Skip to comments.Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know...
Posted on 04/17/2008 10:54:25 AM PDT by Boxen
...about intelligent design and evolution
In the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, narrator Ben Stein poses as a "rebel" willing to stand up to the scientific establishment in defense of freedom and honest, open discussion of controversial ideas like intelligent design (ID). But Expelled has some problems of its own with honest, open presentations of the facts about evolution, ID—and with its own agenda. Here are a few examples—add your own with a comment, and we may add it to another draft of this story. For our complete coverage, see "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed—Scientific American's Take.
1) Expelled quotes Charles Darwin selectively to connect his ideas to eugenics and the Holocaust. When the film is building its case that Darwin and the theory of evolution bear some responsibility for the Holocaust, Ben Stein's narration quotes from Darwin's The Descent of Man thusly:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
This is how the original passage in The Descent of Man reads (unquoted sections emphasized in italics):
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
The producers of the film did not mention the very next sentences in the book (emphasis added in italics):
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
Darwin explicitly rejected the idea of eliminating the "weak" as dehumanizing and evil. Those words falsify Expelled's argument. The filmmakers had to be aware of the full Darwin passage, but they chose to quote only the sections that suited their purposes.
2) Ben Stein's speech to a crowded auditorium in the film was a setup. Viewers of Expelled might think that Ben Stein has been giving speeches on college campuses and at other public venues in support of ID and against "big science." But if he has, the producers did not include one. The speech shown at the beginning and end was staged solely for the sake of the movie. Michael Shermer learned as much by speaking to officials at Pepperdine University, where those scenes were filmed. Only a few of the audience members were students; most were extras brought in by the producers. Judge the ovation Ben Stein receives accordingly.
3) Scientists in the film thought they were being interviewed for a different movie. As Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, Michael Shermer and other proponents of evolution appearing in Expelled have publicly remarked, the producers first arranged to interview them for a film that was to be called Crossroads, which was allegedly a documentary on "the intersection of science and religion." They were subsequently surprised to learn that they were appearing in Expelled, which "exposes the widespread persecution of scientists and educators who are pursuing legitimate, opposing scientific views to the reigning orthodoxy," to quote from the film's press kit.
When exactly did Crossroads become Expelled? The producers have said that the shift in the film's title and message occurred after the interviews with the scientists, as the accumulating evidence gradually persuaded them that ID believers were oppressed. Yet as blogger Wesley Elsberry discovered when he searched domain registrations, the producers registered the URL "expelledthemovie.com" on March 1, 2007—more than a month (and in some cases, several months) before the scientists were interviewed. The producers never registered the URL "crossroadsthemovie.com". Those facts raise doubt that Crossroads was still the working title for the movie when the scientists were interviewed.
4) The ID-sympathetic researcher whom the film paints as having lost his job at the Smithsonian Institution was never an employee there. One section of Expelled relates the case of Richard Sternberg, who was a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and editor of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. According to the film, after Sternberg approved the publication of a pro-ID paper by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute, he lost his editorship, was demoted at the Smithsonian, was moved to a more remote office, and suffered other professional setbacks. The film mentions a 2006 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report prepared for Rep. Mark Souder (R–Ind.), "Intolerance and the Politicization of Science at the Smithsonian," that denounced Sternberg's mistreatment.
This selective retelling of the Sternberg affair omits details that are awkward for the movie's case, however. Sternberg was never an employee of the Smithsonian: his term as a research associate always had a limited duration, and when it ended he was offered a new position as a research collaborator. As editor, Sternberg's decision to "peer-review" and approve Meyer's paper by himself was highly questionable on several grounds, which was why the scientific society that published the journal later repudiated it. Sternberg had always been planning to step down as the journal's editor—the issue in which he published the paper was already scheduled to be his last.
The report prepared by Rep. Souder, who had previously expressed pro-ID views, was never officially accepted into the Congressional Record. Notwithstanding the report's conclusions, its appendix contains copies of e-mails and other documents in which Sternberg's superiors and others specifically argued against penalizing him for his ID views. (More detailed descriptions of the Sternberg case can be found on Ed Brayton's blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars and on Wikipedia.)
5) Science does not reject religious or "design-based" explanations because of dogmatic atheism. Expelled frequently repeats that design-based explanations (not to mention religious ones) are "forbidden" by "big science." It never explains why, however. Evolution and the rest of "big science" are just described as having an atheistic preference.
Actually, science avoids design explanations for natural phenomena out of logical necessity. The scientific method involves rigorously observing and experimenting on the material world. It accepts as evidence only what can be measured or otherwise empirically validated (a requirement called methodological naturalism). That requirement prevents scientific theories from becoming untestable and overcomplicated.
By those standards, design-based explanations rapidly lose their rigor without independent scientific proof that validates and defines the nature of the designer. Without it, design-based explanations rapidly become unhelpful and tautological: "This looks like it was designed, so there must be a designer; we know there is a designer because this looks designed."
