“Guest Lecturer” Jack Cahill, a regular columnist at the conservative crank rag WorldNetDaily, is the new feature on Expelled!’s promotional blog. Right off the bat, he stuns us: a handpicked audience of creationists (no outsiders allowed!) apparently loved the film, giving it a standing… well he doesn’t say “ovation” precisely… just that the film brought them to their feet at one point (perhaps during the part where it said “The End”?). Cahill isn’t quite so ambiguous in his own praise though:
Stein’s often funny, always engaging frontal assault on the oppressive neo-Darwinist establishment is arguably the smartest and most sophisticated documentary ever produced on the right side of the cultural divide, on any subject, ever.
We’ll have to see what that really says about conservative cinema. Then there’s this incredible claim:
Although the role Stein plays has been compared to the one Michael Moore plays in his film, the Stein persona is conspicuously brighter and more benign.
Nor do Stein and his producers resort to the kind of editing that make Moore movies something other than documentaries.
They don’t? So they’ll be releasing the full interview footage so we can see the truth of this claim for ourselves?
Stein resorts to no such tricks. He gives certain interview subjects all the time and all the rope they need to hang themselves, unedited.
We already know that this isn’t true: the preview footage of Dawkins very clearly cuts in and out of an ongoing line of thought, enough time for him to say that he’s “hostile to a rival doctrine” but not to explain which doctrine in specific or why (he’s apparently just hostile to all rivals, the batty madman is!) I’ll bet the farm that the rest of Dawkins’ full sentence is something along the lines of “I’m hostile to a rival [scientific] doctrine… that won’t play by the rules of the scientific method.”
As for Dawkins “admitting” that “Darwinism” has atheistic implications, it’s worth recalling that the lie the producers came up with to secure Dawkins’ participation was that they were making a film not on scientific evidence, but rather on the intersection of science and faith and getting Dawkin’s opinions about religion. Presenting Dawkins’ atheistic views and conclusions as the inevitable implications of evolutionary biology as a whole is thus pretty solidly of out context.
To Stein’s astonishment, Dawkins concedes that life might indeed have a designer but that designer almost assuredly was a more highly evolved being from another planet, not “God.”
Again, we already know that Dawkins did not concede any such thing: Dawkins has never ruled out the philosophical possibility of a designer: he’s argued that the evidence does not support it, and for most conceptions of a designer, is against it. Hardly the same thing at all. And as anyone who has read his writing on the subject would know that Dawkins is in this case musing over a particular speculative possibility given some set of assumptions, not making a claim that this is what he believes.
And… well, wait a minute, but that’s pretty much it. Aside from marveling at Stein hobnobbing with two other Jewish creationists at the Berlin wall and a bunch of clumsy swipes at other random issues, that’s the entire substance of the “review.” No explanation of what evidence the film provides demonstrating that Intelligent Design has scientific merit. No justification for any of the film’s accusations about unjustified persecution or presentation evidence contradicting evolution. Just that Stein is portrayed on film as getting the better of Dawkins (who from the perspective of biology as a field, is just some random zoologist, not the King of Biologists that Cahill seems to believe he is) in a misleading interview, which apparently makes Cahill gleeful, along with a whole lot of the usual posturing about how people have dared, dared, to criticize the film.
Cahill is, of course, not some random neutral observer: he’s been part of the Intelligent Design PR campaign for years now, most famously with his extensively debunked misrepresentations of the Richard Sternberg “discrimination” case featured in the film. Unfortunately, as seems to be the norm for this next generation of ID promoters, Cahill’s response to someone pointing out his manifold errors and misrepresentations was just as lacking in substance as this latest review: 90% whining about being called a hack, 10% just claiming that he was misrepresented, and 0% actually documenting any misrepresentation.
At least previous generations of ID proponents such as Michael Behe actually tried to make substantive arguments, even if they were misleading and ultimately unsuccessful. This new crop of cranks apparently can’t even keep up with that low standard.
How silly of you to expose your bias so overtly, and to make pronouncements with such certainty…when you have not even seen the film about which you are (for some odd reason) writing.
The fact that you do, reveals all anyone needs to know about your “credibility”…either as a student of science, or as a “journalist.”
You’ll appear a LOT less foolish, if you can control your prejudices for at least long enough for the film to come out, lad. Write about it then to your heart’s content – but don’t prattle on like you’ve done here…until you have at least seen the film.
Don’t they teach anything in schools these days? Sheesh.
I notice that you don’t address the many points mentioned in the post, referring to the facts we know about the movie and the people involved. We know Dawkins’ stances on these issues, as he has explained them many times before, and from the description of the movie (made by several people who have seen it), there has been some serious editing going on.
Also, it’s bizarre to claim that Stein and the editors don’t make Moore-like edits, given the fact that they obtained those interviews on false premises. In other words, the context of the interviews were entirely different from the context they are presented in the movie. Even if there were no biased editing going on (which we know there were), it would still not give a very good picture of these peoples’ stance on the issue at hand.
