Expelled! at the National Review: Steven Hayward On Intelligent Design

Over at the National Review’s Corner, PRI fellow Steve Hayward has been trading polite “can’t agree with you theres” with John Derbyshire over the Intelligent Design film Expelled!

Unfortunately, Hayward seems to have bought into the central message of the film without any evident reservation: the idea that scientists are indeed rushing to create blacklists and persecute intelligent design proponents merely for daring to ask questions. And while Derbyshire is giving his usual unabashed best on the subject, he seems to be mostly leaving this belief alone.

There are two important responses to this claim, both worth repeating.

The first is simply that Mr. Hayward needs to better acknowledge (which the film certainly will not) the fact that these alleged cases have other sides to them: many people in the science community feel that these allegations are based on misrepresentations, exaggerations, and even some downright deliberate theater. If you narrate a boxing match by carefully neglecting to mention the blows of one of the athletes, it’s very easy to make a well-regulated sporting match sound like a felonious assault. Mr. Hayward says that he’s going to have to wait to see the film to judge its agenda, but the allegations it makes are already quite clear, and I and countless other science-bloggers have documented in exhaustive detail exactly how it misrepresents these cases, leaves out crucial details, and so on.

The second point is that scientists judge the quality of scientific evidence and argument all the time. They have to. That’s what peer review is, in the end. And yes, the reality is that you aren’t going to be appointed head of the physics department if you insist that the laws of thermodynamics are wrong, but can’t provide any convincing evidence to support your contention. If, of course, you really can support that contention with convincing evidence, then you will not only become head of the department, but they’ll mint you your own Nobel prize.

That’s how science works. You bring evidence to the table, or else you don’t get taken seriously. If Intelligent Design theorists want their ideas treated as science, then they have to prepare themselves for the same sort of critical rejection on the merits, that faces any scientist. Instead, they’ve decided to portray this rejection as de facto discrimination, no further consideration of the details necessary.

And unlike adherents to countless other failed theories advanced by nameless scientists (most of whom went back to the drawing board to try and come up with better arguments, sometimes to come back with great success) creationists and intelligent design proponents have deep pockets and huge favorable constituencies with which to keep their movements alive regardless of how they fare on the merits. This film, for instance, dwarfs in scope, marketing, and budget any pro-science documentary in recent memory. People who are absurdly ignorant of science can pen a bestseller any time they want, simply by claiming to refute all of modern biology. For all the talk about free speech, it seems like Intelligent Design has a pretty big megaphone with which to complain far and wide about being silenced.

What’s especially strange to me is to see Mr. Hayward buy into the idea that scientists are “threatened” by intelligent design. Given Mr. Hayward’s politics, you’d think he’d be far more skeptical of the idea that strong disagreements are not the same as phobias or feeling threatened. The left has often accused conservatives of racial phobia for African Americans simply because they oppose affirmative action, or homophobia if they oppose gay marriage. It’s never been that simple, and conservatives have always vigorously rejected these often lazy and slanderous allegations. Yet somehow this skepticism doesn’t seem to apply when scientists are accused of feeling “threatened” by intelligent design.

Not to mention how obvious it should be why scientists would be justifiably angry with a film that alleges vast conspiracy, religious bigotry (even from devoutly religious scientists no less), and professional vacuity. It’s not like scientists have kept their reasons for criticizing the film a mystery: they feel that it’s just plain nasty and dishonest on every level. I mean, here is a movie in which Ben Stein literally travels to Auschwitz and essentially lays that horror at the feet of every evolutionary biologist from Darwin to Dobzhansky, and yet Mr. Hayward is then baffled as to why biologists would strongly object to it?

I’m baffled back.

Advertisements

7 Responses to Expelled! at the National Review: Steven Hayward On Intelligent Design

  1. Matthew Washington says:

    Hear, hear! I recently found out about this movie myself and am disgusted by the ideas that Ben and the filmmakers are putting forth. It is a scientist’s job to find natural explanations for observable phenomena and when they give up and point to the supernatural, they should indeed be fired. It’s about time this religious fiasco was put to rest. Creation/Intelligent Design is not science. Period. Excellent article.

  2. Big Foot says:

    If we evolved from monkeys, we are all the half-human, half-monkey people who are caught in the middle of the evolutionary process?

  3. “You bring evidence to the table, or else you don’t get taken seriously.”

