A Couple More Comments on the Expelled Movie

After PZ MyersExpelled experience, even The New York Times is getting in on the action.

And the film’s producer, Mark Mathis, comes off looking ignorant as usual.

When asked why PZ was kicked out of the screening, but Richard Dawkins was not, Mathis said this:

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that “of course” he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because “he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.”

Actually, Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins said in interviews that they had long planned to be in Minneapolis this week to attend a convention of atheists. Dr. Dawkins, an vocal critic of religion, is on the convention program.

Dr. Dawkins said the hoopla has been “a gift” to those who oppose creationism. “We could not ask for anything better,” he said.

You can read the rest of Cornelia Dean‘s article here.

One more entertaining point about the movie.

Christian Apologist Frank Turek saw an advance screening of it a couple weeks ago.

Spoiler: He loved it. (Shocking, I know.)

But he did have one complaint…:

My one criticism of the movie is that I wish it had just a bit more on the evidence for Intelligent Design. There is animation of the interior of a cell, but there is no explanation of what is actually going on…

He rationalizes this by calling it a time constraint. The movie was about academic freedom, he says, not scientific evidence.

If he had some knowledge about science, he could go with the simpler explanation: There was no evidence presented because Intelligent Design has no evidence in favor of it.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian[/tags]

  • TheElectricMonk

    I have a very small argument to put forth. One which I myslelf don’t support, but I feel should be expressed for the sake of fairness. There is one(albeit shoddy) argument for intelligent design that was probably the reason for the scene of a cell, irreversible simplicity(I think that’s the term, may be “complexity” though). The cell shown probably featured a flagellin(sp?) for propulsion and the argument associated with such cells is that the design could not function if simplified because the current design is so simple. In fact it’s not simple, and could certainly function in a more simplified mannor. I’d go on but I hope most of you are famaliar with this argument, and I’m typing this on my wii which is straining both my coordination and patience.

  • QrazyQat

    From a person who saw the movie, the animation in question looks like the copyrighted one the Discovery Institute stole from Harvard without crediting the source. The person wasn’t positive and thought it’s possible it could have been one made for the movie but it looked like the Harvard one and contained the same flaws of simplification. This also is the conclusion of Dawkins and Myers in an excerpt from their discussion of the screening.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Electric Monk,
    First, your name is awesome. It’s from my favorite book!

    I believe you were referring to “irreducible complexity”. It states that certain biological systems (ie the flagellum) could not have evolved because removing any one part completely destroys its function. That argument is based on an oversimplification of how natural selection tends to work. When a biological system evolves, it doesn’t always simply gain more parts, improving its function. Often, it changes its function completely, loses parts, and uses any other number of evolutionary paths that the ID people don’t consider.
    For reference, here’s the talkorigins page.

  • Ivan

    “That argument is based on an oversimplification of how natural selection tends to work. When a biological system evolves, it doesn’t always simply gain more parts, improving its function. Often, it changes its function completely, loses parts, and uses any other number of evolutionary paths that the ID people don’t consider.”

    That statement my friend, is the “wish” behaviour that I look forward to hear details of such a model. What it seems to be oversimplifying, is the argument that natural selection can do everything based on a careful planning. Evolution goes against the Entropy law. You could see this lay even in our society where humanity’s degradation is increasing.

  • Iztok

    Evolution goes against the Entropy law.

    Care to explain why? We are not talking about closed system here are we? Entropy law would only apply to closed system.

  • Jim Flannery

    Humanity’s degradation may or may not be increasing, but the degradation of Ivan’s grammar and spelling skills seems to be.

  • William

    Really. The comments here are regurgitation. I love good reasioning, but these comments are old and tattered.

    Do yourself a favor (or not) go buy David Berlinski’s just released book. Read it.

