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Ben Stein's 'Expelled' - Evolution, Academia and Conformity 1766

Posted by timothy
from the ben-stein-is-smarter-than-you dept.
eldavojohn writes "Painting the current scientific community as just as bad as the Spanish Inquisition, an extended trailer of Ben Stein's "Expelled" has a lot of people (at least that I know) talking. It looks like his movie plans to encourage people to speak out if they believe intelligent design or creationism to be correct. In the trailer he even warns you that if you are a scientist you may lose your job by watching 'Expelled.' Backlash to the movie has started popping up and this may force the creationism/evolutionist debate to a whole new level across the big screen and the internet." adholden points out a site called Expelled Exposed, which asserts that 'Expelled' "is simply an anti-science propaganda film aimed at creating controversy where none exists, while promoting poor science education that can and will severely handicap American students."
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Ben Stein's 'Expelled' - Evolution, Academia and Conformity

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  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:28AM (#23140860) Homepage Journal
    On one side we've got a bunch of scientists - who's philosophy espouses striving for neutrality, lack of bias, objectivity, etc.

    On the other side, we've got.... an ex-Nixon speechwiter/game show host.

    *sighs* - I bet he's skeptical about anthropomorphic climate change too (there seems to be an extraordinarily high overlap between the two groups).

    Oh, and he Godwins himself at 2:40 in the linked video. Discussion over.
    • by El Puerco Loco (31491) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:35AM (#23140924)

      *sighs* - I bet he's skeptical about anthropomorphic climate change too
      yes, the climate is beginning to look more human isn't it? i thought i was the only one who noticed.
    • Curiosity... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Harin_Teb (1005123) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:36AM (#23140930)
      Isn't one of the points of the movie that while scientists espouse neutrality, lack of bias, objectivity, etc. that they are not actually following it?

      (Disclaimer --> haven't seen the movie or any trailers, the above was a genuine question for anyone who has actually seen the movie, and not an attempt to troll. Also the question should not imply that I agree with or disagree with the movie. It really is JUST a question.)
      • Isn't one of the points of the movie that while scientists espouse neutrality, lack of bias, objectivity, etc. that they are not actually following it?
        As one of the submitters (and evidently one of the few people who watched the extended trailer), you're pretty accurate there.

        During the whole montage he's writing something over and over on the blackboard and it comes out to be something like "I will NOT question Darwinian Evolution." He interviews scientists and editors who have lost their jobs for printing/writing papers that claim our DNA has a 'code' with information that could not have happened in nature.

        Disclaimer, I read a lot of Darwin/Dawkins/Gould so I'm pretty biased here ... but I fear that the ostracized members of the scientific community will make the evolutionists look just as much like religious zealots trying to purge their ranks of people with open minds. Which is why I likened his trailer to the Spanish Inquisition.

        I think that even though it's 'a waste of time,' it's bad to write these people off or fire them. I'm sure there's sound criticism against these papers and authors but Ben Stein isn't showing that in his movie if there is.

        If you have friends who believe in Creationism, respect them and provide for them sound arguments against it. It may be a waste of time to you but it's complete snobbery to write them off. Ben Stein is correct that you may lose friends if you watch that movie and become polarized by it--don't let that happen!

        Like a Michael Moore movie, objectivity is raped, killed, gutted and donned over a rich man's face who then can safely tell you what to think.
        • by electrictroy (912290) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:09AM (#23141396)
          I will illustrate your point, with an example I saw on CNN:

          (1) A BBC reporter wrote a fair, non-biased article on global warming. In one paragraph he stated, "Not all scientists agree that global warming is caused by man-made actions," which is an accurate statement. Not "all" scientists think man caused the problem. Some don't even think it's a problem, saying it's just part of a natural cycle that's been happening for the last 10,000 years.

          (2) The reporter published the article on the website, and immediately an email rolled-in from an environmentalist demanding that phrase be expunged.

          (3) The reporter and activist went back-and-forth several times, with the activist saying, "There is no doubt," and "We may be uncertain of the cause, but we must not let the common people know that we are uncertain."

          (4) The reporter refused to rewrite his article until the activist told him, "If you do not comply, I will rally my group and you will receive thousands of emails demanding the change."

          (5) The reporter, obviously concerned about this prospect (and possibly losing his job), immediately deleted the offending paragraph.

          And thus:

          An activist, acting somewhat akin to a religious zealot, took a balanced BBC article & turned it into a one-sided piece using the tactics of threats and coercion to silence any contrarian views about global warming. It does not surprise me to learn that similar tactics are being used to silence researchers and/or scientists.

          • by radl33t (900691) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:33AM (#23141946)
            The journalist should be fired. End of story.
          • I will illustrate your point, with an example I saw on CNN:

            But you don't really illustrate the point - the OP was talking about scientists, and you illustrated the point with a story about a journalist and an environmental activist.

            Oh - and can you pls link to the CNN article?
            • by sm62704 (957197) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:03AM (#23142620) Journal
              But you don't really illustrate the point - the OP was talking about scientists, and you illustrated the point with a story about a journalist and an environmental activist

              "The OP was talking about Christian preachers, and you illustrated the point with a story about a journalist and Jerry Fallwall!
            • by benito27uk (646600) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:16AM (#23142884)
              The Daily Telegraph Talks about this, two thirds of the way down this page... []

              Reprinted below:

              A talking point among "climate sceptics" on both sides of the Atlantic has been the bizarre tale of how the BBC's chief reporter on climate change censored an item on the BBC website after being harried by a "climate activist".

              On April 4 Roger Harrabin posted a story on the fact that world temperatures have not continued to rise in the past 10 years, and this year will fall to a level markedly below the average of the past two decades.

              Citing the World Meteorological Organisation, Mr Harrabin accurately reported that "global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory".

              This was a red rag to Jo Abbess of the Campaign Against Climate Change (Hon President, George Monbiot), who emailed Mr Harrabin demanding that he "correct" his item.