    Well put. As a physicist myself, I have plenty of unproven ideas (though none quite so idiotic as ID), but I don’t go around trumpeting those ideas until I have evidence to back them up. The IDiots have the process backwards, and run around expounding upon ideas without any supporting data, and pray (perhaps literally) that someone will provide the data to back them up.

    In other words, the reason IDiots don’t get treated like scientists is that they fail to act like scientists on a fundamental level.

  4. Bad says:

    If we evolved from monkeys, we are all the half-human, half-monkey people who are caught in the middle of the evolutionary process?

    I doubt your sincerity here in asking, and you’ve posted this same comment in two different threads, but calling us half-human/half-monkey is a little like calling a dog half-canine/half-mammal. In other words, it’s a confusion on your part as to how evolutionary groups work. It’s descent with modification, not anything being “half” anything else.

    Humans aren’t evolved primates (since the term “monkey” is such a sloppy category, “primate” is probably more accurate here, so I’ll use that for clarity) half-evolved into something else, they are primates. We aren’t half apes, we are apes. There are basic traits common to all apes, and all modern apes, including us, are just sub-variations on that, just as apes are sub-variants of primates, which are sub-variants of mammals, and so on.

  5. Frank says:

    “As a physicist myself, I have plenty of unproven ideas (though none quite so idiotic as ID), but I don’t go around trumpeting those ideas until I have evidence to back them up.”

    Gee, that’s swell. Meanwhile, we see Darwin errors:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080229102059.htm

    And we have to bow to the “impoverished surfer dude” for helping us understand the current hardcore stuff.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?CMP=ILC-mostviewedbox&xml=/earth/2007/11/14/scisurf114.xml

    Some physicists believe there is a Theory of Everything. Some do not. Either way, for decades it has been bandied about in one form or another with great trumpeting. Wonder if the dissenters have always claimed the proponents as being “idiotic”?

    Not sure about ID myself. I’m definitely not a creationist, and believe Darwin was mostly correct. But the You’re A Moron-style arguments got real old a long time ago. If a physicist is going to require supporting data is always needed for his own field, broadly and with no exceptions, then he’s going to have to chuck a bunch of it out the nearest abstract window.

  6. Bad says:

    Gee, that’s swell. Meanwhile, we see Darwin errors:

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that Darwin is treated as an authority in science: that his particular ideas carry some special weight. But they don’t: Darwin is important because of his historical role in discovering key elements of what has become modern evolutionary theory. But Darwin was wrong about all sorts of different things: as even he admitted (most famously about his original model of heredity). This has no real relevance to the question of whether evolutionary biology is well supported by the evidence. Lots of specific things, especially exact taxonomic lineages, are uncertain. That doesn’t really bare on any of these larger questions though.

    The question is not whether Darwin was correct, but whether the specifics of evolutionary biology as understood at present are correct.

    And we have to bow to the “impoverished surfer dude” for helping us understand the current hardcore stuff.

    I’m not sure what the point of this comment is, but a doctorate in theoretical physics is not exactly a mere “surfer dude” in any case. And his idea while interesting and elegant, remains one of many possibilities that still requires further testing in order to sort out: saying that he’s “helping us understand” the truth is way overstated at this point, as I’m sure he’d probably agree.

    Some physicists believe there is a Theory of Everything. Some do not. Either way, for decades it has been bandied about in one form or another with great trumpeting. Wonder if the dissenters have always claimed the proponents as being “idiotic”?

    Well, scientists do, in fact, call each other a lot of names. But that’s neither here nor there: the reality is that the proponents and dissenters in this case (physics) are all at least playing the same game: trying to employ physical evidence and explicable mathematical models for and against various views. I don’t see how any of that legitimates the methods used in ID.

  7. Charles Kalinowski says:

    I stumbled on this discussion, while researching Sarah Palin’s “inappropriate” use of the term “blood libel,” which brought me to a 2008 John Derbyshire, National review article, “A Blood Libel on Our Civilization,” attacking Ben Stein’s documentary “Expelled.”
    My question to “Scientists” be they physicist, biologist, or surfer dude. Why can’t you be honest about Evolutionary Theory? There are so many know frauds and deceptions beginning with Haeckel’s forged embryos, continuing with Piltdown man, “Lucy,” the peppered moth, Miller/Urey, fake reptilian birds found in China, etc. etc. etc. If it’s such good science, why the cover up? Why do we teach school kids only what is convenient?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: