Dracil’s BlogJournal

May 9, 2008

Ken Miller criticizes Expelled

Ken Miller, a Catholic biology professor at Brown University, has actually written an op-ed piece for the Boston Globe.

Much of this has already been said before, but it certainly helps to have one of the most prominent people in this debate (he was a witness for the evolution side at the Dover Trial) come out and speak out against Expelled.  Naturally, the producers of Expelled don’t like him, even before this piece:

The movie also uses interviews with avowed atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” to argue that scientific establishment is vehemently anti-God. Never mind that 40 percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science profess belief in a personal God. Stein, avoiding these 50,000 people, tells viewers that “Darwinists” don’t allow scientists to even think of God.

Puzzled, the editors of Scientific American asked Mark Mathis, the film’s co-producer, why he and Stein didn’t interview such people, like Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project), Francisco Ayala, or myself. Mathis cited me by name, saying “Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily.” In other words, showing a scientist who accepts both God and evolution would have confused their story line.

Fascinating how Creationist’s idea of “teaching the controversy” means not showing things that would break their entire argument, isn’t it?

Since every paragraph of the piece brings up a good point against Expelled, it would be rather pointless to try quoting them or I’d end up just pasting the entire article here, so I’ll just leave it with the last paragraph.

“Expelled” is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word “expelled” may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended.

May 4, 2008

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is a must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about Intelligent Design.  Since it’s part of PBS’s Nova series, you can watch it for free online, but it’s also available by DVD if you prefer that.

The show covers the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial from three years ago, from the the events leading up to the trial to a little afterward.  One thing to note which is interesting since Ben Stein and co. don’t mention it in Expelled is just how many anti-Intelligent Design people received death threats over just this trial, including the judge and the lead plaintiff.  And that’s not including the hate mail and other forms of hateful slander they received, nor the amount of lying done by the pro-ID people, including the regular folks.  Really makes those six people in Expelled (none of who were fired BTW) seem like nothing, and it highlights the REAL side that needs free speech in the United States.  There’s a large list of people who have been fired, forced to recant, physically assaulted, and received death threats just for teaching evolution or speaking out against Creationism/Intelligent Design.  Again, not a peep from Ben Stein about it at all.

Anyway, as far as the film goes, since cameras were not allowed at the actual trial, they had to hire actors to reenact the trial proceedings, but it catches all the major events of the trial.  From how the Discovery Institute pulled out of the trial after realizing that they were about to be crushed by the scientific evidence brought on by the plaintiff’s witnesses, to the infamous “cdesign proponentsits“, to Michael Behe admitting that under his definition of a scientific theory, even astrology would be a scientific theory.  About Behe, it’s really a shame that the Discovery Institute hung him out to dry, because he was actually quite a likable guy in Flock of Dodos, and of course, he was one of the only ones with the courage and conviction to stay and fight for his beliefs.

Again, if you’ve seen Expelled, you owe it to yourself to watch this, as well as Flock of Dodos to understand what the rest of us know about Ben Stein and co.’s motives with Expelled that you may not.

May 2, 2008

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, by Randy Olson, came out 2 years ago.  As the title states, it explores the debate between evolution and intelligent design.  However, unlike a certain other film in theaters right now, this film is actually rather balanced and funny. It treats the people it interviews with respect, even if they’re on the other side, which again, is quite unlike that other film.  I think the following quote given by John Cashill, one of the ID supporters in his film, states it perfectly:

The good thing was that Randy did not hide his biases.  You know it wasn’t like one of these fake, neutral observers.  You know, he was part of it, and we knew where he was coming from.  But he did not, what I liked, is that he did not betray anyone’s trust. I mean, he made everyone look like they thought they looked, rather than what you could do in an editing room, and turn anyone into a monster if you wanted to.

Olson even invited the ID people to panel discussions after some film showings.  Again, something in direct contrast by what Mark Mathis of the other film did. Not only did Mathis not invite the interviewees from the other side, but he kicked PZ Meyers out just so he could generate some additional attention for his film.

Of course, the Discovery Institute hated Flock of Dodos (no surprise) and even set up a website to attack Olson and the film.  Their misunderstood (which is putting it nicely, it was quote mined) complaint about Haeckels Drawing was addressed in both the Pulled Punches: Outtakes in the DVD and by PZ Meyers.  As for their complaint about misrepresenting DI’s funding?  Someone found some of their tax returns.

Anyway, this film was not hyped up and was limited to mostly single screenings at film festivals and academic settings, which is certainly a shame.  The DVD came out the same year and contains a lot of goodies, like the Pulled Punches: Outtakes mentioned above, as well as a Top Ten Questions segment, which is probably the most educational part and lasts almost an hour.

Like Cashill said, Olson laid his bias straight out, and even wore an “Evolutionist” hat in the film.  But he was fair and treated people with respect.  He didn’t try to paint the ID supporters unfairly and he didn’t hold back on his portrayal of the scientists either.  In fact, he showed that for the most part, these ID supporters were nice, likable people you could sit with and play a game of poker.  In contrast, the scientists, while they certainly knew their stuff better, were shown to be rowdy and bad at communicating their knowledge, which is one of the main points of the film.  Scientists may have the knowledge and better evidence, but if they cannot get it out to the public, they will lose to the public relations firms and sound bites employed by places like the Discovery Institute and eventually go the way of the dodos.  It’s a good film, and I’d certainly recommend watching it.