              Mr Harrabin insisted that what he had written was true. There are indeed eminent climate scientists "who question whether warming will continue as predicted".

              This only angered Ms Abbess further. She said it was "highly irresponsible to play into the hands of the sceptics", to "even hint that the Earth is cooling down again".

              Mr Harrabin, though he has led the BBC's tireless promotion of warmist orthodoxy, stood firm. Even in the "general media", he replied, "sceptics" highlight the lack of increase since 1998: to ignore this might give the impression that "debate is being censored".

              His item had, after all, added "we are still in a long-term warming trend".

              This was too much for Ms Abbess. She responded that this was not "a matter of debate". He should not be quoting the sceptics "whose voice is heard everywhere, on every channel, deliberately obstructing the emergence of the truth".

              Unless he changed his item, she said, "I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically manipulated". She threatened to expose him by spreading his replies across the internet.

              At this point the BBC's man caved in. Within minutes a new version appeared, given the same time and date as that which he had consigned to Winston Smith's memory hole.

              Out went any mention of "sceptics" who question global warming. After a guarded reference to this year's "slightly cooler" temperatures, a new paragraph said that they would "still be above the average" and that we will "soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of the global warming induced by greenhouse gases".

              Of course we have long known where the BBC stands on climate change. But it is good to have such clear evidence that, even when one of its reporters tries to be honest, he can be whipped back into line by a pressure group.

              In the end, Ms Abbess still circulated the exchanges on the internet, to show the great victory she had won for the "emerging truth".

              • by asynchronous13 (615600) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:47AM (#23145056)
                This is a poor example because 1) it has nothing to do with biased scientists 2) the statement in question is deliberately mis-leading.

                global temperatures have not risen since 1998

                This statement was widely quoted to discredit climate change/global warming but it's really just a case of cherry-picked data. It was anomalously hot in 1998, and it's deliberately mis-leading to make generalized statements from anomalous data.

                It is accurate to claim that global temperatures in every year 1999-2007 have been cooler than the temperatures of 1998*. However, stating that the temperatures "have not risen since 1998" implies that temperatures have been cooling since 1998, which is not true. Temperatures from 2000 through 2005 certainly rose every year.

                Here's some pretty graphs [] to back up my statements.

                * It depends on the data set (land, ocean, atmospheric, US only etc). For certain data sets, 2005-2006 was hotter than 1998, but on average 1998 wins.

                I don't care which side of the argument you're on, I just hate it when someone deliberately mis-represents the data to support their side.

          • by Angostura (703910) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:18AM (#23142930)
            That is the one of the most disingenuous summary of what happened that I have seen. Here's an account [] by the reporter who absolutely denies that amended the story based on any threat, but says he amended it because he was persuaded that it could be improved.
        • by mc900ftjesus (671151) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:31AM (#23141888)
          "If you have friends who believe in Creationism, respect them and provide for them sound arguments against it. It may be a waste of time to you but it's complete snobbery to write them off. Ben Stein is correct that you may lose friends if you watch that movie and become polarized by it--don't let that happen!"

          I humor their kids who still believe in Santa, I guess I can pretend that humans magically appeared one day too.

          People realize that their own ego is what's preventing them from accepting evolution, right? It's the crap that you've been forced into believing since birth plus the fact that you think you're somehow different than any other animal that makes you think that you're really magical, sorry "created."
        • by ChromaticDragon (1034458) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:08AM (#23142712)
          I agree with just one part of your suggestion: Respect.

          You should respect your friends who believe in Creationism and not belittle them. You should respect anyone in a proper debate and maintain a sound sense of decorum.

          However, there is no reason to provide arguments for or against Creationism. None at all. Indeed, you would probably do much better if you simply stick with Common Descent, or even Abiogenesis if you wish. Provide sound reasons for this. Be prepared to patiently counter all the very tired and very old Creationist claims against these. But there is no reason whatsoever to tread in their realm. It's their job to provide sound reasons for Creationism, not everyone else's to counter it.

          I am saddened both by the poor science of many Creationists and poor theology of many Evolutionists. If you repeat what you feel to be "sound arguments against [Creationism]", you may simply be parroting popular memes of Evolutionists which are easily countered by anyone more familiar with the Bible (or whatever). You may seem as ill informed to them as they do to you. This wouldn't help your goal of persuading them.

          • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:40AM (#23144900)

            I am saddened both by the poor science of many Creationists and poor theology of many Evolutionists. If you repeat what you feel to be "sound arguments against [Creationism]", you may simply be parroting popular memes of Evolutionists which are easily countered by anyone more familiar with the Bible (or whatever).
            After years of skimming, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of vocal creationists don't know jack about what the Bible actually says.

            And what is "good theology". Is there any theology in the entire world that is based on evidence rather than someone's interpretation of a mythical tradition?
            • by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012.pota@to> on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:36PM (#23147454)

              And what is "good theology". Is there any theology in the entire world that is based on evidence rather than someone's interpretation of a mythical tradition?
              Even to an atheist, there is definitely good theology in the same sense that there is good philosophy, good scholarship, and good advice.

              I'm both an atheist and a skeptic, and after I got over being a prick about it, I could see that there were a lot of smart, sincere religious people out there doing their very best to lead good lives. And they often feel that the creationists, the religious warmongers, and the nutty god-pushers are guilty of twisting theology for their own sinful ends.

              Whatever you think of the core beliefs of a given religion, the world's religious traditions preserve a great deal of pragmatic advice on how to conduct one's life. They provide a structure for examination of what it means to be human, and what kind of world we should strive to make. And they fill a spiritual need that, even if you and I don't have it, the bulk of humanity does.
        • by jafiwam (310805) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:15AM (#23142844) Homepage Journal
          "There are things for which the debate has been conducted and there is a settled position. Things like the world is not flat and that the Earth is not the center of the Universe. People who debate those points don't have open minds, they're just stupid."


          Pretty much sums it up. There's no "debate", only stupid people making movies or otherwise flapping their yaps.

