Friday, February 01, 2008


Cinema Chimera

Roger Moore, the Orlando Sentinel movie critic, wonders "Is Ben Stein the new face of Creationism?" Moore managed to attend a preview screening of the film phantasma known as Expelled. It wasn't as easy for him to get in as filmmakers usually make it for critics. The producers seemed intent on restricting the viewing to "a friendly, receptive audience of conservative Christian ministers at a conference at the Northland mega-church next to the dog track up in Longwood." Maybe it's just me but the reference to the dog track being handy for any crowd that might enjoy this trash seemed so apropos somehow. Anyway, despite having sent out many email invitations to Sentinel personnel, the producers tried to withdraw the one they sent to Mr. Moore. He apparently wouldn't take "no" for an answer. What's more:

They also passed out non-disclosure "statement of confidentiality" agreements for people to sign. I didn't.
At first, I had my doubts about how the review was going to go, since Moore described Ben Stein as a "funnyman and ex-Nixon speech writer," until I realized that those were the same parts of his "career." Certainly, nothing Stein has done since then qualifies as other than occasionally amusing in a pallid way. But Moore begins to warm to the task:

It's a movie that uses animation, archival documentary footage, interviews with outraged people of science who want ID on the table, and "atheists" who don't to make its case.

It just isn't particularly funny. Or the least bit convincing.
Then Moore gets tough:

Stein (he co-wrote it) builds his movie on classic Big Tobacco Tactics. Create just a sliver of doubt about evolution by pitching this argument in terms of academic freedom. "Legitimate" learned scientists are being silenced by the Darwinian cabal of thought police.

He uses anecdotes from a few Fox-over-publicized cases of people who claim to have lost tenure/their jobs/their position in the scientific world for daring to suggest the hand of a supernatural being in the creation of life. Then he has the audacity to whine, "Where's the data" when questioning cellular biologists and other real scientists who build their lives around doubt, and finding testable, legitimate answers to those doubts. ...

Most despicably, Stein, a Jew, invokes the Holocaust, making the Hitler-was-a-Darwinist argument, this AFTER he's used the Holocaust denier's favorite trick, "math," to show how remote the chances are that life was created by natural, not supernatural processes.
Then comes the summing up:

[N]ot offering evidence to back your side, where the burden of proof lies, makes the movie every bit as meaningful and silly as that transcendental metaphysical hooey of a couple of years back, What the Bleep Do We Know?

In Stein's case, you really do wonder what he knows, or what he's willing to claim just to make a buck off the Scopes deniers.
You do have to wonder how much of the proceeds of this will turn out to be Ben Stein's Money. That would be an interesting category in a quiz show.

I'm hoping (of course), that they'll publish the comments I left on their blog, which were:

There's a great irony in the attempts to link Stalinism and the modern evolutionary theory begun by Darwin. Stalin was opposed to so-called "Darwinism," much like Stein and company are, and he used the heavy-handed tactics to keep scientific evolution suppressed.

Stalin replaced scientific evolutionary theory with Lysenkoism, which is nearly as magical as ID is, though without God.

There's a danger in over-hyping such analogies (especially when they're as untrue, like the ones in Expelled). However, since they brought it up, and because the forces of anti-freedom have often targeted the science of evolution, the fact that IDists appear poised to adopt a milder Stalinist suppression of the most comprehensive biological theory seems worth mentioning.

Glen Davidson

... the fact that IDists appear poised to adopt a milder Stalinist suppression of the most comprehensive biological theory seems worth mentioning.

Maybe we can start calling all those counties in Florida passing Lysenkoist resolutions, in hopes political theory can trump biological reality, the Soviet Socialist Republics of Florida.

Knickers meet knot.
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