Monday, April 07, 2008

Ben Stein Wants You (to see Expelled)

Does anyone know why the creationists are not in the classroom today? "Anyone? Anyone?"

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to see a special screening of Ben Stein’s new documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. While I must confess that I’m not the kind of person who considers a documentary the best utilization of the cinema experience, you cannot really go wrong with Expelled. It is an informative film that simultaneously serves to educate, entertain, and provoke its audience to critical thinking. The thesis of the movie is that the scientific establishment of American academia has resolved to ridicule and prosecute any of their own members who might be tempted to entertain the notion that our universe is “intelligently designed” rather than the product of random chance or naturalistic evolution. Stein, himself as a long-time advocate of intelligent design, sets off on a world tour to investigate the truth behind the perception that creationism is under fire from “Big Science.” After a pilgrimage stretching from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D. C. to Oxford University, it becomes clear to both Stein and the viewer that “intelligence” is no longer tolerated as an explanation for existence.

The impetus for this documentary was the apparently forced resignation of Richard Sternberg as editor of the Smithsonian associated scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, in 2004 after he published an article citing creationist Stephen C. Meyer and suggesting that intelligent design may be a legitimate explanation for the universe. I’ll let Ben fill you in on all the details when you see the film. Suffice it to say that the scientific establishment has built a wall around our educational institutions and decides what to tell our media. This metaphorical wall has been making it loud and clear that neither creationism nor God will be tolerated in the Academy.

Stein makes a compelling argument for what it means to be a free citizen in a free society. America is a land built on the principle of freedom. Science, especially, should promote the freedom to pursue truth no matter how ridiculous one might look in holding to an unpopular idea. But American ideals have been circumcised by the oppression of high Darwinism, which will not budge an inch from its presupposition that “intelligent” people must not believe in intelligent design.

Leading scholars from both the mainstream scientific establishment and the Intelligent Design movement are interviewed at length, with revealing insights. Many of the secularists interviewed on this film have complained about being misled by the directors concerning the tone of this production, and they may have a legitimate beef on that point. Though villified in this film, these scientists are given a chance to explain the basis of their own agenda. (And, really, Richard Dawkins is the self-proclaimed atheistic nemesis of Judeo-Christendom and proud of it. What's he really got to complain about?) Stein shows that there is no vast “right-wing” conspiracy to corrupt our nation’s youth with bad science. Intelligent design proponents are simply scientists who believe the best explanation for life, the universe, and everything is the handiwork of an omnipotent, benevolent, and wise God. This simple argument is presented with flair and humor that only Ben Stein could execute with a straight face. All jokes aside, Stein reminds us that unbridled naturalism has a dark side upon society, which the world has seen before. What fate will befall America if “Big Science” discrimination has its way? No spoilers here as you’ll have to see it for yourself. But remember that you were warned, because it isn’t a pretty picture. Again, this is one of the aspects opponents of the film point to as villificaiton of Darwinian atheists, but I thought it was presented tastefully.

Allegations of misleading productions ethics aside, the film's thesis is, at least, convincing. If you care about the proper relationship of faith and learning (or if you just believe in freedom to let the truth be known), you owe it to yourself to see this film.
Like another recent documentary, Stein challenges us with "an inconvenient truth."

17 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:01 AM

    This films' main thesis, that anyone in the science community who believes in God, or is a Darwin dissenter is being "expelled" is false at its core.

    In a New York Times interview, Walter Ruloff (producer of Expelled) said that researchers, who had studied cellular mechanisms, made findings suggestive of an intelligent designer. "But they are afraid to report them".
    Mr. Ruloff also cited Dr. Francis S. Collins, a geneticist who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute and whose book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”, explains how he came to embrace his Christian faith. Mr. Ruloff said that Dr. Collins separates his religious beliefs from his scientific work only because “he is toeing the party line”.

    That’s “just ludicrous,” Dr. Collins said
    in a telephone interview. While many of his scientific colleagues are not religious and some are “a bit puzzled” by his faith, he said, “they are generally very respectful.” He said that if the problem Mr. Ruloff describes existed, he is certain he would know about it.