          Ben Stain is motivated by the same thing Michael Moore is, profit. Discourse on science doesn't happen on a movie screen, though it might happen at a lecture in a movie theatre.

          Nothing to see here, move along.
        • by protein folder (228881) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:27AM (#23143210)
          See this [] for some hot debunking action.

          To briefly (and probably not completely accurately) summarize: 1) one guy did get fired, but that's because he wasn't getting published or graduating many students. Sorry you didn't perform. 2) a guy who said "I was fired" from the smithsonian wasn't actually fired (and was never employed there anyway), still has access to the collections and an office there, etc. They did move him to a different office, so the fact that he said "they changed the locks on my office" is true. Even worse, this is the guy who, in his last month as editor of a scientific journal (not because he was fired, but because his time was going to be up anyway) basically took it upon himself to wave a publication into print without peer review, saying that he was the only qualified editor, when there were others who could have and should have been able to review this paper.

          So the ID advocates portrayed here seem to be acting in deceitful or unethical ways, and then this movie is compounding their deceit.

          There are a lot of interesting questions still to be answered in evolutionary theory; rehashing the same battles over and over again with these people is a distraction at best.

          • So the ID advocates portrayed here seem to be acting in deceitful or unethical ways, and then this movie is compounding their deceit.

            Welcome to America, 2008. Deceit and a lack of ethics raise concerns among people who post comments on blogs and news sites, but not necessarily among a majority of people who vote and write letters to their legislatures. We've arrived in an era in which there are two truths: right-wing truth and left-wing truth. You can pick either. Each has its own dedicated news and opinion services dedicated to it, so regardless of which one you pick, you can safely pretend the other doesn't exist until a talking head points out how silly the other side looks.

            Here's the catch: most of the emotional advantages are firmly on the side of right-wing truth. Think of what feels good and it's true. America is the best country on earth, and everything we do is therefore moral. Oil production will never peak. The environment will take care of itself regardless of what we do, because it was put there for us by God. What industry lobbyists say about the climate is more correct than what most scientists say, because the scientists are communists. Human beings are special: not a type of animal that evolved along with other animals, but higher beings on a pedestal above animals.

            See? Emotionally the right wing is far more satisfying. If you pick right-wing truth, there's no need to apply any scrutiny to it, and it provides a mirror of left wing truth in every respect, aside from a lack of creditability its adherents don't seem to miss.

        • If you have friends who believe in Creationism, respect them

          See, that's going to be a bit of a problem...

          and provide for them sound arguments against it.

          That I can do.

          I can respect people who do very stupid things, but that does not mean I respect the stupid things people think or do. I respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe, but I don't respect your invisible sky-god. And if you honestly believe the world was created in six days some six thousand years ago, there had better be something else about you that is damned impressive if you want my respect.

          I am willing to discuss these things sanely, civilly, even non-confrontationally, but I do still find creationism to be laughable.

      • Re:Curiosity... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:03AM (#23141258)

        Isn't one of the points of the movie that while scientists espouse neutrality, lack of bias, objectivity, etc. that they are not actually following it?

        Actually, this is just Ben Stein's great way of capitalizing on fears and preconceptions of the population. He literally produced a film that caters to the ignorant and the blindly faithful... without even a shred of evidence that he himself believes it.

        The movie will do great harm to the already eroded image of science and scientists in the U.S., despite presenting very flimsy evidence in the Michael Moore style of film-making (i.e. gross misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies, sprinkled with a dose of misplaced truth to prevent it from being rejected outright).

        Stein actually told the people he interviewed for the movie that he was making a completely different film (philosophy, I think). This is grossly unethical, but par for the course for current media. Frankly, I just didn't expect Stein to follow suit.

        As a scientist who believes in God, I am appalled at this film, and I think Stein should be ashamed of himself. Maybe if not for asshole exercises such as this, people would calm down and realize that unless you take religious texts literally, they address questions that are incompatible with science, and thus cannot possibly be in conflict with the latter.
    • by PortHaven (242123) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:43AM (#23141022) Homepage
      "who's philosophy espouses striving for neutrality, lack of bias, objectivity, etc."

      Having worked with a great number of scientists in my life, I would not note them for lack of bias or neutrality. In fact, I'd say scientists are noted for their strong opinions and personal bias'.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:04AM (#23141280)
        Are we using the same definition of bias? Having a strong opinion is not bias, if it is a sound conclusion of the evidence. Bias is starting with the conclusion and selectively gathering the evidence to support it.
        • by PortHaven (242123) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:52AM (#23142346) Homepage
          "Having a strong opinion is not bias, if it is a sound conclusion of the evidence. Bias is starting with the conclusion and selectively gathering the evidence to support it."

          It is also the filtering of evidence and interpretation of evidence so as to favor one's viewpoint. Quite common in our science today.
          • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:49AM (#23145120)

            Quite common in our science today.
            Do you have any evidence for this, or are you filtering and interpreting evidence to favor your viewpoint?

            Sorry, had to do that.
            • by Watts Martin (3616) <layotl&gmail,com> on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:42PM (#23147540) Homepage
              Don't apologize for the snark; it's actually a very valid question. There are examples of filtering and interpreting evidence so as to favor a given viewpoint in the publishing of even ostensibly peer-reviewed scientific papers, but these examples are nearly always driven by money, not by ideology: a pharmaceutical company or an oil company or a tobacco company funds research on a new drug or on climate change or on smoking, and darned if that research doesn't support the company's position.

              However, the idea that there's an irrational, conspiratorial bias against challenges to the theory of evolution is, to be very polite, dubious. Researchers who cast serious doubt on evolutionary theory using the scientific method, producing results that were consistent and repeatable, would surely get a whole lot of flak at first -- but they'd eventually be given Nobel prizes. That's the kind of thing that makes careers. The kind of thing that destroys careers is making extraordinary claims that fall apart under testing -- or, as in the case of intelligent design, making extraordinary claims that can't be tested at all.

