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Peter T Chattaway

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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To any who have seen this film, does it address the apparent lack of intelligence in many of the designer's designs? I've seen plenty of examples given of "intelligent design" (the human eye for example*), but what about the designs plauged by failure? According the March of Dimes, 8 million children in the world are born each year with birth defects, including undeveloped hearts, spinal bifida, sickle cell disease, down syndrome, and cerebal palsy. Some of these birth defects have environmental factors, but a number of them are genetic abnormalities. How does Intelligent Design explain away genetic birth defects? Do we give the designer a pass for his inability to forsee these complications in his designs? Many ID proponents look to nature as evidence of an intelligent designer. What intelligence was behind the design of earthquakes? What "intelligent" purpose do they serve? They sure do a good job of killing people and animals (like the 2004 earthquake in Northern Sumatra that killed an estimated 200,000+ people) and destroying stuff. Again... what was the designer thinking when he created earthquakes? Was he just being lazy when he was designing the Earth's crust or did he have another purpose for earthquakes? I could go on and on with examples of "Unintellgent Design", but I'll end with dinosaurs. Why did a designer with any hint of intelligence create dinosaurs, only to destroy them (or allow them to be destroyed) millions of years later (or if you're a Young Earth Creationist... thousands)??? Were they a practice run? Did he get bored with dinosaurs and their inability to worship him with their praises and blind faith? How does teaching Intelligent Design as science answer any of these questions (and many more)?

This film should be called: "Expelled: No Intelligence Required" :blink:

* I appear to have gotten a pair of the unintelligently designed eyes, as without my glasses I'm as good as blind. ::pinch::

Edited by FogJuice

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To any who have seen this film, does it address the apparent lack of intelligence in many of the designer's designs?

I'm fairly certain this is a straw man, and I want to say this while being clear that I'm not claiming that I.D. has scientific validity.... anyone reading my earlier posts in this thread should be able to determine whether or not I'm an I.D. pundit.

But rather than start with an argument, I'll relay an anecdote. When I was in 6th grade or so, infamous Christian talk show host Bob Enyart was being broadcast on television nightly and I became quite addicted to the show. I remember one time specifically he told his viewers that the next time they heard someone talking about evolution, they should raise the issue of butterflies. They form a cocoon and turn into butterflies, yet when their young are born they are back to the larval form again. Being young and quite frankly a bit of an impressionable idiot, I thought this sounded like an excellent refutation of evolution and I told my brother (who is literally a genius) about it. He shot me down pretty quick... it wasn't a refutation of evolution, it was just a stupid story.

This event from my past came to mind the other day when someone told me that the human knee is a terrible design and thus I.D. is stupid. It's really hard to counter something that people have thought out for more than like 15 minutes with an anecdote like that. As far as I'm aware, I.D. doesn't make any comment about the qualities of the design... just the claim that a designer was necessary. Even still, I don't think biological anomalies such as deformations would be considered part of the "design".

Now about these recent revelations regarding the film: PZ Meyers, as I seem to recall, has had a bit of a victim complex about this film for a while now. I'm inclined to think that the actual events were closer to Stuart Blessman's interpretation than Meyers's. That's not calling Meyers a liar either... I think he could have easily misinterpreted the events, especially given all of his previous ranting about the film and its producers.

Second: The film faces a ridiculous uphill battle if it tries to imply that Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. Not due to is mistaken affiliation with religion in the minds of many, but because it's simply not well-developed and well-supported enough to deserve much time in science classes. (I believe what was happening in Kansas wasn't inappropriate, though.)

Edited by theoddone33

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Pat Robertson interviews Ben Stein. (Can we embed GodTube videos here?) One surprising factoid that comes up at the beginning of the interview: Ben Stein's father, Herbert Stein, was once the A. Willis Robertson Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia ... a professorship that was named after Pat Robertson's father. And so the world gets smaller and smaller ...

Reading the now-closed comments at Jeff's blog, a thought occurs to me. It is mentioned there that the film draws a connection between godless evolution and the Holocaust. But could not one also argue that racist policies have had their basis in the sort of theism that is typically equated with Intelligent Design? Think of the cultures which oppressed people because they were believed to be the descendants of Ham, and thus under a curse. Or think of the idea some Mormons once had, that black people were the embodiment of spirits that had failed somehow in their "pre-mortal" life. And then of course there are all those passages in the Old Testament where the Hebrews are commanded to wipe out entire nations, man woman and child (and animal!). Theism, it seems to me, is certainly as capable as atheism of leading to mass homicide; whatever we as believers might think of our legacy in this regard, we can't exactly be smug in condemning others for their perceived association with this sort of thing.

