Six Things Expelled Critics Don't Want You to Know

Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Labels: , , , , | |

After just leaving the theatres to review Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed I carried with me a sense of relief. The fearful expectation going into the film was that it might hold gaping flaws and little perspective from the opposing viewpoint. Despite what critics are saying, however, some of the biggest names in the film were Darwinists and it did quite a good job gaining perspectives from scientists of different religious, non-religious and historical backgrounds when establishing its arguments.

I will, for the sake of balance take from one of the most popular posted criticism of the film Expelled 6 Things in Expelled that Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know and make simple counter-points.

1) Expelled quotes Charles Darwin selectively to connect his ideas to eugenics and the Holocaust.

"When the film is building its case that Darwin and the theory of evolution bear some responsibility for the Holocaust, Ben Stein's narration quotes from Darwin's The Descent of Man thusly...

...The producers of the film did not mention the very next sentences in the book...

"The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil."

Darwin explicitly rejected the idea of eliminating the "weak" as dehumanizing and evil. Those words falsify Expelled's argument. The filmmakers had to be aware of the full Darwin passage, but they chose to quote only the sections that suited their purposes."

This accusation is representing the context of the film Expelled incorrectly. The film does not make a blatant obvious attempt to connect Darwin's personal philosophy to the holocaust nor does it attempt to establish causation such as "If one believes Darwinian theory, then they will become Nazi's". In fact, it mentions two times explicitly in the movie that "It is true if someone embraces Darwinism it does not imply they will become like the Nazi's"

The context of this quote is illustrating that destroying the weak in society can and has historically become a logical deduction for someone who embraces survival of the fittest to its full extent. The quote establishes that Darwin foresaw this as a possibility. The fact that Darwin's next quote strongly discourages anyone from doing so is irrelevant, because if man came from mud then why ought someone even listen to Darwin's attempt to discourage murdering the weak?

The reality is if there is no moral law or no God then Hitler's perception of Darwinian evolution and eugenics (the murdering of the lame and genetically "less superior") is a completely reasonable conclusion to draw for a society to remove them as a burden. This quote, within the context it was illustrated in the movie, illustrates that even Darwin saw the logical deduction that could take place. This is not a flaw in the film.

2) Ben Stein's speech to a crowded auditorium in the film was a setup.

"public venues in support of ID and against "big science." But if he has, the producers did not include one. The speech shown at the beginning and end was staged solely for the sake of the movie. Michael Shermer learned as much by speaking to officials at Pepperdine University, where those scenes were filmed. Only a few of the audience members were students; most were extras brought in by the producers. Judge the ovation Ben Stein receives accordingly.

Of course it was staged. There is an artistic principle professionals in the film industry like to call symbolism. The reality is not a full speech was even given. If you look at how it was filmed in context the entire speech in the auditorium is a symbolic backdrop to establish a target audience. He begins by opening the ideas in a college campus auditorium establishing two very important points:

1) This speech (or symbolic of the film itself) is intended for students who have a genuine interest in Science and participate in college academia.

2) The war between intelligent design and evolutionary theory is taking place on the grounds of academia.

In the closing commencement it symbolizes a hope for the future, such that the audience themselves embrace the truth's of scientific inquiry, and when the 'walls' separating intelligent design inquiry from evolutionary inquiry come crumbling down, it will be a glorious day for academia.

The speech, as a portion of the film was clearly not intended to make any direct points other than to establish a target audience and symbolize a possible transformation for the future. This also, is not a flaw in the film and actually was beautifully artistically executed.

3) Scientists in the film thought they were being interviewed for a different movie.

"As Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, Michael Shermer and other proponents of evolution appearing in Expelled have publicly remarked, the producers first arranged to interview them for a film that was to be called Crossroads, which was allegedly a documentary on "the intersection of science and religion." They were subsequently surprised to learn that they were appearing in Expelled, which "exposes the widespread persecution of scientists and educators who are pursuing legitimate, opposing scientific views to the reigning orthodoxy," to quote from the film's press kit."

This is completely and utterly irrelevant. The questions these gentleman were asked were not deep nor should have been unexpected. Richard Dawkin's crumbles under a question regarding the 'probability' of his disbelief in God and his take on the origins of man. For a gentleman who wrote an entire book on how God is a delusion these questions shouldn't even break him a sweat. He then theorizes a possibility of an intelligent design, but that intelligent design couldn't possibly be a God, it must be something of higher intelligence, such as an alien race. Another scientists even suggests the absurd notion of life beginning on the back of crystals.