              In a lot of ways, ID uses the same "logic" as any classic conspiracy theory: searching the "accepted truth" for any (apparently) unexplained gaps and shrieking Ah-HA! This disproves it all! Trying to fight these theories is a tedious and dispiriting proposition; you often have to try to bring your opponent up to speed on knowledge they'd need to have (and accept) to examine the evidence critically, and they're far from a receptive audience. And even if you manage that, there's going to be another "gap" they can find. And another. And if you have to eventually try and explain that data which isn't accounted by the theory is not the same as predicting a specific outcome which turns out to be wrong? Good luck with that.
      • by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:05AM (#23141300)
        And the whole point of the academic system, peer review, having your director check what you publish & most importantly reproduction of results, aim to keep personal bias in check.

        After all your not going to spend 5/10 years working on something you think might be wrong.
        • by electrictroy (912290) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:20AM (#23141622)
          Bzzz. You might want to take a moment to read Thomas S Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" which describes how some scientists WILL try to suppress contrary theories, as a way to protect their own career.

          As example, scientists once thought the planets moved in perfectly-circular orbits, but when observations showed that was not true, these same scientists refused to believe the data. It took several years (and the death of the stubborn scientists) for a new generation to propose ellipitical orbits. The refusal to accept new data is called "protecting your paradigm" aka your belief system, even in the face of facts that challenge it.

          Scientists often do this to protect their lifelong work and/or career, rather than admit they are wrong.

          • by Thangodin (177516) <elentar@sympa[ ] ['tic' in gap]> on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:53AM (#23143862) Homepage
            Actually, that was a scientist, Galileo, who didn't have the math to explain elliptical orbits and fudged his data. Since even the idea that planets moved around the sun was very unpopular at the time, and Galileo didn't have any peers, the peer review process didn't actually exist to check his work. When Newton shot this down, nobody complained.

            Kuhn has been exaggerated, and even his original claims do not fit the history of science well. Scientists tend to be conservative, and wait for strong evidence in support of a new theory so that they don't get taken in by the fringe. What Kuhn does not mention, of course, is that fringe theories that are just dead wrong outnumber valid theories a hundred to one, strongly justifying this approach (ID is an example of the far lunatic fringe.) His story of multiple Copernican Revolutions is also wrong. A Copernican Revolution occurs when a valid scientific theory arrives which brings a solid foundation to further research. There is at most one in each scientific field of research--examples include the original work of Copernicus (which became the basis for Galileo, Newton, and eventually Einstein), Darwin's theory of evolution, plate tectonics, and DNA. Prior to these advances the field is a chaotic mash of data with no means of organization, only guesswork. Einstein's work was not a Copernican revolution, but a refinement of existing physics into the very large and small scales. He did not prove Newton wrong.

            What makes Kuhn so popular is the narrative of the lone genius who, in David and Goliath fashion, takes on the powerful and corrupt empire to change the world. According to this narrative, science is just a majority opinion defended by political maneuvering. This is utter bullshit. The fastest way to win a Nobel prize and establish your career is to prove other scientists wrong--but for that, you need evidence. ID doesn't have any. Not a single scrap. ID isn't a scientific theory, but a well financed marketing campaign masquerading as one, presenting this narrative and a soggy heap of postmodernist drivel to encourage and exploit ignorance.
      • by spisska (796395) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:31AM (#23141884)

        Having worked with a great number of scientists in my life, I would not note them for lack of bias or neutrality. In fact, I'd say scientists are noted for their strong opinions and personal bias'.

        Of course scientists have strong opinions, and of course they have biases. This isn't a problem. Einstein, for example, was a fierce opponent of quantum mechanics -- the 'spooky action at a distance' doesn't fit with c as a speed limit.

        But the fact is that one of the primary goals of just about every scientist is to challenge or overturn the conventional wisdom. And to so in a way that is observable and disprovable. You don't get a ticket to Stockholm by echoing the community.

        Similarly, every true scientist values being proven wrong, because that is what advances our collective knowledge. A scientist who who has never been wrong, or who doesn't appreciate being proven wrong, is a poor scientist indeed.

        But on the same note, challenges to established scientific principles must themselves be scientific, and that is the problem here. This creationist doctrine, whatever term proponents choose to call it, is fundamentally non-scientific -- even anti-science. If a theory can't produce hypotheses, can't be tested, can't be disproven, and can't make predictions, then it's not a theory and certainly not science.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:32AM (#23141892) Homepage Journal
      Okay. Thanks for providing a great example of BAD SCIENCE.

      I am skeptical about evolution. The thing is that right now the majority of evidence is that evolution is real and explains a lot about how life has changed over the history of the planet.
      I am skeptical about creationism. So far every talk I have listened to on creationism has had more error in science than I can shake a stick at.

      If you are not skeptical then it isn't science. If you are not open to the possibility that you are wrong then it isn't science.

      As far as global climate change from human CO2 production. Yes I am very skeptical. I don't think they have nearly enough data to prove it. The way the climate change faithful keep saying this or that disaster or storm was caused by global warming really doesn't help. Snow in Bagdad this winter and record cold and snow in many places this winter also are interesting data points.
      Heck I am even for cutting CO2 production just in case because frankly as the old saying goes "It can't hurt".
      But the people that claim that Man made global warming is a proven fact are also spouting off bad science.
      Being skeptical is a good thing and good science.

    • by fishdan (569872) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:12AM (#23142790) Homepage Journal

      Actually, there is a good bit of symmetry here. I often say that the Intelligent Design(ID) people admire how the Man Made Climate Change (MMCC) people have pushed their cause. If you believe in the scientific method [] you have no problems with anyone challenging a theory. In fact, you'd welcome it because it either disproves the theory or makes it more accurate.

      Evolution has advanced in it's "completeness" as a theory because of many challenges made to it over the years, and those challenges have helped science immensely. Just because a theory is wideley accepted however, does not mean that it is correct. Prior to Plate Tectonics being widely accepted it was scorned and rejected [] by leading scientists who had careers built on "old science." This incidentally what the subject line of this post refers to: subduction is one continental shelf sliding under another, and orogeny is mountain building (of course since this is /. let me point out IANAG).

