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Peter T Chattaway

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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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.

Cha-ching! THAT is what gets butts in seats, not sane, rational, fair-minded analyses like Brett McCracken's.

Anybody -- and I mean ANYbody, from either side of the debate -- who has their minds made up prior to actually seeing the movie is NOT interested in open-mindedness. Cultural events like Expelled, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Inconvenient Truth are litmus tests. The question is not really whether THEY succeed or fail; the question is whether WE succeed or fail.

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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.

I don't think that's scientifically justifiable. Science works only insofar as its based on only the assumptions of empirical reality: i.e. objects that we can all collectively confirm the existence of exist, and we work from there, using evidence to figure things out. Adding an assumption "a deity can do anything exists and does whatever things I say, or we currently have no certain explanation for" as being relevant to science is really no different at all than simply declaring the use of evidence as an ethic and a method moot, and hence rendering scientific inquiry pointless.

Which is, of course, a perfectly legitimate theology/philosophy to hold separate from science. But it just doesn't work as science.

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.

That's the allegation the film makes of course. But there's a lot more to most of those stories than the producers ever let on.

And then there's the simple issue that science as a project cannot help but make judgments of the evidential merit of various claims, and inevitably judge the capability of scientists on their honesty and consistent production of ideas that are judged to have merit. That's not to say that scinece cannot be clouded by personal vendettas and ideology, but science is by and large committed to the who has the best arguments from the evidence.

ID proponents seem unwilling to even theoretically allow for the possibility that their ideas don't end up having much scientific merit. That's something that happens to COUNTLESS other scientists all the time. Sometimes those scientists go back to the drawing board and come up with ideas that DO win out on the evidence. But the difference between ID proponents and other scientists is that other scientists do not have huge Public Relations organizations and millions of bankroll to promote their ideas utterly regardless of whether or not they've proven to have merit.

Anybody -- and I mean ANYbody, from either side of the debate -- who has their minds made up prior to actually seeing the movie is NOT interested in open-mindedness.

I may be misreading you here, but if you mean what I think you mean, then I have to say that this is based on the somewhat dubious idea that one can become better informed on a subject by watching what is basically a commerical for Intelligent Design rather than just making up your mind based on reading and learning about the issue directly. Why does it make sense to declare that just because a bunch of guys got together to make a hit piece on evolution that all of a sudden we must toss away our judgments of these sorts of arguments?

NOTHING, and I mean nothing, presented in this movie isn't available in far more detailed form elsewhere, already debated to death. None of the issues it raises or the allegations it makes are new, or require one to view the film before debating them or even deciding that the truth lies pretty solidly with one side or another on them.

The Richard Sternberg controversy, for instance, is presented in this film as a case of a dangerous idea costing (it's implied) Sternberg... something. But you don't have to wait for the movie to get all the facts on this story: including the very many pertinent facts that the movie never bothers to mentions (not even to try and defend Sternberg). There's no need to wait for the movie's objectively incomplete and misleading summary of events to read the whole story, and decide for yourself.

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Science works only insofar as its based on only the assumptions of empirical reality: i.e. objects that we can all collectively confirm the existence of exist, and we work from there, using evidence to figure things out.

Generally speaking, that's true. But the great ground-breaking hypotheses in the history of science have always flown in the face of what has been collectively assumed to exist and be true. So that's a not a rule of good science; it's merely a useful truism.

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.

That's the allegation the film makes of course. But there's a lot more to most of those stories than the producers ever let on.

Very likely, as is always the case with films like this. How in depth can one get in ninety minutes or so? But that's why I said "if" -- it's not something I'm taking for granted. Sounds like you'd agree that when such allegations are proven true, they're reprehensible -- right?

the difference between ID proponents and other scientists is that other scientists do not have huge Public Relations organizations and millions of bankroll to promote their ideas utterly regardless of whether or not they've proven to have merit.

True enough.

I may be misreading you here, but if you mean what I think you mean, then I have to say that this is based on the somewhat dubious idea that one can become better informed on a subject by watching what is basically a commerical for Intelligent Design rather than just making up your mind based on reading and learning about the issue directly.

You are indeed misreading me. I will reserve judgment about the film being a propaganda piece until I see it. I will certainly not take the filmmakers' word that it isn't, and I certainly will not take Dawkins' word (or other propagandists' word) that it is.

