So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled”?

Here’s a chance to hear Richard Dawkins’ first comments on the film “Expelled.” In this short video Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers discuss their experiences with attending the recent pre-release showing of this film (see Should Dawkins have been Expelled?)

Discussing the Expelled experience (9 min)

Greg Laden provides a list of bogs writing about this “creationists own goal” in PZ Myers Expelled, Gains Sainthood.

Thanks to for the video link.

See also Lying for Jesus? for Richard Dawkins’ article reviewing the film “Expelled.”

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33 responses to “So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled”?

  1. Thank you so much for posting the video.
    What is most revealing is that neither one appears to know the difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design—incredible!
    Unless they are painting with an unscholarly broom about “those people.”


  2. But isn’t “intelligent design” just a specific form of creationism?
    This is what Judge Jones concluded in the Dover findings?
    And isn’t this also exposed by documents – such as those exposed from the genesis of the Pandas Thumb book.
    Intelligent design was substituted for creationism – because of the legal rulings that creationism couldn’t be taught in science classes.


  3. Actually, Creationism is a specific form of Intelligent Design.
    The reason that Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics, etc. argue for Intelligent Design is that it is not Creationism.


  4. This issue tires me sometimes…

    At many points, I agree with Ken that ‘ID’ (not to mention Creationism) is not scientifically (in an empirically verifiable sense) viable – or able to be, really…

    Also, however, (and I’m not sure you’re actually saying this Ken, but you often seem to be thinking it?) I would suggest that there is in fact, a distinction between ‘Creationism’ and ‘Intelligent Design’. There are a lot of the same people involved, no doubt (and of course the issue of literature, etc.), but as far as I’ve heard, there are also those who (loosely or firmly) embrace ‘ID’ concepts, while being anything but a ‘Creationist’… Ken, I could be wrong, but your comments sometimes seem to indicate that you’re convinced (almost by the Dover Trial alone) the simple (simplistic?) equation, “Creationism = ID” is accurate… From what I’ve seen, it’s not so simple, precisely because not all ‘IDers’ are Creationists…

    Am I being fair???



  5. Dale, the way I understand it is as follows: (and I think that this point is often missed by people)

    I agree that it’s possible to have Intelligent Design. Every scientist I’ve read seems to agree with this. It could be possible that a vastly superior alien race seeded our planet with life and evolution took over. It’s even possible that this alien race stepped in from time to time to make tweaks to the process.

    Now if this were all that Intelligent Design as a theory was and they were to use science to find evidence for these claims I don’t think many of us would have an issue with it.

    Where the issue comes in is that all of their arguments are from incredulity (i.e. the cell is waaaaay too complex to have ever evolved) which isn’t an argument for any other process especially when these ‘gaps’ are filled by the inexorable creep of scientific discovery. If you argue that a complex species seeded life here on earth you are still doing nothing to explain evolution because this species had to get to where they are somehow through evolution (or some similar ratcheting process).

    If you find it tiring imagine how tiring it must be to people who are doing genuine slow and careful science to be told repeatedly by people who aren’t willing to participate and who, let’s face it, don’t really give a damn about science but who want to find a way of removing their cognitive dissonance by giving their irrational belief the esteem of science.

    Find me an Intelligent Design proponent who is searching the stars for an intelligent race who they believe oversaw or engineered life here on earth. No, they’re not doing science – all they’re doing is trying to find the bits where we don’t know much yet and say that this means that evolution can’t work. The bare bones of the fact are that we see evolution happening all around us; we see it in the fossil record, in DNA evidence and in plain-as-day-morphology.


