Sunday, April 20, 2008

Expelled: No Idiocy Allowed

[This is the graphic of Expelled Exposed, a website devoted to debunking the movie. Click on it to go there.]

Until a few days ago, I'd been blissfully unaware of a dreadful piece of fictional non-fiction called Exposed: No Intelligence Allowed. The subject of this catchy little title is a documentary film alleging that the academic world has excluded a plucky band of creationists from scientific discussions. They've done this, we are asked to believe, by firing them or not hiring them in the first place at our institutions of higher learning for no reason other than their beliefs.

To this, I have one thing to say, which is that this issue was discussed 150 years ago, and the outcome is where we are now. No one on the creationist side of the debate has added any real content to the debate since then. Dr. Micheal Shermer, a psychologist and the publisher of Skeptic magazine explains:

Intelligent Design Theory is not science. The proof is in the pudding – scientists, including scientists who are Christians, do not use IDT when they do science because the theory offers nothing in the way of testable hypotheses. Lee Anne Chaney, Professor of Biology at Whitworth College, a Christian institution, wrote in a 1995 article in Whitworth Today: “As a Christian, part of my belief system is that God is ultimately responsible. But as a biologist, I need to look at the evidence. Scientifically speaking, I don’t think intelligent design is very helpful because it does not provide things that are refutable—there is no way in the world you can show it’s not true. Drawing inferences about the deity does not seem to me to be the function of science because it’s very subjective.”

Intelligent-design theory lacks, for instance, a hypothesis of the mechanics of the design, something akin to natural selection in evolution. Natural selection can and has been observed and tested, and Charles Darwin’s theory has been refined.

ID theorists admit as much. At a 2002 conference on Intelligent Design, leading ID scholar William Dembski said: “Because of ID’s outstanding success at gaining a cultural hearing, the scientific research part of ID is now lagging behind.”

Not Intelligent, Surely Not Science

As if that weren't enough, the movie features a sequence in which Ben Stein, the movie's narrator, wanders around a Nazi concentration camp to the tune of John Lennon's "Imagine". It equates evolution with atheism, which it in turn equates with nazism, managing a triple play of offensive fallacy in the space of perhaps five minutes. I suspect Stein hasn't committed this many offenses against logic and human decency since his job as Richard Nixon's speech writer disappeared.

It scarcely seems possible, but the movie's producers' case has been further hampered by their behavior during the movie's pre-release publicity. At a sneak preview in Minneapolis, for which he was registered, biologist P.Z. Myers was excluded from attending. Richard Dawkins, one of the best known biologists on the planet, was apparently not recognized before he was allowed to enter. Dawkins takes up the tale:

Now, to the Good Friday Fiasco itself, Mathis' extraordinary and costly lapse of judgment. Just think about it. His entire film is devoted to the notion that American scientists are being hounded and expelled from their jobs because of opinions that they hold. The film works hard at pressing (no, belabouring with a sledgehammer) all the favourite hot buttons of free speech, freedom of thought, the right of dissent, the right to be heard, the right to discuss issues rather than suppress argument. These are the topics that the film sets out to raise, with particular reference to evolution and 'intelligent design' (wittily described by someone as creationism in a cheap tuxedo). In the course of this film, Mathis tricked a number of scientists, including PZ Myers and me, into taking prominent parts in the film, and both of us are handsomely thanked in the closing credits.

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Mathis instructed some uniformed goon to evict Myers while he was standing in line with his family to enter the theatre, and threaten him with arrest if he didn't immediately leave the premises. Did it not occur to Mathis -- what would occur any normally polite and reasonable person -- that Myers, having played a leading role in the film, might have been welcomed as an honoured guest to watch it? Or, more cynically, did he not know that PZ is one of the country's most popular bloggers, with a notoriously caustic wit, perfectly placed to set the whole internet roaring with delighted and mocking laughter? I long ago realised that Mathis was deceitful. I didn't know he was a bungling incompetent.

Lying for Jesus?

Which I just suppose shows that you're never too old or well educated to learn something new. From exile across the street in an Apple store, Myers wrote this:

I'm still laughing though. You don't know how hilarious this is. Not only is it the extreme hypocrisy of being expelled from their Expelled movie, but there's another layer of amusement. Deep, belly laugh funny. Yeah, I'd be rolling around on the floor right now, if I weren't so dang dignified.

You see ... well, have you ever heard of a sabot? It's a kind of sleeve or lightweight carrier used to surround a piece of munition fired from a gun. It isn't the actually load intended to strike the target, but may even be discarded as it leaves the barrel.

