Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed / A Review of Sorts

[Very lengthy post ahead...so much so that it‘s probably unreadable as a blog entry, but nevertheless I‘m posting it.]

It was a busy weekend, but I managed to get my family rounded up and through the doors of the movie theatre for the 4:25pm showing of Expelled Saturday afternoon. My son turned 13 on the 18th so we took him to his favorite restaurant that evening, and on Saturday, baseball season began for both my boys. It was a long day at the ball park, but the plan was to go home after the games, change, and head out to the movie theatre to hit one of the matinee times.

My two boys were pretty worn out after their games, and I wasn’t sure whether I should take them along because they were complaining a bit about seeing a “documentary”. They were pretty convinced it would be “boring“, and after reading all the negative articles from liberal reviewers regarding the film, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about seeing it myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect at this point, and after all the hype the past few months, I didn’t want to be disappointed. In the end, the boys decided to go with us because they were remotely curious about what their Mom’s been carrying on about for months.

I figured there wouldn’t be much of a crowd at the 4:25 show, so we didn’t rush, and we walked into the theatre just a couple minutes before the previews were shown. I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival....I counted 92 people in attendance, so that was nice to see. Luckily, my parents arrived early and saved us four seats in a good location.

I really wanted to consider the film from the opposition’s perspective because I know how upset they’ve been about it, though I knew that was going to be difficult. I’ve become very jaded over the past 5 years due to my involvement in the Internet debates on these issues. I’ve experienced so much of the blatant unrelenting sheer rage toward ID from the scientific community, and I’ve learned enough about the scientific issues to realize that they simply don’t have the data to back their claims in regard to Darwinian “facts”.

I enjoyed the interviews with those scientists supporting ID. While the film did an outstanding job of presenting the obvious...that there has to be a source of intellect for our existence, I would have liked to have seen even more of the scientific arguments that support ID addressed. This will be an important topic over the years to come, and although I do not see Darwinism fading into the abyss, I strongly believe that the inference of ID will flourish as the years progress.

It was interesting to see the relatively small office space at the Discovery Institute. I’d previously seen the DI in a you tube clip, but there was a bit more footage in this film. It really makes you appreciate all the more what they’ve accomplished over the years.

The responses from the supporters of Darwinism were very telling, but certainly no surprise to me. As an active supporter of ID and having had endless conversations with Darwinists, I’m quite familiar with how adamantly the scientific “elite” vehemently oppose ID...making the straw man argument that it is religion and then tearing into religious thought with as much fury as they can muster.

I found Will Provine’s words disturbing and profoundly sad. His claim that ID is “boring, boring, boring” was mind boggling. For me, the issues in this debate opened up a flood of questions, curiosity and unquenchable interest about nature, science, and yes, even God. I’ve learned so much over the past few years that I’d had little interest in in the past. I also found it so sad to hear him say that *ultimately* life really has no purpose or meaning, and that if his cancer returns (which it has since his interview) he plans to take his own life at some point rather than live with the illness. I suppose euthanasia would be an acceptable choice for many, and as long as others are *never* pressured to make the same choice, I suppose our understanding of free will allows for him to make that type of decision. It would break my heart to have a relative take their life, and I would personally rather live with pain and suffering than to put my children through that type of pain, but to each his own. Will assures us that his atheism was an enlightenment for him, and he is anything but unhappy about his outlook on life.

Michael Ruse....what can I say. After the flick, we were talking about the film in the parking lot on the way to the car. My oldest pipes up... “life arose on the back of crystals....wtf?” *Ahem*....first I choked down laughter, and then I popped him for dropping the F bomb (kids these days....sheesh!). Honestly, I’d have to say I’m with him on this one. Ruse makes you wonder how supposed “rational” scientists can carry on in excitement about molecules originating or “piggybacking” and evolving on crystals yet shudder at the much more reasonable concepts of, say, design in nature, IC, and the anthropic principle. (See Ruse on youtube here).

PZ Myers...goodness, he was so calm and mild mannered, no? Certainly not the guy we know from Pharyngula. But, nevertheless, his comments comparing religion to knitting and his want to make religion a “side dish” rather than the “main course” brought out the PZ that we all know and love. I would describe PZ’s performance as arrogant and chilling.

