Let’s Play “Lose Ben Stein’s Movie”

23 03 2008

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

—Voltaire

Whether or not you ever watched his game show, if you’re a Thinking Parent you probably know that the anti-science, anti-human sophistry of Ben Stein is now a movie called “Expelled”, on its tightly controlled private propaganda tour prior to its actual “public” opening in the US April 18. My Sunshine State’s whole legislature was invited but not reporters.

Then in Minnesota, home of Pharyngula-famed PZ Myers, his even more famous colleague from across the pond Richard Dawkins wasn’t expected, hence slipped into the screening unnoticed — but PZ himself was blacklisted, police on high alert to enforce his, ahem, “expulsion” from this supposedly scientific, open-inquiry teaching of the controversy.

Which they literally did, on threat of his arrest — wonder if such ideological use of police power will be decried or defended, by those who characterize as “free speech” what the anti-abortion party-crashers did at the Dr. Seuss movie premiere? Did they have the absolute right not only to attend but to disrupt through ideological protest, to impose their message by exploiting the movie’s makers and invited guests and of course all their children? If so, surely PZ Myers shares that right, at least to get in the door if not take over?

Dawkins and Myers discuss the incident over here, with Dawkins offering his (low) opinion of the movie. Meanwhile, Myers’ daughter, Skatje, reviews Expelled here.

Cock of the snook to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Russell Blackford PhD LLB is a fellow of the IEET, an attorney, science fiction author and critic, philosopher, and public intellectual. Russell lives in Melbourne, Australia where he teaches in the School of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University.

He goes on about how Thinking Parents might respond and why:

Enjoy all this, folks, but take it seriously at the same time. It’s clear enough that there are people in the US (and elsewhere) who will never give up their bitter rearguard resistance to the main findings of modern biological science. These folks are intensely motivated, well-resourced, and supported by a huge proportion of the American public.

Those of who us who are committed to the cause of reason can have a laugh about this, but we mustn’t just sit on the sidelines laughing. The ongoing struggle against evolutionary science has had its political successes. . .

This is not a struggle that any legitimate scientist, or any other rational person, ever asked for, but we are now involved in it whether we wanted to be or not.

It may not always be clear what you and I can do as individuals when confronted by something like Expelled and the publicity machine that will now drive it. All the same, I do ask my readers reflect on it, and that you take a step or two to defend genuine science in whatever way you can.

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21 responses

23 03 2008
23 03 2008
JJ

Could be — and at least we do know very clearly what Dawkins himself has in mind, along with the endower of his Oxford chair for “the public understanding of science” because it’s beautifully spelled out in this 1995 letter:

The public’s expectation of scholars is high, and it is only fitting that we have a high expectation of the public.

‘Understanding’ in this instance should be taken a little poetically as well as
literally. The goal is for the public to appreciate the order and beauty of the abstract and natural worlds which is there, hidden, layer-upon-layer. To share the excitement and awe that scientists feel when confronting the greatest of riddles. To have empathy for the scientists who are humbled by the grandeur of it all.

Those in the audience who reach the understanding sufficient to reveal the order and beauty in science will also gain greater insight into the connectedness of science and their everyday life.

Finally,’ science’ here means not only the natural and mathematical sciences but also the history of science and the philosophy of science as well. However, preference should be given to specialties which express or achieve their results mainly by symbolic manipulation. . . the utilization of powerful mathematical and data processing tools ensure tremendous progress.

At the same time, the very means of success tends to isolate the scientists from the lay audience and prevents the communication of the results.

Considering the profoundly vital interdependence between the society at large and the scientific world, the dearth of effective information flow is positively dangerous.

23 03 2008
Lisa Giebitz

You know, this has always stumped me:

If those ID/Creationists guys believe that each species was put here just the way it is now by God himself, why do they seem complacent about animal/plant preservation? It seems to me, by their logic, that they’d go NUTTERS over the impending extinction of a species, seeing as an example of Divine work would be gone forever.

Just saying.

Made me think of this talk by E.O. Wilson:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/83

23 03 2008
JJ

Good point — maybe because they also believe “man” was given “dominion” over them and so they serve at Man’s pleasure?

OTOH, it’s all “life” and taken together directly supportive of human life too, so you’d think “pro-life” would include all life, i.e. would translate to pro-bio?

23 03 2008
JJ

Inspiring video I hadn’t seen, thanks Lisa —

All this put me in mind of Inherit the Wind the classic movie in which, to defend the glaring fatal contradictions in his biblical literalism, the preacher and populist politician explains flatly that “I do not think about things I do not think about!”

23 03 2008
Lisa Giebitz

Ugh, I forgot about that childish notion that it’s all here for our pleasure.

Though even toddlers get their playthings taken away when they can’t take care of them.

23 03 2008
JJ

Childish, toddler — that version of the story really is quite “id” and not much ego-superego, now that you mention it!