A major scientific problem with proposed ID explanations for life is that their proponents cannot suggest any good way to disprove them. ID "theories" are so vague that even if specific explanations are disproved, believers can simply search for new signs of design. Consequently, investigators do not generally consider ID to be a productive or useful approach to science.
6) Many evolutionary biologists are religious and many religious people accept evolution. Expelled includes many clips of scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, William Provine and PZ Myers who are also well known as atheists. They talk about how their knowledge of science confirms their convictions and how in some cases science led them to atheism. And indeed, surveys do indicate that atheism is more common among scientists than in the general population.
Nevertheless, the film is wrong to imply that understanding of evolution inevitably or necessarily leads to a rejection of religious belief. Francisco Ayala of the University of California, Irvine, a leading neuroscientist who used to be a Dominican priest, continues to be a devout Catholic, as does the evolutionary biologist Ken Miller of Brown University. Thousands of other biologists across the U.S. who all know evolution to be true are also still religious. Moreover, billions of other people around the world simultaneously accept evolution and keep faith with their religion. The late Pope John Paul II said that evolution was compatible with Roman Catholicism as an explanation for mankind's physical origins.
During Scientific American's post-screening conversation with Expelled associate producer Mark Mathis, we asked him why Ken Miller was not included in the film. Mathis explained that his presence would have "confused" viewers. But the reality is that showing Miller would have invalidated the film's major premise that evolutionary biologists all reject God.
Inside and outside the scientific community, people will no doubt continue to debate rationalism and religion and disagree about who has the better part of that argument. Evidence from evolution will probably remain at most a small part of that conflict, however.
Whatever. Ben Stein still gets props from me for simply speaking out against the eduocracy.
We can hardly wait. We pay no attention to the atheists in Scientific America who are partly behind the suppression of opinions that vary from theirs. No surprise they are up in arms about Ben. The liberal elite, Scientific America is no longer about genuine science. Scientific American is all about a leftist, godless agenda. It has fallen from a fine magazine to a liberal rag.
Ben is one of the good guys!
He’s not pushing Creation. He’s highligting the arrogant BIAS of those that don’t agree with other views. I know of MANY going to see this movie. It pisses the godless liberals off to be EXPOSED like this.
Thanks for the post, will read closer when time allows.
Lying for Darwin ping!
Really?? But, the parade in "Ferris Bueller" -- the one where Matthew Broderick sings "Danke Schon" -- that wasn't staged, right? I mean, you're not telling me that film producers actually set some of this stuff up, are you?
“People who assert evolution have a fundamental problem: origins. Their theory depends upon life appearing spontaneously from non-living matter. Nothing they can say about subsequent life forms on this planet change that fact. Yet, they artfully dodge this essential issue by saying they don’t deal in origins, even as their faith in the secular depends on the very origin they refuse to consider.”
ONLY God, ceates life.
As we’re seeing in the dhimmirat primaries, when leftists are exposed, they are defeated.
THIS is why they hate the light of a documentary like this being shined on them.
Bump for detailed reading later. Some good points there, especially the last. Many religious people accept evolution in some form. I personally believe in Theistic Evolution.
Hey, don’t you know that the fossil records shows the clear, very slight gradual changes from single cells (which self generated) to humans, fully explains the Cambrian species “explosion”, and that no fossils have ever had to be falsified in order to support the fact of evolution?
Man, that’s some funny sht right there.
Seven: How banal and inane his Movie Trailers are!
Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.
OMG you mean the Right can’t have it’s own Micheal Moore (someone who actually isn’t LYING all the way through the movie) but the Socialist CAN?
Give me a BREAK!
Thousands of other biologists across the U.S. who all know evolution to be true are also still religious.
No bias in THAT statement, is there?
What ever you think Ben Stein believes, what he DOES is contribute to radical left wing Senate candidates.
False. And I think I have pointed this out to you in the past.
Here are five hypothesis regarding the origin of the first life forms.
b) Aliens from another planet and/or dimension travelled to this planet and -- deliberately or accidentally -- seeded the planet with the first life forms.
c) In the future, humans will develop a means to travel back in time. They will use this technology to plant the first life forms in Earth's past, making the existence of life a causality loop.
d) A divine agent of unspecified nature zap-poofed the first life forms into existence.
e) Any method other than the four described above led to the existence of the first life forms.
And what about zombies? Does your precious theory explain my ravenous desire for brainzzzz?
I’ve never seen any contradiction in finding that the theory of natural selection explains how life evolved on Earth, and that this is the method by which God achieved His purposes.
I also don’t think that Charles Darwin should be held responsible for so-called Social Darwinism which Nazis and Communists espoused to justify mass murder. He didn’t invent that.
“The scientific method involves rigorously observing and experimenting on the material world. It accepts as evidence only what can be measured or otherwise empirically validated (a requirement called methodological naturalism). That requirement prevents scientific theories from becoming untestable and overcomplicated.”
