‘Expelled’ as a cultural artifact

I’ve closed comments on my review of the creationist propaganda film Expelled. And yes, I use that term — creationist propaganda film — quite deliberately. I’d hoped the discussion about the film and my review would be about, you know, the film and the issues it raises about how science and fact are warped in our culture for political purposes, or about how we can counter such propaganda… anything other than the usual clueless misunderstanding from those who don’t understand science and requests to read the Bible followed by basic lessons in Evolution 101 by well-meaning readers who nevertheless might as well be banging their heads against their desks, for all the good they’re doing.
I’m pretty stunned too, though I shouldn’t be, by the commenters in the thread and by others around the Web who don’t like my review (I won’t link to them — there’s no point) who wonder why I don’t just stick to being a film critic and talking about production values and lighting and the like, as if movies exist in a vacuum beyond which they have no impact, and beyond which nothing legitimate can be said… as if what movies have to say is not as important as how slickly they say it. To them I say, Bullshit. It has always been the underlying thesis of my film criticism that there is not such thing as “just a movie,” that movies are important because of what they say about us as a larger culture and how they speak to us both as individuals and as members of that larger culture. If movies had no connection to anything beyond their own small selves, why would we even bother with them?

And then, as it concerns Expelled, sometimes there are things are that simply, factually wrong: this movie is a big honking example of outright lies that cannot be allowed to speak for themselves without the truth pushing back — if any movie was not “just a movie,” it’s this one. If that means I get emails from clueless idiots calling me a “liberal facist,” then so be it — I guess it really is true that reality has a liberal bias. I take it far more to heart when, say, Steve Mirsky, an editor and columnist at Scientific American and the host of its weekly podcast, emails me to say “Great job on the Expelled review,” as he did late last week.

SciAm has a great roundup of reactions to Expelled, by the way, and it’s worth mentioning again the site Expelled Exposed, which I linked to last week and was also mentioned in comments thread following my review of the film. And there’s also NewScientist: Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions, which doesn’t mention Exposed at all but, since it was just posted last week, does appear to be a reaction to the film.

We’ll try again to get a substantive discussion of the film going here, but be warned: this thread is NOT for debating the merits of evolution or religion. Quotations from the Bible will be deleted, for example… as will definitions of the scientific usage of the word theory. The assumption here will be that evolution as science is settled — since, you know, it is — but that facts are being warped by people who know better for their own purposes. It’s for discussing the film as a cultural artifact in that context.

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Phil Urich
Phil Urich
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 10:05pm

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “settled” in a complete sense, but by that I just mean that there’s some interesting and lively debates still raging over the precise nature of it all; take Stephen Jay Gould’s point, for example, where many times he argued that biologists had too long viewed every biological feature with the lens of assuming it had to be directly useful, whereas Gould and similar-minded scientists have argued for a more complex and, I would say, less contrived view of things.

I bring this up because the complicated, aimless-but-with-powerful-forces view of nature that such ideas posit is the precise antithesis of the Creationist view, which is a black-and-white cosmology. In that kind of worldview, it would seem perfectly alright to manipulate facts because one already knows the *fundamental* facts. So ignoring/twisting/misquoting factual truths is likely not seen as dishonest by the ones who do it, or even if it is, in their eyes it’s a necessary dishonesty in the service of a clear truth.

This is the problem with grand truth/falsehood dichotomies, it encourages people to have simplistic and somewhat antagonistic relationships towards facts and data, since the conclusions have already been found and given as received knowledge. It short-circuits the logic process, and in my opinion that’s why people that seem like they should know better don’t act like they do.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 10:14pm

That evolution happened and is happening is indeed settled. Some of the details about how it works are still being debated and discussed and worked out. But anyone disingenuous enough to take that as “proof” that evolutionary theory is in danger of being toppled, or as “evidence” that Big Science is stifling dissent will not be welcome here.

Lance C. Johnson
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 10:17pm

MaryAnn,

I’ve been reading your reviews for a few years now, and you always seemed like a cool person. Your review of Expelled has only cemented that notion.

Good for you, and keep fighting the good fight.

KC
KC
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 10:56pm

Hang in there, MaryAnn, don’t let them grind you down.

David Pesta
David Pesta
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 11:36pm

Hello MaryAnn,

The following quote in your blog has shown me something that seems important to talk about.

“I guess it really is true that reality has a liberal bias.”