Have you seen the film? Sounds like you've already dismissed it, but I don't see any evidence in your post about what the movie itself actually says or does.

NOTHING, and I mean nothing, presented in this movie isn't available in far more detailed form elsewhere, already debated to death. None of the issues it raises or the allegations it makes are new, or require one to view the film before debating them or even deciding that the truth lies pretty solidly with one side or another on them.

Agreed. But that's not the same thing as deciding whether the film itself is propaganda or worthwhile to those who choose to inform themselves about a subject through movies -- which, in itself, is not reprehensible, though it may be lazy (and waaayyyy behind the curve; but we must say the same for books, too).

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Young people will probably leave the church as a result of this film.

This was from a few post ago, but this is confusing. Who is saying this, the poster or PZ Myers?

Edited by Michael Todd

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Science works only insofar as its based on only the assumptions of empirical reality: i.e. objects that we can all collectively confirm the existence of exist, and we work from there, using evidence to figure things out.

Generally speaking, that's true. But the great ground-breaking hypotheses in the history of science have always flown in the face of what has been collectively assumed to exist and be true. So that's a not a rule of good science; it's merely a useful truism.

I think you missed the point of what I said. Nothing about any ground breaking hypotheses has "flown in the face" of the idea that objective reality exists. I wasn't talking about collective assumptions ABOUT various testable matters. I was talking about the idea that science deals with testable matters, and its basic assumptions are simply those of physical reality: the same assumptions you and I make when we walk around in the world, talk to each other as if we were really there, type on a computer instead of a lemon, to communicate, and so on.

Do away with those assumptions, and you've done away with science. Because you've lost the only thing (evidence) that can make science a workable endeavor.

Very likely, as is always the case with films like this. How in depth can one get in ninety minutes or so? But that's why I said "if" -- it's not something I'm taking for granted. Sounds like you'd agree that when such allegations are proven true, they're reprehensible -- right?

Indeed. But I already know very well the specific cases the film highlights, and how they have been misrepresented, and how they are misrepresented in this film. There is litterally nothing in this film at all that is a new claim or accusation, or subject that hasn't been debated to death at length elsewhere, in far more depth. I really don't think I'm jumping to conclusions by pointing out that when they portray Carolyn Crocker as a marytr who was fired for "merely mentioning" Intelligent Design, but don't tell you that actually she taught a whole class in which she made all sorts of grossly false claims about science and biology, that they are misleading people. I'm not trying to sound like an ass, but I would bet I know a heck of a lot more about the subjects covered in the film than Ben Stein does, just from the fact that he gets certain things wrong in ways that bely a real lack of familiarity (for instance, he characterizes the Meyer article that Sternberg published as "simply saying that we are not mud and lightening" when in fact it doesn't relate to the origin of life AT ALL, let along Stein's particular confused obsession with the crystaline clay abiogenetic mechanism or the Miller Urey experiments that he seems to conflate together), and the fact that this is one of my primary areas of interest.

Again, it's not like I'm judging the film as a work of art without having seen it. I'm judging the specific claims that it makes, that people who have seen it have said it makes, that it's producers have said it makes. I know those claims well, I know the actual cases in question, and what they do is very far from merely covering the subject in a quick and shallow manner. It's not like the film presents way too many ideas in a complex manner that someone can't simply sum up its key points, as if it were a complex non-fiction essay. It's a movie. People have described what it claims, and how, the producers have described what their points and their agenda is, and I am perfectly reasonable to respond to that.

You are indeed misreading me. I will reserve judgment about the film being a propaganda piece until I see it. I will certainly not take the filmmakers' word that it isn't, and I certainly will not take Dawkins' word (or other propagandists' word) that it is.

Have you seen the film? Sounds like you've already dismissed it, but I don't see any evidence in your post about what the movie itself actually says or does.

I've been following the production of this film, and virtually everything about it, since it was announced. People who've watched the film have told me what's in it, the producers certainly haven't made it much of a secret what they are about, and so on. I've seen various segments of it directly, and I know precisely what it's drawin various other segnments from. The scientists who were hoodwinked have documented, not just claimed, how it all happened and what they said, and now we know most of what this gets turned into in the film.

Again: if I was judging the film as a work of art, I would agree with you that it would be premature to judging it that way without having seen it. For all I know, it's a fantastically produced piece of public relations art. But that isn't the case.