24 03 2008
Nance Confer
15 04 2008
JJ

From Liza at Culture Kitchen: Expelled EXPOSED — “sit back and pass the popcorn. . .”

15 04 2008
Ben Stein’s Expelled — EXPOSED! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] my state could use right now, with that twisted sophist “academic freedom” protection bill (specifically to protect creationist teaching in public school science class) moving through the […]

18 04 2008
Legislative “Nutz” Scraping “Bottom” of Issues Barrel « Cocking A Snook!

[…] the absolute s**t about Ben Stein’s documented propaganda as “evolution academic freedom” continues to be excreted in my state capital’s chambers, as the education funding crisis and […]

23 04 2008
JJ

Too bad the IDiot bill passed the Florida Senate today, see the Florida Baptist Witness story here, read it and weep for Reason . . .

23 04 2008
JJ

Here’s a less breathy and more hard news version in the Orlando Sentinel —
The anti-evolution bill passes in the Senate”

Whatever your view of Reason and Not, you might want to wade into the 143-and-still-counting comments . . .

4 12 2008
New Homeschool Law Guide — Can We Send It Back Unopened? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] troublesome than others? And they’re not all southern or California-crazy — Ohio and Minnesota are on top of my naughty list year after […]

10 02 2009
Florida School Science Under Sneaky Dominionist Wedge Strategy Again « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Let’s Play Lose Ben Stein’s Movie […]

13 02 2009
Elizabeth

May I say that many if not most serious ID/Creationists do believe in micro-evolution, just not macro-evolution.

13 02 2009
JJ

Trouble is that it’s a distinction without a difference. Intelligent Design doesn’t actually believe in science, period. It is a dominionist, theocratic worldview marshalling mounds of well-funded anti-science sophistry against its hated and feared enemy, “materialism” — have you ever read the Wedge Strategy blueprint from the Discovery Institute?

13 02 2009
JJ

Lisa, E.O. Wilson is coming HERE in a few weeks, in honor of our university celebration dubbed Origins ’09 for Darwin and the Year of Science, hurray! Hope Favorite Daughter and I get to hear him in person. . .it’s free but sure to be mobbed.

14 02 2009
Elizabeth

No, I had not read or heard of the Wedge Strategy.
Having now read about it, I am not sure what to think of it. What the Institute says in their FAQs sounds reasonable, especially after taking philosophy of science. What the link you gave me says about it…
You have given me a lot to think over. Thank you.

But I don’t think every scientist who believes in design is like that. I will admit that there are a lot of pseudo-scientists in the Creation movement. I have met several scientists who believe in Creation/ID and who strive for veracity in their works, and acknowledge that the theory has a lot of unexplained difficulties facing it.

Having said that, let me say that I myself agree with them, so I am likely biased. I do not consider myself studied enough to have a fully informed position. I am also a little confused about science as a whole after taking a course in Philosophy of Science and learning what each philosopher, especially Kuhn, had to say.

A biology major that I have met would argue that there is a difference between macro and micro evolution. Micro would be changes within a select group of related species (not sure how far up the classification chart this goes), macro would be the changes that would make a new “kind,” to use their terminology. Are you saying that the two appear to meld into each other? (Much to my disappointment, I ran out of time to take biology in college, so I am rather woefully ignorant in that area).

14 02 2009
JJ

No! That’s not what I’m saying. Maybe take a walk in the fresh air, then come at this anew. You’re still allowing yourself to be distracted by clever sleight-of-hand. They are using you because you’re a good Christian, to make you suspicious and “question” science. See how well it’s been working? Then their longterm plan is spelled out clearly, that in so doing you join their army of anti-science and will help discredit, bastardize, disable scientific thinking altogether. Dethrone it. They are devoted disciples of a paternalist theocracy, scheming to reinstate iron-fisted dominion by the priesthood and witch-hunters and brute torturers of the Inquisition (men all, btw — if history is any lesson, womanhood must be their next victim after science is dispatched. And there will be nothing left to prove you’re not a witch if any ruling man of god decides to accuse you. You and I might want to notice that!)

So what I’m saying is, that it isn’t about biology at all. As long as you think of it as a science controversy rather than a misuse of your religion by shadowy paternalistic political forces, you WILL be confused. That’s the whole idea of confusing people with religion masquerading as science, and it’s working! (not just on you, btw — a new Gallup poll this Darwin bicentennial week says six in ten Americans don’t know what to think about all this either, sigh.)

My background is in education, legislation and public policy, public communications and library science — not biology. (And I’m over 50; I’ve seen a lot!) To REALLY “teach the controversy” all our schools and universities would teach this as required history and government, as a classic case study in Dark Ages religious warfare.

18 10 2010
Update on Alaska as Reality Show Culture « Cocking A Snook!

[…] and our own state of Florida is a veritable carnival of crazy when it comes to public affairs. [I]n Minnesota, home of Pharyngula-famed PZ Myers. . . PZ himself was blacklisted, police on high al… from this supposedly scientific, open-inquiry teaching of the […]

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