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April 29, 2008

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You and your readers might want to give the claims made in Expelled more unbiased critical look. Like Michael Moore's movies Expelled is definitely biased and makes its point by misrepresenting truth and outright lying. Here are just two good resources from the other side of the coin. There are many more out there:

www.expelledexposed.com
http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=272

Dawkins says that evolution can explain everything. When asked how life began, Dawkins hems and haws says that maybe aliens put life here.
Sometimes the worst thing you can do to someone is quote them accurately. Two problems with the alien scenario: It would mean there was intelligent design for life on this planet, but it doesn't explain where the aliens came from.
All of us should be praying that Dawkins and likeminded souls will stop running from the Truth and accept Christ in their lives. That's what they need -- not outlandish scientism.

Excellent conversation starter at the very least.

An article addressing some of the criticisms of Expelled:

http://www.discovery.org/a/4689

I have not yet seen the movie (it hasn't been released in Canada yet AFAIK?) so I can't comment on the film itself yet.

I have to say I'm not a fan of the Michael Moore style "documentary" but since this film is being promoted as having an agenda I don't think that should be too much of a problem.

How has Ben Stein used Michael Moore's tactics?
Stein has been candid about his own views, and he expressed why he was making "Expelled." His hypothesis was that professors who try to talk about intelligent design are silenced by their atheistic peers. Judging from the evidence Stein accumulated, I think he made his case. If Stein's hypothesis had been faulty, we wouldn't be discussing "Expelled."
Now, what about Dawkins? From the outset, he excludes anything that doesn't line up with his views on religion. Is that the right way for a scientist to operate? And how can he really believe that evolution explains everything when it doesn't answer the first big question of life -- namely, how it began?
Early scientists, many of whom were Bible-thumpers (to borrow a little lingo from the Dawkins camp), believed that the reason we can learn from nature is because God created an orderly universe. God invites inquiries -- He wants all of us, not just scientists, to understand just how magnificent His creation is. God also made His grace easy to understand so that it wouldn't be available only to scienticians (borrowing some "Simpsons" lingo there).

I saw Expelled with friends and really enjoyed it. It was refreshing to have someone from another "camp" besides Christianity weigh in on some of the dirty tricks used to silence people who dare question the theory of evolution. Lots of wrong conclusions have been studied for lots of hours in other eras (sun revolving around earth) so the majority opinion isn't always right.

I also thought expelled was quite funny :D

Mr. Dawkins and Michael Shermer were not very happy with the way they were portrayed in the film. At least this is the impression I got reading the byline of a podcast I subscribe to where these two are interviewed.

They claim the filmmakers interviewed them under false pretenses. However, Mr. Dawkins also tends to claim this whenever he shows up in a documentary that doesn't support his point of view, so is it just a case of a boy crying wolf? I'm honestly not sure what to think.

May I post the link to this podcast episode here so that you all can listen for yourselves?

Melinda,
Have you seen the criticism by John Derbyshire at National Review Online? He claims Darwinism is an achievement of Western Civilization that should be defended as such. What do you make of his comments? It's at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGYwMzdjOWRmNGRhOWQ4MTQyZDMxNjNhYTU1YTE5Njk=
He says Ben Stein "must then be foolish" for making the documentary and exploring the concept of ID.

I think Mr. Derbyshire is a talented writer who gets it right most of the time. On the matter of Darwinism, he's mistaken. What if a writer had made the argument that slavery was an achievement of Western civilization that should be defended as such? Or abortion?
That argument just doesn't carry any weight.

To Aaron:
It always bugs me when people in your camp post a string of links, as if the ability to list a link makes something a self-evident truth.
If you want to espouse a viewpoint, why don't YOU read the information and then write about it in your OWN WORDS. That would show that you have a grasp of whatever argument you're trying to make.
Why don't YOU point out some of the lies you say are found in "Expelled"?
Have you even seen the movie, Aaron, or was that too much effort?

What is wrong with Aaron's choice to put up links? Arguments are arguments and facts are facts regardless of where you get them. Also, the questions you posed were obviously meant more to imply criticism than to foster meaningful discussion. Oh, and using capital letters to make you seem angry conveys a sense that you are arguing more from emotion than reason.

That said, the links posted by Aaron were definitely critical, but hardly unbiased. They point out areas that call into question the motives and intents of those producing the movie (ad Hominem arguments mostly), and they make declarative statements about the truth of evolution. What they fail to do is meet the challenge that there is something wrong with the philosophical foundations of science.

