Thoughts after watching “Expelled”

I recently watched the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. As expected from most reviews I have seen I found the film profoundly dishonest. It’s very much ideologically driven, using the old “when are you going to stop beating your wife?” approach. We are used to such tactics in political propaganda but it’s a lot worse here because this propaganda film targets science – the source of human knowledge.2007-07-09-wheel_of_misfortune

However, it got me thinking. The film claims that there are many scientists who support creationist/intelligent design (ID) ideas. But I can’t remember personally encountering a single scientist supporting these ideas in my whole scientific career. Religious door-knockers – yes. But no scientists. I came across scientists who believed in astrology, spirits and ghosts. I came across scientists who had racist or sexist beliefs. I even came across one who was a member of the Act party! But never a scientist who believed the creationist/ID story.

I know they are out there – after all three New Zealanders signed the Discovery Institutes’s Dissent from Darwinism petition. But clearly, the number of scientists supporting such ideas is very much smaller than Expelled implies.

US survey of scientists

Perhaps the proportion of US scientists supporting creationism/ID is greater – after all that’s where most of the political controversy occurs on this issue. But, again, I think this proportion is overblown by the propaganda in Expelled.

A recent survey of Texan scientists – specifically biology and anthropology faculty members of Texan public universities and the largest private institutions – provides some interesting figures (Download report – Evolution, Creationism & Public Schools: Surveying What Texas Scientists Think about Educating Our Kids in the 21st Century).

Only about 2% expressed any degree of sympathy for creationism/ID (this included 1.4% who accepted much of evolution but wished to invoke “periodic intervention by an intelligent designer.” No of the scientists teaching at the graduate level supported creationism/ID.

This is particularly relevant because of the current attempts by creationists to introduce changes aimed at weakening the teaching of evolution into the Science Standards of the Texan Education Board . This is clearly a political action with no scientific justification or support.

But that is the nature of the ID controversy – it is a political controversy, not a scientific one.

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10 responses to “Thoughts after watching “Expelled”

  1. FWIW, I’ve long had a funny sort of slogan/view with a pun of sorts: fundamentalist religious people are fundamentally dishonest.

    It sometimes seems to me that a fundamental requirement in order for them to take a religion literally (be a fundamentalist religious person), is for them to become fundamentally dishonest, at least only to themselves initially, but which they later impose on others.

    You might also find this is interesting: http://tinyurl.com/6qtjrs (AC Grayling Children of God?, from the Guardian.) Its about the Templeton Foundation. I’ve only had time to skim it, but its a good take on the matter, I think.

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  2. Very punny, and I’ve long thought that evilutionists are evil. (No offence intended – there are a lot of nice evil people around.)

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  3. Actually, I think all fundamentalists (religious or non-religious) are fundamentally dishonest. it goes with the territory – searching for, selecting and distorting evidence to support a preconceived idea.

    I may be showing my age but NZ Maoism of the late 60s/early 70s has strong similarities to today’s Christian and Islamic fundamentalists.

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  4. 3: Good point, let’s reduce that to fundamentalists are fundamentally dishonest. Its the nature of their process, not what they are thinking about, as you are saying. (That said, doesn’t fundamentalist really only apply to religions? My dictionaries have it that way.)

    2: You had to distort the word to try graft another meaning on to it: I’d didn’t ;-) To be fair, I suspect linguists would say that mine isn’t a true pun in that it’s using words with common roots, rather than identical words.

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  5. I think Fundamentalists – as the name of a group – arose early last century in the US. They called themselves Fundamentalists to stress that they were basing themselves on Christian, biblical, fundamentals. So, I think Fundamentalist does really just a pply to a specific Christian grouping.

    However, we do use the term these days as an adjective with far wider application. I don’t know if the word has always been used this way or if the meaning has evolved from Fundamentalist.

    Of course it’s getting further distorted – eg. Dawkins is called a “fundamentalist atheist” by some people. I think they have gone from using it to describe adherence to unsophisticated, simplified dogma to meaning militant or strongly express – not the same thing at all.

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  6. Possibly from people misusing ‘fundamentalist Muslim’ to refer to a group conducting terrorist actions, when the phrase is really about their religion and nothing more: they should really be using ‘militant fundamentalist Muslims’ or ‘terrorist fundamentalist Muslims’.

    Dogmatic might be a more inclusive terms that less easily confused, but isn’t as good at conveying the “taking literally” component that I wanted to convey I think. (It does convey how people treat others or “debate”, though!)

    Maybe I’ll have to stick with my original and just put up with what comes with it…

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  7. Forgot to add: you’ll see this for yourself via PZ’s blog no doubt, but this blog looks interesting: http://unreasonablefaith.com/ (Unreasonable Faith). The guy seems to write well and you have to give credit for him digging himself out of a hole. For some reason that reminds me that I’d better get back to work! Hehe :-)

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  8. Reminds me of http:/reasonablefaith.org – where you can read in depth philosophical and logical arguments for “traditional” (fundamental?) Christianity.

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  9. One use of the Expelled movie is in giving the anti-evolutionists a warrant for dismissing the reality that your experience reflects. Consider this from Robert Crowther at Discovery Institute (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/11/far_left_activist_group_seeks.html).

    TFN is parading a push-poll survey of scientists they did recently. They emailed over 1,000 scientists and science professors at Texas universities and less than half replied. Still, TFN is trumpeting that of the replies they did get, nearly all were in complete lock step with the Darwin-only lobby.

    As Casey Luskin pointed out in an interview with the Star-Telegram:

    “It’s a self-selecting survey,” Luskin said. “There’s a well-documented culture of intimidation that makes scientists uncomfortable expressing their doubts about Darwinism. This just serves to reinforce that climate of intimidation.”

    Of course, it really isn’t safe in Texas to speak out against Darwin. Just ask Professor Bob Marks at Baylor, whose lab was shut down by Darwinists who didn’t like what he was researching. Can you imagine any scientist who doubts Darwin responding honestly to a survey like this in such a climate?

    I’m not saying that there are a majority of scientists who doubt Darwin in Texas. But the minority is a silent one for sure, thanks to left-wing advocacy groups like Texas Freedom Network.

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