This is a movie that I have very little interest in seeing. Let me explain that. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about ID, but I need something that at least purports to provide some sort of information, some sort of argument in favor of it. I might reject that argument after reading, but I’m not going to be attracted to the material unless such an argument is made. For me to read something, or even more for me to view something, I require some sort of reason, and since I dislike watching informational videos in general, I need an extraordinary reason to go watch one. In the case of something like Expelled!, I also rest in the knowledge that I have friends who are attracted to these things like motorists to wrecks, and they will write about it.
Having watched the trailers I can now tell you that not only do they not give me any reason to watch the movie; they give me numerous reasons not to bother. I certainly won’t shell out money for it, and I like the energy to arrange to get my name on the list for a free showing as PZ Myers did (unsuccessfully) and Richard Dawkins did (successfully). Incidentally, I should mention that I don’t accept the explanations of the Expelled! crowd that Myers and Dawkins were gate crashers. I fully support what they did in that case. More importantly, I think it is indicative of the mindset of the producers that they did not welcome people whom they interviewed to see the finished product. Both men should have gotten in to see the movie and without such effort on their part. Myers more recent telephone escapade, on the other hand, falls outside my ethical boundaries. I confess that I laughed when I read about it (shame on me), but still, I could not do it with good conscience.
Why did the trailers have such a negative impression on me:
- Misrepresentation of evolution
It’s difficult to explain a theory properly in a short period of time, but there was no attempt made to correctly represent the theory of evolution. References to a totally random process or to lightning hitting some mud are misrepresentations intended to ridicule, not to inform. The ridicule is in no way surprising. This is constant in creationist materials on evolution. It was, in fact, one of the major elements that drew me away from creationism. This problem is especially egregious in a movie that complains about the way intelligent design (ID) advocates are ridiculed in science.
- First amendment issues are badly confused
The first amendment doesn’t provide you with the right to have a particular scientific magazine publish your article, nor does it protect editors from the consequences of not following the rules (Sternberg). Peer review exists for a purpose, and that is to exclude articles that do not provide sufficient fodder for study by those who will read the journal in question. It assures readers, not that the material is all true, but that the material has enough scientific merit to be considered. Further, the first amendment doesn’t guarantee you a job at a particular university, or tenure, nor does it protect you from ridicule. In fact, the first amendment protects the right of others to ridicule you.
- Academic freedom doesn’t guarantee you a job or tenure
Tenure is given to people who uphold certain standards and will advance the university. Personally, I’m not all that excited about the tenure system, but that’s because I think freedom is better protected by the variety of institutions of higher education than by a fight at a particular one. A person denied tenure is not automatically denied free speech. He can go down the road. I’m fairly sure the Expelled! crowd could find reasons that someone should be denied tenure; they just don’t think their particular silliness is a good reason.
- The problem for intelligent design is not that it hasn’t been considered
In fact, it hasn’t even truly been presented yet, and I don’t mean that the meanies in the educational establishment didn’t allow it a hearing. Rather, it simply has never presented a scientific program that could truly be tested. The ID crowd want something for nothing. They want to be regarded as purveyors of a scientific theory without doing the work. Some want their theory to be presented in high school, without going through the process of consensus building.
- The connection of evolution with Hitler
There are a very small number of things that deserve to be compared with Nazism. There are a variety of causes. Claiming that the theory of evolution is a cause of Nazi Germany and the holocaust is blatantly false. In a movie that complains of ridicule for ID advocates, this level of slander is incredible. Even in the trailer (and according to reviews the movie is worse), the implication of a Nazi connection is not at all subtle. It just goes to show the lack of intellectual integrity on the part of the film’s makers, and Ben Stein as a spokesman. They cannot possibly have any clue of how Nazi Germany suppressed people, and at the same time claim that there is a relationship between that and their claimed suppression here. That’s why I titled my post as I did. Intelligent design has provided us with the most heard, published, talked-about, and taught “suppressed” theory in history.
- Lastly, the one that annoys me most, is the lie that accepting the theory of evolution is the equivalent of atheism
Repeatedly, Ben Stein equates the theory of evolution with atheism, and claims that all ID wants is to open the door to considering that God might have done something. Evolution may be incompatible with certain forms of Biblical interpretation, but it is in no way incompatible with basic theism.
For people who claim suppression, these folks certainly act more like the liars and propagandists who help nurture suppression. If one were to propose a conspiracy in America, one might find more validity in seeing a conspiracy in the general removal of the word “evolution” from science standards so that now, when creationists push to get their view into the public school classrooms, few people really understand what evolution actually is. This facilitates the lies about it told in just the trailers to this movie.