With all due respect, this quote reveals something less than honest about your approach to things, albeit unintentially I believe. As an open minded conservative, I would rather say that “from my perspective reality has a conservative bias.” Therefore, shouldn’t you instead be saying “from my perspective reality has a liberal bias?” By making such an absolute statement about reality, you suggest that you are no longer interested in what the other side has to say. Your perspective of reality is right by default. You see no need to learn from conservatives, but see a great need for conservatives to learn from you.

When someone isn’t willing to listen to the other side, and carefully consider their point of view, there is no way to know for certain that they have truly satisfied the conditions needed to defeat that point of view. History is full of brilliant geniuses and entire societies coming to very wrong conclusions about a great number of things in just about every subject matter. This happens as a result of their susceptibility to personal bias and unwillingness to listen carefully to the other side of the issue. Are you putting a lot of energy into trying to prevent this from happening to you or do you really believe that you are somehow immune to it?

When someone says they believe in God because they have witnessed a remarkable miracle, I watch liberal minded darwinists sit back and call them insane (or at least fooled) while I look into the matter and investigate with a strong willingness to consider that they were in fact fooled. I put a lot of energy into keeping my personal biases in check as I approach an intellectual or investigative issue. And I am very quick to admit it when I make the mistake of neglecting an avenue of thought just because it doesn’t fit into my paradigm.

As a painstakingly open minded conservative, I respect open minded liberals. Are you one of them?

How many “pseudo-science” books written by ID scientists have you personally read?

Kind Regards,
David Pesta

Lance C. Johnson
Sun, Apr 20, 2008 11:41pm

David,

She was making reference to a Stephen Colbert line.

As for reading books on ID, it really isn’t necessary. One doesn’t have to read a book about a flat-Earth to know that it’s not scientific.

Ryan
Ryan
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 12:07am

Keep fighting the good fight MaryAnn. Speaking truth to intolerance and ignorance is worthwhile, no matter how futile it can seem.

MBI
MBI
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 12:35am

The film ends with Ben Stein talking with Richard Dawkins. As far as I’m concerned, this both lifts from and improves upon the ending of “Bowling for Columbine,” simply because instead of Michael Moore and Charlton Heston, it’s Ben Stein and Richard Dawkins. I really enjoyed seeing a scene like that, Stein and Dawkins talking to each other, it’s really quite good.

You won’t hear me say that any other part of the movie beats Michael Moore at anything, I’ll tell you that much. So much of the film is just… awful. And not because it’s propaganda, not even because it’s dishonest propaganda, but because it’s so obviously dishonest propaganda. People accuse Moore of a lot, but I don’t remember him being so clumsy and juvenile as to compare Bush to Hitler in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Having seen the film, though, I have to agree: MaryAnn was totally right. See the film. It’s a movie that’s interesting by accident rather than in the way it intends, and much of it is pretty damn stupid,

biggy
biggy
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:00am

David,

You post says a lot more about you than MaryAnn. You took one quote out of context and loaded it with all of your own preconceived biases and notions in order to arrive at your predetermined point. It’s like you really didn’t read this post.

bob johnson
bob johnson
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:01am

i saw this movie and was perplexed at the infighting in science by two scientific sides…i am not a scientist but always thought that scientists were free to explore and that they started with a theory and then set out to prove it…i have no dog in this fight but really wish the two schools of thought in the science community would be grown up enough to sit down and talk…it seems that you can take spirituality out of the arguement and simply discuss the science…to me it looks as though the sciencetific bigots who run the academy and who control all things science are utterly wrong and they should drop the hyper sensitivity, stop with the name calling and sit down and discuss the arguements…it is sad that i should encourage my children away from becoming scientists because of the way the field is controlled…wow, how far we have come!

bob johnson
bob johnson
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:09am

by the way, i come from a more middle perspective, i have always disregarded the thought that we came from a bucket of ooze by accident, but i have disregarded it because in my brain it makes no sense…but i am not an enlightened scientist i am just a regular person with a job and a family. MaryAnne, i am curious why you refer to this film as creationist propaganda? i didn’t sense anyone trying to push God on me in the film…i saw two polarized parts of the scientific community (one foaming at the mouth to dispel GoD from everything) simply fighting over who has the control in science…how ridiculous! science is about research and discovery…lets encourage them to do this without one trying to control the other and lets let the proof speak for itself….i think if darwin were alive today he would be disgusted by the ones pushing an adaptation of what he originally said…anyway i dont see why you made the leap to creationsit propaganda, almost sounds like you are marching in lockstep with someone!?