I know far more than enough of what I need to know that it is indeed a propaganda piece. If you see the film, and then compare it to the facts of the things it presents, I am quite certain that you will agree, even if you decide that evolution is nonsense and ID is true. In fact, again, there is litterally no reason why you would need to wait to find out the truth of any of the things the film talks about. Its take on things is not at all a mystery, and the materials and evidence you need to decide if that take is honest or reasonable are also available.

Agreed. But that's not the same thing as deciding whether the film itself is propaganda or worthwhile to those who choose to inform themselves about a subject through movies -- which, in itself, is not reprehensible, though it may be lazy (and waaayyyy behind the curve; but we must say the same for books, too).

I think that its perfectly reasonable for me to conclude its propaganda.

I will, of course, see the film in any case. I simply don't agree that because I can conclude its propaganda prior to seeing it, that I'm jumping the gun somehow. It's a movie: a movie that makes a bunch of very very familiar accusations.

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I think you missed the point of what I said. Nothing about any ground breaking hypotheses has "flown in the face" of the idea that objective reality exists.

No, I don't think I missed the point. I wasn't even thinking of suggesting that ground-breaking hypotheses have denied the idea of objective reality. But ground-breaking theories like the Unified Field Theory (or even the theory of gravitation, or the Copernican model of the universe) certainly flew in the face of scientific consensus about the nature of that objective reality. That's all; not a major point, or one to hang any hats on.

Can't say I have much disagreement about anything else you have said in reply. I do think, however, that we define "propaganda" in different ways. Your definition is probably purer, while I tend to think of it more in terms of shades of grey since all films are propaganda to some extent. There's no objectivity at all to a film made by an "intelligent" agent. Subjective points of view are adopted; someone else decides what we see; and mise en scene, montage, symbols and motifs, dialogue, and music tell us what to think of it all.

So I think it's entirely possible for a film like Bowling for Columbine, which is "propagandistic" from a certain perspective, to fall far short of being actual propaganda; it's still excellent entertainment, after all, whether you agree with Moore's conclusion or not. By contrast, I felt very clearly that Fahrenheit 9/11 very clearly crossed the line.

So that's what I'm waiting to see. In my mind, having also followed the production of this film from its earliest days and having worked in the past with its screenwriter, I'm pretty clear that, yes, there are elements to the film that are, like BfC, clearly propagandistic (though I feel that you're singling this film out for manipulative techniques that all films employ; still, the criticisms are in general fair). But will Expelled still manage to be entertaining, and be content to be entertainment rather than a cogent argument or a text book? Or will it cross the line into pure propaganda? Believe me, I'm willing to call a quack a quack if it ducks.

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But will Expelled still manage to be entertaining, and be content to be entertainment rather than a cogent argument or a text book? Or will it cross the line into pure propaganda? Believe me, I'm willing to call a quack a quack if it ducks.

I'm not sure I see how being entertaining and being propraganda can be at odds: in fact, in some ways, they go together: it's far easier to mislead people the more entertaining you are.

I think once you've seen the film, and then compare it to the rebutalls, you'll see quite clearly how dishonest it is from start to finish, from conception to production to execution. It may or may not be tremendously entertaining in the meantime.

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I'm not sure I see how being entertaining and being propraganda can be at odds

In my experience, propaganda is only entertaining to those who already buy into the party line -- such as the crowd I saw F9/11 with. But a film which is not purely propaganda can be entertaining and even enjoyable even if you don't agree with it -- and even if you know enough to see through the charades involved. For me, an example of that is Bowling for Columbine.

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Saw the film at a Discovery Institute invitation-only screening in Seattle last night. I've written up my report on the screening itself. See SteinWatch at HollywoodJesus.com for that; an editorial regarding Dawkins' blogged impressions of the film will follow tomorrow.

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Young people will probably leave the church as a result of this film.

This is my first post here and a quick skim makes it apparent that the discourse is unusually civil compared to most sites that cover this topic. Accordingly, I'll give it a try in the hope of having a coherent discussion!

I will back the above quote, as I am one who left the church for similar reasons many years ago. Even at the young age of 15-16, it was apparent that what the church preached and what it practiced were not the same. Rather than post an essay, you can read a fairly lengthy post of mine that I put on the Expelled site. Just go to the Expelled site, October blog archive, post #1610:

http://expelledthemovie.com/blog/2007/10/3...ology/#comments

I provide that as it gives a fairly detailed description of my background and take on the matter of ID. This will help you anticipate some of my biases.