For example, let's say that I believe in a literal 6-day creation as it is part of my religion. If I can demonstrate that such a belief does a better job of explaining all of the phenomena we encounter in the natural world, using the process of reason and investigation, and without making improper appeals to authority (ie: it's true because the Bible said so) why can that not be science? It is not the claim of the ID movement that the world was created in 6-days, but it is their claim that such a view would be rejected by the establishment not because it was insufficient in its explanatory power but because it did not presuppose philosophical naturalism.

oh, that was me who made that last post

Will,

The view that the earth is 6,000 years old, give or take a few, is not rejected because it doesn't presuppose naturalism. Rather, it is rejected because it is a flawed and discredited theory. It is bad science, plain and simple. It has failed every conceivable test leveled against it, and the only reason someone would come to believe it is because of an apriori religious commitment. It fails on scientific grounds, and is rejected on those grounds. It is NOT rejected because of philosophical reasons.

not ONE scientist, apart from being driven to do so because of religious reasons, would ever come to believe the earth is young.

I know you didn't say you believe this, but "let's say" you did, then that's what I would say in turn.

This is a thought experiment... Suppose the Earth were young? Would it show up in our scientific study of it? Not necessarily. If God did create the world in the form it now exists, then how could any investigative method detect it? All the current physical and natural forces and processes we see in it now would have already been "going"--a sort of running start--right from the beginning. In other words, how does one "date" something that had no "natural" beginning (ie. ex nihilo)? Just a thought...for which I'll no doubt be lambasted.

>>The view that the earth is 6,000 years old, give or take a few, is not rejected because it doesn't presuppose naturalism...It fails on scientific grounds, and is rejected on those grounds. It is NOT rejected because of philosophical reasons.>>

"Science" is a philosophy (at least the modern usage of the word). "Science" studies only the natural processes in the world. It is per se naturalistic. This is a philosophy. So the person who says that a theory fails based on "scientific" grounds is appealing to a philosophy.

"Science" ignores what is not physical ("natural")...

Ignoring what cannot be demonstrated physically is an a priori philosophical assumption...

Therefore rejecting something as "unscientific" (modern usage of the word) is a philosophy.

Last post is from me...

>>The view that the earth is 6,000 years old, give or take a few, is not rejected because it doesn't presuppose naturalism...It fails on scientific grounds, and is rejected on those grounds. It is NOT rejected because of philosophical reasons.>>

"Science" is a philosophy (at least the modern usage of the word). "Science" studies only the natural processes in the world. It is per se naturalistic. This is a philosophy. So the person who says that a theory fails based on "scientific" grounds is appealing to a philosophy.

"Science" ignores what is not physical ("natural")...

Ignoring what cannot be demonstrated physically is an a priori philosophical assumption...

Therefore rejecting something as "unscientific" (modern usage of the word) is a philosophy.

I went and saw the film last week, and had a few thoughts on it (I would love to have gone _with_ the STR staff, or for that matter with any group of critical thinkers - as it was, I was the ONLY person in the auditorium for the first 20 minutes, and then only one more came in).

First, it did strike me very immediately to be in the style of Michael Moore's documentary film making. I don't count that as bad per se, because while I disagree with most of Moore's conclusions, and may not always like his rhetorical choices, I do conceed that he is a talented and engaging film maker. I think that Ben did a good job whoever's page he swiped to design the film's approach. I laughed, I humphed, I talked back to the screen.

I think that the interview with Dawkins at the end is worth the price of the whole rest of the film, actually, though there are a good many other very interesting points in the film worth discussing. I think that Christians and advocates of ID (myself included) should not be too quick to hand wave the opposing arguments, but to give them fair hearing; otherwise, we are guilty of the same thing the materialists are regarding ID. For example, the guy who posited the theory that the organing information was coded by piggy-backing on crystals - easy to hand wave if you are not a materialist, but I actually think worth hearing out the evidence (if any _can_ be found to support the theory).

I do think that the weakest rhetorical element of the film was the strong suggestion Darwinism inevitably leads to Nazi-like states. I'm of the opinion that it is at least as likely to lead to the sort of happy nihilism of Sartre. Of course, I don't think this is a good thing either, but perhaps less immediately threatening.

Just my impressions from watching.