Jason (Australia)
Jason (Australia)
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:10am

MaryAnn

Thank you so much. Keep fighting the good fight for intellectual honesty. one must expose lies when they are so blatantly presented.

Thomas Jefferson once said; “ridicule is the best weapon against unintelligible propositions”. One that note, have you seen the Richard Dawkins spoof trailer, “Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed?” Youtube it at once.

Kind regards,
Jason
University of Melbourne

Lance C. Johnson
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:12am

Two things, Bob:

1. ID is not a “scientific” side. It’s religion, pure and simple. ID offers no evidence.

2. Nobody says that we came from “ooze by accident.” Darwinian evolution is anything BUT accidental.

Peter Connolly
Peter Connolly
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 1:36am

For my penance I read all the responses to your reviews which touch on religion and I say ‘for my penance’ since I once used to use Philosophy (as taught in elementary schools in France and other parts of Europe) as an example of just about the most useless subject taught to young children. How wrong I was!

We all get exposed to debating at school even if it is only in English classes. This is a handy skill to have if you are going to grow up to be a lawyer, a politician or a news anchor since it teaches you how to convince others of a proposition you don’t necessarily believe yourself.

Philosophy, on the other hand, is a great skill to have learned if you turn out to be a jurist, a voter or just watch the TV News since it teaches you how to think through an argument and spot the gaps in logic. And hey, don’t schools turn out more voters than politicians and more viewers than news anchors? So why aren’t we taught how to spot an illogical argument as well as make one?

I bring this up because films like this would be given short shift by both religious and non-religious audiences if viewers followed the argument being proposed rather than becoming enamoured by the oratory skill of the narrator and won over by an appeal to values they are comfortable with and prejudices they may share but can’t espouse since they can’t voice them in such an eloquent way.

Most left vs right issues in politics and religion can be distilled down to differing view of what is important based on an agreed set of facts but when prominent individuals refuse to allow the facts to get in the way of what they think is important we are in a lot more trouble than simply being a conservative voter living under a liberal government or a church-goer who believes in helping the poor attending a church preaching “get saved and get wealthy”.

Thanks again MaryAnn for your thought-provoking site.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 2:06am

Therefore, shouldn’t you instead be saying “from my perspective reality has a liberal bias?” By making such an absolute statement about reality, you suggest that you are no longer interested in what the other side has to say.

David, there isn’t always an “other side.” Matters of fact are not matters of perspective. Some things are simply factual and true, and some are simply unfactual and untrue. What has happened to our public discourse in America today is that somehow, the idea of “balance” and “perspective” has come to mean that even those who espouse the clearly, obviously unfactual and untrue are given the same consideration as those who speak the truth.

As has been said before, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts. Unfortunately, even *that* statement has somehow come to be considered “liberal” and hence suspect. Which is truly dangerous, and leads to the blatant lies of a film like *Exposed* being given far more credence than it deserves (which is none). It allows viewers ignorant of the real issues to say things like this (from above):

i saw two polarized parts of the scientific community

Of course the scientific community is NOT polarized over evolution. But that’s only true if you let facts get in the way.

Minecxio
Minecxio
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 6:27am

David, there isn’t always an “other side.” Matters of fact are not matters of perspective. Some things are simply factual and true, and some are simply unfactual and untrue. What has happened to our public discourse in America today is that somehow, the idea of “balance” and “perspective” has come to mean that even those who espouse the clearly, obviously unfactual and untrue are given the same consideration as those who speak the truth.”

Wow, right on. I’ve been trying to articulate something akin to that for awhile and the best I could come up with was something like ‘multiculturalism for scientific theories’. It’s like becoming open-minded to the point where you cease to be truly open-minded.

Keith
Keith
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 10:06am

bob johnson, I hope to clear up a misunderstanding you seem to have. I am a biologist, and understand Darwinian evolution, as well as the additions and alterations to his original theory. You suggest that ID and evolution are two sides of an ongoing scientific debate, but that is simply not true. At most a handful of scientists endorse ID, but without exception none has done a single experiment to test it. In contrast, tens of thousands of scientists test evolution constantly, and it has never failed to be supported. This “debate” is a farce, and therefore so is the “suppression” argument Stein makes. If ID proponents could offer data that scientists could evaluate, then there’d be something to discuss, but they cannot, simply because ID is not falsifiable, predictive, or experimental. It cannot be tested. It is not science.

