[Via Pharyngula] I would’ve thought Ben Stein would’ve been smarter than to get involved with something like this. (*Although, after looking up Ben Stein’s politics, it’s clear that he’s very right-wing.) He’s narrating a pretend documentary about how “Big Science” is unfair to the theory of Intelligent Design.
According to a Beliefnet blog:
Not set for release until February, the buzz campaign has already started for this unabashedly Michael-Moore-style, in-your-face documentary. Narrated by Ben Stein–best known for giving his money away and slowly repeating the name “Bueller” from the front of a classroom to hilarious effect–“Expelled” aims to expose the stifling of debate in this country about the origins of life and make the case for the validity of Intelligent Design.
Yesterday, I attended a presentation to drum up advance support for the film. It was led by Paul Lauer–a Christian marketing maven best known for helping make “Passion of the Christ” the blockbuster it was–and one of the film’s co-producers, a man identified only as Logan, who bore a striking resemblance to Ned Flanders incarnate, albeit tanner (and, being a huge Flanders fan, I mean that as a compliment). The purpose was to win over Christians influential in their communities, to make this a must-see, a film to which they’ll preach about, gab about, and bring their friends, family, churches, non-Christian friends, etc. etc.
Let the buzz begin. Not that “Expelled’s” intentionally incendiary tone will need much help from the pastors and religious-school teachers in attendance at yesterday’s meeting. From the clips and trailers they showed, the film presents a world of–to use a quote I heard repeatedly yesterday–“the new scientific movement” (Intelligent Design, in case you weren’t sure) vs. the tired, old “theory” of evolution. Relying on news-clip montages, interviews, even cut-away shots of concentration camps, “Expelled” talks of faithful scientists and other believers losing jobs, losing grants, even losing friends in defense of ID. And, relying on footage of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other atheists du jure, it sets up a worldview of ID vs. atheism, with no gray areas in between.
And, taking it even further, it posits that, without God, there can be no source of morality, no reason not to “stab someone on the subway,” to borrow another phrase I heard a couple of times yesterday (and which explained, according to Lauer and Logan, the concentration camp scenes, since the film will explore the influence of Darwinism on Hitler). So the battle for ID to be taught on par with evolution is no more, no less than a battle for the legitimacy of morality itself.
These truthy documentaries seem to have become quite a trend in modern America. I have yet to see one that was actually honest, despite all the work they did to try to appear that way. (I found Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Control Room to be full of spin – not that FOX News is one bit better.) I fully expect this movie to play up it’s truthiness while moves towards a predefined message that it wants people to believe.
Not surprisingly, the movie seems to eschew actual scientific discussion of Intelligent Design, preferring to play-up the victimization of ID advocates (a common and exaggerated claim). I’m sure they’ll avoid talking about the victimization of evolutionists by creationists overseas — or the fact that the (creationist) Kansas Board of Education invited Adnan Oktar, who was behind the attacks, to talk to them. Rather than taking about the mechanisms of evolution, they chose, instead, to talk about the “evils of evolution”: show concentration camps and talk about Adolf “God with Us” Hitler – so they can emotionally inflame people, shutting down the thinking portions of their brains, rather than intellectually convert them. No doubt, they’ll avoid mentioning Martin “We are at fault in not slaying [the Jews]” Luther’s influence on Hitler – whom Hitler praised in his book, Mein Kampf. Meanwhile, Origin of the Species was banned in Nazi Germany.
Speaking of which – there’s something about “Social Darwinism” and eugenics that strikes me as an odd criticism of evolution. Many creationists will say that they believe in “microevolution”, but not “macroevolution”. I’ve also heard creationists claim that when humans chose which animals to breed together (for example, to make a new breed of dog), that it’s an example of Intelligent Design, not evolution (which relies on natural selection – not human selection). The ideas of Social Darwinism and eugenics requires only that microevolution is true (something that creationists, themselves, believe in), and eugenics relies on human choice (making it a branch of Intelligent Design, according to their argument). Whether you believe in “macroevolution” or not, makes no difference to either Social Darwinism or eugenics. (Which makes it unsurprising when we find pro-eugenics Creationists.) It would be nice if Creationists would actually acknowledge the fact that Social Darwinism and eugenics isn’t strengthened by a belief in “macroevolution”. But, for political reasons (i.e. mudslinging), they’ll never admit the fact – it’s too important for keeping the sheep in line.
Update: PZ Myers, who is in the movie, talks about the video shoot he did for them. They said he did an interview for a documentary called “Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion”. It’s not uncommon for films to have working titles that get changed – although it certainly opens up the endless possibilities to misrepresent the spin they’re going to put on the movie. In an apparent move to hide the direction of the movie, the blurb at the film studio merely states:
Crossroads – The Intersection of Science and Religion:
It’s been the been the central question of humanity throughout the ages: How in the world did we get here? In 1859 Charles Darwin provided the answer in his landmark book, “The Origin of the Species.” In the century and a half since, biologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers have contributed a vast amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God. This conflict between science and religion has unleashed passions in school board meetings, courtrooms and town halls across America and beyond.
That summary certainly doesn’t show an obvious bias. On the other hand, the website for “Expelled” puts a much more obvious spin on things:
All over the world, Big Science is on the march, making sure that Neo-Darwinian Materialist Theory is protected, and that any challenges and challengers are dealt with…properly.
Science is too important to be left in the hands of just any scientists, no matter how “credentialed” they may be!
Which is why the administration at Big Science Academy thought it essential that students be made acutely aware of what happens to “dissenters” who stray into dangerous areas of science after graduation.
Our Science “Field Trip” allowed Science Club students to travel around the world, and to see first-hand what happens to “the expelled” when they attempt to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.” (Link)
Interesting to see how these games get played.
I also noticed that Ben Stein has a blog post up at the movie’s website. Expecting my comment to be moderated, I attached this comment:
Hi Ben. I was just wondering if someone is moderating this blog. And, if so, do you think it is hypocritical to argue for free speech, but prevent critical comments from showing up on this blog?
“Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Yup. Not surprising in the least.
(Update: My comment, along with about 200 others, was approved within 24 hours of my post. Last I checked, there were over 900 comments. On a cursory read over the first hundred or so, none in particular stood out. Yes, you can tell Ben Stein he is wrong, but that’s certainly not going to change his mind. Most of the comments didn’t seem to have much in the way of useful arguments against his position.)