Saturday, March 29, 2008

Expelled Update: More PZ Myers, More Sub Rosa Spin and a Promise

First off, thanks to the commenter who linked to my first Expelled post, and welcome FDLers. It's my intention to continue monitoring the story on the science blogs and offer a conduit between that blogosphere and the Ohio left.

The big development this week was a PZ Myers' questionable participation in a conference call presser the Expelled producers put on to let journos talk to Ben Stein. Because of course, the person journalists should speak to about evolutionary science is a finance expert with a droll speaking

The good part of the story is 1) we know the main thrust of both the movie and the PR campaign -- that Darwin is responsible for the Holocaust, and 2) that Myers offered the journos an opposing view and a source when odds are they would have simply stenographed the story.

The bad part of the story is Myers learning how to unmute his phone and interrupting the call.
The ethics of all this have been a hot topic on the Panda's Thumb thread. The ethical arguments are essentially in equipoise. Certainly what Dr. Myers did was not nice, but it doesn't somehow make up for the problem on the other side that they are pretty much making up the case that Darwin is responsible for Nazi horrors.

(There's a broader question about whether one can be an activist atheist without simultaneous being an obnoxious dick. It seems too often one goes with the other, though Village Green has partially restored my faith in the faithless. Still, it's not always easy finding oneself on the same side with the Myers/Dawkins/Hitchens axis.)

Back to Expelled and the Nazi argument. Much of the scientific argument against the film's premises is beyond the knowledge of this blogger. The arguments about the interaction of science and policy, that's social science, an area where your blogger finds himself on somewhat firmer ground. As noted in my previous post, the film draws battle lines. While it postures itself as an argument for intellectual freedom, it is in fact a broadside by religion against science. Consider for example this quote from auteur Stein, courtesy of Stranger Fruit:

    I believe God created the heavens and the earth, and it doesn’t scare me when scientists say that can’t be proved. I couldn’t give a [profanity] whether a person calls himself a scientist. Science has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews. Scientists told Stalin it was a good idea to wipe out the middle-class peasants. Scientists told Mao Tse-Tung it was fine to kill 50,000,000 people in order to further the revolution.
At times, the IDers behind and in front of this film will argue that they aren't against science, they are only for equal time. Imagine if they really believe the above. They certainly wouldn't be for equal time. They would be working feverishly to purge that evil science from the American landscape. And it appears they are.

In the meantime, I'll be working on the historical arguments against Stein & Co.'s thesis. Remember that the movie erupts into the mainstream on April 18. You can find out where on their theater locator page.


Mencken said...

Bless PZ Myers for correctly identifying Ben Stein as a transitional fossil.

Eric said...

Stein is sloppy with his use of the term "scientist." Chesterton got it right in 1922: "tenth-rate professors."

"It has gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia is a pattern for the whole world. If parts of my book are nearly nine years old most of their principles and proceedings are a great deal older. They can offer us nothing but the same stuffy science, the same bullying bureaucracy and the same terrorism by tenth-rate professors that have led the German Empire to its recent conspicuous triumph."

Mencken said...

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand".

Bertrand Russell

Eric said...

Pho, for your consideration--
Add to Chesterton these warnings of Germany, uh, "losing the horizon":
William Jennings Bryan's undelivered condemnation of social Darwinism
Mit Brennender Sorge, 1937

Here's an anthropologist's retrospective:
"In Germany, all of these essentializing tendencies coalesced under the Nazis, who asserted an equation between German blood and soil and the superiority of the German folk community. As experts on human diversity, German anthropologists were quickly enlisted to help construct this genocidal ideology of historical and physical difference..."

Finally, an ignorant piece of holocaust revisionism in response to Expelled courtesy of Scientific American:
"I don't think Protestantism is accountable for the Holocaust, either, but whose ideas were most Lutheran Germans of the 1930s more familiar with: Darwin's or Luther's?"