New Expelled! Clips Hit the Web: Scientists to Roll Eyes

I don’t have time to run through them all, but the producers have released a bunch of short clips in anticipation of the film’s release in two weeks. Evangelical groups are gearing up for war, and mailing each other like mad.

The first clip features Stein shooting the windy breeze with a laid back Berlinski and Behe, bizarrely claiming that Darwin thought cells were akin to a “mud hut,” climaxing in the CGI cell animation that many suspect is a hasty, copyright-dodging redo of the original Harvard video that creationists had been using without attribution (indeed, Demsbki, who got in trouble for using the clip without permission, stripped of its original narration and credits, is featured in this clip). No one in the clip bothers to explain, as in the original Harvard video, that the CGI concept is seriously streamlined version of what is actually an extremely messy, chaotic, and seriously difficult to truly envision environment. Or that it has been scientists working within the paradigm of evolution, not intelligent design folks, that discovered these cellular mechanisms, all without thinking that these structures break or even threaten an evolutionary understanding of biology.

Then there’s the clip mournfully bemoaning “Darwinism’s” hate on the intrinsic dignity of human beings. We’ve got Engor, Meyers, and a whole host of sour apples linking “Darwinism” to Hitler, abortion, and euthanasia, all set to minor key guitar noodlings.

I’m sort of left wondering: out of all of Hitler’s speeches, that was the best they could do in trying to link him to Darwin? “We must root out things that are bad?” Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism was ranting the same things before there was even such a thing as modern science. Heck, if you presented that statement stripped of its source, virtually every person would agree with it: it’s nearly meaningless.

Why not something more specific, like, maybe this from his seminal speech in Munich:

My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross.

Oh wait, that’s why. Because Stein his pals don’t take the implications of their own arguments seriously in the least.

I did learn something amazing from this clip though: we apparently live in a society where the “truth” doesn’t matter. And yes, this is a claim coming from promoters of creationism and intelligent design, who spend half of their time claiming that the truth is relative to your degree of belief in God, materialism, or what have you!

Anyway, I’m sure there will be plenty of comments from plenty of people about these clips all over the interwebz, so more to come.

Next Clip! The one on genetic mutation is… well, unbelievable. They have Polish creationist Maciej Giertych sagely telling Stein that a mutation that has “done something positive” has “never been observed.” About as flat-out of a lie as you can get.

And as with nearly all creationist attempts to discuss “information” in biology, its just deeply confused. Defining exactly what “information” is not a simple matter in biology, as the film seems to think. There are many conflicting definitions of information (under some, virtually every point mutation is by definition an increase in information, and “information generation” is a trivial matter, not some giant hurdle), and many levels of structure in an organism that we can look at and try to measure the information content of.

The film also fails to convey the key issue. Mutations by themselves really are just random noise: there is no objectively, universally “good” or “bad” mutation. They only ever become meaningful (for good or for ill) in context: only when they are put to the test in an actual creature, itself facing an actual, specific set of environmental demands. Natural selection is what essentially returns a ruling on whether a mutation is useful, meaningless, or harmful in that context. And when natural selection makes such a ruling, picking out some mutations non-randomly (relative to the environment), doing so is most certainly an increase in information in the very sort of important sense most people mean by “information” (which is not, by the way, the same sense that actual information theorists mean it). It is, in a very real sense, information about the demands of the environment, imprinted onto the gene pool of the species in question.

And good grief, can David Berlinski at least bother sit up when he’s making his goofy, widely debunked, computer analogy?

Update: Seed Scienceblogger Mark Chu-Carroll, who actually knows something about math, information theory, and computers, was bullied into subjecting himself to some of these clips, and gags on their vacuous dishonesty over at his blog.

Update 2: According to folks that have seen the near-final or final cut of the film, several of these clips aren’t actually in the final film.

9 Responses to New Expelled! Clips Hit the Web: Scientists to Roll Eyes

  1. Greg Wright says:

    Hey, Bad. Nice analysis.

    The more I look into the cell animation sequence, I suspect that the clip that was in the work print screened in Minneapolis (the one Dawkins saw) was indeed the same clip that Dembski was using. I’ve seen all three (the original, Dembski’s, and the one in the final cut of Expelled) and the one in the final cut of Expelled doesn’t seem to jive with Dawkins’ description.

  2. Bad says:

    I thought it was pretty certain that it was not the Harvard video, or at least, that it might once have been in test cuts, but that they went and made their own version to show in the film to avoid copyright problems. While it might be notable if they were using the Harvard video without permission, most likely that is almost certainly not the case (though a crude imitation of it, still stripped of all the relevant context and explanation is still troubling), and the key issue with the presentation is how its used to make a very misleading point about how cells work, and the sort of complex functionality they have, which matters quite a bit.

  3. ERV says:

    The animation currently in EXPELLED is a Frankenstein ‘Inner Life’ animation, with numerous, significant, portions copied wholesale. Ive taken several screen shots for comparison (and in case they take it down), and sent that animation link on to Harvard.

    GREAT find, Bad ;)

  4. Bad says:

    I still think Quidam’s photoshop said it best: “BUT OURS IS BROWN!!!!

    Of course, a squabble over the use of the video is probably half what they want anyway: we must be scared of it, to protest so much!

    The problem is that our side has this annoying tic of trying to present information: to educate people about things instead of just harp on two-word emotionalisms. We know that we lose like 3/4s of the audience whenever we try to talk about the real science, but we can’t help ourselves. It eats away at us to think that someone might watch this video (without it original narration and explanations) and then get bizarrely wrongheaded ideas about how cells work. But no one wants to listen to a discussion of biochem. And so, as a result, far fewer people stick around to hear our side of the story.

  5. ERV says:

    This is much more than a ‘quibble’. Creationists steal the hard work of real scientists who are trying to make this world a better place. They *steal* scientists work, and then they *rape* it. I can do nothing if/when they rape my publications. Harvard can sue their asses.

  6. Bad says:

    I agree it isn’t a mere quibble (I said “squabble” to imply an exchange of media over the issue, not to belittle the issue itself): the fact that they basically photocopied the presentation AND stripped it of the things that made it informative, as opposed to merely pretty to look at, is outrageously dishonest.

  7. ERV says:

    LOL Sorry, I read it as ‘quibble’– Combination of ‘Quidam’ and ‘squabble’ (been a long past couple of weeks) ;)

  8. […] The video is also a pretty good example of the shallowness of Stein’s understanding of the subjects he’s purporting to know are all flawed and implausible. He simply repeats the standard canards and questions that Intelligent Design proponents told him, oblivious to the fact that they often make no sense (i.e. “where did the information come from?“). […]

  9. […] used in the film at the end of this short clip (and I discuss some of the ways in which their usage of it is misleading here, regardless of the copyright issues). This video is no stranger to controversy or creationists: no […]

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