  6. Dale, the Dover trial is useful because it puts all the “evidence”, opinions, etc., in one place and Judge Jones based his decision on these. However, there is no shortage of books and articles which can be used for people to decide for themselves.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that the formal ID group (the Wedge people, fellows of the discovery institute, etc. often use both words the same way (although they will also sometimes try to publicly claim a difference – the crintelligen design proponenteationist mistake was a real give-away here though). There may be individuals on the periphery who are not creationist, but I suspect there are not many. I did hear a debate between Myers and Simpson (I think) who claims not to be a creationist. But his approach (denying the fossil evidence for example) was basically a common one. Dale, if you know of any please let me know their names and point me to their writings on the subject.

    I use both terms in a very loose way and do see them as basically the same. My particular concern is, of course, their anti-science political approach – and this is formalised in the Wedge document, rather than details which individuals may differ on.

    A big problem is that there is no specific ID (or creationist) theory (one of the reasons why these groups can’t really be considered as scientific). The Wedge people (like Johnson and Nelson) admit this. They explain this by saying that their present role is to attack and destroy evolutionary science and science in general (because it is “materialist”), replace it with a theistic science (or a “science” incorporating theistic propositions). Therefore, it is almost impossible to characterise ID “science” and consequently impossible to differentiate it from other creationist ideas.

    Can you provide a way of telling these two groups apart?


  7. Dale – forgot to respond to your important comment: “This issue tires me sometimes…”

    It tires me to. But unfortunately, this struggle is being imposed on the scientific community from outside. Particularly in the USA this is a dangerous political attack and concern is spreading because it comes alongside budget cuts indicating a lack of political support for research.

    This battle was not (and is not) initiated by science. It is a well-financed and persistent political attack (in the USA) on several fronts (e.g., “Expelled”, attempts to redraft legislation on education, attempts to redefine science in Education Boards, attempts to impose religious teaching in science classes, etc.) and has been supported by politicians at the highest level. It is a dishonest and dirty campaign as “Expelled” shows.

    It would be wrong for supporters of science and truth to give up because they are “tired.”

    We are fortunate in New Zealand not to have these direct problems. But I do see a reflection of it here in the slandering of science some people resort to for commercial and ideological reasons. And, of course, political victory for these people in the USA would inevitably have consequences for New Zealand.


  8. Hi guys,


    “It’s even possible that this alien race stepped in from time to time to make tweaks to the process. Now if this were all that Intelligent Design as a theory was and they were to use science to find evidence for these claims I don’t think many of us would have an issue with it.”

    Hopefully, you know that I am fully prepared to accept evolutionary theory, but I’m curious – how would we know the difference between scientific evidence for intelligent design by way of alien intrusion and scientific evidence for an intelligent design by way of ‘designer’?

    My other comments will be relevant to both you and Ken…

    Ken (and Damian),
    My point was (and is) that the simple equation “I.D. = Creationism” is simplistic. That’s all. I think you both agree here? One of the problems is a semantic one, for example the word ‘Creationist’. I myself am a kind of ‘creationist’, but not the young-earth, six-day, etc. kind… (Ken Miller, for example, points out that he believes in a ‘Designer’ in one sense, but that this Designer is not dis-honest – as in making the universe/earth look old while not really being so…)
    I used to be that kind of Creationist (6-day, young-earth, etc.), and interestingly, when I was browsing Behe’s ‘Darwins Black Box’, I was disappointed that he suggested that evolution could have happened. Behe is an interesting case. If you are correct, Ken, Behe has too defeatist an attitude/outlook toward scientific discovery. If he says ‘we cannot ever, never, ever know’, then I agree he ought not to say such things. But he is no 6-day ‘Creationist’. He might be friends with some, sure; and some 6-day creationists might well try to get some mileage out of some of his ideas (i.e. ‘irreducible complexity’), but he himself –and several others– are not ‘creationists’…
    There is a gradient of views which is reflected quite well, I suggest, by the diagram found here:

    I don’t 100% agree with it, as some of them (like I.D.) would stretch across a few of the others… Which leads to an interesting thought:
    Probably ALL Creationists would happily claim the ‘ID’ label, while certainly NOT all who subscribe to ‘ID’ would identify as Creationists.
    And this leads to another thought:
    There are many different kinds of views about ‘design’ (or ‘intelligence’ for that matter). Many who identify with ‘ID’ (i.e. the ‘Wedge’ people you so often refer to) do indeed seem to be motivated by something other than the scientific method. A good many others remain agnostic as to why things look ‘designed’ at all, but would happily endorse the basic premise.