I'm a kind of sabot right now.

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him. My guest was ...

Richard Dawkins.

He's in the theater right now, watching their movie.

Tell me, are you laughing as hard as I am?


[emphasis from original]

This story is confirmed by another witness, Kristine Harley:

The beefy cop patroling the audience at the screening of Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed threw PZ Myers out of the theatre right in front of me!

For a second, Rev. Barky and I thought we'd be thrown out too just because we were talking to him. PZ Myers is interviewed in the film, but in order to see it, according to producer Mark Mathis, he'll have to fork over $10 on April 18.

Expelled From "Expelled"

In addition to displaying their lack of interest in real knowledge, the incident also points up just how difficult it is to engage creationists in an honest conversation. Here's what the movie's producer had to say afterward:

“It is amazing to see the reaction of PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and their cohorts when one of them is simply expelled from a movie. Yet these men applaud when professors throughout the nation are fired from their jobs and permanently excluded from their profession for mentioning Intelligent Design,” said producer Mark Mathis. Mathis was at the event that has raised this controversy.

Mathis continued, “I hope PZ’s experience has helped him see the light. He is distraught because he could not see a movie."

EXPELLED Controversy Top Issue in Blogosphere

Read the Myers quote again. Does that strike you as "distraught"? He thought Mathis was an asshole, and an amusing one at that.

When they were interviewed for the film, Dawkins and others were lied to by the producers about what the show was about:

What? I didn't do any interviews for pro-creation films, and I certainly haven't said that "freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry" aren't part of the university. There must be some mistake.

But then I noticed in the credits for the movie that a certain familiar name is the associate producer, or ass-prod, as I'll henceforth consider him.

[graphic "assprod.gif" here]

Denyse O'Leary also ties Mathis of Rampant Films to this movie, and this page from Expelled uses the same graphic that Rampant Films used for Crossroads. The case is closed: Ben Stein's propaganda film for ID is the one I was interviewed for.

I'm gonna be a MOVIE STAR

Prof. Dawkins adds:

PZ and I had been tricked into participating in Crossroads without ever being told that the true purpose of the film was the one conveyed by the later title Expelled -- the alleged expulsion of creationists from universities. Mathis said that it was common practice for films under production to have working titles, which later change in the final version. That is indeed true. However, yet again, Mathis shows himself up as a willful deceiver.

Lying for Jesus?

Mathis claim was shown to be false by a commenter named Wesley R. Elsberry at a forum on creationism:

Genie Scott pointed out to me that I should check the date that they bought their domain name:

% whois

Registrar: TUCOWS INC.
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.FILMPR.COM
Name Server: NS2.FILMPR.COM
Status: ok
Updated Date: 16-feb-2008
Creation Date: 01-mar-2007
Expiration Date: 01-mar-2009

February 28, 2007 is the very latest they could claim "working title" as an excuse for their ruse.

When did Scott, Dawkins, and Myers get interviewed? April, 2007 for Scott and summer, 2007 for Dawkins. Does someone have Myers' interview date handy? Was it before February 28th? I somehow doubt it.

Antievolution: The Critic's Resource - Topic: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed., Sternberg, Gonzalez, Crocker - A film

According to his blog entry in August, 2007, PZ Meyers was contacted by Mathis by letter in April introducing himself as the prodducer of Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion. Thus, he, too, was given the wrong name after the domain had been purchased.

To make matters worse, they've apparently used "Imagine" without permission.

What is so intellectually dishonest about creationism, you might ask? It's the fact that they really don't explain anything. Science is about posing explanations for how the universe works, and then testing those assumptions. Creationists don't bother with any of that. Amanda Gefter explains by describing her conversation with Mathis at a sneak preview (from which Mathis was sneaking away):

I said that the film spent a lot of time making the point that proponents of evolution can't explain how life arose from non-life, and asked how intelligent design explains it.

It doesn't, he acknowledged. "Then don't you think it's strange that you tried to pin that on the scientists?" I asked.

"Well, it's a real hole in their theory," he said.

"Actually, it's not - the theory of evolution never purported to touch on the issue of how life arose from non-life, it's about how species arose from other species."

I said that in science, criticising someone else's theory doesn't make your theory right, and that the film never bothers to say how intelligent design explains anything at all. He countered that intelligent design says there are things that are too complex to be explained by natural selection.

I asked how ID explains the complexity, but he said, "I don't have time for this," and walked away.

Are ID proponents being silenced?

