Sunday, May 11, 2008

Expelled - the Jake LaMotta of Creationism.

That's where science in my opinion, this is just an opinion, that's where science leads you. Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place. Science leads you to killing people.

- Ben Stein

Oh it all reeks of desperation doesn't it? 

The oxymoronically named "creation science" movement in America is like a slap happy prize fighter who can't realize he's losing. Worse, he just takes his beating until his face is an unrecognizable mess and figures because he is still standing at the final bell, he has won some kind of moral victory.

Remember that line from Raging Bull when Jake LaMotta takes a vicious beating at the hands of Ray Robinson. His blood drips from the ropes and his face looks like he kissed the express train. And despite the one sided, brutal ass whupping he took, he walks up to Robinson and says "You didn't get me down, Ray. You never got me down, Ray."

That's the creation science movement, or as it likes to call itself today while dressed up in drag - Intelligent Design.

For anyone who is keeping score, the movement has been doing the Jake LaMotta - with all that former fighter's, er, charm and, uh, grace - for more than a decade now. Having not produced a single shred of evidence for their claims (they still haven't figured out that declarations of faith that an ancient religious text is perfect, a scientific theory does not make.), having been told by the Supreme Court of the United States that they cannot violate the establishment clause of the constitution by teaching the Bible in science class, and having lost yet another high profile court case two years ago in Dover, creationist blood is all over the ring.

And still they say "You didn't get me down, Ray. You never got me down, Ray"

Battered, bruised and bleeding, the 21 century dress up version of creation is called Intelligent Design (This is the creationism redux that was used as a speed bag during the Dover trial) and its has decided to risk its remaining brain cells with yet another trip into the ring - this time as a documentary with a tenuous grip on facts called "Expelled." I'm not going to review the film here. It's been so completely ripped to shreds by reviewers like this one, or this one by Richard Dawkins called Lying for Jesus, that there isn't any need for me to go on about it other than to say if you do go see it, be prepared for an assault upon your higher reasoning centers the likes of which you have not seen since the Y2k panic.

What I want to talk about here is the utter dishonesty of the entire ID scheme. You see, there is a myth, largely propagated by the poorly named Discovery Institute in its own hilariously bad videos that are more devoid of fact than your average Access Hollywood episode, that ID came about because some cutting edge scientists got together and realized that Darwin was wrong and really some "unnamed" supernatural designer created all life.

The reality is that ID is the brain child of a Christian apologist lawyer who wouldn't know good scientific thinking from a hole in the ground. Goes by the name of Philip Johnson. Johnson, uh, designed the whole ID thing as a way to get around pesky Supreme Court rulings that said no Bible in the science class. Now, when asked for TV cameras about ID, he will contend there is a real controversy among scientists about about ID. (This is a lie. Only members of the tiny but loud ID creationist movement say there is a controversy. And in any case "teach the controversy" is one of their transparently bad back door attempts to slip god into science class.)

But when speaking to fellow believers, the truth comes out. The idea behind ID is to change science so that it accepts untestable conclusions about supernatural causation. Then, once that is accepted, you just push people toward believing that causation is the Christian god and Shazam! Christian utopia!

Johnson called this Trojan Horse approach to evangelism "the wedge strategy" and it so impressed the good folks at the Discovery Institute, that they founded their entire ID strategy upon it, as laid out in the infamous Wedge Document - something the institute still tries to distance itself from even though it lays out their wishful thinking and near theocratic plans in detail.

Anyway, when before the right audience Johnson drops all pretense about being scientific and admits the bait and switch he wants to pull off:

The objective (of the wedge strategy) is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.

- Phillip Johnson

Right from the horse's mouth. These people have no interest in science. They want to convert people to their version of their religion. Period. It would be funny if these folks were not so serious about it. LaMotta took a huge amount of punishment, but that didn't make him less dangerous in the ring. Johnson et all are very serious even if they keep on losing and losing big.

So what has this to do with Expelled? Well, Stein and the gang want us to believe two things about their film. First, it is a movie about academic freedom and attempts to crush a rival theory to evolution by "expelling" pro-ID scientists. Or as Stein puts it, to keep science from ever touching god. The other thing is that Darwinism is evil because it promotes atheism and thusl created Adolf Hitler.

Both claims are just plain false, and if you read the reviews I linked to above, they are both dealt with well enough. What interests me is the first claim. (I've discussed the bizzaro claims that Hitler's actions were the result of atheism elsewhere in the Handbook.)

While Stein blathers on about defending academic freedom in the film and in SOME interviews, in others he is more candid about his reasons for making the film. Like Johnson, when in front of the right audience (read creationists) he is more than happy to detail his true beliefs.

Check out the clips in this Youtube video by way of an for instance. In it Stein says two very revealing things. First, and I quoted him above, that science leads to killing people. Not science cures illness, feeds the hungry, sends humans into space, creates technology we use everyday, but to killing people. That is what science is to him - the road to murder. The other comes when asked why he thinks its important to see Expelled. And he says its because he wants people to believe they are god's creation. No talk about academic freedom or expanding the frontiers of science. But because he wants to covert you. Period. It's about religion. It's always been about religion. Like every other high profile member of the ID community, Stein reveals his true purpose - its not about science, its about religion.

And its only about their version of Christianity. The producers of Expelled would not include biologist and Catholic Ken Miller in the film because, they said, he would confuse the issue. Miller actually disproves Expelled's entire premise - that "Big Science" is hunting down scientists who believe in god and kick them out of the club. Miller, who helped bury ID at the Dover trial with his brilliant explanations of evolution, is a well known Roman Catholic. The very fact that he, and the rest of the 40 per cent of the National Academy of Science that do believe in some kind of god, even exists blows the movie's entire premise to, if you will excuse the expression, kingdom come.

But fortunately Expelled isn't getting much traction beyond those to whom the film is preaching what they already believe. It has been widely panned. Its box office returns were actually pretty good its open weekend when believers put down their money to see it. After that, the returns dropped like LaMotta should have. Bottom line, however, is that the creationists lose. Again.

However, this won't stop them. Already we are seeing the next strategy. Infantile "academic freedom" bills are before several states and are being used as a way to try yet again to creep creationism into the class room through the back door. These bills will likely be demolished when the court challenges come.

But for now the Ben Steins and Phillip Johnson's of the world can stand there bleeding after another beating and say "You never got me down." Some pugs just never know when the fight is over.


John Morales said...

Nice post.

Watch out for homonyms, though.
You mean "reeks", not "wreaks".

Grant LaFleche said...

Thanks John!