Friday, April 18, 2008
In the course of some recent research, I kept running across ads for a "documentary" about Intelligent Design Creationism by Ben Stein called, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This morning, via Arts and Letters Daily, I ran into an excellent article about the movie by Michael Shermer, Director of the Skeptics Society.
I like the article for two reasons. First, it does a good job of indicating that the "case" against the Theory of Evolution is smoke and mirrors, while Creationism is being propped up by one lie after another.
In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory, not because I knew anything about it (I didn't) but because I thought that in order to believe in God and accept the Bible as true that you had to be a creationist. What I knew about evolution came primarily from creationist literature, so when I finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked. What I discovered is a massive amount of evidence from multiple sciences -- geology, paleontology, biogeography, zoology, botany, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, genetics and embryology -- demonstrating that evolution happened.And this thread just gets better.
It was with some irony for me, then, that I saw Ben Stein's anti-evolution documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens with the actor, game show host and speech writer for Richard Nixon addressing a packed audience of adoring students at Pepperdine University, apparently falling for the same trap I did.
Actually they didn't. The biology professors at Pepperdine assure me that their mostly Christian students fully accept the theory of evolution. So who were these people embracing Stein’s screed against science? Extras. According to Lee Kats, Associate Provost for Research and Chair of Natural Science at Pepperdine, "the production company paid for the use of the facility just as all other companies do that film on our campus" but that "the company was nervous that they would not have enough people in the audience so they brought in extras. Members of the audience had to sign in and the staff member reports that no more than two to three Pepperdine students were in attendance. Mr. Stein's lecture on that topic was not an event sponsored by the university." And this is one of the least dishonest parts of the film. [bold added]
A second strong point about the article is that it explains the big fuss that fundamentalists make about evolution. This is, as it turns out, more subtle than just the fact that evolution does contradict the Bible. Shermer offers some further insight on this score.
Even more disturbing than these distortions is the film's other thesis that Darwinism inexorably leads to atheism, Communism, Fascism and the Holocaust. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of religious believers fully accept the theory of evolution, Stein claims that we are in an ideological war between a scientific natural worldview that leads to the gulag archipelago and Nazi gas chambers, and a religious supernatural worldview that leads to freedom, justice and the American way. The film's visual motifs leave no doubt in the viewer's emotional brain that Darwinism is leading America into an immoral quagmire. We're going to hell in a Darwinian hand basket. Cleverly edited interview excerpts from scientists are interspersed with various black-and-white clips for guilt by association with: bullies beating up on a 98-pound weakling, Charlton Heston's character in Planet of the Apes being blasted by a water hose, Nikita Khrushchev pounding his fist on a United Nations desk, East Germans captured trying to scale the Berlin Wall, and Nazi crematoria remains and Holocaust victims being bulldozed into mass graves. This propaganda production would make Joseph Goebbels proud. [bold added]In other words, evolutionary theory contradicts the Bible, yes, but this attack is against reason as such, and is based on (and justified by) the false premise that freedom has no rational basis.
I would have liked the article to have also noted that Intelligent Design is an inherently religious and unscientific doctrine, but Shermer has provided an invaluable glimpse into the mindset of the proponents of Intelligent Design Creationism.
They claim to be defending freedom and that freedom has no rational basis. They are wrong on both counts, but those premises make their willingness to lie through their teeth suddenly make a lot of sense.
PS: There's more on Expelled over at Ari Armstrong's blog. (HT: Monica, who notices that the religious right now calls real science "Big Science" and links to the trailer.)
Today: (1) Corrected typos. (2) Added link to Ari Armstrong. (3) Linked to Monica's post.