In short, Mathis' claim is like saying that there's a hole in the classical physics laws of force, momentum, and speed because they don't predict chemical reactions.

The fact is, these folks have nothing to say worth listening to. Once you get past the vitriol, slight of hand, and the victimization, that becomes abundantly clear. If there's anything that this piece of celluloid tripe will add to this debate, it is a clear example of just how true that is.

UPDATE (Apr. 21): I should have mentioned that if you want to see more examples of the mendacity of the producers of this movie, read Kristine's roundup and click on the links. She's also linked to several reviews, none positive as far as I can see.


Wesley said...

Actually, creationism of the antievolutionary sort started out honest: they simply wished to exclude evolutionary science and prefer their interpretation of scripture, and said so.

It was after the 1968 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard saying that one could not exclude science from a science classroom to privilege a particular religious doctrine thereby that antievolutionists in general started down the road of deception. After that, they have tried over and over in many different ways to have the same argumentative content taught to students, but calling it by different labels ("creation science", "intelligent design", "teach the controversy", "strengths and weaknesses", "academic freedom", and "critical analysis" among them) and sanitizing what is said of direct references to God and scripture, and also de-emphasizing (but not repudiating) certain arguments like positing a young age of the earth and a recent global flood. This essentially dishonest approach has tainted the entire movement, and more insidiously, the apparent moral stance of its advocates. That's why I call antievolution a morally corrosive movement.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Cujo359 said...

I suppose the old approach was more honest, at least in the sense that it wasn't concealing its motives, but in any other respect I think these guys lost their cred a century ago.

Science has moved on from the creationist viewpoint, for good reason. The whole notion that the creation hypothesis has never had a hearing is as absurd as the premise of this movie. If a religion can't deal with the implications of that fact, it either needs to adapt or die.

BTW, for anyone whose eyes may have glazed over before they reached the end of this article, Wesley is the guy who checked out the domain registration. Thanks for that.

patrick said...

just saw Expelled... Ben Stein's goal in making Expelled (i gather) is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

Cujo359 said...

You don't promote thought by lying through your teeth. His equating Nazism with Darwinism and atheism shows how mendacious this film is. I wouldn't believe Stein's assertions about some "behind the scenes worldview" if he brought back video.

Nonsense is nonsense, pure and simple. Thinking involves examining your assumptions. When you can't tell that your assumptions have no resemblance to the truth, you can't think worth a shit.

BTW, are you the same moron who posted this same comment over at Kristine's site? Didn't they smack you around enough over there? Or did you figure you'd try this same schtick at some other places and see if it went any better?

Jaakonpoika said...

Ben(jamin) Stein is under heavy artillery for 'exaggerating' or 'going easy' on the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the 'Politics-is-applied-biology' Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I. It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous German Ernst Haeckel with his still recycled embryo drawing frauds etc. in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871. If Thomas Henry Huxley with his concept of 'agnostism' was Darwins bulldog in England, Haeckel was his Rotweiler in Germany.

'Kampf' was a direct translation of 'struggle' from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). Seinen Kampf. His application.

Catch 22: Haeckel's 140 years old fake embryo drawings have been mindlessly recycled for the 'public understanding of science' (PUS) in most biology text books until this millennium. Despite factum est that Haeckel's crackpot raging Recapitulation/Biogenetic Law and functioning gill slits of human embryos have been at the ethical tangent race hygiene/eugenics/genocide, infanticide, and Freudian psychoanalysis (subconscious atavisms). Dawkins is the Oxford professor for PUS - and should gather the courage of Stephen Jay Gould who could feel ashamed about it.

Some edited quotes from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline/edit them a 'bit'):

The marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87). Typically, the operations hit blacks the most in the US, poor women in the Europe, and often the victims were never even told they had been sterilized.

Mendelism outweighed recapitulation (embryos climbing up their evolutionary tree through fish-, amphibian- and reptilian stages), but that merely smoothened the way for the brutal 1930’s biolegislation - that quickly penetrated practically all Western countries. The laws were copied from country to country. The A-B-O blood groups, haemophilia, eye colours etc. were found to be inherited in a Mendelian fashion by 1910. So also the complex traits and social (mis)behaviour such as alcoholism, schizophrenia, manic depression, criminality, rebelliousness, artistic sense, pauperism, racial differences, inherited scholarship (and its converse, feeble-mindedness) were all thought to be determined by one or two genes. Mendelism was "experimental" and quantitative, and its exaggeration outweighed the more cautious biometry operating on smaller variations, not discontinuous leaps. Its advocates boldly claimed that these problems could be done away within a few generations through selection, persisted (although most biologists must have known that defective genes could not be eliminated, even with the most intense forced sterilizations and marriage restrictions due to recessive genes and synergism. Nevertheless, these laws were held until 1970's and were typically changed only when the abortion legislation were released (1973).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938 ) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17). Today, Swedish state church is definitely the most liberal in the face of the world.