Dracil
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 12:07pm

It is definitely a cultural artifact. Primarily an American one. If you’ve seen the poll on Science Magazine about worldwide acceptance of evolution, the US is right down there on the 2nd to last spot, just above Turkey.

An unfortunate effect of this is that many Americans, who are Christians (82%), become convinced that their abnormal belief represents the world’s belief, which leads to them conflating Creationism = Christianity and Evolution = Atheism, when nothing could be further from the truth.

misterb
misterb
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 7:19pm

For any readers who might be thinking that “Expelled” was anything but a work of fiction, here is Richard Dawkins’ open letter on the subject:

http://www.richarddawkins.net/article,2488,Open-Letter-to-a-victim-of-Ben-Steins-lying-propaganda,Richard-Dawkins

@Peter Connolly,

As someone educated in engineering/science, I never appreciated the value of philosophy until I got middle-aged. Good call!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 1:43pm

I just deleted a slew of comments arguing evolution and ID. Please stick closely to talking about the movie. Debate about evolution and ID will not be tolerated. Nor will debate about the shape of the Earth or the existence of the Tooth Fairy.

chris
chris
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 3:45pm

MaryAnn,

If I read the article we are commenting on correctly, your author has interjected his opinion on said topics. I was, in fact commenting/debating the points raised by the author and the movie.

I say you might want to stick to being a movie critic rather than a scientist/philosopher if you don’t want a debate on your page.

You opened the door. Not really fair to close it because you don’t like the comments – they had everything to do with what was said.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 3:50pm

Hell, I liked and agreed with many of the comments I deleted, particularly the ones that point out how IDers don’t understand science. But this is not the place for debating matters of science that are all but settled. This is for discussing this film as a piece of culture, NOT as a matter of science. That IS my sticking to being a movie critic.

There are plenty of other sites where people can yell about ID and evolution as science. This is not one of them.

shoop
shoop
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 4:32pm

People who are serious about the possibilities of ID need to distance themselves from “Expelled”–it surprises me a bit that they don’t. For “Expelled” isn’t doing them any favors–Ben Stein is lying in this movie. And not just traditional “documentary” lying, like Robert Flaherty fudging Nanook’s environment to get a good shot, or even modern Michael Moore-style lying (he really DID get to talk to Roger). As the link in this thread shows, the lies are meant to invent issues and cases that simply aren’t there. Such a disgraceful display opens the doors to all kinds of justifiable (if, for me, anyway, not particularly funny) ridicule.

As to why for some (many?) people, “Expelled” seems plausible, I think there are two strains of traditional American distrust at work. The first has to do with a distrust of college education in general–the old “School of Hard Knocks” argument (the expression became popular at the beginning of the 20th century) that holds that too much college is a waste of time, and has little to do with either the “real world,” or with real values (which include God and religion). The other strain of distrust has to do with the still popular notion of “mad science”–scientists messing with territory that should be God’s domain, Frankenstein creating his monster with the help of cloning and stem cell research.

I think the fact that “Expelled” isn’t going to “blow the lid off” anything is a good, if not great, sign–shows some progress. But keep in mind, folks in Dayton, TN were still calling it “Evil-lution” in the 1920s…it takes us humans a hell of a long time to learn stuff.

MBI
MBI
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 11:12am

Jumping off from shoop’s comments, I noticed that a lot of techniques used in the movie were taken from Michael Moore (the semi-facetious quest to disprove the movie’s central claim, for example). I suspect this film was conceived as a right-wing response to Michael Moore, but using a right-winger’s perspective of Michael Moore as a template. “If he can lie, we can too!” is how I bet the thinking went. The difference is that Moore’s distortions are in his cherry-picking of the facts, which I honestly don’t particularly mind. One cannot encompass the entire scope of any given issue in a single documentary.

What Stein and co. do is outright lie. Not just cherry-pick but outright lie, in some cases with Borat-style trickery. Moreover, the central themes of Moore’s movies (The Iraq War is bad, we need universal health care) are opinions, whereas the theme of Expelled (ID is a scientific theory worth discussing) is not an opinion. Or, more accurately, it’s an opinion based on an extremely false premise.

