Expelled: Quit Thinking So Hard, God Just Made It…Okay?

12 03 2008

With the approaching release of Ben Stein’s new creationism movie “Expelled” I am once again surprised at the degree of legitimacy given to the debate over the merits of evolutionary theory versus intelligent design (ID). Given the literal tonnage of positive evidence for evolution (also known as fossils) and the utter lack of any evidence for ID it is astonishing that a false scientific idea like this still garners any respect in public and in the press. The scientific evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that the arguments for ID in this “debate” do not merit equal time any more than arguments that the world is flat when discussing planetary geometry.

Since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority, has been the measure of a scientific idea’s worth. In contrast, the foundation of the ID argument takes a natural phenomenon and looks for purely supernatural causes. I will skeptically concede that supernatural explanations may someday prove to have some merit but as yet they are not from the realm of science.

Irreducible complexity, the lynch pin idea behind ID, suggests that there are biological structures that are too complex to have arrived naturally and therefore must have been designed. This is a negative argument against evolution that looks to exploit intricate features in nature combined with inevitable gaps in knowledge and to then interpret these gaps as proof of an intelligent designer without any positive evidence of such. This false dichotomy is wielded in the debate to intentionally confuse people who have better things to do than stay abreast of the current scientific findings and to falsely assert that wherever a gap in evolutionary theory appears it automatically provides de facto evidence for a designer.

To the contrary, it has been seen countless times in the history of discovery that just because scientists cannot explain today how a biological system evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain it in the future. This same contrived dualism was employed by creationists in the 1980’s to support “creation science” and is no more credible an argument than it was twenty years ago.

In contrast Evolution has 150 years of cumulative and corroborative evidence from the varied sciences of paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, genetics and molecular biology. It is only in the thinly veiled attempt to defend the dogmas of religion that ID advocates insist on continuing to try to undermine a theory as universally confirmed as evolution with such uninformed or intentionally deceptive arguments.

Since ID claims are so vague and broad it would perhaps be better suited to address questions far less understood by science, questions like the beginning of the universe marked by the “big bang” or perhaps even the origin of life itself. I’m not suggesting that ID actually provides any real insight into those longstanding mysteries, it’s just that given the lack of a universally accepted scientific theory explaining these events that ID could, at least for now, enjoy a less challenging landscape. It seems inevitable that ID will have to cede these mysteries to science as well, but at least religious literalists like Mr. Stein can have something to cling to while their Bronze Age myths still maintain a shred of popularity.

As for Mr. Stein’s claim that ID advocates speech is being repressed, I think he has it all wrong. This is a question of true science, not free speech. Everything they’re saying today has already been looked at and roundly debunked as religious propaganda. There are no free rides in science. When the ID camp can produce new hypothesis, new tests that produce new data that provide real evidence to back up their new claims then their research will be considered just like any other submission into the world of science. Until then they have the freedom to speak about and repeat their tired old testament fictions…but they should be prepared to have such speech met with well deserved ridicule.




14 responses

12 03 2008
whats in a name

good one reminds my of the book a brief history on nearly everything

13 03 2008

What comment could I say but, “Wow.”

The intellectual dishonesty, the obfuscation, and the shear cognitive dissonance this country feels compelled to embrace is scary.

14 03 2008
Kevin Hillinger

From the scientific angle, the theory of Intelligent Design is not based on a presupposition that God with a big “G” must exist and therefore, the conclusion is that matter and time are created by God, the Intelligent Designer.

The Theory of Evolution is NOT a fact, neither is the Theory of Intelligent Design. These are complex theories, and the title of this post has no regard for this point: it’s an emotional response to a theory that isn’t liked or respected; it’s a response that IS NOT intellectual. An honestly intellectual response will be INVESTIGATION on a personal level.

For example, summarize a list of evidence and research for ID? It’s not true that there is no evidence, and to state that as matter of fact as this post does, communicates a real lack of critical thinking skills.

More than anything, I am deeply concerned regarding the WAY in which ID is being responded to rather than the Theory of Intelligent Design itself: A sweeping dismissal that may be motivated by a world-view rather than examination of evidence.

Overall, this seems to be a debate over atheism vs. theism. A discuss that should be relegated to philosophy rather than science.

14 03 2008

@Kevin: My title is intended to be controversial, but alas it was apparently still ineffective at getting you to read the whole article. I have studied both ID and Evolution and I have found ID to be lacking in every way.

If you were to read the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision it is clearly established that the origins of the ID movement come directly from the creationism movement of the 1980s. That is the same “creation science” that was found unconstitutional to teach in science class because it argued that God created everything.

If I may use more colloquial language, Evolution is the equivalent of a Scientific Law whereas ID is little better than a wishful guess. Where ID is a supposition looking for evidence, Evolution is instead based on accumulated evidence that has consistently been found to reveal a single truth. There is no evidence supporting ID so I would have to agree with you that I do not extend any respect to that hypothesis.

Perhaps you can bring some new evidence to the conversation and make a compelling case for ID, I would welcome such an addition, but hand wringing about how unfairly ID is being regarded will not further your case in this debate.

14 03 2008

I’m neither arguing for or against any particular theory. It’s important to recognize that everyone has presuppositions that shape the way they interpret the evidence. Because no one was there to witness the past, we must interpret it based on a set of starting assumptions. You correctly pointed out that ID is suppositional, but should have included Darwinian Evolution as well.

Here is an example of how ID presuppositions play out: here is an excerpt of something that was stated by an ID scientist:

A young man approached me at a seminar and stated, ‘Well, I still believe in the big bang, and that we arrived here by chance random processes. I don’t believe in God.’ I answered him, ‘Well, then obviously your brain, and your thought processes, are also the product of randomness. So you don’t know whether it evolved the right way, or even what right would mean in that context. Young man, you don’t know if you’re making correct statements or even whether you’re asking me the right questions.’