    I suggest that given our current level of scientific observation, it is perfectly responsible (scientifically speaking) to speak of ‘Design’ – and at the same time it is perfectly responsible to give the “we just don’t know” reply to the question of ‘how’; provided that reply is not couched in pessimistic, Behe-like, negativity toward future discovery…

    Is this fair?

    (To be fair to Behe, I should say that I’ve not seen quotes of him explicitly saying anything which would suggest that he is proposing that there is no need to continue scientific enquiry in any areas. In other words, I’ve not seen the quotes –though I’m happy to admit they may exist– which would reflect him having a pessimistic attitude towards science.)


  9. Also…

    It’s very fair of you to request names of these ‘non-Creationist ID’ folks. What I hope to have done above is to show how even some of the ‘Wedge’ people (i.e. Behe) are such people, so it would stand to reason that many of the ID-ers are also not Creationists. This would be rather obvious, though.
    Again, my main intention was to highlight the overly-sweeping equation of ‘Creationists’ with ‘ID-ers’…


  10. how would we know the difference between scientific evidence for intelligent design by way of alien intrusion and scientific evidence for an intelligent design by way of ‘designer’?

    I don’t know. This would presumably be something that an IDer would have defined very early on if they were treating it as science. Can you think of a way? Perhaps an encoded message or some other kind of communication? What would you do if you were capable of seeding life on another planet? Would you leave a message of some kind?

    There is a science of Intelligent Design somewhere out there but we’re not seeing it in practice. Like I mentioned in my previous post; are people like the Discovery Institute searching the stars for our intelligent designers? Are they looking for encoded messages? Or are they just trying to find the areas in our knowledge where we don’t know much yet and using this as if it means that their theories are the ones to go for?

    I don’t know of any IDers who are really interested in the intermediate step of an super-race of aliens who might have been responsible for the things that appear to be ‘irreducibly complex’ who might have themselves evolved. No, the blatant agenda is to fill this gap with a supernatural explanation which is really no explanation at all. ID as we see it presented by the creationists is not a science and it is silly to pretend otherwise.


  11. Thanks Damian,

    Interesting. Two questions…

    1. How much credibility do you think there is in the scientific community about alien involvement? The abiogenesis Wiki page mentions it as one of the exogenic possibilities, but one can imagine that the notion of aliens would be scoffed at by many (much like atheists scoff at a Creator God, I suppose!?)…

    2. Granted that “ID as presented by creationists” is super-natural and therefore not science, wouldn’t other ‘ID’ options tend toward the super-natural? Or at least ‘paranormal’?




  12. Dale – I agree that Behe is somewhat of a “gentleman” in the ID community and he does have a record of research in biochemistry (although he has been somewhat distracted from research in recent years).

    However, his dogmatic claim of “irreducible complexity” (he sticks to this despite the new evidence coming in) does imply that normal science cannot possible provide answers in these cases. He does insist on introducing supernatural explanations, and specifically religious one. (I feel he may have even used the word creationism in his book – I’ve returned it to the library so I can’t check).

    Labeling is, of course a problem, and wouldn’t occur if there were specific scientific hypotheses to deal with. However, with the film Expelled and some of the other authoritative ID books, etc., I think the ID people themselves are inviting, or even using, the term creationist. The whole issue really is political. Anything seems to go – and lets face it the ID side uses quite pathetic and slandering terms to label scientists involved in, or speaking about, evolutionary science.

    When we have statements like “Evolution leads to atheism leads to eugenics leads to Holocaust and Nazi Germany” on the official Expelled site perhaps we should be asking the ID proponents to dissociate themselves from the film. At the moment it appears to be presenting the official ID story.