You write in your review that Stein is not a stupid man. This is completely true. Although his fields of expertise are economics and government and not science and religion, I honestly don’t believe he’s that dumb. This is extremely disappointing for me, as Stein always struck me as the kind of conservative who was above this kind of bullshit. Did he do it for the money, or is he genuinely invested in being this dishonest, I wonder.

TheGaucho
TheGaucho
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 11:23am

The way I see it was expressed in a Dutch blog in way far more superior than I ever could:

Nobody really gives a fuck about evolution. Even the authors of creationist textbooks by and large couldn’t give a rat’s ass about how we explain biological changes over geologic time. For them, creationism is just the thin end of a wedge of forcing public schools, and later other public entities, to espouse their religious doctrines. Likewise, the people in the blogs reacting strongly against it probably aren’t deeply invested in academic biology.

Instead, both sides are invested in other questions: can homosexuals kiss in public, or can we keep those faggots in their place? Can mixed-race couples marry and conduct themselves in public, or can we stop this mongrelizing? Can women make a career outside the home without social or legal reprisal, or can we make them be housewives like the lord intended? Should young single women be able to get contraceptives, or is that for little whores? People react strongly because this is yet another push from a group that has been on the wrong side of every social issue of significance for the past 100 years.

And I think we should call them out for that, not their shitty understanding of biology.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 11:42am

Gaucho,

I’m not a creationist, and am appalled at the prevalence of creationist belief and scientific ignorance in the U.S.

However, I don’t think it does any good to misrepresent or underestimate creationists, as your Dutch blog does.

It’s not true that they don’t give a fuck about evolution, or that creationism/evolution debate is merely a pretext for agenda. They truly – religiously – believe evolution to be false teaching, and are as concerned about it being presented as fact as someone might be if their local school were teaching children that 2+2=5.

It’s also a serious political misstep to stereotype all creationists as religious ultraconservatives that hold really extreme positions on the other issues you mention. If that were true, then they would be a tiny minority of the population, not the large percentage that they actually are. There are millions of Americans who believe in creationism who are contracepive-using working women and spouses of working women, who have no problem with their mixed-race neighbor couples. In other words creationism is mainstream, and it won’t go away if we pretend it’s an extremist view.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 12:05pm

Nobody really gives a fuck about evolution. Likewise, the people in the blogs reacting strongly against it probably aren’t deeply invested in academic biology.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that creationism is being used as a wedge issue to get religion into public schools under other guises… and I point out in my review of *Expelled* that the film contradicts itself on this issue, telling us it’s not about religion and atheism but turning right around and espousing exactly the opposite.

That said, it is possible to be concerned about the science angle, too. Even if we succeed in keeping overt creationism about of science classrooms, the larger matter of improving science education — and raising the scientific literacy of the general public — in the U.S. is vital. If people don’t understand, at least in a lay sense, many of the issues facing us today, from genetic engineering to global warming, we’re truly going to be fucked. Getting rid of creationism as any kind of “academic” issue is but the first step.

In other words creationism is mainstream, and it won’t go away if we pretend it’s an extremist view.

That’s true, too. But the fact that creationism is mainstream is just a function of the larger scientific illiteracy of our culture.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 12:26pm

The fact that creationism is a wedge issue doesn’t mean that those who are using it as a wedge are generally doing so cynically. For them, creationism is heartfelt, and they are passionate about it. Attacking them by characterizing them as cynical political conspiracisists using a religious pretext, makes genuine martyrs out of them – not the best approach.

—“But the fact that creationism is mainstream is just a function of the larger scientific illiteracy of our culture.”

Yes. Which is why battling creationism is treating the symptom and not the disease. Sometimes symptoms themselves become life-threatening and must be treated, as was the case in Kansas in recent years, for example. But the focus has to come back to the disease. “Doom” is written on the forehead of ignorance, not creationism. So I’m not sure that battling creationism is the first step, except in emergencies like Kansas. I think the first step is dispelling fear and ignorance of science.

bronxbee
bronxbee
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 2:31pm

“… I think the first step is dispelling fear and ignorance of science.”