      Yet because the heart of Geophysics is still physics, these great scientists were able to accept challenges and look at the new theory and say "yes -- this fits better." And that's what's awesome (and to me holy) about SCIENCE. You can challenge ANY assertion, and if your model is better, it will persuade people. I'm sure some physicist can help me out and show how the theory of gravity has changed massively since Newton -- even though a lay person would say "yeah, I get gravity."

      So here's where Expelled and ID fall down -- we KNOW their theory. What is being taught in schools about evolution is mostly demonstrable. We can show evolution in anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria, that directly impacts humans and health. ID is being taught in the appropriate places -- houses of worship -- where challenges are heresy. Yet in teaching SCIENCE in schools we want to teach that every assertion CAN be challenged and should be observable. That's what science is -- an attempt to understand the universe through observation and experimentation. If someone wants to challenge something in science and can bring legitimate observations to the table, they should be welcomed for the CRITICAL (pun intended) role they play in the process. ID has to reject the scientific method, science always looks for challenges to make the model more accurate -- but ID is by definition perfectly accurate already, and cannot be challenged.

      I support everything the MMCC people want as an end result -- I'd like to see us embrace alternative energy, stop burning fossil fuels and generally be more conscious of the impact we have on the planet. I also think that there is a real harm being done to science when people with legitimate complaints about the SCIENCE of MMCC are treated as pariahs. Although I tend to think that MMCC is real, and there is certainly no harm in proceeding to curb our carbon emissions, I welcome the legimate claims of people who think that solar cycles are responsible, or that this period is not particularly warm on a geological chart of temperatures. These are legitimate scientific ideas based on observation and empirical data. MMCC as a theory will gain much more respect when it embraces challenges, instead of treating them in the same way ID treats challenges -- by throwing the scientific method under a bus. On the other hand, if the MMCC people do succeed in making challenges to their "science" become heresy, the ID people will be sure to take notes in how that happened.

  • A toast (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Canosoup (1153521) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:32AM (#23140892) Homepage
    to Expelled, a movie full of ad hominems, half truths, non sequiturs and promoting ignorance!
  • Not the issue... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:36AM (#23140932) Homepage
    He's missing the issue. The truth is, I believe some form of "intelligent design." But whether or not I believe it or a billion people believe it is irrelevant. Intelligent design, as has been discussed here and elsewhere, ad infinitum, it's NOT SCIENCE and should not be taught as science or as an alternative to evolution.

    On the other hand, if they want to teach it in a Religious Studies type class, I'm all for it. Go for it. That's precisely where it belongs.
    • by Harin_Teb (1005123) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:40AM (#23140962)
      I would posit that Philosophy would be another class that it would be appropriate in (beyond the narrow religious studies classes). However I also don't see the harm in pointing out in the science class that "while evolution is the current leading scientific theory by a landslide, there are other non-scientific theories out there. If you want to learn about them take class X in the philosophy / theology course line."
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:39AM (#23140952) Homepage
    I though, and then googled him.

    So he's a comedian, a writer, a white-house speech writer, a law professor and a believer in intelligent design.

    Fine, another one of those scientist who think that being a scientist, they can have a scientific opinion on any subject out there.

    He's a lawyer, he can have scientific stances on law (if that's possible anyway ... I've always wondered why law is considered a science), but his opinion on intelligent design and evolution means diddly squat.

    Feel free to believe in an Old Man in the Sky, and to embrace ID. Just don't forget to mention that scientific evidence points the other way.
    • by Laxitive (10360) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:59AM (#23141194) Journal
      I don't agree with this. Ben Stein's opinions aren't worthless because he's not a scientist - they're wrong because they just don't have the necessary support.
    • by DarkOx (621550) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:16AM (#23141518) Journal
      Actually if you watch the film Stein does not necessarily believe in ID. He simple is wondering why so many scientists are so religious about evolution.

      He is posing questions like, Why do we teach kids the difference between laws, and theory and then act like evolution is a law?

      Evolution is really good at explaining how butterflies change color overtime, it does not explain how you get from paramecium to human does that not leave room for some alternate theories?

      In what way does the presents of evolution rule out an intelligent designer; might that designer have included an evolutionary mechanism?

      All Stein is doing is asking scientists to act like it. They should acknowledge the weak spots in any theory and look to finding the explanations. Stein's documentary could have been about a variety of other subjects. He is simply saying don't close the books until all the facts are in. There is nothing wrong with that its good science. Imagine if people had decided special relativity worked so well we need not bother look at string theory?

      Its the same thing. Anyone who takes issue with Steins message is being pretty petty and short sighted.
      • by protein folder (228881) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:00AM (#23144024)

        All Stein is doing is asking scientists to act like it. They should acknowledge the weak spots in any theory and look to finding the explanations. Stein's documentary could have been about a variety of other subjects. He is simply saying don't close the books until all the facts are in. There is nothing wrong with that its good science. Imagine if people had decided special relativity worked so well we need not bother look at string theory?
        Except scientists are looking at the weak spots and trying to find explanations in evolutionary theory. There's still a lot we don't know about yet and there are a lot of interesting questions that remain to be answered. On the other hand, rehashing these old debates is not very productive.

        Its the same thing. Anyone who takes issue with Steins message is being pretty petty and short sighted.
        Except he's being misleading and his goal isn't to get scientists to look at ID, it's to get the public to think that they can't trust those evil godless scientists, because all they're doing is agenda-pushing. If you can get people to doubt objective facts, there's no limit to what you can do!
      • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:26AM (#23144564)
        "Evolution" is as much a law as the first law of thermodynamics, and the laws of thermodynamics are theories in exactly the same way as evolution is. And anyone who spends any time in science knows this. It's all a work in progress. Do you know what evolutionary biologists do? They poke holes in evolution! They spend their whole time finding weaknesses, writing them up, discussing them, and trying to find better theories. That's science. By swallowing what the film says, you're giving the creationists - who have been rehashing the same arguments since the 1980s with no modification - a free ride.
  • by Woundweavr (37873) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:39AM (#23140954)
    Its not just "Darwinists" that force their anti-Jesus dogma on the education system. I had a similar experience in my childhood.