    Similarly, Dr. Ken Miller is a professed Christian who wrote "Finding Darwin's God" (which I suggest you read). Dr. Miller has not been "expelled" in any fashion for his belief in God.

    The movie tries to make the case that "Big Science" is nothing but a huge atheist conspiracy out to silence believers, but only presents a very one-sided look at some of the Discovery Institute's "martyrs".

    Carolyn Crocker "expelled"? - No.
    Her annual teaching contract was not renewed. Was she "fired" for daring to bring God into research? - No. She was hired to teach Cell Biology, and she decided to ignore the schools' curriculum and substitute her own curriculum.

    Guillermo Gonzalez "expelled"? - No.
    He was not granted tenure. The film doesn't bring up the fact that in all his years at ISU he had only brought in only a miniscule amount of grant money. Nor does it bring up the fact that in all his years at ISU he failed to mentor a single student through to their PhD. Nor does it mention that in his career at ISU, his previous excellent record of publication had dropped precipitously.

    Richard von Sternberg "expelled"? - No.
    Sternberg continues to work for NIH in the same capacity. Of course the movie doesn't bring up his underhanded tactics in getting Meyers work published. You are completely mistaken in your statement that Sternberg was forced to resign as editor after publishing the article. As a matter of fact his term as editor was due to expire, and he contrived to get Myer's article published under the wire while he was still in a position to do so.

    This movie attempts to influence it's viewers with dishonesty, half-truths, and by a completely one-sided presentation of the facts.

    If a scientists' research is not accepted by the scientific community, it isn't because the scientist either believes or doesn't believe in God or Darwin, it is usually because they are producing bad science.

    Benjamin Franklin

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  2. Hey there!!! Intelligent Design isn't "bad science". It's not science at all. It makes no testable predictions, provides no evidence, and isn't falsifiable. Therefore, it has no place in science or classroom. For a succinct rundown on ID please see this short video by Ken Miller (PhD Evolutionary Biologist and Christian:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=aO5us0qHcwc

    Good Christians know the scientific method. This movie mainly uses a negative Appeal To Consequences, that is it appeals to you on an emotional level by trying to discredit evolution based on things like hitler and eugenics, which does not speak to the factuality of the subject at hand. Cheers!

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  3. Wow, and here I thought nobody read my blog anymore!

    Thanks for the comments guys, and sorry if you believe I have undeservedly praised the film. I really do think it makes a good point nonetheless. Perhaps I shall engage in a more thorough critique later. And thank you, Benjamin Franklin, for rolling over in your grave on my behalf. ;)

    If you would like debate a slightly bigger creationist fish than myself, please go to Andrew Lindsey's blog and comment away: http://alindsey4.blogspot.com/2008/04/expelled-movie-critique.html. God bless!

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  4. How about inconvenient half truths? Intelligent Design research is not being suppressed because there is no research to supress. These ID'ers can't even formulate a coherent testable hypothesis so they are relegated to political arm twisting and making films.

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  5. that anonymous quote is a simple cut/paste quote from some knucklehead. That exact same quote was left on my Deep Thoughts blog.

    I am amazed that the so-called scientists do not want this movie to be released and are spending all their time trying to disprove the findings of Ben Stein.

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  6. Oh, that's too bad. I was hoping that my blog was mainstream enough to warrant a personal response from leading athesists. :(

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  7. Adam,

    Terry is quite mistaken.

    I wrote that comment myself. My name is Benjamin Franklin & I have been posting it on blogs that are promoting Expelled, so people can see another side of this issue.

    Terry accused me of simply cutting and pasting my post, but Adam, let me ask you this - Did you not just paste the info for Expelled from an email that you received? Be honest now, because I have been to quite a few sites promoting Expelled, and the same wording appears in many of them. I'm curious - where did you originally get the information from?

    Terry also calls me a "knucklehead" and took my post down from his website. Isn't one of the stated purposes of Expelled to "promote the debate"? It seems Terry just doesn't like any ideas that vary from his own, but his attack is certainly unwarranted.