but the only way to do so is to keep things like ID out of our school systems. there isn’t much we can do about private schools and home schoolers, but certainly we can refuse to condone as public policy such ignorance and fear of science and all information and free thought. a fear of science arises from ignorance and the ignorance arises from lack of access to information — or from a surfeit of access to useless and inaccurate, if not downright false, viewpoints. a film like “Expelled” serves only to cater to the already ignorant and fearful, and to bolster their suspicions and condemnation of facts and information they do not understand. cannot understand. the current cultural climate is quickly devolving into the same sort of religiously supported ignorance and intellectual terror that existed in what we term “The Dark Ages”. one of the social contexts that i think is pushing this agenda is the stagnation of our society’s intellectual discourse and creativity. some of this arises out of economic paralysis, the fear that there is no more opportunity for upward mobility — not just for themselves but for their children. the feeling that as a society we’re backsliding. the only way to keep us from the downward slide is access to information, real facts, and the ability to use that information to build on the future. not to deny our citizens facts and information to be used in the pursuit of scientific advancements in biological research, astronomy and social benefits. films like “Expelled” deliberately prey on the fears of the ignorant; it is the basest sort of use of the ignorant by those in a position of either power or money or both.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 3:38pm

For them, creationism is heartfelt, and they are passionate about it.

But they’re still *wrong* about it. No matter how passionate they are, ID is not science. So they may not be cynical about it, but they’re still unconstitutional about it if they’re trying to get public schools to teach it anywhere outside a comparative mythology class.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 3:55pm

—“…ignorance arises from lack of access to information — or from a surfeit of access to useless and inaccurate, if not downright false, viewpoints.”

Your statement harbors a dangerous contradiction. There can never be surfeit of access to information. If those who fight ignorance do so through censorship, then they become the enemy and thereby vindicate the claims of Expelled. Maryann’s approach is the right approach: it isn’t a question of keeping ID out of our schools, it’s a matter of refusing to give it the appearance of science by teaching it as science.

With respect to science and education (specifically!) I don’t think the culture of the United States is devolving. Maybe, but I don’t think so. The population of the United States is as educated as it ever has been in history, and flow of information has never been vaster or freer.

We must recognize that anti-intellectuallism in the U.S. goes back a long way and has more than one root, and religion isn’t the oldest or strongest of these roots.

—“…films like “Expelled” deliberately prey on the fears of the ignorant…”

You’ve hit on a truth here, but no one in this thread has yet named or much discussed it. Expelled has a populist appeal, and populism in the U.S. has long been anti-intellectual, and is an older and deeper root of anti-intellectualism than religion. Get rid of the modern religious fundamentalist movement to force change in school curricula starting with ID, and you might do away with creationism. But even if you got rid of religious fundamentalism itself, you wouldn’t dispense with anti-intellectuallism and America’s tendency to see ignorance as a virtue.

—“…the basest sort of use of the ignorant by those in a position of either power or money or both.”

Ironically, it’s the use of the ignorant by the powerful that associated populism with anti-intellectuallism. Populists (often correctly) associated education and technology with oppressive industrialists and elite, hence the suspicion of education and science and the implied nobility of the simple (i.e., untainted by dangerous ideas learned in school) man.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 1:26am

If those who fight ignorance do so through censorship,

I don’t think anyone’s advocating censorship. We don’t need to censor ideas that are clearly wrong — no one “censors” the idea that the Earth is flat, for instance, or that each human sperm contains a tiny homonculus that grows into a new person. But if those ideas were more prominent than the ideas that the Earth is round and that sperm contain half the DNA a new person needs, well, then, something would have to be done to reduce the credence those false ideas.

misterb
misterb
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 2:07am

St Augustine gives “Expelled” 2 thumbs down – from 1600 years ago:

http://www.pibburns.com/augustin.htm

Not all religious people buy this hooey – St Augustine’s religious credentials are impeccable as are Pope Benedict’s but they aren’t creationists. As has been stated eloquently above – creationism is about promoting ignorance, not promoting religion.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 9:47am

—“I don’t think anyone’s advocating censorship.”

Not intentionally, no. I didn’t care for the choice of words. A surfeit of information, per se, is not a problem that needs to be solved. That reasoning can lead to censorship, even with the best of initial intentions. Maybe I’m getting hung up on semantics, though.

bronxbee
bronxbee
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 10:25am

i did not say a “surfeit of information”, what i said was

…”surfeit of access to useless and inaccurate, if not downright false, viewpoints.”