Richard Dawkins came across as a sputtering buffoon. There were giggles throughout the theatre during his interview with Stein. For a man who prides himself as “reasonable” and “rational”, he certainly has never come across that way when discussing ID or the origin of life.

Enough about the Darwin supporters....let’s move on to David Berlinksi. He was certainly a shining star in this documentary. His credentials are impressive and his reasoning behind his questioning Darwinian evolution certainly cannot be described as religiously motivated as he is an agnostic. Here is a clip of Berlinski in action though it’s not from the documentary.

Much of the rage against this film that is coming from the Darwinist camp is due to the Eugenics/Nazi connection to natural selection. I have tried very hard to understand their anger, but I still think it’s misdirected. I initially thought perhaps it would have been best to leave the topic out of the film altogether merely because of the anger it ignites, but if they’d eliminated the connection from the film, the Darwinists would find something else to complain about, and social Darwinism is an important issue.

The Darwin camp acts as if the film damns Darwin, himself, for causing the Holocaust, and that is *not* what I came away with. Both Berlinski and Stein mentioned that Darwinism doesn’t by any means lead to Nazism or that Darwin himself would support what Hitler did, but rather that Hitler used the concept of natural selection to support his idea of a master race. He worked to maintain the purity of his race through eugenics programs and compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and the mentally deficient. That is just part of history and something that we shouldn’t hide under the rug. People should be aware that social Darwinism has implications about the sanctity of life, and Will Provine provided a good example of that. Taking one’s own life due to illness or for whatever reason wouldn’t *necessarily* be morally wrong for someone with a Darwinian worldview. One has to be careful how far some of these ideas are taken, and it’s wasn’t out of place to bring the topic up in the documentary. Evolution does not imply eugenics, euthanasia, abortion etc., but natural selection can be used to support these practices. This isn’t an attack on Darwin and his theory, but rather a warning that evil people can and have used the theory to support their actions in the past. The same thing applies to religious thought, and several pro-Darwinism scientists and authors have covered this thoroughly in books and articles. Dawkins even did his own documentary titled The Root of all Evil which suggested that the world would be better off without religion because of the way some people use it to support their heinous acts.

I was really curious what my husband thought about this connection as he’s somewhat of a history freak. He told me after the movie that he has stood in front of Darwin’s statue in the The National History Museum just as Stein had in the movie. He’d taken a history course in college that offered a class trip to London for those interested. I asked him if he thought the Hitter/eugenics connection seemed out of place in the movie, and I explained to him that Darwinists were pretty upset about this segment of the flick. Bear in mind that my husband has little interest in this debate and is far from your every Sunday, regular church going fundamentalist. Anyway, he stated that anyone who tries to tell you that there was no connection between Nazism and Darwinism simply doesn’t know their history. He was quick to say that natural selection wasn’t the only factor in the extermination of the Jews, and that even Christianity factored into the equation. Martin Luther wrote some very anti-Semitic passages about his want to be rid of the Jews. Hitler was looking for anything to support his want to create a perfect race of people. My husband thought it was appropriate in the film because it shows what can happen when people blindly follow the establishment, authority figures, or “the majority“. This is an important issue to contemplate in both science and religion as well as politics.

My parents understood the connection as well, but likewise didn’t come away from the movie thinking that Darwin was personally to blame for the Holocaust. Of course, they are both college educated, know their history, are both of German ancestry as well as lifetime Lutherans. So, they know all about Martin Luther and his anti-Semitic rhetoric which played a part in Hitler‘s way of thinking as well. Again, I just don’t get the rage over the Holocaust connection.

Both my boys really enjoyed the film, and my oldest nudged me during the movie a few times asking questions and making comments. Once he leaned over and said that it was much better than he thought it was going to be, and another time he started giggling hysterically. I asked him what the heck was so funny because it was during a segment when Eugenie was standing in front of a map of the US that was covered with different colored thumb tacks pinpointing where they needed to put out “Creationist” fires. He said he was laughing because “that is the woman in that rapping youtube video, isn’t it? I just can‘t take anything she says seriously after seeing that.” LOL... He also thought it was funny that Topeka had a big red tack on it. I didn’t even notice that, but all three of my guys did. They poked fun of me and said that Eugenie put that big red tack there because that’s where the dreaded FtK lives. Whatever.