  • http://www.magicpictureframe.com michael class

    I wonder, would a public school teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, be allowed to say the following:

    “It is interesting to contemplate … [all the many forms of life on earth] … so different from each other, have all been produced by laws acting around us. … There is grandeur in this view of life, HAVING BEEN ORIGINALLY BREATHED BY THE CREATOR INTO A FEW FORMS OR INTO ONE; and that from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”

    Just imagine a public school teacher who says those words: that God creates life and places it on the earth in a few forms, and then that life evolves according to the physical and natural laws that God put into place in the universe.

    Would that be allowed?

    Actually, it should be REQUIRED FOR THE TEACHER TO SAY THAT.

    Why? Because the quote is from: On the Origin of the Species, Chapter XV, Recapitulation and Conclusion, By Charles Darwin.

    If you are going to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools, you should teach what Darwin actually wrote about it.

    Michael S. Class
    Author

    Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: The History Book with a Message for Today’s Young Americans

    Read the book. Remember the truth. Share it with your children.

    Web Site: http://www.MagicPictureFrame.com

    ———————–

  • Claire

    michael class said:

    If you are going to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools, you should teach what Darwin actually wrote about it.

    Good thing you aren’t a science teacher. It’s no longer Darwin’s theory of evolution, it too has evolved and changed and it is now the current theory of evolution, and that is what should be taught in a basic science or biology class. God has no place there.

    The historical theory of evolution, as written about by Darwin, would be appropriate in a class on the history of science, or possibly as a side note in a science class when discussing the history of science and how science progresses. To teach Darwin’s ideas as the best current thinking about evolution is a mockery of what science is about.

    Darwin isn’t gospel, you know. Scientist don’t consider it as such, and I don’t know why you would.

  • cautious

    Mr. Class,

    True story: in my evolutionary biology graduate program, our initiation (as it were) was to say that last paragraph from OOS. I don’t see what would be bad if a science teacher said it, it’s very literally quoting Darwin, which a lot of science teachers do not have the ability to do.

    But here’s the thing: those people on the other side of this ID controversy? They don’t want a world like Darwin saw, in which a Creator created life and then sat back and watched the rest unfold naturally. They want a world in which, somehow, some biological processes aren’t capable of occurring naturally. They never agree on what processes can’t occur naturally, but they’re sure, beyond all discussion or scientific experimentation or theorizing, that some things just can’t happen without divine intervention.

    Contrast that attitude with the opinion of Darwin in the closing paragraph of OOS. If life occurred by itself, instead of being breathed into existence by a Creator, then his main point does not change. The origins of life has nothing at all to do with the next 3.8 billion years of biological evolution.

  • Malcolm

    My question for evolutionists is this: leaving aside all question of the quality of the arguments against evolution, what is the appropriate setting for presenting arguments like the ones detailed above (e.g., irriducible complexity and arguments of probability)? They are highly technical, so a philosophy or religion class is not the correct forum, yet they are not permitted in the science classroom. My great frustration as an observer of the debate is that there is no forum for rational debate of this type of proposition. To propose a larger question, what types of explanations for the existence of the world as it now exists should be allowed? To say that only materialistic explanations should be allowed to the table is a philosophical position, that cannot be derived from science, but rather needs to be defended philosophically.

  • cipher

    Malcolm,

    A philosophy or religion classroom is the only appropriate venue in a secular institution, for the simple reason that ID is not science (in my opinion, it doesn’t really belong in a science classroom even in a Christian school). I’m really not interested in giving ID any more “equal time”, as its arguments have been presented ad nauseum, and have been refuted. They are simply poor arguments, but ID proponents refuse to see this, because, despite protestations to the contrary, ID is not science; it is conservative evangelical Christianity masquerading as science. Most of its proponents are conservative Christians, are convinced of their own rightness, and believe that it places them in a position of moral superiority, so that they don’t really need to concern themselves with “fairness” or with “equal time”. Then, of course, they disavow this, and accuse responsible scientists of manifesting precisely that attitude. Classic examples of projection and denial.

    To say that only materialistic explanations should be allowed to the table is a philosophical position, that cannot be derived from science, but rather needs to be defended philosophically.