    So loose use of the term ID/creationism doesn’t seem to be much of a problem to me. But, whatever the term used, the real issues shouldn’t be avoided.

    Re alien involvement in life origins – I think there would be extremely few scientists seriously proposing this (and maybe they would be considered cranks). However, a more common serious speculation is that life originally arose in outer space, or on another planet, and was transferred here by a meteor. This seems quite feasible and is one of the reasons why the question of life on Mars is still open (there is a proposed mechanism for life’s formation which would have been more feasible on Mars). Life could also have been transferred the other way.

    Of course, none of this comes under intelligent design or creationism. Even if aliens were involved we have to explain their origins.


  13. Dale,

    1. I’m not really up on this but I don’t think there has been any evidence so far that points to any kind of alien involvement other than possible ‘splashes’ of organic materials from planetary collisions. If this is the case then there probably hasn’t been much reason to look for aliens. But don’t get me wrong – despite the crackpots out there most (all?) physicists and cosmologists seem to be quite open to the idea that there could well be other, intelligent lifeforms in the universe. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. (The idea of them coming all the way across the galaxy only to crash or play with our private parts seems a little implausible though).

    2. No, the ultra-smart-alien hypothesis wouldn’t necessarily be a supernatural one.


  14. Sounds like Ken is less open than you on the possibility of alien involvement, Damian. 🙂

    I have heard of other-than-carbon-based forms of life (silicone-based or something?) being a possibility, but I’ve never heard (not that that means much!) about theories of carbon-based life beginning in space or on another planet, etc. Wouldn’t that almost have to be in an environment warm enough (I’m thinking goldilocks zone here?) to allow it?

    A related question would then also be that of the formation of the solar system. How did the planets (not to mention the moons) come into their orbits?



  15. Sounds like Ken is less open than you on the possibility of alien involvement, Damian.

    I think Ken and I both agree that there is no current evidence that would lead us to suspect any kind of direct alien involvement in the development of life here on earth. But I suspect that Ken would agree that should any evidence come forward then there is nothing fundamentally illogical about the idea. (Feel free to correct me on this though Ken).

    The following is getting out of my depth:
    The only type of life we know works is carbon-based. So I’d assume that if there are theories about life on other planets they’d be starting with this assumption. In fact, I know that the extra-solar planets that are being searched for are those that are similar in composition to our own. I’m not sure where you got that from.

    There are some really useful episodes about the formation of the solar system on the Astronomy Cast website – in particular, check out episode 17 and any of the ones about the planets. Also, I have recorded the entire The Universe series that was on Sky recently if you want to borrow it.


  16. I don’t see any difference between Damian & me re alien “creation” of life on earth. In fact Francis Crick seriously proposed this (and he was pretty reputable) but his supporting evidence really didn’t pan out. A lot of scientific ideas are like that. We shouldn’t reject them out of hand, but we must always look for the evidence.

    The Mars hypothesis got a lot of coverage after the discovery a few years back of something with the morphology of a fosilised primitive organism in a meteorite which had originated from Mars. But, of course, these ideas are just speculation at this stage. However, we should not let our imagination be limited by concepts like Goldilocks zones, or primitive ponds, etc. These questions are still very much open and should be treated that way.

    Actually, we should also be considering Earth for signs of “alien” life. It’s possible that even now on this planet there are life forms essentially different to the standard DNA-based life we are used to. We are still discovering large numbers of species in new environments and we may find some of these to be essentially different to the life we are used to.

    There are some ideas out there that there could be entities satisfying the definitions of life but based on a different chemistry. Ideas of “floaters” in the Jovian atmosphere and even living forms on Titan. It’s all way-out speculation but does make the subject fascinating. I agree that current attention concentrates on carbon-based life – but even that allows for different chemistries.