Several people have tried to make this point, but it makes no sense. The film has made no mystery of its accusations, and it’s not like they are deep and developed arguments that we are missing some important subtly of. The cases it presents the ID line on are all well known in this debate. We’ve seen clips, seen the promotional campaign (and its accusations), and several independent people have confirmed what’s in the movie. If anything I’ve said about it is incorrect, you are welcome to point out what. But you’ve failed to do so. Why is that?
If I were judging it as a work of art, you might have a point. But I’m judging its tactics and the arguments it makes, so you don’t.
This is just another in a long line of evasive tactics: instead of addressing any matter of any evidential or argumentative substance, instead of being able to point out any errors in my reasoning or opinion, you simply complain about rhetoric.
My respect for Stein took a major knock when i heard of his involvement in this. Apparently, he doesn’t understand 2 important things:
1. School (even undergraduate classes at college) is NOT the forum for presenting alternate ideas and asking the student to critique them; as far as I know, physics class does not broach the Superstring/Quantum Loop Gravity controvery, biology calss does not teach germ theory alongside “bad vapors” theory (yes, there are still some who claim germ theory is unproven!) and economics class does not teach Marxist Economic theory alongside Keynsian theory.
2. I.D. has yet to be established as a theory – it makes no predictions, cannot be falsified, has no precepts beyond “someone designed everything”, and even that varies from “…designed creature X, Y and Z” to “…designed gene X, Y and Z”, and has yet to be submitted in any form approaching that required for a peer-reviewed journal.
Anyone can publish a book that says “I have elegant proof of [idea A]”, and many have. I’ve read several that have elegant proofs and details of alien life, but they’re found in the science fiction section, not biology.
I think the key distinction is teaching about vs. teaching a subject. It’s one thing, and even a good thing, that students learn about all the different views, movements, beliefs, and so forth out there in the world. These things are important parts of history and literature as well as more interdisciplinary classes like social studies or world religions, etc. Even staunch atheists like Dawkins are very much in favor of teaching about the Bible in public school: one’s knowledge of things like Shakespeare and American history would be impoverished without understanding these things.
But things like science classes and math classes are all about teaching the methods and basic results of applying those disciplines, not about the range of what various people believe.
This however, is only the public high-school side of the equation, and Stein and company are also targeting things like academia proper. There the argument is a little different, I think. There it is about judgments of merit and confusing the freedom to speak with whether or not this or that institution funds your particular ideas.
Stein and Co. unequivocally do not want to admit the possibility that this or that claim which purports to support Intelligent Design could be judged to be without merit. They conflate discrimination over beliefs (which is undoubtedly wrong) with discrimination over the quality of someone’s work and arguments (which is unavoidably part of what academics and departments do to their peers).
It also doesn’t help that many of the cases Stein and Co. present are extremely one-sided recitations of exactly what happened. As far as I can tell, Stein’s discussion of Sternberg (as seen in the first seven minutes of the film) does not even mention, or even implies the opposite, of some rather key facts:
-Sternberg waited until his final issue as an editor to drop the controversial ID piece in, without consulting anyone else at the journal, and it seems likely that its final peer review was not conducted by diverse critics, but all by pro-ID reviewers.
-the article in question was not even in the subject scope of the journal: it was like publishing a vegan manifesto in the middle of a astrophysics journal.
-The journal not only officially struck the article out afterwards, but they also would not publish rebuttal pieces to the article: again, because the debate as a whole was all irrelevant subject matter for that particular journal’s scope, whether pro OR anti-ID
-Sternberg did not in fact receive anything more than criticism for publishing the article. He did not, as the film seems to imply (“until 2005…”), lose his editorship (it was a rotating term already set to expire, which is probably precisely why he waited until the final issue) or anything else due to the article, despite the fact that what he did would have constituted misconduct regardless of the ID nature of the article that benefited from it.
The film also implies that the article made an argument about the origin of life when in fact it was an article restating the basic creationist objections to evolution based on specific claims made about the Cambrian explosion, and did not discuss the origin of life at all. The claims made in the article have, again, not been ignored or silenced but instead discussed and rebutted, extensively: a very different thing than “silencing.”
Stein and Co. try to imply that the mere fact that people criticized the article in the first place proves evil discriminatory intent without ever even broaching the subject of whether or not the criticisms have merit. If Stein and Co. expanded this apparent ethos to science as a whole, science as we know it would cease to exist, because criticism is, in fact, the lifeblood of good, healthy science. People would publish articles making all sorts of bizarre and grandiose claims, and no one would rebut or respond to them for fear of being called dogmatic or “afraid” of what was being claimed.
I like much of what Ben Stein has done in the past so I found myself surprised he is putting out such absurd religious propaganda. I guess I would have taken all of his money on his show if only a question about Darwinian evolution had come up.