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I am not sure I want to pigeonhole someone who subscribes to evolution anymore than I want to be pigeonholed as a fundy because I go to church on Sundays. I know as many articulate and thoughtul "evolutionists" as I do "creationists" or "ID people." I have no problem reading comments such as the ones on JO's blog and realizing that such strange vitriol is not so indicative of everyone who claims evolution as a cosmology. I guess I just don't consider "them" the "opposition" even though I don't subscribe to evolution. Usually "they" are good conversations waiting to happen.

Mike: As one who [a] loves a good conversation (and at least tries not to make "them," whoever "them" is, the "opposition"), implicitly accepts the theory of evolution with a notable caveat or two, and [c] has never that I can recall failed to be impressed by your thoughtful opinions, I would be interested in hearing more about the subordinate clause in your penultimate sentence.

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Reading the now-closed comments at Jeff's blog, a thought occurs to me. It is mentioned there that the film draws a connection between godless evolution and the Holocaust. But could not one also argue that racist policies have had their basis in the sort of theism that is typically equated with Intelligent Design? Think of the cultures which oppressed people because they were believed to be the descendants of Ham, and thus under a curse. Or think of the idea some Mormons once had, that black people were the embodiment of spirits that had failed somehow in their "pre-mortal" life. And then of course there are all those passages in the Old Testament where the Hebrews are commanded to wipe out entire nations, man woman and child (and animal!). Theism, it seems to me, is certainly as capable as atheism of leading to mass homicide; whatever we as believers might think of our legacy in this regard, we can't exactly be smug in condemning others for their perceived association with this sort of thing.

I certainly agree about not being smug. I do think the tu quoque emphasizing the magnitude of 20th-century atheistic atrocities is a valid corrective to atheistic smugness about religious atrocities. And of course I think that religion rather than atheism/materialism offers a real moral basis for resisting such tendencies (but that's a topic for the materialism and the moral argument thread).

In any case, whatever my reservations about the ID movement and whatever atrocities have been justified by religion, I don't think it's fair to associate ID with "the sort of theism" that oppressed people because they were believed to be the descendants of Ham.

AFAIK, the ID movement per se is barely more than 20 years old, and even the particular form of "creationism" from which it developed is, I think, a largely 20th-century phenomenon, rhetorically in opposition to (naturalistic?) evolution as an adequate explanation of human origins. I am not aware that ID proponents are necessarily young-earthers or Genesis literalists, etc.

It can also be argued that theories of racial hierarchies would seem to be logically accidental to the idea of God and creation, but more materially relevant to theories of evolutionary origins. But that too might be a topic for the materialism and the moral argument thread.

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First, If what you say about young Christians is true, then I doubt this film would be the straw to break the camel's back. But I think the concern you've voiced is more applicable to people outside the Faith or those to whom Jesus is not central . . . but that's a topic for a separate comment thread.

Well, we do have this thread. But this weekend, I'm working on a recording project with an 18 year old kid, a freshman at a Christian College who's increasingly frustrated with the narrow, dogmatic attitudes of his peers, at having to constantly combat misperceptions--for example, that he is supposed to ascribe to a worldview that draws a straight line from evolution to atheism to nazism. (The faculty at his college, to their credit, all teach evolution as factual.) I would never denigrate his faith or spiritual journey by saying Jesus is anything less than central to his life--he's profoundly christlike in the way he treats people. But he's almost ready to leave it all behind over stuff like this. The kind of rhetoric and ideology that this film is described as employing can and will drive people away from the church.

Theism, it seems to me, is certainly as capable as atheism of leading to mass homicide; whatever we as believers might think of our legacy in this regard, we can't exactly be smug in condemning others for their perceived association with this sort of thing.

Peter is exactly right here. I often find myself making the inverse argument with atheist friends who have taken the fashionable Christopher Hitchens route of assigning categorical blame to religious people for wars and other crimes against humanity. It seems obvious to me that all people, atheists and theist, are fallen creatures, equally prone to doing horrible things to each other, equally capable of constructing reasons to justify it, ideologically or theologically. Pointing the finger at the other guys is a useless exercise in self-righteousness.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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SDG wrote:

: AFAIK, the ID movement per se is barely more than 20 years old, and even the particular form of "creationism" from which it developed is, I think, a largely 20th-century phenomenon, rhetorically in opposition to (naturalistic?) evolution as an adequate explanation of human origins. I am not aware that ID proponents are necessarily young-earthers or Genesis literalists, etc.

