Re: [asa] Expelled

From: David Heddle <>
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 11:48:16 EDT

Greg wotte:

"Ben Stein is challenging 'Big Science.' Are any people at ASA wishing to
defend Big Science against his critique?"

Yes, I would. If you are interested, I reviewed the movie here:

David Heddle
Associate Professor of Physics
Christopher Newport University, &
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 11:19 AM, David Opderbeck <>

> 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 <>
> wrote:
>> 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 11:49:30 2008

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