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the 'Judenfrage' was assimilation and Expelled-command from their university chairs, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census. Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Regarding us Finns, Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century. And she went Full Monty.

Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. In England, they are fertilizing human embryos for research purposes and pipetting chimera embryos of humans and monkeys, 'legally'. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee (contra epithumia, eros, filia & storge) (ahava in Hebrew), that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

Cujo359 said...

This is utter nonsense. Hitler never once mentioned Darwin, nor evolution in its scientific meaning in Mein Kampf. He did, on the other hand, mention divine will as the force that winnows out the weak. His assumption of the superiority of the German people had more to do with his view of their culture than it did with anything resembling science.

That you can go on so long from such an obviously erroneous point is amazing.

Ojalanpoika said...

Why don't you read more and suppose less:

Pauli Ojala

Cujo359 said...

Because someone who starts an argument out with nonsense deserves no better. Mein Kampf wasn't based on Darwinian theory, nor inspired by it. One needs to look no further than the Old Testament to tell where Hitler's ideas about his people's inherent superiority could have come from. He mentions natural selection, but clearly had no concept of how it actually works.

Richard Dawkins has dealt sufficiently with this argument already, so I see no reason to expound on it further:
[begin quote]
Darwinism gives NO support to racism of any kind. Quite the contrary. It is emphatically NOT about natural selection between races. It is about natural selection between individuals. It is true that the subtitle of The Origin of Species is "Or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life" but Darwin was using the word "race" in a very different sense from ours. It is totaly clear, if you read past the title to the book itself, that a "favoured race" meant something like 'that set of individuals who possess a certain favoured genetic mutation" (although Darwin would not have used that language because he did not have our modern concept of a genetic mutation).
[end quote]

Kampf, by the way, is typically translated into English as "fight". The meaning of that word is rather broad in English, as the meaning of kampf is in German, so the synonym "struggle" works better here. Once again, nothing to do with Darwin.

Why don't you educate yourself by picking up a copy of Origin Of Species or the Expelled Exposed site, instead of lecturing people about stuff you clearly don't understand?

Jaakonpoika said...

So do you actually confess that you don't want to study the matter further? By your own mouth?

Instead, you just behaved as an authority-believer in the way you, Sir & Sirius merely refer to Mr. Dawkins. I don't believe you really ARE such a fellow but was just provoked to act so.

Because I don't respect such an attitude, even if I ignored you maligning and calling names.

As for the Darwin's Origin, I have read and studied it in both Finnish and the English language, in the original and later edition. (Even the concept and term "evolution" was not mentioned in the original edition but what I believe was 5th edition!)

As for me, I have made a source discovery of the correspondence letters of Finnish scholars to Ernst Haeckel and from these nestors to some scholars in Finland. One of the Finnish companions was one of the 7 founding fathers of the International Eugenics Society, Harry Federley. He was very hars by the time of Finnish civil war and exhorted annihilation of the war prisoners (belonging to the "Mongolian" Finnish stock, instead of the Swedish speaking upper class in Finland.) Federley claimed, in a Haeckelian ethos, that the brains of a Finn weighted more than 100 grams less than those of a Swede. The highest ladder in the linear concept of human evolution for Haeckel were the blue eyed Nordic stock living in Åland.

Just to interpret the 90-140 year old handwritten hieroglyfs was painstaking and also the German was oldfashioned to translate for me who had studied German only 2 years.

One of the cases I found TO Finland was the second surviving letter of the only Nobelist student of Morgan, who himself was the first Nobel laureate in genetics.

Others are actually doing research on the history of science. Mr. Dawkins is a professor of PUS in Oxford, but the popularization of history of science is very, very poor in the subject of evolutionism. It is a taboo and sacred cow. Do not touch! Just bow your knee. As an indication, the relevant letters to Charles Darwin prior to 1859 do not exist. It is extremely rare to tell about that to public. Just like the excess use of cocaine by Sigmund Freud was a taboo for the critical decades.
Biochemist, drop-out (M.Sci. Master of Sciing)
PS. The web pages of the Expelled give answers to the issues you raised.