ID proponents aren't even necessarily theists. "Officially", ID posits design, nothing more and nothing less, and "officially", it remains agnostic on the nature of the designer -- and this official agnosticism is supposed to make ID seem scientifically credible, I think. (Phillip Johnson has given interviews saying that the designer could be aliens, for example.) But as you can see from just the trailers for Expelled, this film boldly -- some might even say brashly -- equates the Designer with God. Not with aliens, with God. (My interview with Ben Stein, conducted when I had not yet seen any version of the film, is not online yet, but one of the questions I did ask him -- based just on seeing the trailer -- was whether he thought he was "blowing anyone's cover" by putting God so front-and-centre in the film instead of toeing the "official" ID line.)

So when I talk about theism being conflated with ID, that's the kind of thing I have in mind.

Though I guess, if one were to suppose that life on Earth was created as part of an alien experiment, one could still adopt a racist policy on the grounds that the aliens intended to create certain races and not others, and the others are mutations that need to be weeded out. So it doesn't really matter whether the Intelligent Designer is natural or supernatural; the mere recognition of design does not, in and of itself, protect us from the possibility of Holocausts.

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I wonder if there are any atheists who subscribe to the ID model. If there were such proponents, it would demonstrate that ID is scientifically motivated, and not religiously motivated.

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I understand that an "us vs. them" mentality is a problem, especially in this debate, but this particular individual is probably not a good conversation waiting to happen. :) I agree that it was stupid for whoever was running security to kick him out, but I think that there might be some justifiable concerns about people attending these screenings with the intent of disruption. It's one thing to engage in civilized dialogue with a colleague. It's another to face someone actively trying to hamper your efforts at getting your film out.

You all realize these guys (specifically Dawkins, PZ to a much lesser extent) are world renowned scientists and university professors who garner a tremendous amount of respect in the scientific community, right? These aren't some hooligans who are there to make a disruption and cause a bunch of trouble. They went through all the prescribed channels in order to gain admittance and they were, from various eyewitness accounts here, here and here, as well as their own accounts here and here, quite well behaved and not intending to cause any disturbances whatsoever. They are both in the movie and thanked in the credits for goodness sake! Don't you think they ought to be allowed to see it if they followed all the rules?

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Notice how one particular camp takes every opportunity to gloat, laugh at, and deride those who disagree with them? I remember learning about the meanness of that when I was in elementary school...

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AFAIK, the ID movement per se is barely more than 20 years old, and even the particular form of "creationism" from which it developed is, I think, a largely 20th-century phenomenon, rhetorically in opposition to (naturalistic?) evolution as an adequate explanation of human origins. I am not aware that ID proponents are necessarily young-earthers or Genesis literalists, etc.

This is the case, for example, with Michael Behe. He dabbles in common descent and has been hesitant to claim (at the very bottom) much about God on the basis of ID.

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Overstreet wrote:

: Notice how one particular camp takes every opportunity to gloat, laugh at, and deride those who disagree with them? I remember learning about the meanness of that when I was in elementary school...

Well, as Alec Guinness says in Lawrence of Arabia, "You tread heavily, but you speak the truth." He's speaking to someone who's angry and brusque, rather than gloating and derisive, but the principle is one I try to follow, focusing on the truth rather than the heavy treading.

FWIW, here are Dawkins and Myers discussing their version of what happened:

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Notice how one particular camp takes every opportunity to gloat, laugh at, and deride those who disagree with them? I remember learning about the meanness of that when I was in elementary school...

Well, look at it from their perspective. They're essentially being accused of being responsible for Nazism for advocating something which has widespread scientific consensus. How is one supposed to respond to that except with exasperated laughter? I don't think creationists have their hands clean on the "meanness" issue.

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Ironic.

Hilarious.

Entertaining.

Words used to describe the day that Jeffrey receives the most hits as being the same day that he practically gets assaulted by angry cuss-wording Darwinians. :)

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Dawkins: "this film... which seems to go on forever..."

Hmm. It might have seemed that way to him. But the film is 90 minutes long, according to IMDB. I wonder if that's true of the cut they saw last night.

Dawkins says that the film is artistically second-rate. Myers immediately cuts in: "Second rate seems a little high. Third..."