Some of the best advice I ever received was from a business mentor who once told me: "Always consider your source." This has served me amazingly well over the years and the current broo-ha-ha over the Expelled premieres is an excellent case in point. We all come to the discussion with our personal, and unique, perceptions and biases. There are no exceptions. The Stuart Blessman posts at the JO blog are a textbook example. Blessman saw a series of events at the premiere and wrote a mental script of what he perceived as having happened. He followed by posting a report to the JO site. Overstreet also conveys, in a far more subtle way it must be said, a bias favoring the theologists side of the story as well. Both have backgrounds that source from Christian based upbringings and education. Overstreet makes no secret of this, to his credit. Blessman's bias is implied by the source of his tickets to the premiere, but I did not research that further, not seeing the need given the text of his report.

Now, this is not a slight against either Overstreet or Blessman. We all do this on a constant and ongoing basis, usually as a thoroughly unconscious process. The very same observations can be made about the Myers and Dawkins, et al. Like Overstreet, they make their biases clear by making no secret of their background and it ceretainly comes through in their writings. Given the fact that we are only human, after all, we are actually ahead of the curve here because we know how to weigh the information we receive from either source. This is as good as it gets in human dialog and gives us some hope of possibly discerning something resembling the truth of the matter. The trick, among others, is to discern the facts from the hyperbole, intentional or otherwise.

I will give my 2 cents regarding the issue of ID in the classrooms for those who do not make the journey to the link above and to address a question I noticed while skimming:

I see no issue with teaching ID in the schools. The problem lies in the forum being demanded - science classes. ID is NOT science. At best it is a philosophical concept until such a time as hard, testable evidence supporting it can be provided. Then, and only then, will it be considered science and welcomed into the peer journals and classrooms. Nothing presented to date passes this muster. The best that can be offered is opinion, to the effect that "anything this complex MUST have been created by an outside intelligence." The opinion may prove to be correct, but there is nothing available as proof to support it outside of that opinion.

Accordingly, ID belongs in classes on either philosophy or theology, but not science.

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Nice post, Jim, and welcome to the board. It's gratifying to hear a first-timer compliment the tone of conversations here.

I'm sure that there's a wide range of thinking about what ought to be taught in schools, but for the record I'll include an excerpt from an educator's packet handed out by the Discovery Institute at the screening of Expelled that I attended the other night:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute
opposes
any effort [to] require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory... Instead... Discovery Institute seeks to
increase
the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students... including unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned.

(Italics and boldface theirs.) This was part of a fundraising pack, too, so it's not like they're saying one to thing to backers while touting something different to the public. These statements are also replicated in other forms at intelligentdesign.org and DI site.

It seems to me that the ID movement has learned a lot from the failures of the Creationists and are determined to avoid those very costly mistakes; and it also seems to me that I.D.s opponents refuse to accept that the two movements are at all different.

Could be that I'm just naive, though.

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It seems to me that the ID movement has learned a lot from the failures of the Creationists and are determined to avoid those very costly mistakes; and it also seems to me that I.D.s opponents refuse to accept that the two movements are at all different.

Could be that I'm just naive, though.

Greg,

Thanks for the welcome. I enjoy a good civil debate and view it as an opportunity to expand my education by being exposed to other ideas and opinions. I readily recognize the immense value in being empathetic to other viewpoints and fully considering them. I tried that on the Expelled forum and, with one or two notable exceptions, was dismayed at the (still ongoing) 'discussion' going on over there.

Your description of the Discovery Institute handout suprises me quite a bit. Naive? Possibly. Given their history, I would not be too quick to trust them. That said, if they are true to the described intent, they have made a fundamental change in their stated goals and it is a change I would support. My conclusion on evolution, after lengthy and considerable study on the matter, is that evolution as a process is clearly a fact (or as close to a 'fact' as the true scientific description permits). Do we have all the answers regarding evolution? Not by a long shot. A friend once made the observation that science does itself a disservice when it is presented as absolute knowledge in school textbooks. I found myself in agreement on two points regarding that observation: 1 - When a student learns that the lesson (or some part of it) was not presented in an entirely accurate manner, they are more inclined to question the entire lesson, and rightly so. 2 - When the as-yet-unknown components of a concept are pointed out, I find it sparks curiousity to explore the matter further. A student may well be inspired to study the topic more deeply. When something is completely known, it becomes rather less interesting to the inquisitive. I suggest everyone is better served in the long run by this approach.