    Terry also said "I am amazed that the so-called scientists do not want this movie to be released and are spending all their time trying to disprove the findings of Ben Stein."

    A few corrections are in order here -

    First - did I ever say anything in my post that I don't want this movie to be released? No - I just want to illustrate how there are many things presented in the movie that are misleading and dishonest.

    I have posted on a few dozen blogs, and have yet to have a response refuting what I say. Mostly what I get is personal attacks, like the one from Terry.

    Second - I am not, and have never claimed to be a scientist, "so-called" or otherwise. I have, however, studied and read a great deal on the subject so as to make educated decisions about the topic. One thing that I do find in the vast majority of the blogs that are now promoting expelled is that the bloggers neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution.

    Third- The movie is nothing about the "findings" of Ben Stein -

    This is from an interview with Logan Craft (executive producer of Expelled), with the Texas Southern Baptist Convention magazine-

    TEXAN: How did Ben Stein come to be involved in the film?

    CRAFT: Well, John(Sullivan, producer of Expelled) had a real insight, we believe, into the necessity to have a person, first of all, who wasn’t overtly Christian or overtly religious

    Ben Stein is a hack.

    I invite both you and Terry to further discuss this, but I would like to see an apology from Terry for the "knucklehead" remark.

    Benjamin Franklin

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  8. I promise, we're actually reading every blog supporting this movie. And to Terry's post, I'm actually glad the movie is being released. It gives us an excuse to debate the subject! Cheers!

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  9. No, Ben, I really did write the whole thing myself around midnight using only Wikipedia as a memory prompter for some of the names of the folks interviewed. That's interesting that my wording appears to be the same as some popular emails circulating around the net, though. If you have one please send it to me so I can compare. I wouldn't want my post to look stale or derivative, so if I think that is the case I'll make some revisions.

    And Darron S., I must say I'm impressed at your enthusiasm to read every blog supporting the movie. If you put the same amount of energy into other blogs as you do my relatively obscure one, then you really do have a great work ethic.

    I am fairly laid back when it comes to blogging, and I probably won't be the type to respond to more than 2-3 comments per day. Still, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter like gentlemen (or ladies as it may be). If we are to do this, I would ask that we all please refrain from naming calling and getting overly emotional. For instance, let's just agree not to use personally derogatory remarks like "knucklehead" (as much as I do like the word :)).

    If anyone has a critique of the ethics or claims implied by the movie, please feel free to share them, as I would like to offer a fuller critique later. I'm more interested in the argument for creation and the existence of God than in defending the movie (though I do like it a lot), so I welcome good logic in discussion. At the end of the day, it's fine to agree to disagree.

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  10. Adam, I apologize to you for using the word "knucklehead" even though it is my default word for when someone is being...well...you know. I will not fill your comment section on this post any further than this reply as I have the same two guys commenting on my blog at Deep Thoughts.

    Anyway, Benjamin, you may have written the comment yourself (and I did not say you didn't), but you are simply copy/pasting the comment into blogs. That is called spamming if you ask me and that is why I deleted your comment.

    There is nothing to respond to in your spam comment outside of your assumed ignorance of those who are writing about the movie. All you did was parrot the same things that were said by those in the movie.

    Scripto, I must say I am a bit shocked at your attack. I thought you were interested in decent conversation. You seemed to be over at my blog at the very least.

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  11. In my apologetics class, we've talked a little about the movie. Mainly just about the interviews with Dawkins and Stein. I kind of want to see it just to see that interaction. That should be intertaining to say the least

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  12. Tracing its logic more explicitly may help in understanding "Expelled!"
    (1) Hitler planned to "cleanse" the world of inferior races;
    (2) Darwin's evolution theory holds the fittest individuals survive;
    (3) Hitler's plan was evil.
    (4) Therefore,
    (a) Darwin's theory is incorrect, and
    (b) Scientists who accept Darwin'e theory are evil.