Now I’m not saying that he was right or wrong, but we should be asking ourselves, “how am I arriving at this conclusion?”, i.e. what are my presuppositions.

Thank you for the court case that you provided.

14 03 2008

The ID scientist was being exceptionally misleading then. While random genetic variations are at the root of the evolutionary mechanism, it is the application of the process of natural selection over millions of years that differentiates the beneficial mutations from the rest. The process is far from random so his question is based on an entirely faulty presumption and is only meant to be confusing.

And so you don’t think I’m making everything up I hope you don’t mind me directing you to this blog entry of mine that will lead you to a free e-book from the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine on the very topic of Science, Evolution, and Creationism.


14 03 2008

Because no one was there to witness the past, we must interpret it based on a set of starting assumptions.

Never is a SCIENTIFIC THEORY interpreted based on assumptions. SCIENTIFIC THEORY is based on evidence collected. Yes, the original hypothesis is an assumption. But then, through scientific discovery, we are able to either dismiss or solidify that assumption. There is no science in ID, as creationists begin with the answer, then go about trying to collect evidence to support it. Science begins with the question, they goes about trying to find an answer.

Oh, and saying the Theory of Evolution is not fact is exactly like saying the Theory of Gravity is not fact. Read up on what the definition of a scientific theory is, mm-kay? It’s not the way you’re using it. That’s just yet another ploy by Creationists to validate their own “theory.”

14 03 2008

I tried to post an image here but comments won’t show them, so I created a new thread HERE just for it. I think it gets the point across rather succinctly.

15 03 2008

. . . The Darwinians have this mark of fighters for a lost cause, that they are perpetually appealing to sentiment and to authority. Put your bat or your rhinoceros simply and innocently as a child might put them, before the Darwinian, and he will answer by an appeal to authority. He will probably answer with the names of various German professors; he will not answer with any ordinary English words, explaining the point at issue…the last Darwinian will not condescend to argue with you. He will inform you of your ignorance; he will not enlighten your ignorance.

And I will add this point of merely personal experience of humanity: when men have a real explanation they explain it, eagerly and copiously and in common speech, as Huxley freely gave it when he thought he had it. When they have no explanation to offer, they give short dignified replies, disdainful of the ignorance of the multitude.
— G. K. Chesterton

15 03 2008

One who blindly accepts God as the creator of the universe runs the risk of appearing to be a hypocrite of the very grandest scale when he claims others are “deferring to authority”. You really should choose the passages you quote more carefully.

I and others here certainly have tried to explain things. The topic of Evolution can be complicated so sadly it cannot be reduced to a simple and satisfying “God did it”. I cannot make you read what has been discovered. And while I’m confident you are likely able I cannot make you willing to understand what science has come to know in great detail about these processes from which we have evolved.

If you want to learn how it works I would eagerly and copiously and in common speech encourage you to show some initiative and read this online book from The National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine. I cannot enlighten your ignorance for you, I can only show you where the information that will enlighten you can be found.

15 03 2008

This reminds me of something I was told the other day at work. We have a born again there who is very quick to defend the bible in every way. My boss and I were discussing the show “Population Zero” that was on over the weekend when he decided to chime in. Long story short he proposed that dinosaurs and man roamed together and that nothing ate meat before the great flood. He stated that carbon dating was a “theory” (which it isnt it is based off the Carbon Isotope and half life) and that anyways age was built into the plants and animals that god created.As I sat listening I held my tongue in the knowledge that no matter what logic I used this amount of ignorance could not be swayed. He also proposed how boyant the Arc was and that there were 1700 chosen animals for the arc. At this point I only needed ask – If there were only 1700 animals saved than what of the 1.5 million known species today? Evolution? Absurdity on this level freaks me out!!!

19 03 2008
Benjamin Franklin

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.

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. Like the idea of Intelligent Design.

21 03 2008


Category: Creationism
Posted on: March 20, 2008 8:26 PM, by PZ Myers

There is a rich, deep kind of irony that must be shared. I’m blogging this from the Apple store in the Mall of America, because I’m too amused to want to wait until I get back to my hotel room.

I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried … but I was Expelled! It was kind of weird — I was standing in line, hadn’t even gotten to the point where I had to sign in and show ID, and a policeman pulled me out of line and told me I could not go in. I asked why, of course, and he said that a producer of the film had specifically instructed him that I was not to be allowed to attend. The officer also told me that if I tried to go in, I would be arrested. I assured him that I wasn’t going to cause any trouble.

I went back to my family and talked with them for a while, and then the officer came back with a theater manager, and I was told that not only wasn’t I allowed in, but I had to leave the premises immediately. Like right that instant.

I complied.

I’m still laughing though. You don’t know how hilarious this is. Not only is it the extreme hypocrisy of being expelled from their Expelled movie, but there’s another layer of amusement. Deep, belly laugh funny. Yeah, I’d be rolling around on the floor right now, if I weren’t so dang dignified.

You see … well, have you ever heard of a sabot? It’s a kind of sleeve or lightweight carrier used to surround a piece of munition fired from a gun. It isn’t the actually load intended to strike the target, but may even be discarded as it leaves the barrel.

I’m a kind of sabot right now.

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn’t notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn’t recognize him. My guest was …

Richard Dawkins.

He’s in the theater right now, watching their movie.

Tell me, are you laughing as hard as I am?

22 03 2008

That is excellent. I love that kind of hypocrisy, especially when it backfires.

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