  17. So then…

    …if a scientist whose imagination is not limited can propose alien/other-life-ish ‘way-out’ theories about things, while maintaining appropriate speculative-humility (and therefore not lose his/her scientific integrity)…

    …then couldn’t an ‘ID’ person whose imagination is not limited be able to also propose a Creator-ish ‘way-out’ theory about things, while maintaining appropriate speculative-humility (and therefore not lose his/her scientific integrity)???


  18. Dale, I’ve heard you say numerous times that you believe that ID is not a science – can you explain to me what it is about ID that you see is not scientific?


  19. Of course they can, Dale, and they do!

    But really to maintain integrity one must progress from a speculation to a hypothesis. Find and incorporate evidence. Develop the hypothesis into a theory. Search and incorporate further evidence (experiential testing), modify or reject theory. And so on.

    If only the ID people would do that! Instead they start a political movement and attack science!

    Now, Crick didn’t do that did he? That’s why we look up to him despite his sometime “weird” ideas. (I personally think good scientist should encourage weird ideas – part of being creative).


  20. This is good stuff…

    That’s a good question. I guess ID would fail to be doing ‘science’ when they stop looking for explanations and sit on the questions???

    But the funny thing is, to respond to Ken as well, some questions will have to be ‘sat on’ longer than others, won’t they?

    Ken, I admire your abiding confidence in future scientific work to continue, unhindered toward new realms of discovery, and your ardent defence of the value of scientific explanatory power. But I suggest that we must remember the time factor. Time doesn’t only give us more thinking space to figure things out and find new ways of testing and observing… It also puts us further and further away from the very evidence we are trying to observe and test!

    As you both will agree, not everything is observable and/or testable in the same way and by the same techniques. Some things are tested with rats, others with test tubes, others with computer models, others with thought experiments, etc. The ‘data’ is different in each case. The data for neurological research is quite differently observed and tested than, say, the data for big-bang theory and all of the sub-theories related to early cosmology…

    All that to say this: There are different ways of ‘handling’ questions to which we currently don’t have a clear answer to…

    1. We know a lot about it, but are always learning more…
    2. We know some things about that, and hope to learn more…
    3. We have strong ideas about this, and hope to learn more…
    4. There are lots of varying ideas about this, and we hope to find new ways of comparing these ideas…
    5. There are a large number of possibilities relating to this, and we just aren’t sure at the moment how study in this area might progress…
    6. etc….
    (skip a few)
    47. We don’t know and we probably never will…

    Perhaps much of the issue with ID is that of which response (in my suggestion above) best fits the questions we have???



  21. EDIT: I should have started the numbering with a more certain expression like:

    1. Nobody disagrees at all about this, but of course, we’re always interested in different opinions/ideas!
    2. etc…



  22. “47. We don’t know and we probably never will…”
    This approach has so often proved to be wrong. Individuals will oftn react to difficult problems this way but as a species we a very inquisitive and never really give up on problems.


  23. “This approach has so often proved to be wrong.”

    …yes, but it is still (I suggest) a valid approach for some questions. The argument should not be about the existence of ‘approach #47’, but which questions are best put in that category; in other words, the challenge to be realistic (not over-positive, not over-negative) about what we can and/or will discover…


  24. Jonathan Whittles

    Dr. Dawkins is not correct. There is no creationist commentary during the fly-through-the-cell part of the film. There was no commentary at all. Just mood music to highlight the wonderfully complex things taking place in every cell of our body 24/7.

    Wonderful movie. I think that the scientific community has some soul searching and explaining to do.


  25. Jonathan – have a look at Premise Lawsuits, Toddler Animations, and a Final Resolution.

    It seems that the film’s makers have been playing fast & loose with this video they used and it may not be in the final film. (Legal threats over copyright are probably the reason.) It’s quite likely, therefore, that the film you saw is different to the one that Dawkins saw.