    I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous. Science is, by definition, concerned with materialistic explanations. If you propose ID as a non-materialistic rival paradigm, you are admitting that ID is a metaphysical world view, and not science – therefore it does not belong in a science classroom.

    This was all settled at Dover. The ID camp simply doesn’t want to acknowledge it. They lost, and now want to cry “foul”. If the evolution proponents had lost that day, and were employing the same rhetoric that the ID’ers are employing now, the ridicule coming form the ID camp would be deafening.

  • Malcolm

    cipher,

    Thanks for your input…let me grant for the moment that no valid technical arguments against evolution have yet been presented. Are you saying that it is not possible to ever formulate a statistical argument or an argument from findings in cellular biology that says that evolution is unlikely? If such an argument is a priori impossible, that is a philosophical statement and not something empirically derived from science. What argument could you propose that no cell biological or statistical evidence could ever come to light in the future that would suggest that evolution is unlikely? If such evidence were to come to light, what would be the proper forum for presenting it?

    Thanks for considering these thoughts…malcolm

  • cipher

    Are you saying that it is not possible to ever formulate a statistical argument or an argument from findings in cellular biology that says that evolution is unlikely?

    I don’t believe it is possible. Evolution is a theory, a model, that has been borne out by all of the evidence – fossil, taxonomic, genetic, as well as our understanding of the ways in which physical laws operate. Predictions made based upon the theory have come to pass – for example, predicted transitional fossils (which the ID’ers claim don’t exist) have been discovered. Our understanding of the mechanisms involved may be refined – but the existence of evolution has been proven to the satisfaction of all honest observers. ID proponents who make claims to the contrary are either lying, or, more often (I think), are profoundly attached to their world view, feel that evolution threatens it, and do whatever mental gymnastics they have to do in order to go on believing that which gives them comfort. In other words, they are in denial. They then turn around and accuse their opponents of the same failing.

    Science, by definition, concerns itself only with explanations that rely upon our understanding of physical laws. I certainly wouldn’t say that we have a complete understanding of the way in which the universe operates, but scientific method – proposal of testable, falsifiable theories, experimentation, observation – has given us a more than sound base from which to proceed. I can conceive of no way in which some piece of evidence will be discovered that will cause all scientists to suddenly say, “Aha! God did it!”

    Again, all opposition to evolution comes from the conservative Christian camp. It’s an ideology. Even responsible Christian scientists are opposed to it – and not only “liberal” Christians, like Ken Miller. I was assured only yesterday by a Biology professor at Calvin College that their Biology Dept. is firmly opposed to ID – and they are not liberal Christians up there, by any means.

  • Malcolm

    I don’t believe it is possible.

    That, you must understand, is a philosophical statement — a world view. It is a rational world view, and based on evidence, but it is not a statement of experimental results. The place to defend that statement is the philosophy classroom, and a statement to the effect that “no evidence will ever come to light that will suggest that evolution is improbable” is a difficult proposition to defend.

  • cipher

    You asked whether I believe it to be possible. I answered you. It’s an opinion, not a philosophical statement.

    And it isn’t a difficult position to defend. Our understanding of the laws of physics and of biological mechanisms is comprehensive enough that we now have a solid platform. What comes next must be based upon it. Do we know everything? No. Do we know enough to know what is overwhelmingly likely and what, overwhelmingly, isn’t? Absolutely.

    Metaphysical speculation? God, heaven, hell (which is, I assume, where you are trying to go with this)? As I said, that’s outside the purview of science.

    If legitimate evidence ever comes to light that casts serious doubt on evolutionary theory, I’ll welcome it in science classrooms and in journals of peer review – but I won’t hold my breath.

  • Malcolm

    I am simply saying that someone who holds your views (“I don’t believe it is possible” [...to ever formulate a statistical argument or an argument from findings in cellular biology that says that evolution is unlikely]) could not objectively review a paper which claims to have such evidence. He or she has ruled out the conclusions of the paper a priori.