Wait. Isn't this whole video prompted by the fact that Myers wasn't allowed to see the film?

Edited by Overstreet

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Very interesting.

While I'm so tired of all the pointless debates surrounding I.D., creationism, evolutionism, etc that I no longer care how my species came into being... I thought I.D. got a pretty unfair thrashing in the court of public opinion. It will be good to see someone in the quasi-mainstream discuss it... um... intelligently.

I.D. got a very fair thrashing in a federal court where the judge even noted, in a very unusual statement, that the ID folks had lied in court to him.

It should be perfectly valid to remind children that the theories they're about to learn about are still under examination in a science class. To do otherwise would be dishonest.

That's how theories work, but it is clear that the 'only a theory' crowd is intentionally trying to misrepresent evolution in a particularly dishonest manner. Which theory has a better foundation: gravity or evolution?

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Very interesting.

While I'm so tired of all the pointless debates surrounding I.D., creationism, evolutionism, etc that I no longer care how my species came into being... I thought I.D. got a pretty unfair thrashing in the court of public opinion. It will be good to see someone in the quasi-mainstream discuss it... um... intelligently.

I.D. got a very fair thrashing in a federal court where the judge even noted, in a very unusual statement, that the ID folks had lied in court to him.

The recent PBS special Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial showed the prevarications of the ID side very convincingly. The discovery of the "transitional form" between creationism and ID in an early draft of Of Pandas and People was especially damning.

It should be perfectly valid to remind children that the theories they're about to learn about are still under examination in a science class. To do otherwise would be dishonest.

That's how theories work, but it is clear that the 'only a theory' crowd is intentionally trying to misrepresent evolution in a particularly dishonest manner. Which theory has a better foundation: gravity or evolution?

All theories in science are still under examination. That's kind of the point. But devoting class time to unscientific theories in the guise of "fairness" is a waste of time that would be better spent understanding the accepted theories. I don't spend any time discussing autodynamics, ether drag theory, or other alternatives to Einstein's special theory of relativity in my Modern Physics course because I barely have enough time to cover the basics as it is. Likewise alchemy has no place in a chemistry course, caloric theory has no place in a thermodynamics course, etc.

I think part of the problem lies in confusion over language, which is something I encounter all the time in my job as a physics professor, where words like "energy" and "work" have very specific meanings. To a scientist, "theory" is not synonymous with "hypothesis" or "assumption". A theory is an overarching framework which gives structure and context to facts, and has predictive power.

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A theory is an overarching framework which gives structure and context to facts, and has predictive power.

Yes. And hypotheses, when tested, may in time lead to theories -- or may be designed to test a particular theory. And every study lists its assumptions.

Except for those Big Assumptions... like "a deity exists" or "a deity doesn't exist." Haven't seen the movie yet, but at least one of the movie's points seems to be that "a deity exists" is legitimate as an assumption upon which to base an hypothesis.

Now, from there, you can test the hypothesis, and the results either confirm, refute, or have no bearing on the hypothesis. But the results say little about the assumption.

And from what I've read of the debate so far, it does seem to me that the I.D. side of the debate is focused far more on assumptions than it is on actual hypotheses and theories.

And I can understand why, with limited time and limited funds, scientific institutions would be reluctant to fund or sponsor research on such a dead-end proposition.

But if scientists really are being ostracized simply because they don't line up behind prevailing schools of thought, that's not very scientific, either.

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I think part of the problem lies in confusion over language

Just a quick additional to note to agree with that point, too. It's important to remember that very little is actually proven in science -- except that current theories are either wrong or need to be modified. And that's a good thing.

Science isn't really about proof; it's about patiently and methodically, accumulating a body of evidence in a verifiable, repeatable manner.

Faith, on the other hand, is about boldly stepping out, on a minimum of evidence, in hope of things promised but unseen -- and completely unverifiable in an objective manner. That's a very different animal.

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I think part of the problem lies in confusion over language

Just a quick additional to note to agree with that point, too. It's important to remember that very little is actually proven in science -- except that current theories are either wrong or need to be modified. And that's a good thing.

Science isn't really about proof; it's about patiently and methodically, accumulating a body of evidence in a verifiable, repeatable manner.

Faith, on the other hand, is about boldly stepping out, on a minimum of evidence, in hope of things promised but unseen -- and completely unverifiable in an objective manner. That's a very different animal.

