Wednesday, January 30, 2008


... no, flunked!

There is a perhaps subtle but still good piece of journalism in the Des Moines Register about the fantasy epic, starring Ben Stein, wrongly entitled "Expelled."

On the surface, it might appear to suffer from the "balance" mania modern media is prone to, where "both sides" of a dispute are treated as if they are of equal weight, without any critical examination of the underlying claims. Guillermo Gonzalez, the astronomer and Intelligent Design advocate recently denied tenure at Iowa State, is trotted out as the real star of the movie. Gonzales said:

I'm convinced that I was denied tenure because of my intelligent design research.
On the other side, Hector Avalos, an ISU professor of religious studies, who lead a petition drive denouncing ID, is quoted as well, saying that Expelled is a:

... revenge film meant to create political and public support for those who unsuccessfully attempted to present (intelligent design) as science in our educational system.
After introducing the Discovery Institute as an organization that "supports discussion of intelligent design in the classroom" (which will likely drive the DI's Media Complaint Division into a frenzy), the story goes on to say:

The Discovery Institute's motivations were part of the high-profile Dover, Pa., school district court case in 2005, in which U.S. District Judge John Jones quoted in his opinion one of the organization's fundraising proposals, which he referred to as the "Wedge Document." Jones wrote that the document stated that the intelligent design movement aims to replace science as currently practiced with science consistent with "theistic and Christian science."
And here is the subtle part: earlier in the story Mark Mathis, an associate producer of the movie, is quoted as saying:

[A]cademic suppression ... is going on to anybody that does not faithfully adhere to the monopolistic view within academia of atheistic neo-Darwinism.
This nicely demonstrates that the motivation of ID is, in fact, to change science into something that is not empirically objective but, instead, Christian apologetics.

It would have been nice if the article went a step further and explained that the empiric evidence is that evolutionary theory is not "atheistic," say by pointing to the many religious scientists, such as contemporary examples, Ken Miller and Francis Collins, or even some of the giants of evolutionary biology, such as R.A. Fisher and Theodosius Dobzhansky, who have accepted and strongly supported the scientific evidence for common descent. It might also have mentioned the acceptance of the science by such religious figures as Pope John Paul II and the 11,000 signors of The Clergy Letter Project.

But, hey! Nobody's perfect.

Mathis says the film accurately portrays both sides of the debate. The film has already received positive press from intelligent design advocates, including Intelligent Design The Future, a podcast linked to the Discovery Institute, which supports discussion of intelligent design in the classroom.

I thought the above was amusing enough. Uh, yeah, the side that isn't called Nazis without cause or justification, gives the film thumbs up, so you know it's actually fair and balanced.

And Mark Mathis is an evil atheistic (at least in practical terms) film director. Or, does he ever factor in the supernatural when he does his work? I am betting (regardless of whatever prayers he might offer up) that he pays no more attention in to the supernatural than biologists do, when doing the actual work, yet the latter are vile infidels, while he's doing the Lord's work by treating matter "materialistically."

Only if he could somehow show that leaving out God and religion while doing science is inherently "atheistic," while somehow similarly leaving God and religion out of doing film production, can he claim that evolution and scientists are inherently "atheistic".

This goes for those who do try too hard to tie science to atheism. While that argument can be made universally, science is no more atheistic than is movie-making, carpentry, or officiating communion. Science is not a special case, and if it is atheistic, that is only because everything is, really.

Or vice versa, if Mathis thinks he's theistic in using physics (ultimately) to make films, then any biologist could be equally theistic doing actual honest science.

I don't think that anything is too dishonest for the Expelled bunch, however.

Glen Davidson
... science is no more atheistic than is movie-making, carpentry, or officiating communion ...

Or making breakfast without a hammer handy in case the eggs suddenly have shells harder than concrete. Everyone is a methodological naturalist in their daily life because we all expect the material universe to act the same today as it did yesterday.

I don't think that anything is too dishonest for the Expelled bunch, however.

Hey! When it's all you got, you have to go with your strength, no matter what it is.
John described Expelled as a "fantasy epic." Perhaps the movie would be more successful if it pitched itself this way. They made a big mistake by not hiring you to be the PR/media relations guy. :)
Let's see ...

Darwin as Sauron ... Richard Dawkins as the Lord of the Nazg├╗l ... Gonzales as Aragorn ... Dembski as Frodo ... Behe as Sam ...

And last, but not least, Ben Stein is near perfect for Gollum!
Shouldn't there be one chaplain attached to each Biology lab, to vet the research performed there ?

Or better, a multiconfessional commitee.
"A Pastor, a Rabbi and a Jesuit were discussing the latest research on centrioles role in cellular division.
The Pastor said: ... "
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