>>I do think that the weakest rhetorical element of the film was the strong suggestion Darwinism inevitably leads to Nazi-like states.

Well, to be fair, they specifically said it doesn't necessarily lead to that (Berlinski talked about other factors being necessary for this to take place), they only argued that the Nazis gave explicitly Darwinist reasons for what they were doing--that the idea and goal of killing the weak as a way of creating a better population was explicitly grounded in a Darwinian worldview.

I think that including this section was a bad move on their part simply because it distracts from the main point of the film and gives everyone something to focus their objections on so that the main idea never makes it to public discussion. It also makes it look like we're objecting to Darwinism because we don't like it instead of because it's false. After all, just because something can lead to horrific things (and I think there's a case to be made here), that doesn't mean it's false.

Science ignores whatever cannot be tested empirically. This isn't because science has a problem with the nonphysical realm, it just doesn't know how to probe it. Science has yet to invent a Theometer.

Also, if science could test the supernatural, and perform experiments on nonphysical phenomena, then what would make them 'supernatural'.... isn't the supernatural by definition beyond the realm of the natural?

Ryan- certainly science pressuposes certain things, and you could call that philosophy. I don't think any scientist would have a problem with that. Yet, just saying that something is PHILOSOPHY doesn't mean that all philosophies are equal. The fact that scientists operate under a strictly naturalistic modality allows for great scientific progress and prevents one from saying 'god did it,' and hence stopping scientific inquiry

Question: Does saying 'god did it' actually answer the question of how?
OR- is it merely a place holder as we wait for more empirical information to come in, so that we might then push the 'god did it' explanation to a smaller unexplained domain.

>>Science ignores whatever cannot be tested empirically. This isn't because science has a problem with the nonphysical realm, it just doesn't know how to probe it. Science has yet to invent a Theometer.>>

"Science" cannot ever invent anything to measure, detect, or weigh whatever is non-corporeal not that that's a bad thing, it just has limits. Each of the sciences (in the general sense, not just natural) is a tool for studying and measuring its own field. For the natural sciences to dismiss Theology or philosophy because they don't measure things "empirically" is like the eye dismissing the ear because it does not see.

>>Also, if science could test the supernatural, and perform experiments on nonphysical phenomena, then what would make them 'supernatural'.... isn't the supernatural by definition beyond the realm of the natural?>>

Yes.

>>Ryan- certainly science pressuposes certain things, and you could call that philosophy. I don't think any scientist would have a problem with that. Yet, just saying that something is PHILOSOPHY doesn't mean that all philosophies are equal. The fact that scientists operate under a strictly naturalistic modality allows for great scientific progress and prevents one from saying 'god did it,' and hence stopping scientific inquiry>>

The flippancy with which you assume the best any non-"scientist" can do is say, "God did it" is the concern here. I don't know any person of real faith who dismisses the natural sciences. But to use the words "purposeless" and "random" and "selection" is to slip outside of the realm of the natural sciences and into Final Cause questions (which the theoretical not natural sciences deal with). And you're right, not all philosophies are equal. But, according to Aristotle (who was a philosopher AND a natural scientist), the theoretical sciences are the most important because they speak to the most important cause, namely the Final.

>>Question: Does saying 'god did it' actually answer the question of how?
OR- is it merely a place holder as we wait for more empirical information to come in, so that we might then push the 'god did it' explanation to a smaller unexplained domain.>>

The "how" question concerning physical matter came to be in the form it is now is obviously a question for the natural sciences. But for the sake of argument, why the dichotomy? Could we not say that the natural processes are the primary efficient cause and God is a secondary cause (say through the "Big Bang")? Why the either-or?

>>Science ignores whatever cannot be tested empirically.

Pseudo-D, science cannot test the supernatural, but this isn't what ID claims to do. This is a basic misunderstanding of the movement. What they are testing is empirical evidence for design, not the supernatural. There are certainly scientific ways of determining whether a testable thing has been designed. If it were not so, the SETI project would be a complete waste of time and archaeologists would never be able to tell a created artifact from a randomly formed rock.

The fact is that the scientists working on SETI have an understanding of what would constitute a designed message, and they will compare any arriving signals with those empirical standards. In the same way, the ID scientists are not "saying God did it" as a placeholder for what they don't understand; instead they're making a *positive* case for design based on the physical evidence for design. If one can determine scientifically the indications of design, and a thing contains all those indications, this is not an argument from ignorance but a positive case.

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