    Given a circle with a radius of 10, whats the circumference? Some would say thats its 10 * 2 * "pi"!

    But what is this pi? They can't even define it;its completely irrational! Meanwhile they suppress the controversy. When I put down a much more reasonable answer - 60, because the literal Bible tells me the circumference of a circle is 2*r*3 [], I was marked wrong! The Nazis used these numbers to build their war machine and concentration camps and its being taught to children far to young to understand its deceptiveness. Inquiring minds are led to a literally endless and patternless series of numbers intended to confuse and dull the mind.

    Teach the controversy!
  • Dawkins and many others notwithstanding, evolution doesn't disprove god(s) or mandate atheism. What it does do is undermine (very thoroughly) an argument for god(s) that used to be a 'slam dunk': the 'argument from complexity in the biological world'.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand the distinction, and people like Dawkins don't help. Many religious types treat 'discounting an argument for god(s)' the same as 'advancing an argument against god(s)', and go ballistic. But it's important to note the difference. There's still room to believe in god(s) even if you accept the ridiculously overwhelming evidence that evolution happened and is happening. (I don't believe in god(s), FWIW, but many people do.)

    Stein and his ilk really remind me of the worst features of Ned Flanders sometimes. "Well, I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!"

  • It isn't science. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Don_dumb (927108) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:41AM (#23140986)

    encourage people to speak out if they believe
    How many times do we have to say it, SCIENCE is not about BELIEF. You can believe whatever you want but in a science class (or academic institution) and officially (the government position) the thinking should be one of reason, evidence and demonstration of understanding. Belief has no place.

    Remember if intelligent design is correct then it can be explained, demonstrated and then analysed further. Until then it is as much a waste of time as it is trying to work out how much flour Flying Spagetti Monster is made up of.
  • by jonnyj (1011131) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:42AM (#23140992)

    This whole debate seems pretty strange to European eyes. I consider myself to be a fundamentalist Bible believing evangelical Christian, but, in Britain, people like me take the view that Genesis describes the evolutionary process pretty well. Although many Evangelicals support Intelligent Design or Young Earth Creationism, there's little opposition within Christian circles to full acceptance of the scientific explanation of the origins of life.

    Between this and support for a right-wing social and foreign policy agenda, I sometimes wonder if American evangelicals read the same Bible that I do.

  • Isn't it ironic that a whole generation of religious folks are doing nothing more than routing their kids into a backwater. Suspicion of science just means their children will distrust science and math and be shuttled, therefore, into a legion of burger flippers. Teaching your kids that Intelligent Design is the right answer is as close to child abuse as I can imagine.
  • Sometimes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:52AM (#23141108) Homepage Journal
    They ignore you because you obviously don't know what you're talking about.

    Then they mock you because you expect to be taken seriously without putting in the work to become informed.

    Then they fight you, because you won't go away until you've had your fight, and ingrained in your thinking, so deeply you don't know it's there, is the notion that might makes right.

    Then you win, because there are so many ignorant, lazy, belligerent people that sooner later sensible people, who want to get something accomplished with their lives, will sooner or later give up on picking sense out of your nonsense.
  • So much to say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fished (574624) <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:52AM (#23141114)
    There's so much I would like to say here, and I rather doubt that I'll get it all said, but I'll make a stab at it. In the first place, I haven't seen the movie, so can't really comment on Stein's take. However, I have looked at the "sociology" of the Evolution/Intelligent Design/Creationism debate a fair amount, and what I see disturbs me from all sides. One major concern I have is the elevation of Darwinian natural selection as a means of species creation to an unrealistic importance. I just don't see why it's so important in and of itself. One could certainly be a competent physician, for example, and not believe in Darwinism (or neo-Darwinism). It seems to me that one could even be a quite competent practitioner of any of the biological sciences (other than the various sorts of paleontology) without necessarily agreeing with Darwinism. Yet, we are constantly told that a failure to teach Darwinism at the high school level will destroy science education as we know it and result in a US population that is hopelessly ignorant of all science, etc. etc. I just don't buy it. Bluntly, I can scarcely think of a job where a belief in Darwinism is necessary. On the other hand, we have school systems that literally teach absolutely no information science, computer science, etc. etc., and people graduating from college who literally don't know the different between a byte and a gigabyte. It's hard for me to see why this ONE THING is so vitally important, when it has virtually no practical application and there are scientific topics with enormous practical application that go untaught. Could the real problem be social or (speak softly now) political? It seems to me that that is exactly the case. The extraordinary efforts put forth by various scientific bodies to defend Darwinism from all criticism strike me as a knee-jerk reaction to a knee-jerk fear that the Scope's trial will happen all over again. This isn't about science--it's about continuing the Enlightenment project of supplanting all sources of Meaning (capitalization intended) with Scientific Meaning. That doesn't mean that I think that Darwinism is wrong. I actually think that it's as right as you're going to get within the boundaries that it sets itself. But I certainly don't think that the loss of Darwinism would destroy American education or anything along those lines. So ... people... GET A GRIP. My $0.02.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:03AM (#23141268)
    One well known evolutionary scientist P.Z. Myers was queueing up to see a preview screening of this movie, when he was singled out of line and asked to leave the cinema []. So he was expelled from Expelled, presumably because he would write it up for the trash it was. A double irony was he was standing next to Richard Dawkins who was apparently not recognized and allowed in.
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:11AM (#23141430)

    He's totally right, science in academia should be more about discussing what you believe and less about what science people have found out after observation and experimentation.

    For example the other day when my chemistry teacher told me that material stuff is made of atoms, I really couldn't believe him. I think I should have been given the right back then to discuss with them about my theory that everything is conformed by milk derivatives.

