Illinois University does not own the rights to the image of the tiny primate depicted on a thumb. I created two separate images of this fossil primate; one depicted against a tape measure, and one on a human thumb. The image of the fossil primate on the tape measure belongs to Northern Illinois University, while the one presented on your website belongs to me and Dr. Gebo. I do not give you permission to present my image of the tiny fossil primate on your website at this time. If you would care to discuss the issue directly with me and work something out, then contact me. Until that time, I insist that you remove it immediately.

Sincerely,

Kim Reed-Deemer

We regret that we did not give her credit, but none of the sources (Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, or Time) that published her drawing (to a far larger audience than ours) gave her credit. Therefore, we did not have the information required to give her the proper credit.

It was surprising to us that she didn't ask for credit. She merely asked for her work not to be shown to the people who visit our web page. We could understand why she might be proud of her work and might want people to know that she was the one who drew it. We don't understand why she doesn't want you to see it.

We removed the image within the hour because it certainly is her intellectual property. Eosimias is an imaginary creature that she and Dr. Gebo made up based entirely on two bones the size of a grain of rice. Her drawing is a work of pure fiction. Since Eosimias never existed, we can't argue that images of it should be in the public domain. She owns Eosimias just as much as Walt Disney owns Snow White.

Fact or Fiction?

Here is our dilemma: We believe that scientific facts, such as Newton's law of motion, should be in the public domain. Nobody should own the exclusive right to print the fact that F = ma. If the theory of evolution were a scientific fact, then we should be able to quote it as much as we like. But evolution isn't a fact!

What should we do about stories saying that birds evolved from dinosaurs? That isn't a fact. It is simply a myth that National Geographic prints from time to time. On one occasion, National Geographic even used fraudulent fossil evidence to make it appear like there was some factual basis. The evolution of dinosaurs to birds is just as fictional as Kipling's "Just So Story" that explains how the elephant got a long trunk. Since it is fiction, one could argue that it is intellectual property.

What About News?

Although the evolutionary tales we comment upon are certainly fictional, it really is a fact that these stories are being told to the general public. It is our right to report the fact that several major news magazines presented the story of Eosimias as if Eosimias really existed. Furthermore, we feel it is perfectly within our rights to show parts of the story as evidence that news magazines did, in fact, present this incorrect information. We consider any attempt to use copyright law to prevent us from reporting, or commenting upon, things that are printed in the open literature, to be censorship.

We believe that if the theory of evolution were true, then evolutionists would not have to resort to legal or political means to suppress open discussion of it. Every legal threat against anyone attempting to present an argument against evolution is a de facto admission that the theory of evolution can't stand open scientific scrutiny.

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Footnotes:

1 The pronoun "I" is used here instead of "we" because I use my own money, not your contributions, to pay for these subscriptions.
2 Popular Science, January 2001, "We Were Once Tiny Monkeys" page 50 (Ev)
3 Time for Kids, 31 March 2001, "Is That a Monkey or a Mouse?" (Ev)