Re: [asa] Expelled

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 12:10:41 EDT

Nice review David! Actually I don't see you "defending Big Science" in that
review -- seems like a pretty moderate and balanced review.

On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 11:48 AM, David Heddle <> wrote:

> 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 <>
> wrote:
>> 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

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 12:12:00 2008

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