    I shouldn't really have to prove my theory or even get the smallest amount of evidence pointing to the certainty of my theory before being given the opportunity to have kids at school discuss about it.

    And all what I said in this post is the truth, because if you read this post you may lose your job.

  • so what underlies an otherwise intelligent religious person to resist evolution?

    we need to confront the real underlying psychological issue here: faith in humanity

    religious folk view something like evolution as a path to meaninglessness, nihilism, cynicism. your typical secular humanist expresses their faith in mankind directly: there is no conflict between evolution and being positive about mankind's future

    but religious folk's minds don't work like that. for a religious person, their faith in humanity is indirect. it is tied up in symbols and code words, like god. god is really just a psychological manifestation of an abstract concept: an ideal man, what humanity strives for, progress

    and around an idea like god, you get all of these related mythologies that again, are really just props for retaining and reaffirming and indirect positivistic faith in society and mankind

    so what really divides the secular humanists and the religious folk are those with no faith in mankind. when you look at something like evolution, and you consider your traditional religious symbology that enforces your faith, you are confronted with a crisis. and you look at some of the nihilism in the world. not the atheists who believe in mankind, but the cynical, empty, boorish loud kind of atheist who sees no meaning in life, and you react to that. and so you react to evolution: it seems to be a path to this sort of empty faithless indolent nihilism

    in other words, the negative reaction to evolution by otherwise intelligent religious folk is really a reaction against the idea of meaningless in life

    this is the psychological issue which underlies the rejection of evolution by otherwise intelligent religious folk. and so the real way you defeat their resistance is by criticizing faithless nihilism. those who use evolution as a story about how mankind is meaningless, pointless: you attack and reject them

    you talk about evolution, AND you talk about faith in humanity and you talk about evolution as reinforcing meaning, not destroying it. and in such a way, you draw down the resistance of intelligent religious folks to evolution, by demonstrating to them that evolution is not a threat to the idea of faith, that plenty of secular humanists with faith in mankind can also beleive in evolution, without some sort of psychological dissonance
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:22AM (#23141656) Journal
    First, I would like to say that I a fan of Ben Stein. But this movie is blemish in what I think is an outstanding career. I will explain.
    I too have asked the same exact questions that your trailers ask. But I do have answers. I've followed the I.D. vs evolution debate, and I come down firmly on the evolution side. But that is not what you ask about...

    Scientific inquiry first clashed with religion when a man innocently attempted to determine the motion of the heavenly bodies in an effort to determine God's intent. This man was Newton, but he started a long battle of God giving up ground to science. For as long as science is practiced, the domain of God has reduced. It is likely that at some time in the future that we have "God" reduced to the fundamental constants of the universe. (Only in terms of a mechanical sense, not spiritual) This can only be the case if scientific inquiry is allowed to continue.

    The problem I have, and as it seems schools (public and private), and government have as well with I.D. people being key in scientific discovery , is that it threatens further scientific discoveries. The threat is not intentional, or, at least I believe in most cases it is not intentional (but the Dover school district it was quite intentional). The reason why it threatens scientific discovery, was shown in the Dover court case. The cellular structure that was heralded as 'irreducible' was actually shown to be reducible. Once the researcher was content with the idea that the structure was irreducible, scientific inquiry ended. This is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in projects funded by public or private grants. I fear if I.D. was ever accepted as a viable answer, all sufficiently complicated systems would be described as I.D. and we'd throw our arms up and declare ourselves done. I could imagine a time when all things are attributed to I.D. and such a time scares me.

    I do not think that all professors who suppose I.D. would be haphazard, but it is not a risk we do not have to take. The question is if there is room for I.D. and a mind that is willing to probe deeper. Can someone have reverence and probe deeper? Newton did, so it is possible, but I doubt all of the I.D. proponents could.

    The biggest failure of I.D. is to factor in the value of processes. And really this is what it boils down to. With I.D. there is no process, and it is all design. With science it is all process and no design. For the past 400 years, we've had nearly every process that has been attributed to God be re-attributed to a process. The question then is God a process, or is God designed? If God is a process then there can be no irreducible complexity, and I.D. effectively eats itself. Processes happen in the domain of time, so the question then becomes what is the domain of time for life on earth. We see evolution happening here on earth, so when did that start? And then the question is what was the process for earth? Answering that question is a question of celestial processes arising in planet formation and going back to the beginning of the universe.

    Given then that we are the result of processes, how relevant or prevalent is I.D.? Is there any I.D. still left? It would seem that if the I.D. of our creator was irreducible, then we could never replace any part of the design. This would mean we could only add-on to make alterations (adaptation) and this would create more complication from the base simplicity. The neat feature is that any design is completely mutable. You can bury the original design so deep it could not be discerned. What I am describing of course is DNA. However the smallest number of genes for an independent organism is 1500 genes. This would be a boon for I.D. as until there are 1500 genes, there is no way to evolve and combine 1500 genes at once. However, these genes do contain junk DNA, showing that they were created by a process. The only thing I can conclude, and indeed others should be able to conclude, is that we don't understand the process. This is where scientists who don'
  • That Ben Stein... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by boris111 (837756) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:30AM (#23141862)
    he's a rebel. He's stickn' it to the establishment by conforming to an establishment... He's a tricky one. Thank GOD for people like him that compel us to think inside the box.

    BTW on his game show "Win Ben Stein's Money" I recall him doing poorly on the SCIENCE and SPACE categories.
  • Good review (Score:4, Informative)

    by Genevish (93570) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:44AM (#23142164) Homepage
    Scientific American has a good review of the movie (from the viewpoint of the evil scientists of course): []
  • Flock of Dodos (Score:5, Informative)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jaso[ ] ['nle' in gap]> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:49AM (#23142266) Homepage
    If you want to see a movie that:
    • pretty thoroughly debunks ID;
    • at the same time, challenges scientists to be less dogmatic and more open in how they connect to the public;
    • and is actually funny and fun to watch to boot
    ... go grab "Flock of Dodos []" on DVD. (Here's the Amazon reviews page for it. []) It's a smart, insightful film that challenges assumptions on both sides of the issue. If it got one tenth of the exposure that the craptastic "Expelled" is getting, the country would be a better place.
  • by Evangelion (2145) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:08AM (#23142716) Homepage
    The comments here are basically taking the movie at it's word -- that Intelligent Designers are being "expelled" from academia.

