Watched Expelled today

Saskatoon’s CFI affiliate watched the film Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed this afternoon. The whole film is available on Youtube if you want to put yourself through it.

It’s a “documentary” that plays fast and loose with the notion of facts and tries to claim that Intelligence Design is not only a valid theory better than evolution, but that educators and scientists who support it are run out of town, discredited and essentially thrown in ideological gulags for the rest of eternity for daring to suggest it. He does liken their treatment to gulags in the film and includes stock footage of guillotines and concentration camps and the Berlin Wall because “Darwinists” are close-cousins to Nazis, apparently.

Ben Stein and his team were unscrupulous in twisting everything to fit their agenda. A Scientific American article lists six of the most egregious ways the show manipulated its audience. I’ll include their list, but read the article for full details. (This opinion piece from NBC goes into some of this, too.)

1) Expelled quotes Charles Darwin selectively to connect his ideas to eugenics and the Holocaust.
2) Ben Stein’s speech to a crowded auditorium in the film was a setup.
3) Scientists in the film thought they were being interviewed for a different movie.
4) The ID-sympathetic researcher whom the film paints as having lost his job at the Smithsonian Institution was never an employee there.
5) Science does not reject religious or “design-based” explanations because of dogmatic atheism.
6) Many evolutionary biologists are religious and many religious people accept evolution.

Like Eugenie Scott, who was one of the unfortunates targeted for interviews for this film. She’s Catholic.

I also recall P.Z. Myers writing about his experience with it. I was a fan of his blog at the time and remember this being a topic. He wrote an amusing post about trying to go watch the film he was interviewed for. He was booted from line but his guest, Richard Dawkins (also interviewed), got in without difficulty.

We were trying to remember if this film came before or after the Intelligent Design trial. Kitzmiller v. Dover was 2005 and this film was release in 2008.

In the legal case Kitzmiller v. Dover, tried in 2005 in a Harrisburg, PA, Federal District Court, “intelligent design” was found to be a form of creationism, and therefore, unconstitutional to teach in American public schools.

As the first case to test a school district policy requiring the teaching of “intelligent design,” the trial attracted national and international attention. Both plaintiffs and defendants in the case presented expert testimony over six weeks from September 26 through November 4, 2005). On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones issued a sharply-worded ruling in which he held that “intelligent design” was, as the plaintiffs argued, a form of creationism.

Ball State University in Indiana hired Guillermo Gonzalez to be an assistant professor of astronomy in 2013. He was one of the educators Stein interviewed.

In 2008 Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University, essentially a form of termination, after which he taught at Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, before landing at Ball State.

As of May 10th this year, they gave tenure to a guy named Eric Hedin, also for the astronomy department.

A “Boundaries of Science” class taught by Hedin reportedly promoted the idea that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, in contrast to an undirected process like evolution.

In 2013, Ball State President Jo Ann Gora decided ID was not an appropriate subject for a science class after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about Hedin’s course. After an investigation by a panel of academic experts, Gora said ID, which some call pseudoscience, was overwhelmingly regarded by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory.

But they gave him tenure and Gonzalez is on a tenure track. Added to that, he’s a fellow for the Discovery Institute, the biggest group pushing for ID inclusion.

Michael J.I. Brown, an observational astronomer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told The Star Press in 2014 it was a “remarkable coincidence” that two astronomers who believe in ID ended up at Ball State. Two ID-believing astronomers winding up in the same modestly sized astrophysics department by random chance are as unlikely as two astronomers who own chimpanzees ending up in the same department, Brown said.

Ars Technica reported in April 2016 about an Ohio school district pushing the “teach the controversy” angle.

Zack Kopplin, an activist who has tracked attempts to sneak religious teachings into science classrooms, found a bit of sneaking going on in Youngstown, Ohio. There, a document hosted by the city schools includes a lesson plan that openly endorses intelligent design and suggests the students should be taught that there’s a scientific controversy between it and evolution.

The document focuses on the “Diversity of Life” and is a bizarre mix of normal science and promotion of intelligent design. Most of the first page, for example, is taken up by evolution standards that have language that echoes that of the Next Generation Science Standards. But the discussion is preceded by a statement that’s straight out of the “teach the controversy” approach: “The students examine the content of evolution and intelligent design and consider the merits and flaws of both sides of the argument.” In fact, elsewhere in the document, teachers are told to host a debate where students take turns arguing for evolution and intelligent design.

For a science class I think that’s a colossal waste of class time. Setting up both sides as if they’re in any way on equal footing does a great disservice to actual scientific advancement and understanding. Sure, there are gaps in the knowledge. It’s to be expected. Every year we know more but we’ll never know everything and while the ID side may think it’s somehow egotistical for scientists to claim their theories for origins are valid ideas (from mineral starts to panspermia), it doesn’t make any logical sense to slap a creator into the gap instead and consider the whole thing solved that way.

Thoughts?

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