    The concern of many educated peolple who are not atheists is that this is exactly what is happening. In other words, the world view or philosophy of some members of the scientific community is driving the decision about what scientific and technical arguments or positions are allowed to be expressed on this subject, and not the other way around. If you read back over what you have written, I think you will see why. The more vituperative the attacks, the more strident the tone, the greater the suspicion that this debate is philosophically driven on both sides. I don’t know if you are in science, but it seems to me (at least in the small corner of Biology with which I am familiar), that arguments in the literature between labs and various groups of labs regarding particular findings or theories have a different tone than this debate.

    With that I will sign off, due to time constraints, and get back to the work I should be doing. I will try to have the self discipline to not check back, but perhaps others will wish to pick up the debate.

  • cipher

    I am simply saying that someone who holds your views (”I don’t believe it is possible” […to ever formulate a statistical argument or an argument from findings in cellular biology that says that evolution is unlikely]) could not objectively review a paper which claims to have such evidence. He or she has ruled out the conclusions of the paper a priori.

    I don’t agree. I wouldn’t rule out conclusions a priori; however, it is so overwhelmingly unlikely that evolution could be disproved that it seems to me to be a virtual, if not an absolute, impossibility – and, certainly, the arguments with which we’ve been presented by Behe, Dembski, Johnson et. al. bear me out. They’ve presented the best they’ve got, and it’s all pretty paltry.

    And, I will say this (although I probably shouldn’t, as you’ll take it as proof of your argument) – if evolution is being defended on philosophical grounds, it sure beats the hell out of the philosophical grounds of the opposition. As I keep saying – ID is conservative evangelical Christianity masquerading as science. Its proponents generally hold to a theology that I happen to feel is the most obscene set of ideas ever developed – the belief that humanity is born so inherently depraved that we are all deserving of nothing better than eternal damnation (and, indeed, the Calvinists among you believe that is the purpose for which most of us were created). The few of you (I’m assuming that you are a Christian) who happen to stumble upon the correct formula of belief will enjoy a blissful eternity, while those of us too willful or ignorant to see it your way will spend that same eternity screaming in agony – and none of this, apparently, will bother you or God. It’s an abomination, and should no longer be tolerated. It ought to be seen as being beneath the dignity of a human being to believe it. Now, I have no problem with liberal Christianity – but it isn’t the liberal Christians who are pushing ID.

    I’d like to believe that a supernatural being will show up in the end and straighten everything out. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for humanity’s future. However, I’d rather a thousand times over that we are alone in the universe than that evangelical Christianity should be true.

  • Malcolm

    All opposition to evolution comes from the conservative Christian camp.

    All?? Isn’t Ben Stein…Jewish?

    Malcolm’s wife-Malcolm sends his regards

  • Claire

    Conspiracy theories make strange bedfellows. The opposition to evolution (and other inconvenient science), organized and funded by the christian right, will no doubt acquire some even stranger hangers-on with the passage of time.

  • Sara Tanner

    In my estimation the complexity of people and other animals and plants is evidence that ID must have occurred. How could such highly evolved subjects have happened accidently?

  • Dave

    Hi, Sara.

    You can be sure, there are good answers to your question. A very good place to start might be by viewing a series of lectures by Richard Dawkins called “Growing Up in the Universe”. I know they are available on his website (www.richarddawkins.net), but perhaps you can find something on youtube. Anyway, it’s a very interesting series that does all it has to without bringing up this debate, which I think is the best way to learn something of evolution. He provides many examples that help his points along, and I felt it really was a good place to start learning some of the basics.

    His point, or one of them, is that we are extremely lucky to be here, alive, on earth, and that we should enjoy the time we have. Religious or not, that is a sensible view.

    Do stick with them, with an open mind, and they might just answer your question to your satisfaction. They really are worthwhile, if you can pardon some of the shirts he (literally) wears. :)

    Cheers.


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