Monday, April 28, 2008

Flunked, not Expelled

Ben Stein has a new film out now, and although there are plenty of sites devoted to tearing it to pieces, I wouldn't feel right if I didn't drop my coin in the pond too.

So here goes.

If you're interested in the so-called "debate" between those in the scientific community and those in favor of the pseudoscience of Creationism -- currently flying under the banner of ID or "Intelligent Design" -- then you should be aware that a new movie staring Ben Stein. The movie makes some outrageous claims as it seeks to promote ID and generally stir up shit.

The Deception
The film features some pretty major players in science today, such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, professor PZ Myers, NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott, and a number of others. The producers of the movie asked for interviews with these scientists and professors, telling them it was for a movie they were working on called "Crossroads". They not only lied about the title, they lied about the intent of the film as well, claiming it was a fair and balanced look at the Creationism issue. These interviews were made in April 2007. The producers had already registered the domain for Expelled two months before those interviews took place, and had not registered a domain for Crossroads...ever! They knew right from the start that they were underhandedly getting interviews under false pretenses.

The film is very much in the Michael Moore vein of documentary film-making. There are splices, poor editing, and even charactures when someone who disagrees with the film's message is speaking. The style of the film is intended to provide an appealing movie targeted at those who are poorly equipped to understand it.

One such editing twist makes noted atheist author and biologist Richard Dawkins appear to be a "believer" of Intelligent Design. Dawkins sets up a hypothetical situation to address that regression goes past ID, but due to framing tricks, the audience will fail to understand that this is a hypothetical argument. The film aims to show Professor Dawkins and the other real scientist in a light of ignorance and stupidity (similar to this kind of camera trickery.)

Not to mention the copyright violations on music and animations.

The False Comparison
One of the biggest and most ignorant claims made by this movie is basically that "Darwinism leads to atheism leads to Nazism leads to the holocaust". In a twenty-minute segment, Stein visits a Nazi death camp (apparently he's an authority on the subject because he's a Jew). Stein gets the tour guide to say that the Nazi's did what they did in the name of Darwinian evolution. This argument is so common that it's appeared in a number of books and writings by leading Christian authors, yet it's an argument that is unfounded and ignorant.

Darwin got the idea of natural selection from thinking about how animals were bread for their traits (horses, birds, dogs, etc.). This human-selection had been around for centuries before Charles Darwin. Darwin merely saw that nature does the selecting for evolution. Hitler and his Nazi followers, on the other hand, sought to create a super race of humans by using human-selected breading and extermination -- this is not Darwinian evolution! The vile misrepresentation Expelled gives to history is not only wrong, I think it's evil.

The Ignorance
The entire premise of this film is that "Big Science" is keeping ID out of schools because of an elitist, political stance. The fact of the matter is that ID has NEVER produced any results to suppress. The film makes dishonest attempts to show some sort of "war" and controversy between ID and science, when the fact is that there is no controversy. Any scientist worth their weight knows that ID, Creationism, and any other religious claims have no right to be taught as science.

The Hypocrisy
Professor PZ Myers became a victim of the film's hypocrisy when he was expelled from a free pre-screening of the movie. The pre-screening was only available to online registrants. He had signed up on a website, received a confirmation email stating that "tickets were not required". As Professor Myers was standing in line (he hadn't even gotten up to the desk to present identification and sign in) when he was approached by security guards who told him that he had been barred from seeing the film by a producer of the film. The officer even threatened to arrest Myers if he tried to go in! Myers complied and went to talk with his family. The officer came back to him accompanied by the theater manager who told him that not only was he not allowed into the theater, but that he would have to leave the premises immediately! The funny part is that they let in Myer's guest, Richard Dawkins, escorted by Myer's wife and daughter.

After the credits had rolled (in which PZ Myers was thanked for appearing in the film!), Dawkins stood up from the center of the theater and says something to the extent of: "Why, in a movie about free speech and open discussions in academia, do you expel my colleague PZ Myers from seeing it -- a movie, by the way, which he's IN and thanked for in the credits?"

The Grade
Expelled deserves an F minus for research, publication, production, and class participation. It is a laughable film, but the sad and scary thing is that a lot of scientifically ignorant people will view it as gold, and spread the messages it contains. Of course, churches across the country will be giving this movie good publicity and money. I'm sure the Creationist movement will gain a bit of momentum, and more discussion about it will be appearing in the media for a few months after the film's release. But anyone who can spot the flaws of the ridiculous arguments must stand up and spread the set Ben Stein and his disciples straight.

Visit to learn each and every argument and counter-argument to the film.

1 comment:

Ojalanpoika said...

Stein is under heavy attack for 'exaggerating' the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the 'Politics-is-applied-biology' Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I.

It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous Haeckel with his still recycled fraud embryo drawings in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871.

Darwin did not apply his revolutionary theory to the human beings until his Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex in 1871. This was after the ambitious Haeckel had firmly stepped in the print, and the old Darwin paid hommage in his introduction:
"The conclusion that man is the co-descendant with other species… is not in any degree new… maintained by several eminent naturalists and philosophers… and especially by Häckel. This last naturalist, besides his great work
'Generelle Morphologie' (1866), has recently (1868, with a second edit. in 1870), published his 'Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte,' in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man. If this work had appeared before my essay
had been written, I should probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine."

I quote from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline them a bit):

Race biological reason was not only rhetoric, it was scientific. There is evidence, that In Ukraine and Baltic countries, the people wellcomed the German troops as redeemers. These illusions evaporated soon, when the SS (Schutzstaffel) and civilian administration followed the field-army. Hitler did not even try to separate the Russian people from the Soviet government. The Eastern Europeans Slavic people were born "slaves", indeed. For Hitler, they were "Untermenschen" (Bullock 1958 pp- 423-5). The ethymology for the Greek "barbaros" was in their uncomprehensible tongue, the word was onomatopoetic.

BUT marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular Finnish media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17).

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the Jewish question was assimilation, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century, and in 1933 the German people had not lived normal life for twenty years. And so Adolf Hitler did not need his revolution. He did not have to break the laws in Haeckel's country, in principle, but to constitute them.
Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee, that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

PS. Here's the final chapter scanned from an evolutionist scholar D. Gasman from his The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (chapter 7, Gasman 1971)
I emphasize that Daniel Gasman is NOT an IDist or Idealist of any kind.