Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
In a revolting sign of how contentions the debate is, I feel compelled to state the following or risk people plugging their ears and chanting 'I can't hear you! before I even get a word in.
I am not, by definition, a creationist.
I am and was educated Catholic, and even in the 'once upon a time' of the Reagan era the Catholic schools I attended said, in summary: God created the universe, and how He decided to go about doing it is neither here nor there, but for the record it looks like evolution was His sub-contractor of choice.
It was not, so much as I remember, even a bothersome issue in my circles.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a documentary narrated and starring Ben Stein that sets forth to discuss the perceived discrimination against Intelligent Design proponents in academia.
Let's discuss this in stages. First, as a movie Expelled is pretty interesting, largely due to Stein himself. If you can separate yourself from the issues involved, by all means go ahead and rent it.
As to the structure of the film, and the development of the argument it presents, it's all over the board. It begins as a film, as I said, about the discrimination against pro-ID academics at the collegiate and professional level. Up to this point, it's on target.
Then it wanders off and morphs (not evolves; I'll spare you that linguistic snarkiness) into an anti-Darwin film, meaning both the theory and the man himself. This culminates in an odd segment openly equating Darwin with Nazi Germany, most of it filmed on site in Germany.
It then takes another turn and engages atheism in science head-on, before returning to the original intent to close the film.
Separating myself completely from the issue and just discussing the structure of the argument, I have to say it's a mish-mosh and could have used a strong hand at the keyboard.
Now, on to the bread and butter, the issue itself.
If you go into it believing in a strict interpretation of Genesis, that's what you'll leave with; if you go in thinking Darwin is the be-all and end-all, that's how you'll finish the day.
I still believe in God, I still think He created the world, I still walk away thinking that every new scientific discovery reinforces God's presence rather than diminishes it, and I still think that by and large evolution is a viable theory.
It's essentially a movie that reinforces the status-quo across the board.
I was alarmed at how openly hostile and aggressive the scientific community was on screen; if nothing else people, you are on camera, smile and play nice. Sadly, it appears everyone's beliefs are sacred, so long as those beliefs are not overtly Conservative Christian and not held by people who are.
[Which reminds me of a counter-argument I read somewhere, specific to the film. Refuting the claim that scientists are largely atheist by quoting a stat that says 40% of scientists think there 'could be some kind' of higher power is not a winner. For Pete's sake, Science, get a good PR person]
On the other hand, the Hitler/Darwin connection was just asinine. You're right, without some misguided idea of genetic superiority it wouldn't have happened. But that's not Darwin's problem. Natural selection didn't start with his ideas, humans have always bred farm stock - and royalty - for 'ideal' characteristics. The notion was hardly dependent upon Charlie.
Now if you're to debate the stated intent of the piece, then I think Stein has a point. I do not see a way a discussion of ID can find itself into the elementary or high school classroom short of a philosophy class. But on the collegiate level I think all bets are off and it could be a subject of discussion..
It's no use trying to convince me it has no place there. True, I attended only a handful of science courses in college, but in every subject area free debate - well, 'free' if you mean one sided and out of the prof's mouth - ran wild.
I sat through classes where prof's tried to tell the class that Homosexual Native Americans had divine-like powers, that every single idea about teaching held by the public was wrong, and where I was told that grand conspiracies intertwined their way through American history. In my academic career you'll find a teacher who preached that she was the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, and a state-sponsored speaker who spent the hour telling the assembly that Black males had created the Pyramids, had fantastic empires that employed long-lost technology, and possibly had visits from other-worldly intelligences, all facts 'suppressed' by the white man.
If nowhere else in the world, college should be the place to express ideas. Bring it up, debate it, shoot it down, all in the course of one hour. But if it's out there, why try to suppress it?
As a film, 2.9 out of 4. As an organized argument, 1.75 out of 4. As a springboard to debate, 4 out of 4.