Although the forth-coming film EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed has been featured in many blogs, popular science magazines have only started to make their comments. Michael Shermer's piece for Scientific American sets the tone in establishing at the outset that the film is "a Science-free Attack on Darwin" and that it advances "the pseudoscience of intelligent design". The lack of clarity about the real issues in this debate is apparent from the comment: "Intelligent design creationists, by contrast, have no interest in doing science at all." This is so blatantly untrue that most readers will realise that that something deeper is going on here.
DEBATING DARWIN: Ben Stein stands in front of a statue of Darwin at The Natural History Museum in London. (Photo by Kelly Engstrom)
It seems that nothing in the documentary gains Shermer's approval. He does not like Darwin's ideas being used as justification for any social action, whether it is Nazi attempts to weed out the weak and unfit, or greedy exploiters of others within the capitalist economic system. He says: "Scientific theorists cannot be held responsible for how their ideas are employed in the service of non-scientific agendas." The problem here is that of naivety. People do use Darwinism to justify their actions. They claim this is the way nature works, so it must be OK. There are books being published on a regular basis that are trying to make Darwinism the key to unlock ethics and to say what is "natural" (see comments in a previous blog).
The root problem with Shermer's understanding of science is that he wants to demarcate scientific knowledge from thinking that is not science. This is a hopeless task, and those who set out to do this always miss out some significant areas of scientific research. What he does is to compartmentalise knowledge - yet knowledge should not be compartmentalised! Ultimately, knowledge needs to be unified and we should make sure that knowledge is always related to truth. If we do not have this vision, scholarship will forever be impoverished. In his concluding paragraphs, Shermer writes:
"When will people learn that Darwinian naturalism has nothing whatsoever to do with religious supernaturalism? By the very definitions of the words it is not possible for supernatural processes to be understood by a method designed strictly for analyzing natural causes. Unless God reaches into our world through natural and detectable means, he remains wholly outside the realm of science.
So, yes Mr. Stein, sometimes walls are bad (Berlin), but other times good walls make good neighbors. Let's build up that wall separating church and state, along with science and religion, and let freedom ring for all people to believe or disbelieve what they will."
Here, Shermer's compartmentalised approach is vividly displayed. Science is a method "designed strictly for analyzing natural causes", but does this mean archaeologists and forensic scientists are banished from science? This must be wrong - but Shermer can only concede this by admitting design inferences into science. Then he would have to modify his comment about God - to allow for intelligent design to be detected by rational means.
Instead of this, Shermer wants to erect a wall: one separating science and religion. He wants knowledge to be compartmentalised. He thinks that science and religion should be good neighbours who never talk to each other! There is no acknowledgement in the piece that many atheistic scientists will have nothing to do with these walls. For them, the only knowledge worth having is scientific knowledge - and all else is superstition and delusion. They do not want to be good neighbours to "religion" but are working tirelessly to replace delusions with scientific atheism. These are the people who have captured the wills of the intelligentsia in the US and many parts of Europe and who make it clear that if others will not join them, they will not find a home within the scientific community.
Others can see this message in the film. Here is Kate Wright in American Thinker:
"Via onscreen interviews with Neo-Darwinists such as Professor Richard ("The God Delusion") Dawkins, Ben typifies the pervasive practice of authoritarian attitudes in academic elites, particularly toward God-fearing people. As such, this is not a film about believers vs. non-believers. This is a first-rate expose about the consequences of suppressing freedom of expression, based on the questionable assumption that atheistic secularism is the state religion of the United States of America. [. . .]
This film states that Neo-Darwinism is about world view, not scientific exploration."
Another who has felt the pulse of the documentary is Joseph Farrar:
"It turns out some of the most hardened, doctrinaire anti-design zealots in the scientific establishment - people like Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion" and, coincidentally, the de facto leader of the worldwide atheist movement - aren't really opposed to the notion of design at all. They just can't accept God as the designer.
You will hear some of the world's most celebrated evolutionists admit design is possible - just not by the hand of God.
They will attribute the possibility of design to visitors from other planets and even to crystals. The two things they cannot tolerate are consideration of God's role and any of their colleagues deviating from their own ideas about origins."
Finally, here is Ben Stein himself, talking to Megan Basham in World Magazine:
"I would want it to open freedom of speech at schools and universities so that people could express their concerns and reservations about Darwinism and any subject in science related to macroevolution so that one small group wouldn't have a lock on what's discussed on campuses. And there's already some progress on that front. In Florida there's a law making its way through the House of Representatives that helps ensure academic freedom by mandating that you cannot be punished for questioning Darwinism. And there's a similar law that's about to be introduced in Missouri to the same effect. And I think it's unfortunate that we even need such laws, but apparently we do.
Besides that, I want people to walk away remembering that there is a great deal that Darwinism cannot explain and that there is a great deal that can be explained by intelligent design. If you have a book in front of you that has hundreds of millions of words written in it, it was probably written by an author rather than by rain dripping on a page."
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin
Scientific American, 9 April 2008
In a new documentary film, actor, game show host and financial columnist Ben Stein falls for the pseudoscience of intelligent design
Wright, K. Ben Stein's Intelligent Adventure, American Thinker, 13 April 2008
Basham, M. Mocked and belittled, World Magazine, April 2008 (restricted access)
Farah, J. I can't wait to be 'Expelled', World Net Daily, March 04, 2008
Quotation: "Expelled, by contrast, points up the unhealthy state of contemporary science regarding biological origins. Our intellectual elite have insulated Darwinian evolution from scientific scrutiny. Moreover, they have institutionalized intolerance to any criticism of it. Expelled documents this institutionalized intolerance and thereby unmasks the hypocrisy of an intellectual class that pretends to value freedom of thought and expression, but undercuts it whenever it conflicts with their deeply held secular ideals." (Bill Dembski, The Difference 'Expelled' Will Make, Baptist Press News, Apr 18, 2008).
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