I’ve been trying to avoid writing about Ben Stein’s anti-science propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Primarily, because the film has been picked at relentlessly by science bloggers and skeptics to the point that there is nothing left for me but scraps.
The premise of Expelled is that creationist scientists are being blocked from academic and professional jobs because of their beliefs. I’ll assume that this has been true in a few cases because I actually agree with the idea that one person’s ideology or faith shouldn’t contaminate the truth that flows from the scientific process. Scientists have a responsibility to weed out ideas that aren’t compatible with the general consensus of collected knowledge regardless of whether the ideas stem from a baseless opinion or religious dogma.
Science works because it isn’t stubborn. Ideas can change and grow the more we teach ourselves about the natural world. Believers point to the fact that science has been wrong before, but that is exactly the point. The bible is like a blog comment that you can’t edit. Certain people with the power (like myself) can delete the comments, others can discuss the comments, but they just sit there unchanged- typos and all. Science is like a discussion forum where your peers can chastise you for a bad idea, and you can edit that idea to make it more perfect. OK… that was a simplified analogy, but whatever.
I’ve been falling into the trap of commenting on other blogs and forums with posts about Expelled, so I thought I’d bring my battle back to my home page for all here to see. My one true annoyance with Ben Stein’s film is that he goes to the effort to connect Hitler and the holocaust to Darwin. This whopper of a lie is not only insulting, it isn’t true. And even if it was true, the argument would be irrelevant because jewish genocide has been happening throughout history, much of it perpetrated by Christians.
Hitler never mentioned Darwin in his autobiography Mein Kampf. He did say this…
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
I don’t blame christians for the fact that Hitler was raised a catholic, nor do I draw any inferences from the fact that the majority of the nazi army were christian. I also don’t blame christians for slavery, the KKK, the salem witch trials, or the crusades. These acts are despicable, but it matters not whether they were perpetrated by atheists or christians. This is an appeal to emotion that Expelled uses with maximum effect to manipulate an audience prone to believing without evidence, and it works.
I could do the same appeal to emotion and point out parts of the bible where god commits genocide against his own creation, including passages that describe killing every man, woman, and unborn child, passages about bears divinely ripping apart 42 children for teasing a bald man, and entire civilizations being annihilated in bloody battles. Oops…I just did an appeal to emotion. Forgive me.
The idea behind creationism, that science must be wrong because it invalidates the inerrancy of the scripture, discredits all the scientific discoveries that have advanced our knowledge and society. The bible says nothing about galaxies, internet, DNA, germs, minivans, gravity, relativity- all advancements that benefit our society, and yet they are only accepted as valid because they don’t negate the holy word. But, creationists discredit science when the facts are not compatible with the bible. There are a lot of facts that aren’t compatible with the bible- like a heliocentric solar system, or that Earth is a sphere, or that the moon is not a source of light.
There are also aspects of the bible that even creationists won’t follow, like God’s commandment to stone adulterers. Times change, our ethics and morals grow, and we don’t allow ourselves to stone people now. So too must our understanding and interpretation of religion change to fit the known facts of the universe. You can see the silliness of interpreting the bible as absolute truth by reading The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.
I’ll leave it at that. I hope to hear from you about your thoughts on this movie.