ID is a viewpoint, as is creationism. i do not advocate censorship in any form — neither political, religious, sexual or scientific. but i do advocate not teaching useless or false viewpoints under the guise of education, or as a matter of public policy. i do not think the film “Expelled” should be repressed. but freedom of speech, information and religion is *not* the same as teaching it to everyone as part of a school curriculum. we should not deliberately introduce the mythological viewpoints of any one religion, unless, as pointed out by MaryAnn, as part of a comparitive mythology course. which i do believe can be a useful class. want to introduce ID? well, let’s read about the creation of world in every culture — a giant spider creating the universe is just as viable as a viewpoint then as some unseen “intelligence” or the old testament god. anyone who wants to can read about the nonsense of ID or creationism in libraries or on the internet, or, preferably, in their sunday school classes. not in our publicly funded schools.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 10:47am

—“…well, let’s read about the creation of world in every culture…”

That’s why public high schools will never have comparative mythology or comparative religion courses, even though such electives would be way cool and very beneficial. *Sigh* Everyone would insist on an all-or-nothing impossible standard, with every sect and subset insisting it be included in the curriculum.

—“Not in our publicly funded schools.”

What about in our publicly funded school libraries?

I think we agree, but I do insist that there is a sticky wicket and it’s not merely hypothetical.

helium head
helium head
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 4:03pm

Expelled is another heartfelt salvo in the battle to save humankind’s souls.

When a person internalizes a belief system that simplifies and enriches their life with camaraderie and potlucks, there is the danger of extending that belief system to realms where it is ill-suited. So it is with “fundamentalists” or “evangelicals.”

From that worldview comes Expelled, The Discovery Institute, The Institute for Creation Research, The Creation Museum, etc. They exist — and financially thrive — because if only we could make everybody believe in THE TRUTH, then salvation is assured for the human race. And the fact that we are chalking up points with the TRUE deity certainly helps.

¿Why battle “Darwinism”? Narcissism, mostly. There is a great divide between “created in His own image,” “children of God,” “only creation blessed with a soul” versus a pretty nifty descendant of less cerebral ancestors and the result of differential breeding successes of descendants with differing modifications caused by random biochemical events.

Besides narcissism, the process of evolution explains human ‘creation’ without direct dependence on a god. “Believers” take it upon themselves to be angry on His behalf for such effrontery.

¿So why not focus instead on the science of astronomy for opposing biblical geocentrism? Well, the focus was there once upon a time but that assault on the “uniqueness” of man isn’t quite so personal as the assault of evolution, with its ape-like ancestors.

¿Does this analysis explain the deceptions, half-truths, misquotations, and sordid imagery of Expelled? Yup. It’s an “ends justify the means” phenomenon especially when the ends are as dramatic as perpetually burning in hell vs. sitting on a comfy cloud with family and friends. These folk are really trying to help us “find the truth” and thus save our souls, but, dagnabbit, the atheist elite are standing in the way.

bronxbee
bronxbee
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 4:16pm

“I think we agree, but I do insist that there is a sticky wicket and it’s not merely hypothetical.”

i don’t see where the wicket is sticky, unless you think that ID should be taught alongside actual science in our public school systems. as for the libraries, i remember reading plenty of mythology in the public school library — but it wasn’t taught in my class room, except skimmed as early literature. if they want to teach the bible as literature, i might not have a problem with that… as long as it’s given the same weight and expression as “Gilgamesh” or The Rigas or Bagavahdgita.

in the same vein, i don’t think anyone shold be forbidden from seeing Expelled — but it shouldn’t be shown at school assembly some rainy friday either.

Oy
Oy
Sat, May 17, 2008 6:28am

Science can’t even make up it’s mind as to whether or not eating eggs is good for me. So, when it comes to the origins of the human race and our universe you’ll forgive me if I’m a little skeptical of the scientific “facts.”

Science? Not evil. Religion? Not evil. But the second you tie even a single fucking human being to either of them they become infinitely corruptable.

The irony of people in these threads COMPLETELY discounting ID as a possibility is so fucking insane I can barely fathom it. Since when is, “It cannot be proven or unproven so it does not exist or is not possible,” science? It’s so fucking absurd I cannot contain my fucking profanity. The raging pompousness of anti-ID sentiment just doesn’t compute.

There was a time when I’d ask if any of you were aware of the hypocrisy on display here until I came to a realization while watching Weeds. There are people on this planet that not only accept their hypocrisy as part of the human condition but choose to roll around in it like a pig in slop. My stomach is literally souring right this fucking moment at the very thought.