I asked my oldest what part he enjoyed the most, and he said that he really liked the cell animation. He thought it was very cool. He also stated that he couldn’t believe that Dawkins thinks there is the possibility of design and that the designer could be an alien, but not God. Hubby and both boys were floored by Dawkins interview, and they were quite positive that something horrific happened to him at some point in his life to hold what seemed like a seething hatred for the God of scripture. I told them it wasn’t likely, and that there are many people out there who I’ve talked with that would probably give you the same description. I’ve been assured by them that nothing other than “reason” is to blame for their rejection and extreme distaste for the concept of God. They mentioned the segment where Dawkins read from The God Delusion quoting his own description of the Old Testament God. It went like this...

Offering this excerpt from his book, Dawkins declared with disdain, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

I guess that does sound like hatred, but of course Dawkins can’t hate something that he doesn’t think exists, so it’s merely a hatred for the *idea* of the God of scripture. Dawkins didn’t bother my guys much because he came across as he always does...angry and contradictory. He’s too amusing to be offending. OTOH, PZ’s “knitting” and “side dish” comments pissed them off...all three of them.

After I quizzed my kids about what they thought of the documentary (they said they were really glad they went) they both returned the question. I told them that I enjoyed it, but it was more serious than I had expected...which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, I’ve grown to take some of these issues a little too much to heart over the years, and many times the debate just makes me sad, and I told them I felt the same way about the film. What we are experiencing in this debate is a war of worldviews. Scientists from both sides of the debate see the same evidence and walk away with different interpretations of that data they are researching. Because of the religious *implications* on both sides of the debate, it’s turned into something really ugly, and there is no way to stop it, IMHO. Philosophical naturalists are not going to relent and allow freedom of inquiry in the science classroom. If anything implies design in nature, it will be have to be interpreted under the guise of the “scientific method” or methodological naturalism. So, whether the ID folks are right or not, ID simply can’t be considered...the truth may never be acknowledged because of the naturalistic gatekeeper that guards the lab.

As far as academic freedom is concerned, it’s ridiculous for Darwinists to claim that ID proponents aren’t discriminated against because of their involvement in the ID community. One only has to hang out with the Sciencebloggers for a while to know that that is exactly what happens. Shoot, they even turn on each other in a heartbeat if they perceive that anything written gives any credence to ID whatsoever. It’s an ugly reality, though you’ll never, *ever* get them to admit that. No need really...just do some surfing through the science and atheist blogs and forums. They provide proof of discrimination against ID and it’s supporters quite frequently. One must also look at this from the Dawinists side of the debate as there have been teachers who have been discriminated against in their schools because of their support of Darwinian evolution. This type of discrimination usually comes from individual school boards or other teachers or parents within the schools, not from the scientific establishment, although this doesn’t make it any less wrong. *Both* sides of this debate should be heard...the more education the better.

Eugenie and NCSE have been very busy making claims that the movie is full of lies, and I’ve read through many of their accusations and remain stunned. I found no “lies” in the movie whatsoever. That’s where the insanity of this debate lies. It’s unfathomable for proponents on both sides of the debate to conceive that their opposition actually believes what they put forth. I read the NCSE site and simply cannot believe the spin they put on the issues surrounding this debate, yet it’s apparent that they believe they are being completely honest. As I’ve said before, this is one of the strangest aspects of the ID/evolution debate.

All that said, I think the documentary was excellent and there was a lot of applause at the end of the showing that I attended. My hope is that the hysterics will eventually ease and that scientists from both ends of the spectrum will come to acknowledge that worldviews play a huge factor in the debate on origins and Darwinian evolution. We should all be trying to work together rather than tearing each other apart, but I won’t hold my breath waiting to see this happen. I do think that the Beware of the Believers video helped a bit in this regard. That little animation was pure genius, and it shows how ridiculous we’ve all become and how we can view the same things and come away with completely different interpretations.