That's why I try to avoid using the word "proof" or "proven" when talking about science. In mathematics the word might mean something, but in science "proof" really only means "that which convinces you." I prefer "supported" or "consistent" or a dozen other, more honest descriptors.

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Overstreet wrote:

: Dawkins says that the film is artistically second-rate. Myers immediately cuts in: "Second rate seems a little high. Third..."

: Wait. Isn't this whole video prompted by the fact that Myers wasn't allowed to see the film?

Heh. Well, Myers is talking about the film's contents, perhaps, and not its artistic merits. If you hear, secondhand, that a film is openly and unapologetically linking evolution with Naziism, then that might be enough to convince you that the film is not even second-rate. In any case, some clips from the film ARE up at YouTube, including clips of Myers' own appearances in the film (in fact, the Myers/Dawkins clip I embedded above is explicitly labelled a "response" to one of those clips, at the original YouTube site), so Myers might think he has gotten enough of a taste of the movie from those clips to make that sort of judgment.

That said, I don't see any rhetorical advantage in quibbling over whether an opponent's film is second- or third-rate.

Greg Wright wrote:

: Except for those Big Assumptions... like "a deity exists" or "a deity doesn't exist." Haven't seen the movie yet, but at least one of the movie's points seems to be that "a deity exists" is legitimate as an assumption upon which to base an hypothesis.

In interviews promoting the film, Ben Stein has said that the Designer, or God, IS the hypothesis itself. What none of the talk-show hosts seem to have pressed him on so far -- not Pat Robertson, not Jimmy Kimmel -- is what sort of experiments could be proposed to TEST this hypothesis, or if the hypothesis is falsifiable in any way.

This might be a point worth emphasizing: Not all hypotheses are SCIENTIFIC hypotheses. Some are just guesses, with no way of being tested one way or the other. And if a hypothesis is not a SCIENTIFIC hypothesis, then it has no place in the science classroom.

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For all the back and forth in this thread I'm not sure anyone has actually said that they thought I.D. should be taught in schools.

And I hear things like this in various places (TV, internet forums, etc) all the time: "Evolution has been pretty much proven". Evolution is the best currently proposed model that fits the evidence and doesn't rely on supernatural explanations, but this neither invalidates every other theory on the matter nor gives us any strong indication what actually happened. Of course it's a theory, of course it's still being tested and improved and modified. But more than a few people could have used a reminder of that in their high school science classes, it seems.

So I'm not opposed to what was happening in Kansas... which is that I.D. was being mentioned as a possible alternative origins explanation, a source for more information was mentioned, and students were left to decide for themselves if it was science, religion, or total pointless crap. The whole thing took under a minute for a teacher to read, then the rest of the science course was dedicated to evolutionary theory. It was "teaching religion in schools" about as much as mentioning that much of the Middle East follows Islam which is based on a book called the Koran.

Regarding Dawkins and Meyers... Dawkins seems like a nice and reasonable fellow, but I don't trust him to make a coherent argument against the existence of a deity so I'm not going to take his word for it that a film is artistically good or bad when he clearly has a stake in the matter. Meyers has been so militant about this whole thing that he's compromised any chance that I can take what he says about the film as an unbiased account. There's so much conflicting info and disinformation flying around that I think people will probably just have to see it and decide for themselves.

But if the producers did purposefully eject Meyers from a screening, then the thing I can say about them with certainty is that they're good at generating interest in the movie.

Edit: After watching a bit of the clip above, I think I understand where the disconnect between Meyers account of the screening and Stuart Blessman's is... and I don't think either is lying. And Dawkins is probably more correct about his account of the film than I gave him credit for. And I like prepositions for ending sentences with.

Edited by theoddone33

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Notice how one particular camp takes every opportunity to gloat, laugh at, and deride those who disagree with them? I remember learning about the meanness of that when I was in elementary school...

Well, look at it from their perspective. They're essentially being accused of being responsible for Nazism for advocating something which has widespread scientific consensus. How is one supposed to respond to that except with exasperated laughter? I don't think creationists have their hands clean on the "meanness" issue.

Hm. He's not personally being accused of responsibility for Nazism. Rather, the theory that he supports is. Ideas do have consequences.

On the other hand, Dawkins literally describes religious believers as being child-abusers for raising their kids in a Christian home. He literally proposes taking children from religious homes away from their parents to be raised by scientists. If you want to talk "meanness," Dawkins will enter the discussion, but on both sides.

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