    Let's apply this same logic to another example:
    (1) Atomic bombs can kill millions of people by converting mass into energy;
    (2) Einstein's relativity theory holds that mass can be converted into energy;
    (3) Atomic bombs are evil.
    (4) Therefore,
    (a) Einstein's theory, E=mc2, is incorrect, and
    (b) Physicists who accept Einstein's theory are evil.

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  13. Benjamin Franklin makes some very good points, and seeing as you are quite open-minded, I hope you take the time to do some research yourself and realize that a lot of the films claims are simply bogus. In fact, the film leaves out an interview with evolutionary biologist Alan MacNeill because in it he mentions that he invites Intelligent Design advocates into his classroom at Cornell University to give talks. The film chooses to interview vocal atheists like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, but doesn't interview Christian evolutionary biologists like Ken Miller and Francisco Ayala. Why don't they? The film is targetting an audience that primarily sees atheism as something evil and despicable, and so inferring that evolution leads to atheism packs more sensationalism than telling it like it is.
    Guillermo Gonzalez is an astronomer, so what the connection to Darwinism is, I have no clue. Darwinian evolution is a biological theory, and has nothing to do with the Big Bang or planetary evolution. Furthermore, the main reasons he was denied tenure are listed by Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, the Discovery Institute seized upon the incident to give it a persecution spin.
    The case of Caroline Crocker is fairly straightforward. Firstly, she was not fired; her contract was simply not renewed because of incompetence. In the Sternberg case, I don't know if the film mentions that he knew Stephen C. Meyer personally and the two had met at an ID conference (curiously, one where an evolutionary biologist was not allowed to attend, IIRC). The Meyer review was not only substandard (you can probably find critiques of it at the Panda's Thumb) and poorly researched, but it was not even on a topic normally covered by the journal. What's more is that Sternberg decided not to engage any of the associate editors in the review process, and therefore the entire incident was viewed as a case of professional misconduct.
    The film also tries to make the connection between Darwin and Hitler, ignoring the fact that The Origin Of Species was banned by the Nazis and that Hitler was probably as influenced by Martin Luther, if not more. It also gives the false impression that the validity of a science can be judged by its consequences. For example, we do not say nuclear physics is wrong because of the atom bomb. From all the reviews so far, it seems the film doesn't actually cover the science of evolution. I wonder how Ben Stein came to the conclusion that "smart, new ideas" were being expelled from the classroom when he doesn't seem to have a clue what evolution is actually about. I've seen his interviews with Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly, and it is mind-boggling that a person so ignorant about evolutionary biology would choose to front a film that attacks it. I'm sure Stein is very knowledgable in other areas, but clearly somebody who thinks evolutionary biology is supposed to answer cosmological questions needs to educate himself on the subject. The film probably doesn't address the fact that Intelligent Design has produced no new experimental results, partly because at it's very core it is not a testable or falsifiable theory. It is because of it's failure in the laboratory that ID advocates have to turn to the popular media and big screen to try and get into the classrooms. Expelled is essentially a propaganda film, and that's the inconvenient truth.

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  14. "In the Sternberg case, I don't know if the film mentions that he knew Stephen C. Meyer personally and the two had met at an ID conference (curiously, one where an evolutionary biologist was not allowed to attend, IIRC)."

    I think that would be a reference to me. The conference was the RAPID conference at Biola in 2002.

    A Secret Science from the Stars?

    Wesley R. Elsberry

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  15. So, who else thinks God spoke the world into existence in 6 days, rested on the 7th, came to Earth in human form, while remaining all God, to die taking all of our sins upon Himself, rising on the third day conquering death, making Himself the only one deserving glory and honor, and at the same time, allowing us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him in Heaven if we dedicate our lives to Him?

    Anyone? Beuller?

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  16. Yeah, if I had it to pick over again I might pick the Suns. I realized the Spurs only win in odd numbered years (99,03,05,07). If nothing else, it would have been nice to pick at least one upset, seed-wise.

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  17. just saw Expelled; the fact that Ben Stein isn't trying to win any popularity contests helps to validate his message... i gather that his goal is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about worldviews that drive American academia

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