    This is a lie. The whole movie is a lie. The irony of both invoking Nazis, yet so successfully implementing the "Big Lie" strategy has to set some kind of reprehensible high water mark.

    The three "expelled" people presented in the movie -- these are the worst stories the filmmakers could find -- involved a professor who failed to get tenure because he wasn't good enough, a woman who had her contract run out and didn't have it renewed, and them someone who said he was "fired" from the Smithsonian, despite actually being an unpaid research assistant whose term ran out.

    Compare [] and contrast [].

    This movie makes utterly baseless claims that the academic freedom of ID proponents is under attack.

    This is a lie.

    Yet, they tell the lie, and then you look at comments about the movie, and you have people assuming that the truth is "somewhere in the middle", or that "both sides need to be considered", or some other trite cliche.

    Why do they get a free pass here? Seriously, the production of this movie has been filled with lies by the makers -- these allegedly religious people -- and yet, people still take the movie at face value.

    They lied to the interviewees, they attempted to pirate animations used in the movie, after being humiliated during the pre-release screenings they lied to cover it up, they lied to the people who wanted to see screenings -- they're liars.

    And then you look at comments here, and people talk like the movie makes valid arguments -- it does not. Aside from lies about academic suppression, it's just one long Godwin -- "there's a very tenuous link between social Darwinism and the philosophy of the Nazis, therefore believing in Evolution leads to the Holocaust".

    If, in an argument, someone tells baseless, reprehensible lies about a subject, the truth isn't "somewhere in the middle". The liars are really just lying [].
  • Zealotry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by georgep77 (97111) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:24AM (#23144524) Homepage Journal
    Pirsig has a great line in his novel which I paraphrase as "nobody screams and shouts that the sun will rise tomorrow", it's a given and there is no discussion. It seems to me that the people who are afraid of discussion are the screamers. If people argue that the world is flat there is no need to shout them down and freak out at them etc, if you _know_ something to be true you should not be offended or upset if someone else believes otherwise. If your knowledge (belief/faith) is in doubt perhaps then you would scream/shout/freak out. That is what I've taken from the trailer linked here, it totally reminded me of the fanaticism part of "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenence".

  • by geekotourist (80163) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:27PM (#23148296) Journal
    Richard Dawkin's " Open Letter to a victim of Ben Stein's lying propaganda []" is relevant.

    The creationism / evolution debate has been done many times here on Slashdot. There'll be comments making one or more of the hundreds of old and refuted creationist arguments [](1). It's possible that a couple of comments will use arguments even the Answers in Genesis creationist group says not to use [](2). Someone will say there's no evidence for Macroevolution and someone else will point out 29 plus evidences for Macroevolution [](3).

    The point of Expelled is to make people think they've learned about the creation / ID / evolution debate, but to feel that Darwin= Holocaust. Note how they interview scientists of all sorts, but they don't interview academics who cover antisemitism in pre-20th century Europe. Even one hint or reminder that, say, Martin Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies [] in 1543 would ruin the Darwin -->Holocaust propoganda.

    (1) "evolution requires faith," "Piltdown," "Midocean magnetic anomalies are not reversals"...
    (2) "there are no beneficial mutations," "no new species have ever been produced"...
    (3) Even if there were no fossils, how to explain how biochemistry matches phylogeny? It's one thing to claim the designer re-uses code to explain similarity, but why would a designer reuse broken code?
  • What Stein Wants (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday April 21, 2008 @03:58PM (#23149710) Journal
    You need to know Stein's background to see what he's after. Although a conservative, he's also an exceedingly intelligent iconoclast aiming to reveal problem behavior where it's typically not admitted.

    His purpose in Expelled is not to promote creationism, either in and of itself or in comparison to evolution. His intention is to point out that SOME OF the scientific community is participating in the same sort of hair-on-fire hysteria as the most vocal creationists. While the latter are widely know and fairly expected to employ this as a tactic, or just emotionalism, the scientific community "should" be above it, but isn't.

    He rightly shows that the "evolution/creationist debate" isn't. He shows that it is instead a construct. Creationists claim it in order to put their ideas on equal footing with science, and science unwittingly helps them when some of its members react to what they expect rather than what's actually being said. His movie is a case study in precisely this, both within itself and as a social phenomenon, and you can bet your ass this is exactly what he intended.

    It's easy to poke holes in the highly vocal creationists' stance, and quite popular to do so. It's more difficult to poke holes in their scientific counterparts, and supremely unpopular if you assume his intention is to promote creationism. Promoting creationism is his tool, exposing intellectual bigotry is his intention, and before the movie even premiers, he is succeeding admirably.

    If one isn't convinced, consider the fact that he's targeting only those that overreact to the situation. For the most part both religious and scientific adherents (and those who hold to both) coexist and even discuss their viewpoints without any acrimony or "debate". They see no contradiction because the two thought systems are orthagonal -- entirely independent and incomparable. It's those in science who can't grasp this due to perceived peer pressure or fear that overreact and so unwittingly lend credence to that which they oppose by the sheer act of opposing it.

    And keep in mind that although the movie pokes at one side, that doesn't mean he considers the other side to be right. He's going after the one target too few have the balls to attack. My money says that when it's died down, he'll make a statement that he has no intention of supporting creationism, only that he intended to do what I've described above.

    The movie is a masterful piece of agitprop (agitating propoganda). It gets its targets to react wildly to it as though it were their traditional perceived enemy, while its true intent to show that those targets are themselves reacting wildly when they, as the supposed intellectuals, should be reacting with due consideration, if at all. And at this point it doesn't matter if the movie even comes out; it's already done exactly what Stein wants it to.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.