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Suppressed and Talking about it Everywhere

After reading this review of Expelled!, (HT: The Panda’s Thumb) based only on the 10 minute trailer, I decided to go view the various trailers for myself.

This is a movie that I have very little interest in seeing. Let me explain that. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about ID, but I need something that at least purports to provide some sort of information, some sort of argument in favor of it. I might reject that argument after reading, but I’m not going to be attracted to the material unless such an argument is made. For me to read something, or even more for me to view something, I require some sort of reason, and since I dislike watching informational videos in general, I need an extraordinary reason to go watch one. In the case of something like Expelled!, I also rest in the knowledge that I have friends who are attracted to these things like motorists to wrecks, and they will write about it.

Having watched the trailers I can now tell you that not only do they not give me any reason to watch the movie; they give me numerous reasons not to bother. I certainly won’t shell out money for it, and I like the energy to arrange to get my name on the list for a free showing as PZ Myers did (unsuccessfully) and Richard Dawkins did (successfully). Incidentally, I should mention that I don’t accept the explanations of the Expelled! crowd that Myers and Dawkins were gate crashers. I fully support what they did in that case. More importantly, I think it is indicative of the mindset of the producers that they did not welcome people whom they interviewed to see the finished product. Both men should have gotten in to see the movie and without such effort on their part. Myers more recent telephone escapade, on the other hand, falls outside my ethical boundaries. I confess that I laughed when I read about it (shame on me), but still, I could not do it with good conscience.

Why did the trailers have such a negative impression on me:

  1. Misrepresentation of evolution
    It’s difficult to explain a theory properly in a short period of time, but there was no attempt made to correctly represent the theory of evolution. References to a totally random process or to lightning hitting some mud are misrepresentations intended to ridicule, not to inform. The ridicule is in no way surprising. This is constant in creationist materials on evolution. It was, in fact, one of the major elements that drew me away from creationism. This problem is especially egregious in a movie that complains about the way intelligent design (ID) advocates are ridiculed in science.
  2. First amendment issues are badly confused
    The first amendment doesn’t provide you with the right to have a particular scientific magazine publish your article, nor does it protect editors from the consequences of not following the rules (Sternberg). Peer review exists for a purpose, and that is to exclude articles that do not provide sufficient fodder for study by those who will read the journal in question. It assures readers, not that the material is all true, but that the material has enough scientific merit to be considered. Further, the first amendment doesn’t guarantee you a job at a particular university, or tenure, nor does it protect you from ridicule. In fact, the first amendment protects the right of others to ridicule you.
  3. Academic freedom doesn’t guarantee you a job or tenure
    Tenure is given to people who uphold certain standards and will advance the university. Personally, I’m not all that excited about the tenure system, but that’s because I think freedom is better protected by the variety of institutions of higher education than by a fight at a particular one. A person denied tenure is not automatically denied free speech. He can go down the road. I’m fairly sure the Expelled! crowd could find reasons that someone should be denied tenure; they just don’t think their particular silliness is a good reason.
  4. The problem for intelligent design is not that it hasn’t been considered
    In fact, it hasn’t even truly been presented yet, and I don’t mean that the meanies in the educational establishment didn’t allow it a hearing. Rather, it simply has never presented a scientific program that could truly be tested. The ID crowd want something for nothing. They want to be regarded as purveyors of a scientific theory without doing the work. Some want their theory to be presented in high school, without going through the process of consensus building.
  5. The connection of evolution with Hitler
    There are a very small number of things that deserve to be compared with Nazism. There are a variety of causes. Claiming that the theory of evolution is a cause of Nazi Germany and the holocaust is blatantly false. In a movie that complains of ridicule for ID advocates, this level of slander is incredible. Even in the trailer (and according to reviews the movie is worse), the implication of a Nazi connection is not at all subtle. It just goes to show the lack of intellectual integrity on the part of the film’s makers, and Ben Stein as a spokesman. They cannot possibly have any clue of how Nazi Germany suppressed people, and at the same time claim that there is a relationship between that and their claimed suppression here. That’s why I titled my post as I did. Intelligent design has provided us with the most heard, published, talked-about, and taught “suppressed” theory in history.
  6. Lastly, the one that annoys me most, is the lie that accepting the theory of evolution is the equivalent of atheism
    Repeatedly, Ben Stein equates the theory of evolution with atheism, and claims that all ID wants is to open the door to considering that God might have done something. Evolution may be incompatible with certain forms of Biblical interpretation, but it is in no way incompatible with basic theism.

For people who claim suppression, these folks certainly act more like the liars and propagandists who help nurture suppression. If one were to propose a conspiracy in America, one might find more validity in seeing a conspiracy in the general removal of the word “evolution” from science standards so that now, when creationists push to get their view into the public school classrooms, few people really understand what evolution actually is. This facilitates the lies about it told in just the trailers to this movie.

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  1. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I’ve seen many of these explanations elsewhere, but not worded so succinctly or politely. Kudos, and thank you for reminding everyone that—whatever its producers may call themselves—Expelled does not represent Christians.

    Regarding Myers’ phone stunt: I have to agree that he acted out of turn and, I think, out of character. Hopefully it will be seen as a harmless prank to raise awareness of the movie’s faults and of Mathis’ hypocrisy in hosting a “press confer-ence” in which the press is muted; and will not damage either Myers’ reputation or his colleagues’.

  2. Gosh darn it: here I was trying to summarize the basic objections to the film, and you’ve already done it, perfectly.

    I don’t think we can get away calling Myers’ phone phreaking all in good fun or fair play, but for a group of people who have been going on and on about how scientists are “scared” to respond their dangerous ideas, when in fact countless responses have simply been ignored or mischaracterized (and indeed, responses have always been available to all of their claims, since none are in the least new), I have little sympathy when one punctures their carefully constructed bubble of press-release cowardice.

  3. Sir,

    I agree with everything you say in your essay. I have touched on many of these same issues in posts I’ve made to the Expelled blog, as well as several dozen other blogs promoting this movie, but I have never summed up the key issues in quite so elegant a manner.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I have posted a link to this page on the Expelled blog.

    Heres to lots of people reading your well-reasoned and sensible article.

    Thank you.
    Benjamin Franklin

  4. Pepole, there are some things that are not clear.

    First, the idea of a Intellingence Design is not new, and it’s discusses on Philosophy. Of course, with another methods and on athor “language”. Those scientists are importing the idea and trying to TRANSLATE that to “science”.

    Second, there is no problem in doing that. It’s extremelly common. Leibniz have discussed with Newton and showed him his mistakes much earlier then Einstein. Einstein translated, with extreme competence, some Leibniz ideas – and added some of his own – into Physics.

    Third, Intelligence Design don’t desagree with Evolution, the problem IS the “autopoiesis”, the very base of Neodarwinism thought. The ID simply puts that Evolution is not RAMDOM.

    Best wishes,
    Paulo Sanchotene

  5. 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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