As a bonus for the curious, the top ten questions addressed in the DVD are:

1. Why is this controversy so uniquely American?
2. Can a Christian accept biological evolution?
3. Why do people fear evolution?
4. Should the bible be taught as literally true?
5. Isn’t it only fair to “Teach the Controversy?”
6. What is the difference between creationism and intelligent design?
7. Do intelligent designers practice good science?
8. What is “irreducible complexity?”
9. What is the difference between a “law of nature” and a theory?
10. Has the media done a good job with this issues?

April 30, 2008

Anti-Defamation League denounces Expelled

It’s about time! I think it’s saying a lot when Ben Stein (who’s Jewish) has basically been called out by the Anti-Defamation League for defaming Jews.

Anyway, they issued the following statement in their press release:

The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed misappropriates the Holocaust and its imagery as a part of its political effort to discredit the scientific community which rejects so-called intelligent design theory.

Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler’s genocidal madness.

Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.

Note that this isn’t the first time they’ve spoken out against those who’ve tried to Godwin Darwin for their own agendas. They blasted Coral Ridge Ministries two years ago for doing pretty much the same thing that Expelled‘s doing now.

April 26, 2008

Mark Mathis continues to make a fool of himself

Unevolved (scroll down for the article)

In short, Mark Mathis, when confronted with direct evidence for evolution, decides that he doesn’t care about that argument.  Later, he also admits he is unqualified to speak about evolution despite making a film about it.  Finally, he admits that he kicked PZ Meyers out of the Expelled screening so he could generate some “additional attention” for the film.

He makes such a wonderful role model for budding Creationists out there, doesn’t he? *rolls eyes*

BTW, this is the same Mark Mathis who made some eye-raising comments about Ken Miller.

April 19, 2008

Decision on watching Expelled

Note: This was originally posted on April 17th on one of my other blogs.

Given that Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is coming out tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to devote an entry to the film. I’ve actually been contemplating whether or not I should go see the movie in the theaters.

Personally, I believe in Theistic Evolution (see the end for a brief background). Despite my position, I was still willing to go to stuff like Kent Hovind or Phillip Johnson‘s talk at my university. Granted, I saw him as a comedian, but I still felt it was only fair to at least listen to the other side. Which brings me to this film. I feel like I should watch the film, but I have some issues with Expelled:

1) They are bribing schools to go watch the movie to inflate their numbers.

2) Plagiarizing and infringing the copyrights of XVIVO, John Lennon/Yoko Ono, and The Killers. And then having the gall of countersuing XVIVO?! WTF. It’s a SLAPP (A lawsuit filed to intimidate or silence opponents). Guess where they filed it? Texas, a state without anti-SLAPP laws.

3) Typical documentary style of tricking people by pretending they are being interviewed for something else, and then distorting their statements. Yes, many other documentaries do that, but that doesn’t make it right. But it’s especially stupid when it comes from people who often claim to have the moral high ground. We call this lying for God.

4) The above isn’t so bad except they only interviewed atheist scientists. What about all the Christian scientists over at the American Scientific Affiliation who have no problem with not getting “expelled” from their jobs? In particular, why no Kenneth Miller, a devout Roman Catholic who’s a professor of biology at Brown University? Here’s what Mathis, one of the producers of Expelled had to say:

“But I would tell you from a, my personal standpoint as somebody who’s worked on this project, that Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily. I don’t agree with Ken Miller. I think that you, I think that when you look at this issue and this debate, that really there’s, there’s one side of the line or the other, and you, it’s, it’s hard to stay, I don’t think you can intellectually, honestly, honestly intellectually stand on a line that I don’t think exists—”

Gee, I wonder why? Is it because Ken Miller is living proof that the premise of the film is false, that Christianity is NOT incompatible with evolution, and that religious scientists can indeed exist in academia? Is it because Ken Miller has even gone and given a wonderful talk on why Intelligent Design is wrong?

But that’s not all Mathis said, he then had the following to say about Ken:

“No, I don’t think so, because, uh, the form of Catholicism that Ken Miller accepts and practices is, is nowhere near the form of Catholicism that is followed by Catholics who are members of the Catholic church, who believe in Catholic doctrine. What he believes is certainly out of—”

Ok, just WTF. Who does Mathis, a non-Catholic, think he is to define Catholicism for Catholics? This quote is just overflowing with ignorance. The form of Catholicism Ken Miller accepts is also the one the Pope accepts (at least the previous one). Catholics generally believe in Theistic Evolution (which is the same as naturalistic evolution as far as the science goes). NOT Creationism. NOT Intelligent Design. Because even the popes have stated several times that evolution is compatible with the Catholic faith. So where does Mathis get off on implying the Pope isn’t Catholic?

In light of all this stuff, I have decided that I cannot, in good faith, give my money to these people for no reason. I’d love to see audience reactions at the theater, and I’d still like to see the film to see how bad it is. I will probably go if a friend of mine wants to go see Expelled so I can at least protect them from the deliberate lies and misinformation of the film, especially if they’re also a Creationist. But for now, I have decided to give my money to a better cause. I went and bought a copy of Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God instead.

Long boring story about my faith and experience with Creationism, feel free to skip :P

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