Re: [asa] Expelled

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 11:19:15 EDT

C'mon Greg -- give Randy some credit for seeing it soon after its release
and for writing what looks to be a pretty balanced, if critical, review.
I'm more interested in the social side of things than most people, but I
haven't seen it yet -- a busy job and three kids mean that I see very few
movies except on DVD.

On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 11:13 AM, Gregory Arago <>

> 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.
> Randy
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David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Thu Apr 24 11:20:18 2008

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