A question: aside from the film, did the Institutes representatives broach the subject of how the topic of ID should be addressed, if at all, within the schools? I find it difficult to accept that they would turn away from their core focus so completely. Promoting a more thorough, complete and accurate curriculum on evolution, while certainly welcome, does not ring true given their history, but I'm perfectly open to being proven wrong.

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Interrupting a good discussion....

Nathaniel and I will be going to see this tomorrow night and Ben Stein will be doing Q&A. Anyone have some questions for us to try to fit in?

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Given their history, I would not be too quick to trust them.

Yes. And I am none too quick to trust any organization that's so agenda-driven. I collected every scrap of material that they were handing out, and read through every bit of it in detail. I then followed the recommended Internet links and compared what was in the handouts to what's on the site -- and it all jives. As near as I can tell, there is no hidden agenda anywhere. I've also been through the "leader's resource kit" that the publicists are sending out to pastors, and even they don't recommend the teaching of I.D. in schools -- much less creationism. Everything is on message, and that message is: teach evolution, warts and all, not just a sanitized and dogmatic version of Darwinism.

My conclusion on evolution, after lengthy and considerable study on the matter, is that evolution as a process is clearly a fact (or as close to a 'fact' as the true scientific description permits). Do we have all the answers regarding evolution? Not by a long shot.

No argument from me!

A friend once made the observation that science does itself a disservice when it is presented as absolute knowledge in school textbooks... When a student learns that the lesson (or some part of it) was not presented in an entirely accurate manner, they are more inclined to question the entire lesson, and rightly so... When the as-yet-unknown components of a concept are pointed out, I find it sparks curiousity to explore the matter further

All spot on. And you know, as a pastor, I find the same is true for religion, too, in all regards. Except for those who want their thinking done for them, dogmatic approaches are failures in any field.

did the Institutes representatives broach the subject of how the topic of ID should be addressed, if at all, within the schools?

Yes -- and the message was the same. Given the very private nature of the screening I attended, I really don't think anything is being hidden.

Oh, and you know, feel free to check me out on the web. I'm a pretty public figure, and I'm nobody's shill. I'm critical of bogus crap where ever I find it. I hold to party lines of no kind.

Edited by Greg Wright

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Just blogged this at Hollywood Jesus. I was on the conference call arranged by Motive today with Stein et al, and at about the 35 minute mark, who should start throwing questions to Stein and Mathis but P.Z. Meyers himself? Wow. I just about fell out of my chair. He's really got some tech hounds in his crew, and he's really got nerve.

After quarreling with his hosts for a couple of minutes (who, I must say, handled the situation with far more grace than I would have), Meyers did agree with Lauer's request to sign off.

It's worth noting that Lauer welcomed Meyers to stay on the line and listen, but not to interject himself again. That was pretty generous, all things considered.

Edited by Greg Wright

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PZ should get a nice gift for all the free publicity he's generating. Something like a thousand remaindered copies of Darwin's Black Box.

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At last night's post-film Q&A, no Qs from the crowd -- only from the moderator. RE: the issue of people being taken out of context, and answer from Stein and producers was that they were told it was about "science and religion", they signed a waiver saying we could do what we want with the interviews, and they were paid well. Hardly a defense of accuracy.

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At last night's post-film Q&A, no Qs from the crowd -- only from the moderator. RE: the issue of people being taken out of context, and answer from Stein and producers was that they were told it was about "science and religion", they signed a waiver saying we could do what we want with the interviews, and they were paid well. Hardly a defense of accuracy.

Darrell,

Who made up the audience - was it what appears to be the usual hand-picked 'friendlies'? Also, who moderated? That was a very good question and one which is close to the heart of my concerns on what appears more and more to be a propoganda film. Hardly a defense of accuracy, indeed.

What were your overall impressions of the film?

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Now the Expelled team has cut-and-pasted most of my blog entry about the Myers/Dawkins incident without ever bothering to ask for my permisison.

For the record, I've written to them instructing them to remove the post immediately. We'll see if they respond.

Edited by Overstreet

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