No Free Speech or Debate Allowed on Intelligent Design’s Expelled!

This deserved its own post: one of the few people who have seen the creationist film Expelled! and haven’t been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements was Colorado Confidential’s Dan Whipple, who panned the flick back in December.

He’s now written another article on the peculiar press junket that the Expelled! folks have taken on the road to promote their film. It’s well worth a read, but the long and the short of it is that these folks, who call biologists hypocrites for not acting out the things they observe in nature, seem to have some real blinders on when it comes to their own message of “freedom of speech.”

In short, only carefully pre-approved questions are allowed at their events, and virtually all are from religious and right-wing “family” organizations. No critics allowed. And any viewers of their film are, of course, required to sign an agreement purporting to waive their right to free speech about the film!

That’s not exactly the sort of commitment to a “marketplace of ideas” you’d expect from people that claim that this is their one true rallying cry.

And then there’s this embarrassing exchange between Stein and his PR straight-man:

Paul Lauer: You mentioned that Darwinism appears to be lacking on certain fronts. From your research, and your travels, and interviews with many different scientists, what are some of the areas that scientists are, perhaps, increasingly saying are problematic with the theory of, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution?

Ben Stein:Well, just a couple of them, I’ve already hit one is: Where did life come from? Second one is: How did the cell get so complex? Third one, which I think is overwhelming, and just sort of blows the whole theory of Random Mutation out of the water, is, at least, let me say, raises big questions, that is. Assuming it all did happen by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, where did the laws of gravity come from. Where did the laws of thermodynamics come from? Where did the laws of motion and, of heat come from? Where, I guess that’s the same as thermodynamics. Where did all these laws, that make it possible for the universe to function, where did they all come from? Why isn’t all just chaos and everything collapsing in on itself and killing everything? I think that`s where the universe works. Who created these perfect laws, that keeps the planet in motion, keeps the blood pumping through our bodies? So, I think, all these are giant questions that need answers. (emphasis added)

Biologists don’t even claim that biological history or even evolution “all happened” by random mutation and natural selection. The idea that the origin of the universe is an unanswered question for “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution” is just downright daffy. It’s like claiming that the big unanswered question within the television series Lost is how the television network ABC that produces it got its start. If Stein wants to believe that the laws of the universe were written by God, then evolutionary theory contains no conflict whatsoever with this idea. He would, in my opinion, be jumping to a rather unwarranted and deeply misinformed conclusion, but deeply misinformed about physics and philosophy, not biology.


3 Responses to No Free Speech or Debate Allowed on Intelligent Design’s Expelled!

  1. Tyler says:

    The biggest problems within the intelligent design movement are that they attempt to cater to a naturalist perspective too much. When they move their proofs for the existence of a creator into the realm of science, and operate on modern science’s own grounds, then they’re bound to run into all sorts of problems.

    Quite frankly, I’m all for being a bit more honest about my convictions. I say that we start with theology and philosophy first, and then move towards science rather than the other way around. That’s because I understand that God exists, etc. first from a theological/philosophical standpoint. My philosophy and objections to modern scientific method stem from and arise out of those convictions. I don’t read about “irreducible complexity” and then suddenly realize that I’m a sinner and that Christ saves . . . .

    I’m highly skeptical about macroevolution primarily because of what I understand as the “blindspots” of uniformitarianism and actualism, plus the larger philosophical and theological questions that evolutionary theory cannot contend with. If it cannot make sense of everything, it cannot make sense of anything. That’s just one Christian’s perspective on ID.

  2. Jennifer says:

    If I didn’t know better I’d say that was too ridiculous to be true. Clamping down on freedom of criticism and debate seems to indicate awareness that their ideas are easily refutable, and yet…
    Nice Lost analogy also :)

  3. Bad says:

    Tyler: Oh I don’t know that they sincerely cater to naturalism. After all, they regularly deride it (falsely) as being a methodological commitment as opposed to an unavoidable practicality.

    And obviously if you are going to start from an assumed belief in a philosophy you are going to end up with it. The reason I prefer skepticism and then the assumptions of empiricism is that it strikes me as a far more of clean slate: at least after taking our apparent common existence at face value, we’re working from the ground up, rather than with pretensions at knowing the big secrets right off the bat.

    The blindspots you speak of sort of fall under that category. Yes, it is sort of unprovable that all of reality wasn’t made out of cotton candy yesterday and we just don’t remember it because a vast conspiracy warped our minds. Then again, are those sorts of objections (which are what objections to uniformitarianism boil down to) really so compelling? And the idea that some bit of explanation must explain everything or else is worthless is pretty foreign to me. I like science because it lacks that sort of pretension. Evolution isn’t an attempt to “explain everything” or answer every single question. It takes a particular set of questions and goes about looking at what evidence we can find, and figures out what that evidence says. If that doesn’t explain why black holes exist, no one ever claimed it would. And it’s not clear why it should, or why it would be lacking or suspect if it didn’t.

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