You have self-awareness. You’re not a monkey. You’re not a coyote. You’re not a pine tree. You’re a human being and however you decide you got that way, igoring the tools you’ve received as a result is disturbing beyond compare. Hypocrisy is not the human condition. It’s as much a justification for being a piece of shit as anything else on this planet. Until you people recognize that you’ll continue spilling bile into this cesspool we call civilization and however the collective whole decides we got here won’t make a damn bit of difference when we’ve ended up where we’re headed. That’s nowhere to you scientists and hell to you religious.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, May 17, 2008 2:51pm

The irony of people in these threads COMPLETELY discounting ID as a possibility is so fucking insane I can barely fathom it.

The irony of people COMPLETELY discounting the existence of fairies as an explanation for how I can put two socks in the washing machine while only one comes out is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.

The irony of people COMPLETELY denying the likelihood that all horses are unicorns with invisible horns is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.

The irony of people COMPLETELY rejecting the possibility that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created carbs as a cruel trick on humanity is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.

Oy
Oy
Sat, May 17, 2008 3:52pm

“The irony of people COMPLETELY discounting the existence of fairies as an explanation for how I can put two socks in the washing machine while only one comes out is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.

The irony of people COMPLETELY denying the likelihood that all horses are unicorns with invisible horns is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.

The irony of people COMPLETELY rejecting the possibility that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created carbs as a cruel trick on humanity is so fucking insane that I can barely fathom it.”

If I hear somebody parrot the flying spaghetti monster argument one more time I’m going to throw up. When billions of people believe in the flying spaghetti monster then it becomes a valid parallel to draw. Until then you might want to evolve your argument a little.

Lance C. Johnson
Sat, May 17, 2008 7:30pm

Yeah, ’cause when a lot of people believe something, that’s what makes it true. That’s why the Earth actually WAS flat for such a long time until people started to believe otherwise!

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Mon, May 19, 2008 9:28am

“Yeah, ’cause when a lot of people believe something, that’s what makes it true. That’s why the Earth actually WAS flat for such a long time until people started to believe otherwise!”

I truly cannot tell which side of this debate you’re weighing in on with that remark!

Lance C. Johnson
Mon, May 19, 2008 10:16am

Heh…sorry, I was referring to the line, “When billions of people believe in the flying spaghetti monster then it becomes a valid parallel to draw.”

I have some other posts on this thread – I’m pro-science, anti-Ben Stein’s farcical “documentary”.

paul
paul
Mon, May 19, 2008 5:47pm

I think if movies became detached from the context of the society in which they are made . . . well, that’s not possible, is it? For starters, a movie becomes a part of the social context the moment it is released.

But a movie cannot be funny if it does not touch on the reality that sets up for the joke. Society is George Burns, the movie is Gracie Allen.

A movie cannot be romantic if it does not touch on our dreams. A movie cannot be frightening if it does not touch on our fears. Even an action movie, to really touch a nerve, deals with topical villians.

When you see a movie that doesn’t make sense, you see a movie out of touch with your logic which is based upon reality. When you see a “scary” movie and are bored, it is out of touch with us.

When I saw “Battlefield Earth,” I had a great time because I thought it was supposed to be campy. I didn’t realize the guy was serious. Then I walked out of the theater with my friends and they told me it was supposed to be a serious movie, and I laughed even harder at the disconnections between the movie, reality, and I.

The closest you could come to movies without social context would be a verison of the Roman Games, and even our enjoyment of pure violence is a comment upon us. Same for porn and sex.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, May 19, 2008 10:21pm

And this relates to *Expelled* how…

paul
paul
Tue, May 20, 2008 12:52am

I was supporting your assertation that the cultural context and influence of a movie should be taken into account when reviewing a movie.

Erik Goodwyn
Erik Goodwyn
Wed, May 21, 2008 11:22am

All you people are crazy, because I know for a fact that all life was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That Stein didn’t include this *alternative* scientific theory belies his radical affiliation with the global conspiracy to suppress Pastafarianism. RaMen.

Bob Aman
Wed, May 21, 2008 1:23pm

“I think if ______ were alive today (he/she) would _____…”

Anytime you hear yourself saying something that matches this pattern… Stop. Punch yourself in the face. That is all.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Wed, May 21, 2008 6:17pm

That’s not a terrible useful observation, Bob Aman.