Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Intro to Expelled

Folks, there's a new weapon in the Creationism/Intelligent Design arsenal, Ben Stein's new movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie purports to champion academic freedom on behalf of those who have been, in the words of the press kit, "persecuted" for believing in Intelligent Design. And the ground work is being laid now, out of public view.

The company marketing the film also marketed Mel Gibson's How the Jews Killed Jesus The Passion of the Christ, and are going about it the same way. They are offering free screenings throughout the country to conservative Christian audiences to generate buzz and keeping both critics and mainstream reviewers out. And anyone not a Real True Christian gets in, they launch a defamatory PR campaign to discredit the critic.

The most amusing and celebrated of these incidents occurred in Minnesota where producers expelled (yes, they really did) biologist, blogger and activist PZ Myers, but overlooked another member of his party, Richard Dawkins.

All of that helped make Gibson's pestilent passion play critic proof, though it's a harder sell when the premise of the movie is intellectual freedom. If, as Stein insists, the argument is about allowing access to all points of view, he and the producers can't justify keeping the points of view against the film out of the theater.

So far the best resource on all things Expelled is "Expelled Exposed" a website maintained by the radical, leftwing National Center for Science Education.

The story thus far raises some concerns in addition to those raised above. Among them:

  • There is considerable evidence that the producers misrepresented themselves to scientists who agreed to be interviewed on camera.
  • The movie as a whole recasts the intelligent design debate as one between people of faith versus atheists. This is a change of tactic for ID proponents, and one that attempts to divide people of science from people of faith, despite the fact that many people embrace both.
  • Stein heavily plays the Nazi card -- claiming that Darwinism is responsible for the Holocaust.
  • Meanwhile, on the science side, some are questioning the utility of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins as spokepeople against the film, given that both are atheist activists, playing into the "religion vs. atheist scientists" frame the film producers want.
  • Oh, and let's not forget that the whole ID project is a bunch of crypto-fundie hooey.
Each of these is worth at least a post in its own right, but who knows what I will be able to get to.

In April the movie opens to mainstream premiere. People who care about maintaining the integrity of science education would do well to keep abreast of what happens between now and then. Right now the debate is happening, but only one side is invited.


Ben said...

"Right now the debate is happening, but only one side is invited"

Kind of like how the left views global warming, no?

RJM said...

Pho - spot on! Good summary of the situation, and your point about the inconsistency of not allowing outsiders in is worth spreading. Another item you noted is quite important. The original 'hook' for ID was to pretend that it was science, and to keep religion completely out of the picture, avoiding that pesky separation of church and state business. The backsliding towards 'faith vs. science' that you noticed is very important for that reason - a change of tactics and emphasis, and and admission that the original ID approach wasn't working. All the more reason that Dawkins should lay low - he's not likely to be helpful in that argument. Ken Miller will be the go-to guy in a faith/science discussion.

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show you that the "debate" isn't over for them. Dover didn't do it. The 2006 election didn't do it. Even their own disenfranchizement from the current GOP presidential nominee didn't do it. The neo-cons and the fundamentalists (both Christian and Jew) that support them are in it for the long haul. We must be steadfast for Science. Although--remember this--Science always wins.

redhorse said...

Ben, no. Clearly in this case, one side is invited to participate, while the other is shut out.

In the case of global warming, there are plenty of outlets for both believers and non-believers to make their case.

Plus, the ID folks are a subset, easily identifiable by their quest, of the electorate. In no way can a broad statement saying "the left" buys the global warming argument.

Perhaps the "environmental left" is more analogous.

Ben said...

I disagree Redhorse. You arent really allowed to say Global Warming might not exist.

Pho said...


Thanks for the kind words, tho many of the ideas you like originated in the sources linked in the post. Agreed Miller is a better choice at this point, and I hope Francis Collins will also step up and argue against the movie.


In what way are you "not allowed?" Is there an anti-denyer statute of which I'm unaware? Are warming skeptics being rounded up?

Do you need a place to stay until the heat is off?

RJM said...

As a scientist, I can tell you that in the global climate change discussion you certainly would be allowed to say that climate change (or global warming) doesn't exist. However you would (as with ID) be flying in the face of the facts. The scientific evaluation of the matter is quite clear - the data to date are consistent with the hypothesis that human activities are altering the climate (generally warming it). The support for that view has grown steadily over time (see the IPCC reports). Disagreeing with that consensus is nonetheless 'allowed'. But, you would need some pretty strong evidence to get anyone to listen to you. So far no one has come up with that. However, outside of the scientific literature you can find lots of unscientific arguments against climate change, (and for the safety of tobacco, and lots of other unsupported opinions) but that's a different discussion. And, it demonstrates that those views aren't being squelched. Climate change skeptics (most of them non-scientists) are few, but loud, and easy to find. They're not excluded from public discussion except in the sense that most people want to listen to reasoned arguments about scientifically supported views.