As for the other scientists who were asked questions, you find in documentaries that people have a much better propensity to be honest when they are comfortable answering questions. Explaining the exact context of the film would further encourage them to simply fall under scripted answers instead of giving genuine ones on the spot. This is a strategy used by many who create documentaries and for good reason.

I would, for sake of argument, accept it was unreasonable for them to "mis-represent" the purpose of the film if the questions Ben Stein had asked were actually difficult ones, but they were not. Instead, these gentlemen used their opportunity in the film to call intelligent design "idiotic" and "preposterous" (even though Dawkin's then later suggests an intelligent designer that may be aliens). Of course, now that they know what the film was about they want to take back their statements. If they didn't mean what they had said, then they simply wouldn't have said it, no matter what the title or purpose of the film was.

This is not a flaw in the film, in fact, it is a strength. It reveals genuine perspectives from some of the most world renowned Darwinian scientists.

4) The ID-sympathetic researcher whom the film paints as having lost his job at the Smithsonian Institution was never an employee there.

"One section of Expelled relates the case of Richard Sternberg, who was a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and editor of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. According to the film, after Sternberg approved the publication of a pro-ID paper by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, he lost his editorship, was demoted at the Smithsonian, was moved to a more remote office, and suffered other professional setbacks. The film mentions a 2006 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report prepared for Rep. Mark Souder (R–Ind.), "Intolerance and the Politicization of Science at the Smithsonian," that denounced Sternberg's mistreatment...

...Sternberg was never an employee of the Smithsonian: his term as a research associate always had a limited duration, and when it ended he was offered a new position as a research collaborator. As editor, Sternberg's decision to "peer-review" and approve Meyer's paper by himself was highly questionable on several grounds, which was why the scientific society that published the journal later repudiated it...

...The report prepared by Rep. Souder, who had previously expressed pro-ID views, was never officially accepted into the Congressional Record. Notwithstanding the report's conclusions, its appendix contains copies of e-mails and other documents in which Sternberg's superiors and others specifically argued against penalizing him for his ID views. (More detailed descriptions of the Sternberg case can be found on Ed Brayton's blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars and on Wikipedia.)"

It is true that the Sternberg case is controversial - it doesn't change the reality that there are evidences of this controversy on both sides of the spectrum. The reality is many sites have sprang up offering conjecture regarding the scientists who came forth in "Expelled" in an attempt to state, "What really happened was such-and-such" or "He didn't get tenure because of this-or-that".

The reason this is interesting is because the minute a film is released (or weeks before) suggesting intelligent design as a possibility, a machine has begun its work to instantly discredit it as propaganda. These sites aim to establish that the film, the people who partook in it and those of whom it discusses lack credibility (or they were victims in the case of the pro-Darwinists).

Ironically, in the act of blatantly attempting to discredit or victimize the scientists, filmmakers and participants in the film, they only further illustrate the point of the movie that any opposing viewpoint will be publicly discredited and squandered.

There is another big flaw in this argument. Discrediting the "accuracy" of the film does not explain why thousands of other scientists not in the film have discredited the ideas of Darwinian theory as a reasonable explanation to the origin of species.

"The reasons for rejecting Darwin's proposals were many, but first of all that many innovations cannot possibly come into existence through accumulation of many small steps, and even if they can, natural selection cannot accomplish it, because incipient and intermediate stages are not advantageous." - Embryologist Soren Lovtrup

"But how do you get from nothing to such an elaborate something if evolution must proceed through a long sequence of intermediate stages, each favored by natural selection? You can't fly with 2% of a wing..." - Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould

"Darwinism is claiming that all adaptive structures in nature, all the organisms which have existed throughout history were generated by the accumulation of entirely undirected mutations. That is an entirely unsubstantiated belief for which there is not the slightest evidence whatsoever." (emphasis added) - Molecular biologist Michael Denton

"About 150 of the world's leading evolutionary theorists gathered at a Macroevolution Conference in Chicago to consider the question, "Are mutation and natural selection enough?" Evolutionist Roger Lewin sums up the conclusion of the conference:

The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying micro evolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macro evolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No." (Ray Comfort, How to Know God Exists, 2007)

Michael Ruse, a preeminent evolutionist wrote in New Scientist:

"An increasing number of scientists, most particularly a growing number of evolutionists... argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory is no genuine scientific theory at all... many of the critics have the highest intellectual credentials."

"Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., has compiled a list of almost 3,000 scientists and professors who reject evolution, most of whom hold Ph.D.s in science. He believes, given the time and resources, he could easily complete a list of 10,000 names."(Ray Comfort, How to Know God Exists, 2007)

These are only a few of a long list. The reality is many of the premises and 'critiques' put forth to discredit and backlash the scientists in the film are an attempt to try and illustrate they are part of some conspiracy to teach 'creationism' in schools or are part of some 'intelligent design' propaganda machine. As one can see above, however, there are thousands of scientists who look at evolution as an inadequate scientific explanation of the origin of man.

5) Science does not reject religious or "design-based" explanations because of dogmatic atheism.

"Expelled frequently repeats that design-based explanations (not to mention religious ones) are "forbidden" by "big science." It never explains why, however. Evolution and the rest of "big science" are just described as having an atheistic preference.

Actually, science avoids design explanations for natural phenomena out of logical necessity. The scientific method involves rigorously observing and experimenting on the material world. It accepts as evidence only what can be measured or otherwise empirically validated (a requirement called methodological naturalism). That requirement prevents scientific theories from becoming untestable and overcomplicated.

By those standards, design-based explanations rapidly lose their rigor without independent scientific proof that validates and defines the nature of the designer. Without it, design-based explanations rapidly become unhelpful and tautological: "This looks like it was designed, so there must be a designer; we know there is a designer because this looks designed."

A major scientific problem with proposed ID explanations for life is that their proponents cannot suggest any good way to disprove them. ID "theories" are so vague that even if specific explanations are disproved, believers can simply search for new signs of design. Consequently, investigators do not generally consider ID to be a productive or useful approach to science.

This argument is a scripted and often repeated response to individuals who attempt to explain away intelligent design because it violates the purpose of science and doesn't hold any 'validity'. The reality is evidences do indeed exist to illustrate that simple chance based methods for the origins of the species are probabilistically impossible. There still is no evidence that explains how information can be gained through mutations, and any basic engineer will tell you complex systems cannot simply come into existence by sheer chance.

The idea that a system as complex as the human cell was formulated by natural selection is completely and utterly un-scientific. There is no scientific basis for a claim of something with such complex design coming into existence without there first being a designer. Even more-so, when one looks at the design of the cell they find it is far more complex than any system ever engineered by the human mind. To suggest such a complex system came into existence without some form of intelligent intercessor is a claim with no scientific basis.

On the other hand, it can be clearly demonstrated that complex systems can be assembled by an intelligent designer. This, in fact, can be recreated in a lab, hypothesized and tested.

The argument then makes this statement: "By those standards, design-based explanations rapidly lose their rigor without independent scientific proof that validates and defines the nature of the designer. "

The nature of the designer is irrelevant, what is clearly evident (and can be demonstrated) is the designer must have been more intelligent than what is designed. As many know, any computer system or artificial intelligence system is only as efficient or intelligent as the one or ones creating the system. The real question science tries to answer is how the designer actually designed it, not the nature of the designer itself, that task is often better left with philosophers and meta-physicists.

6) Many evolutionary biologists are religious and many religious people accept evolution.

"...Nevertheless, the film is wrong to imply that understanding of evolution inevitably or necessarily leads to a rejection of religious belief. Francisco Ayala of the University of California, Irvine, a leading neuroscientist who used to be a Dominican priest, continues to be a devout Catholic, as does the evolutionary biologist Ken Miller of Brown University. Thousands of other biologists across the U.S. who all know evolution to be true are also still religious. Moreover, billions of other people around the world simultaneously accept evolution and keep faith with their religion. The late Pope John Paul II said that evolution was compatible with Roman Catholicism as an explanation for mankind's physical origins..."

This argument also mis-represents the context of the film that there is a direct causation link between evolutionary theory and Atheism. It actually illustrates that some individuals have lost their belief in God because of the theory of evolution. It does not, however, attempt to prove a causation - such that if someone believes in evolution they must not believe in God.

It is illustrative that the theory of the origin of man as an evolution based argument can lead to the potential loss of belief in God. It is the same idea that individuals begin to demand natural explanations to everything because scientifically no supernatural intercessor can be allowed to intervene. The fact that individuals in the film openly admitted their belief in evolutionary theory led them to dis-believe in God is enough to illustrate the possibility of it occurring to others. This was the point the film was driving, and it is hardly a flaw in the film.

Craig Chamberlin

Related Articles:
Analyzing: Christian Bill O'Reilly vs Atheist Richard Dawkins
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed vs Evolution
3 Reasons Christians Don't Need Scientific "Proof" of God
Science Assumes the Natural, Therefore Concludes the Natural
Naturalists Use Faith to Argue Against God and Creationism