Saturday, April 19, 2008

Expelled, the Ben Stein movie

I just finished watching Expelled, the movie by Ben Stein. The movie was sometimes funny and sometimes sober and powerful, but always provocative and informative.

One of my favorite parts was the interview with renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, in which Dawkins admitted that neither he nor any other scientists had a clue how life began, but he conceded that life could have began as a result of intelligent design from outer space—as long as we’re clear that such alien intelligent designers could not possibly be God.

Now that’s real science, isn’t it?

Please, take time to see this powerful movie. Bring your family and friends.

10 comments:

Brent said...

For corrections to factual errors and misrepresentations in the movie, see http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/
the-truth

To see how the producers lied to many of the interviewees, see http://www.expelledexposed.com/
index.php/background/
interview-tactics

Dennis said...

Brent, thanks for your link to the National Center for Science Education.

If I believed the propoganda provided by your link I would conclude that the NCSE had no problem with Intelligent Design and that all those scientists were just fired for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with intelligent design. If you believe that, I'll give you a good price on a big bridge in San Francisco!

I would suggest that readers read the snow job provided by the National Center for Science Education and then go watch the movie and decide for themselves.

Robert said...

I’ve noticed that whether its evolution, global warming, or some other hot topic of the day, that there are groups of scientists who frankly have no qualms about using politics, economics, or outright intimidation to protect their theories. In many ways, it seems humanity hasn’t changed much from the dark ages; we just clothe ourselves in different accoutrements and technologies.

I haven’t seen expelled, so I can’t comment on the tactics used in the movie. I have seen the tactics used in many of these “gotcha” style documentaries (as made famous by Michael Moore). If that is indeed what Expelled utilized, I think it ultimately does a disservice because the issue then becomes the tactics and material left out as opposed to the actual topic (which is the general lack of discussion or suppression of ideas).

Although it’s extremely tempting to say that the evolution/ID discussion is about eliminating God (especially whenever Richard Dawkins is around), I think it’s more about the general rigidity of the scientific community and protecting their theories. If we are just to hold ourselves to just examining Darwinian evolution, one only has to look at Edward J. (Ted) Steele’s research to find a non-religious instance where the scientific community tried to expunge him from the discussion (to reach a scientific “consensus” as it were).

In case you’re unaware of the situation, Professor Steele (Australian molecular immunologist formerly with the University of Wollongong) was trying to revive the Lamarckian idea that populations could “evolve” as a result of their environment. For example, parents who lose the use of their arms as a result of their environment could pass that trait to their children. Darwinian evolution tends to theorize that such a change could only happen as a result of a mutation.

Biology today tends to believe that DNA -> RNA -> Protein (or expression). It always flows in that one direction, known as the “Weismann barrier.” The Weismann barrier is the principle that hereditary information moves only from genes to body cells but never in reverse. Much of Steele’s research centers on retroviruses and “reverse transcriptase” and the ability for information to flow backwards.

The implications of Steele (and other similar researchers) being correct is enormous. It could fundamentally shake the foundations of how we believe evolution works. Consequently, Professor Steele has found himself the target of numerous controversies.

I guess this was a long way of saying that science today isn’t necessarily science in the way we think of it. There are big interests in keeping the status quo and squashing other ideas. If Expelled succeeds in anything, it’ll be that scientists realize that it’s in humanity’s best interests to let all the voices be heard and let the evidence speak for itself.

Dennis said...

Excellent post, Robert! You wrote, "If Expelled succeeds in anything, it’ll be that scientists realize that it’s in humanity’s best interests to let all the voices be heard and let the evidence speak for itself."

That's what the movie seeks to achieve. I have little hope this will happen, however. Some scientists and militant athiests have become every bit as dogmatic in their beliefs as the Catholic bishops behind the inquisition.

Although scientists sometimes succeed in getting their opponents fired or denied tenure, we can at least be glad our laws keep disidents from being tortured.

professor ed said...

Thank you Dennis for offering your initial insight to this movie you have viewed. Brent and Robert, your comments are appreciated, as well. I definitely look forward to seeing this movie in the near future.

Patrick Roberts said...

just saw Expelled; the fact that Ben Stein isn't trying to win any popularity contests helps to validate his message... i gather that his goal is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about worldviews that drive American academia

Dennis said...

Patrick,

I think you're absolutely right. I don't think Ben Stein is nearly as intersted in promoting intelligent design as he is in promoting academic freedom.

He wants to make sure that properly credentialed scientists are not denied tenure, pressured, fired or otherwise censored just because they hold politically incorrect views.

That is what liberalism was once all about--until the the liberals gained power in various institutions. Now they want to silence opposition. As they say, power corrupts.

Brent said...

For the record, even if the premise of this movie is correct (which I am not granting you) ,let's not pretend only the left manipulates science.

"In the survey, the EPA scientists described an agency suffering from low morale as senior managers and the White House Office of Management and Budget frequently second-guess scientific findings and change work conducted by EPA scientists, the report said....Nearly 400 scientists said they had witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 said they had witnessed the "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome" and 224 scientists said they had been directed to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information" in an EPA document."

From " EPA scientists cite political interference", http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/23/
epa.scientists.ap/index.html

"He wants to make sure that properly credentialed scientists are not denied tenure, pressured, fired or otherwise censored just because they hold politically incorrect views."

Dennis, if you'll look at the link I provided more closely, you'll find several examples of academics cited in the movie as being treated unfairly that were discussed in a misleading or downright false way.

Dennis said...

Brent,

That's easy. The EPA officials involved in misrepresenting scientific information are all on the Left! (They must be hold-overs from the Clinton administration :-)

Just kidding. Actually, whether they are from the Left or Right, I think your point actually just makes Ben Stein's case stronger.

It's true that Stein was focusing on Intelligent Design to make his case, but his point was really against the manipulation of science and scientists for political, or politically correct purposes. He was really arguing for freedom of speech.

I think Ben Stein would agree with you completely that such manipulation of scientific data and opinions by government bureaucrats needs to stop immedately.

Dennis said...

Brent, actually, I think Ben Stein could have made his case MUCH stronger if he had broadened his focus to include such issues as those who oppose global warming and the EPA abuses you mentioned.