Thursday, May 01, 2008

Expelled: Go see it!

I wasn't sure what to expect ... I guess I have lowered expectations from Hollywood, because I was kinda expecting something superficial and shallow.

Well Expelled is neither. It is rhetorically brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The creative use of archival footage, and the underlying theme connecting to that over-arching American value, freedom ... all brilliantly deployed. And apart from rhetoric, it's a very well done production, easy to follow, and I can imagine it sustaining the interest of a diverse audience.

My one quibble was that there wasn't really any space given to the substance of either neo-Darwinism or its challengers in Intelligent Design. But, I guess this wasn't about the substance of science per se, but about the freedom for science to be true to its best and highest principles.

I've no idea what kind of reactions Expelled is getting. In fact, I tried to stay away from coverage so I could go with an open mind. Coming away from the movie, I found myself quite convinced that neo-Darwinists definitely act like a stereotypical religious orthodoxy when threatened. The wall between what is acceptable and unacceptable science suddenly seems a lot more real.

Which is, of course, hugely ironic.

The one thing that I was not expecting was the exploration of the atheistic, materialistic philosophy that undergirds neo-Darwinism, and the connections between this worldview and the early 20th century eugenics movement in the US, as well as its culmination, if you will, in Hitler's Germany. The documentary very clearly avoids the fallacy that Darwinism necessarily leads to totalitarianism. But, as one interviewee put it, it might not have been sufficient for Nazism, but it was certainly necessary.

From Barb Nicolosi's "thumbs up" review:
Don't stay away thinking that this project is about a bunch of angry Christians trying to get the Bible creation story taught in high school science classes. The debate over the merits or lack thereof of Darwin's theory is really just the broad canvas for the movie's more basic contention that a society in which open thought is suppressed will devolve into injustice and even brutality.

One of the most resonant aspects of the project for me was watching how little interest the defenders of Darwin against all comers have in being consistent. They oppose one ideological dogma with something that comes down to just another one.
Of course it's not Christian propaganda. Stein is Jewish after all! My absolute favorite moment: hearing Richard Dawkins admit that he really does not know where life came from, and that one hypothesis he'd suggest is that it was created by a higher life form ... of course one that itself was a result of natural selection in some other part of the universe (A variation on the alien-seeding theory), so basically, just pushing back the question ... This after he had just said he was 99% sure that life had no intelligent origin.

No wonder Dawkins is outraged. His outrage is manifest in the documentary. And, apparently, the N-word for scientists is "creationist." [Oh, btw, I love the Guardian's description of Intelligent Design as a "variation" of creationism. Whatever it is, ID is not "creationism" in the sense of Christian creationism based on the Bible. But, it's the Guardian ...]

And at the very end of the video is a robust defense of the search for truth. I almost heard echoes of the Holy Father in that ...

Some YouTube videos:

Ben Stein on Hannity and Colmes.

Glenn Beck
. (Yeah, yuck. But still)

Bill O'Reilly.

So ... did any ... um ... non "fair & balanced" types interview Stein? Larry King? Jim Lehrer?

[Def. check out the post which links to America's excerpts from two early 20th century articles about Darwin, including the quote, from Charles Darwin himself, that The Origin of the Species was a misnomer, since his theory doesn't at all talk about, well, the origin of the species at all!]


Mattheus Mei said...

ooh can't wait to see it.. the film has definitely rustled the feathers of some local loud mouths

Gashwin said...


The thing is though, I am not entirely sure that ID is good science. Of course, I'm hardly an expert scientist, and know next to nothing about molecular biology, or physics.

However, the response to arguments made by ID -- things like irreducible complexity and so on -- is to produce alternate non-ID explanations for the data. Not try and "silence" those who dare challenge the orthodoxy.

There is absolutely no doubt that religious folk, including those who think evolution is un-biblical and un-Christian, support ID for religious or philosophical reasons, or, because it provides more ammunition against neo-Darwinism. Which is simply the other side (though, perhaps less virulent than) the neo-Darwinist onslaught against ID.

I'd like to see an honest scientific discussion of such matters. You know, see a neo-Darwinist and a proponent of ID hash it out in a rational debate.

As I said in the post, the one thing lacking for me was the substance of the arguments, both for the neo-Darwinist consensus and the ID challenge.

Fr. Andrew said...

My brother is an MD/PhD and he finds it interesting that there is no dissension allowed, precisely the issue Stein and the filmmakers are raising. Myself, as a trained chemist, there is dissension on the central physical theory- quantum mechanics. It might not be vocal but it is considered academically and intellectually acceptable.

Oh, and Dawkin's space alien theory- how does that not lead to St. Thomas' need for the prime mover?

Gashwin said...

The space-alien theory is not new. Under then names "panspermia" or "exogenesis" it has tried to obtain (unsuccessfully, I believe) scientific pedigree, and remains consigned to pseudo-science and science-fiction.

Which makes one wonder: materialists are willing to ponder absolutely irrational theories that are well beyond the scope of science: strange space aliens seeding Earth with life. Yet, the likes of Dawkins et al. rail against those who would propose God as the source of life? This tends to lend credence to the idea that what many neo-Darwinist materialists fear is religion, a fear that is hardly scientific.

Neither propositions (space-aliens or God) is, strictly speaking, a scientific one.

One is clearly more rational than the other.

Part of the problem, of course, is this idea that reason itself is limited only to scientific reason.

Apart from materialism, Dawkins and his ilk are also plagued by scientism and empiricism.

They could use a good dose of philosophy 101, it seems.

Gashwin said...

And yes, Dawkins answer in the movie doesn't really answer the question, it simply pushes everything back.

Heather said...

If you are more interested in the science of Intelligent Design, you should read the Wedge document (Google search friendly). It was written by the religious right as a strategy document to rid public schools of evolutionary teaching and include creationism, in some form, as the explanation of life on the planet.

As someone who believes that God created everything and that evolution is probably how he made that happen, it bothers me that this is an effort to dispel science - which is just as closed-minded as scientists who reject the concept of religion.

I don't think research should be shoved aside because it isn't mainstream - but I do think that things like faith should be researched separately from things like biology.