March 29, 2009

Can't we just get along?

I just finished watching Ben Stein's Expelled, his documentary investigating the established scientific community's resistance (and perhaps active attempts to squash) to considering intelligent design as a possible explanation for the beginning of life. At its heart, the film focuses on a troubling trend within American academic/scientific circles to exclude lines of questioning that fall outside the accepted evolutionary (Darwinism) paradigm. The film presents several established scientists who have been ostracized for daring to mention or include intelligent design within the broader scholarship on evolution and human origin.

Stein also interviews scientists who eschew intelligent design as a valid line of investigation within serious scientific work. In all, I think Stein does an excellent job of warning the viewing audience of the inherent dangers of allowing a societal silencing of ideas that exist outside the accepted norm. When the film first came out, I read reviews of it which included those that said Stein was trying to make hysterical connections between Darwinism and Eugenics, such as the attempted genocide during WWII. I didn't find his presentation hysterical. I found it fairly balanced. Of course, the argument can always be made that we'll never know what sort of comments were left on the cutting room floor, but I didn't come away from the film thinking Stein was trying to say Darwinism was wrong and that people who believed in evolution were ignorant. I came away thinking he is frightened of current events that seem to be stepping on one's freedom of speech in this country and wants to bring light to a problem that the average American might not be aware of.

Having spent the last 12 years of my life working in an academic environment, I have witnessed what Stein speaks of in the film. Academics, in my experience, are probably some of the most rabidly closed-minded people I've encountered in my life. Don't get me wrong, there are many who are very open to the idea of differing opinions, but those who are not scare the living shit out of me because they've got an institutional support that allows them to justify their closed-mindedness as truth.

Let me say that I don't view evolution and creation as mutually exclusive. In many ways, I consider evolution to be creation. Evolution is perhaps, in my mind, our human attempt to understand what God created. I'm not a literalist as far as the Bible is concerned. It's not essential to me to think what is written is exactly how it happened. The world was created in six days. What the hell is six days to God? Everyday I see things and experience things that make me think it can't be an accident, this life that exists. But, I don't automatically think atheists are ignorant people. I think whatever events of their lives brought them to their beliefs are just as valid as the events that have brought me to believe in God. All I ask is for the same respect.

At any rate, this has all been a really rambling and disconnected attempt to say I liked the film and I think everyone can benefit from watching it.


bobxxxx said...

The rare scientist who invokes intelligent design is laughed at because intelligent design is nothing more than a childish belief in magic. There's nothing scientific about magic, and of course only idiots believe in it.

bobxxxx said...

Ben Stein doesn't know anything about science. He's a liar and a stupid asshole.

The Husband said...

okay, riddle me this bobxxx

objectively prove that only objectively verifiable statements can be truth statements

this is basically what dawkins and his ilk claim

dawkins claims that only statements that are verifiable by science can objectively true

this is the basic assumption of science, please demonstrate why this assumption supersedes any religious assumptions


Malcolm said...

Regardless of your take on the Evo/ID silliness the fact remains that Expelled the movie is a piece of Crap.

If you bother to do any research on it from say reading the reviews at or visiting you'd know that:

- the examples of people being sacked for espousing ID are all misrepresented in the movie
- he lied to the scientists interviewed about the content of the movie he was making
- he quote mined and manipulated the footage to misrepresent the ideas put forward . For Example - Dawkins was asked if he could imagine any possible situation in which a designer could have intervened in evolution on earth. After being pushed and prodded he eventually responded that it is possible (but estremley *extremely* unlikely) that an advanced alien species could have done so. Stein managed to present this as "Dawkins believes we were created by aliens"...

The rest of the movie is basically of the form:
- The Nazi's were nasty people
- Some Nazis espoused social Darwinism
- Therefore Darwin's ideas must be evil
- therefore evolution must be false
- therefore ID must be true...

The movie is a waste of time.

and lest you dismiss the above as the rantings of an avowed evolutionist/anti-religionist, please take my word that I have almost as much distaste for the nearest thing there is to an opposing documentary - Bill Maher's Religulous.