    Come on – surely its the conservative Chrsitians behind this film and the Wedge strategy who should be searching their souls. What’s that commandment about “false witness?” They have certainly broken that. If you doubt me look up the facts behind their stories at


  26. Jonathan Whittles


    I spent some time on the link above. I was not aware that there were two versions of the movie.

    I am surprised at the vitriolic attacks by the Darwinian side of the debate. I thought that they were above ad hominem attacks. Richard Darkins complains about Ben Steins “whiney voice”, his irritating voice. He complains about the elementary quality of the film and that they use simple film making devices.

    I find it interesting that such brillant minds think that this is a convincing response to the film’s content.

    Everyone has a bias. That bias colors how we look at the world. It would be much more fruitful to admit the bias and examine the bias to see if the facts warant it or does it need to be changed.

    But alas human nature will not allow such a thing, we are so arogant that after we build our life and livelyhood on our bias we will fight the facts to the death because we know we are right.

    Why can’t the Darwinian community say we are not threatened by intellegent design, we would love to have open debate, we would love to be a party to the research, a competing point of view will only fine tune and reenforce the truth of our claims. I am always suspect when I see a group try to silence another because of fear of their ideas. Name calling doesn’t help either side. We should have a burning desire for truth and justice and nothing else, but again human nature rears its head; power, money, prestige, arogance, are all involved. On second thought I guess we are just stuck with a sticks, stones, and words war.


  27. Jonathan Whittles


    By the way the “Expelled Exposed” website does an good job refuting the formal claims of Expelled, but I left the site unconvinced that the scientists and teachers had just been lying about a change in how they were recieved by their peers and the institution at large. I am in business and have witnessed people being fired because a higher up was threatened or personaly disliked the individual. The firing tactic is to focus on some other more acceptable reason to let someone go and then “begin to build a case” through documentation. I got that impression as I left the above site. Are we saying that the individuals claims and testimony have have no basis in reality, none of them?


  28. Johathan – look at this objectively. The message of Expelled is a vitriolic attack on science. No wonder scientists are angry. And it is scientists and supporters of science – there is no such thing as a “Darwinian community”.

    You say “we would love to be a party to the research” – well get on with it! There are no specific research proposals or programme initiated by the Wedge people.

    Real research is what science loves and responds to. Unfortunately the Wedge approach is to specifically not do scientific research, but to launch a political attack on science.

    Scientists don’t willingly get into political activity, even when it is required to defend science against such attacks. The fact that they have now shows that there is a growing concern about this culture war on evidence and reason, on science.


  29. Science is difficult. There are scientists that say food supplements (vitamins) are good for you and now there is research that says they can be life shortening.

    There are scientists that say I should eat all the eggs I want and others.. yada yada.

    There are scientists with full credentials that stand on opposite sides of MANY issues.

    As a lay person i say.. do NOT tell me it is UNREASONABLE to say that the single cell… (SO incredibly complex that the lay person CANNOT.. CANNOT i repeat even grasp an iota of its complexity) is designed.. or that DNA is a code. I realise common sense is VERY often incorrect when it comes to scientific discoveries. HOWEVER. Since no scientist nearly understands that complexity (as true scientists will tell you) of these cells… it is only fair that I a lay person say.. well buddy… it looks like a machine to ME.. and dammit if it isn’t designed. You can take your haughty, self righteous, pompous BULLCRAP about science being so TRUTHFUL and shove it up your cunth.


  30. Well, Kent, I hardly think you will be open-minded on this (judging from your last sentence).

    However, it’s interesting to me that evolution deniers seem to always look on living organisms as machines. I suppose it fits in with their need for a designer.

    I think living organisms are just so much more than machines – the mechanical concept of design seems so inappropriate to a living thing. It denies the whole process of adaption to the environment we see happening around us all the time.


  31. I’m simply apalled at Kent Bob’s rudeness and thick-headed ness…

    Real nice, there, Kent Bob: ad hominem works every time, doesn’t it?


  32. Pingback: The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Big Lie » To Hell With Expelled Revisited

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