Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ben Stein is Expelled

Have you guys seen this? It's a trailer for Ben Stein's new documentary on Evolution. Considering how much the topic comes up on here, I thought it might be good to get your reactions.

What do you think?


nate said...

Thanks for the heads up Nick. It looks like a fascinating movie. Being completely honest here, I have had a hard time making up my mind on the issue. Obviously I espouse Intelligent Design, but to what extent God's method was, I have never been able to agree or disagree with mainstream theories of evolution. After all, I think you and I would both agree that the Genesis account isn't a scientific account, rather an account of the origin of a people group and the special place they held in the eyes of their creator. And then I read the account in which Jesus placed mud and spittle on the blind man's eyes to perform a healing act. Certainly God incarnate in that case could have spoken sight into existance. All that to say, the creator of the universe is known (at times)for using method to illustrate his ability and creative nature.

Just a few thoughts. Thanks again for bringing this to my attention...I have very little time lately to be on the internet.

Mark said...

I'm gonna be a ☆ MOVIE STAR ☆

Matt Brinkman said...

Having only the trailer to go on, my first thought is that the film apparently doesn't understand what intellectual freedom (freedom of speech) means. Intellectual freedom does not mean that all ideas are equally valuable or even that all ideas need to be taken seriously. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan stated, "We are all entitled to our own opinions. None of us are entitled to our own facts."

At its root science attempts to define one aspect of objective reality and provides a set of criteria for doing so. If you don't play by the rules of science then you are not doing science. Furthermore, if you are not doing science there is no reason you should be entitled to a job as a scientist, or to have your papers published, or to be exempt from the ridicule of scientists.

Step back from the evolution discussion for a moment and view it from a more immediately pragmatic vantage. I am free to proclaim that all illnesses are caused by bad humors and imbalances of bodily fluids and can be cured by blood letting. This freedom, however, does not mean that state boards must certify me as an MD or that medical journals must publish my findings or that real doctors must treat my ideas with respect.

Nick said...

interesting analogy, Matt.

Mark said...

Did you guys read the article I linked?

Nick said...

Yes, Mark. I did. It is unfortunate that so often in these discussions there are these allegations of impropriety, almost always from the ID side. The NOVA special was the same with the death threats etc.

In this case, to those who didn't read it, there was an interview set up under false pretenses.

Why can't we have a legit, unbiased presentation?

Mark said...

All the interviews with prominent scientists were like that.


The makers of Expelled have just issued an "online media alert" in response to a critical review of their movie, as some readers have forwarded to me. It's hysterical.

We already had our first security breech [sic] and are asking YOU now for your support to stand up for EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. Hosted by Ben Stein, EXPELLED contains a critical message at a critical time. As an underdog in Hollywood right now, we need your support.

Recently Robert Moore, a film critic from The Orlando Sentinel pretending to be a minister, snuck into a private screening, did not sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and criticized the film the next day in his article.

Moore compared Stein, who is Jewish, to Holocaust Deniers and charge that Stein's linking of Darwinism to the Holocaust was "despicable." Stein states, "The only thing I find despicable is when reporters sneak into screenings by pretending to be ministers. This is a new low even for liberal reporters."

"That someone who saw their movie and panned it is now a "security breach"? That's funny. That they set up a private screening for the religiously devout in expectation that they would receive their seal of approval is just plain pathetic. At least they aren't pretending that their movie is anything but a desperate pander to the religious right."

Nick, regarding a legit unbiased presentation of creationism... I honestly believe it's impossible.

Mark said...

Also, I forgot to add that Matt Brinkman's comment is very good. That's what I call a balanced and unbiased view.

Matt Brinkman said...

Hey Mark, I also read the post on Pharyngula. To be honest, this whole turn of events will add another dimension to PZ's forthcoming review of the movie. I'm hoping for something especially tasty.

Nick, in regards to your comment about setting up an interview under false pretenses, that is pretty much par for the course. The problem is that Creationists believe scientists are engaged in a massive conspiracy to conceal the truth--so they have to trick them into speaking candidly.

Nick said...

All the interviews with prominent scientists were like that.
Mark, how do you know that they all were?

The problem is that Creationists believe scientists are engaged in a massive conspiracy to conceal the truth

You are right. some do. It is so crazy. i have never heard a good reason why they even think that.

Mark said...

There were three prominent scientists that I knew of, featured in "Expelled." You've seen the PZ Meyers article already.

Here is Richard Dawkin's (Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford) and Eugenie Scott (executive director of the US National Center for Science)

“Dr. Scott, whose organization advocates for the teaching of evolution and against what it calls the intrusion of creationism and other religious doctrines in science classes, said the filmmakers were exploiting Americans’ sense of fairness as a way to sell their religious views. She said she feared the film would depict “the scientific community as intolerant, as close-minded, and as persecuting those who disagree with them. And this is simply wrong.”

Dawkins rails at 'creationist front' for duping him into film role

Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life’s Origin

Matt Brinkman said...

Nick writes about the Creationist belief in a world wide evilutionist conspiracy, i have never heard a good reason why they even think that.

There are two main reasons, I believe, behind this--one blunt and one subtle. The blunt one starts from the Creationist assumption that they alone are correctly interpreting Divine revelation--and their itnerpretation disagrees with what the scientists are telling them. There can be only be two reason why scientists would not tell the "truth". Scientists are either just honestly mistaken or they are part of a huge demonic conspiracy. Since it is difficult to believe all scientists are just honestly misguided--there must be a conspiracy.

The more subtle reason lies with a basic misunderstanding of how science actually works. Actual working scientists tend to spend their research time near the boundaries between what is known and unknown because this is precisely where the scientifically interesting action lies. That means they are looking for cases where standard theories appear to fail, where models no longer hold, and where apparent contradictions reign.

If you read scientific papers, attended conferences and went to seminars at major research centers there would appear to be a great debate on all of the problems with evolutionary theory and how it is breaking down left and right.* After hearing of all these issues you then ask scientists about all problems with evolution and they tell you--as Mark has--that evolution is a fact.** Aha! They are lying to you. Therefore there must be a conspiracy.

The problem with this argument is that no one are lying to you. The problems mentioned are not issues with the core evolutionary theory, but with a small bit of the theory applied to a smaller sub-patch of current research interest. The scientists who are familiar with the field understand the context of the discussion and don't go through this painful discussion separating their research from evolutionary theory in general every time they want to talk to a colleague.

Nick, I'm not sure if this answers your puzzlement or not. I will note that the question you implicitly asked really touches on some of the larger issues at play in the debate.

*I am singling out evolution here as an example because of the context of the discussion. This issue extends (as far as I can tell) to all areas of science with the exception of string theory. ;)

**And correctly so.

Matt Brinkman said...

Just as a quick follow-up to this thread. PZ Meyers--who is interviewed in Expelled--signed up a for screening and was expelled by the producer. PZ's account can be found here.

How ironic.