Re: [asa] Expelled

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 11:13:48 EDT

Five days after the national release of 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' the Executive Director of ASA goes to see it. This is a film that fits most conveniently into a social discussion of science; its role, who does it, who funds it, who controls it, who censors it, who promotes it, where it happens, why people trust or don't trust it and, also, what does 'science' mean to society. There is relatively little discussion in the realm of a 'natural science classroom' to prepare people to evaluate and understand the meaning of this movie. Dogovorilies (is it agreed)?
  Ben Stein is challenging 'Big Science.' Are any people at ASA wishing to defend Big Science against his critique? One simply cannot escape from the topic of 'scientism' when mentioning the film 'Exposed.' It is the view/cinematographical narrative that identifies ideology and bullying and asks people to confront it for what it is, and not to avoid it or sanction it as 'normalni'.
  Now, in case any of you TE/ECs feel I am challenging your long or short-held views (because ultra-sensitivity appears to be a norm today in the American context), let it be clarified that I am not opposed to 'biological evolution' (or even 'old earth' taken in context). However, I am, have been and continue to be opposed to 'universalistic evolution,' which passes beyond the boundaries of the field/discipline of biological science. Thus, when evolutionary theory is applied to ethics, sociology and psychology (among others), there are legitimate grounds to limit its application and linguistic usage. Cramps, indeed!! It would be quite helpful for natural scientists who are theists to accept and promote a self-limiting notion of evolution! This is part of the message behind 'Expelled,' which a natural scientific critique simply cannot (i.e. seems not able to) address by using its own disciplinary grammar.
  Randy writes of a 'blurred message' in 'Expelled,' yet also says that "Good and evil were cast in black and white." Perhaps this can be further addressed. How did black and white get blurred? What Randy says Ben Stein missed is especially interesting: it seems there might be a critique of 'evolutionary ethics' hidden somewhere therein. If one wants to speak about the "conflation of religious and scientific ideas," as Randy notes, then in what better place is there to start than the blatantly obvious paradoxical combination of the two terms: 'theistic evolution'??
  Gregory (living outside of America, still not having seen 'Expelled')

Randy Isaac <> wrote:
          Having read too many second-hand reports, I was glad to be able to see the movie Expelled first hand yesterday. The cell animation sequence in the middle was great and worth the price of admission by itself, though it was a bargain matinee. It was also good to see a lot of friends and familiar faces featured in the film.
  I had just finished reading John Hedley Brooke's "Science and Religion: Some Historical Observations." As one of the premier historians of science and religion, he stresses "complexity." He amply demonstrates that no simple description of the relationship between science and religion is adequate. In contrast, it seemed that Ben Stein stressed simplicity and actively avoided complexity in the movie. Good and evil were cast in black and white. Lining up on one side were evolution and eugenics, Darwin and Dawkins, Hitler, Provine, mainstream scientists, suppression of ideas. On the other were Intelligent Design, Dembski and Berlinski, Discovery Institute, academic freedom, basic American freedoms. The Berlin wall symbolized the crisp distinction between the two. Yet this veneer of superficial "truth" masked a wealth of complexity that was ignored presumably to avoid confusing the audience. Unfortunately, the result was a blurred message that depended on the background
 knowledge of the viewer.
  Notwithstanding a verbal disclaimer, the juxtaposition of the atrocities of eugenics and the evil of Hitler with evolution conveyed an inherent and necessary connection. Stein missed an opportunity to assail the derivation of a prescriptive behavioral mandate from a descriptive theory of nature. By pointing the finger at the description itself, the fallacious moral extrapolation was implicitly validated.
  The movie makes no attempt to help us tease fact from fiction in either evolution or Intelligent Design, offering no definition or explanation. It does raise critically important issues for our times such as academic freedom and the conflation of religious and scientific ideas but with little guidance for resolving them. If it stimulates substantive discussion on these and related issues, the movie will have been worthwhile.

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Received on Thu Apr 24 11:14:48 2008

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