What a crock. Global Warming, Big Bang Theory, and I think we’re on our third theory about what killed the dinosaurs just since I’ve been around. Science has no problem speculating when it suits them.
No it doesn't. God could have created life in evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory explains what happened after that. Abiogenesis is the theory that explores the origins of life. No "artful dodge" about that. Just your misunderstanding.
To suggest, as Ben Stein's funny question suggests, that if a scientific answer to how life came to be cannot be made right this minute, then no scientific answer will be forthcoming, ever, is to suggest something which is false.
Oh yes. Ignore the dissent as “atheistic.” I think that might fall under number 6.
LOL! WHEE, a soon to be 500+ post thread which, out of these 500 replies, probably 1% will actually address the points.
Point 6 actually might be a popular one, if only to say, “Well, of COURSE it’s the godless CATHOLICS that would accept eevil-loution!”, over, and over, and over again.
But oh well, we can’t have anyone taking the words of Scripture metaphorically at times, especially when there are so many one handed, one-eyed people out there that are in danger of loosing their other appendages. (cf Matt 5:30, Matt 18:8, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45)
Evolutionary theory explains what happened after that. Abiogenesis is the theory that explores the origins of life. No “artful dodge” about that. Just your misunderstanding.
Not at all. I see it very clearly, more clearly than those advocates in denial.
It seems Ben Stein went to the Michael Moore School of “Documentary” Making.
And having worked on dozens of books, there are lots of times that the title of the book or even some of the direction changes a little after you get into the information.
Thank you for exactly proving my point.
Ditto, at that, even the Bible supports this if one looks close enough. Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation.... The land produced vegetation...And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures...
I can see even more clearlylierliest - you are wrong.
No scientific theory in any field addresses the issue of a creator in any way because any such assertions would be scientifically unprovable. The theory simply states that non-living material became living material- which BTW the Bible also states. Evolutionary biology only deals with the process, not whether it was consciously directed.
Science teaches us how God created the world; the Bible teaches us why.
Lessee, “The” most prestigious science magazine around has to launch a point-by-point criticism of a movie by an actor who is most famous for the line “Bueller?” Yah, I’d say he touched a nerve.
Hillary must get even bigger props from you, then.
only six points, some as dumb as “that wasn’t a real audience”?
still has more truths than any moore or gore “documentary”
It’s very kind of you to provide all this free advertising for the film. Lots more people will go see it as a result, I’m sure.
I almost never go to the theater to see films, but after seeing how intently the pro-evos are slamming it, I’m seriously thinking of seeing it this weekend.
I’m probably going to get flamed for jumping on this thread, but ignorant viewpoints like yours are the reason that conservatives are demonized in popular media.
There are many conservatives (some here, including me) who do not subscribe to intelligent design theory. Now you may come back at me and say “It’s not a theory.” Well...it is. There weren’t any of us there when it happened. Noone that is alive today witnessed creation, no matter how it happened.
Now, intelligent design (as postulated by the religious, I’m not going to go into all the different variations on it here) requires an assumption that can not be proven, that is the belief that God exists. That goes against the scientific method.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not anti-religious. I’m not a religious person myself, and I find no need for it, but if you need to believe to get through your day, go ahead. I won’t stop you. That being said, many of these “athiests” that you talk about aren’t actually athiests. They just don’t share your viewpoint so you demonize them just like the left does to those of us who think firearms should be unregulated.
For some reason there are many here who demonize science and scientists. Without scientists we wouldn’t be able to organize on this forum, so you may want to rethink your position. Science is not about politics, when you get right down to it. Numbers don’t lie (unless they’re statistics, but that’s another post). People do put their own personal biases into their interpretation of the data, but the data doesn’t lie.
All in all, I think many here need to re-think their viewpoints on science in general. Some of those here who go on complaining about “Scientific America” need to look inward to their own viewpoints and the hypocrisy contained therein. Don’t fall into the trap of being dragged down to their level because they’ll beat you with experience.
I’m off to don my asbestos underwear.
intently = intensely
I was not aware that Pope John Paul II was a member of the "Liberal Elite."
That's fine, but the people who were and are in favor of eugenics and the Holocaust definitely pointed back to Darwinism as part of the justification of their ideas.
To the extent that Darwin himself disagreed with them, they'd simply say that he was being inconsistent, and they weren't.
I thought the major premise was those who believe in Intelligence design being discriminated against.
Sounds like Michael Moore type tactics. However, I don’t think that expelled bills itself as a documentary, or not completely. Either way, I won’t see it. I’ll be one of those non-creationist conservatives who will be cringing at home.
He should really check in on the pro-death industry that is with us today.
It is all about a "quality of life" now whether you are terminal, bored, unable to care for yourself, or an inconvenient pregnancy.
Sure. Like Michael Moore gets credit for simply speaking out against the health care industry.
I think you might be confusing the words “premise” and “conclusion.”