Monday, February 18, 2008

A New Approach to ID: Ben Stein's "Expelled"

I feel like the last to hear about this...

While it seems some of the Intelligent Design (ID) dialog has been kept out of public discourse through the courts, media, and the academic esbalishment, Ben Stein is taking the idea to the streets in his new documentary-movie, Expelled.

His approach is 'free speech.' The theory of ID may be wrong (if future discoveries rule it out) but Stein's argument is that that is not enough of a reason to 'persecute' those who are intelligently speaking about it in the academy and the public at large. After all, 'Darwinism' may be wrong at some level as well, as we as a culture try to extract more answers from it than it can provide.

I see this movie as a refreshing approach to open up channels of discourse, like the way Gore or Moore opened up discourse on other relevant issues of the day (whether we agree with them or not). After all, cultural ideas sometimes feel as natural to us as instinct, yet they are not. It is always good to examine and re-examine what we believe in light of evidence, experience, and maturity.

Check out the Expelled website, see the trailers, and encourage those you know to attend. The greatest hope I have for this film is cultural awareness, that things are not as cut-and-dried as they seem, and that the common man or women will become more personally responsible for what they believe, rather than just taking the 'expert' or 'establishment' or 'theologian' or whomever's opinion as the permanent norm.

14 comments:

lewister said...

I'm with you, but I have little hope that people will get that message over the yelling and finger-pointing around the evolution vs. ID debate. People are blinded by that part and miss the fact that the open discourse is what's necessary - not a definitive answer.

Journey said...

I feel promise and frustration here... On the one hand, I was startled to see how on-board Ben Stein is in the weightier things of culture. On the other hand, it sickens me to know how EMOTIONALLY entrenched people are in Darwinian ideology (or any ideology, for that matter, to a blindness to reason). A deliberate attempt to block discourse is not a rational move; it is an emotional one. And it is difficult to argue rationally with emotionally dysfunctional people.

Dale Fincher said...

lewister... thanks for the comment... it'll be interesting to see what unfolds...

Journey... well said.

Matt said...

Thanks for letting us know about this film. I hadn't heard about it. Keep up your great blog!

persifler said...

Dale,
I believe that this movie and this topic could be the most talked about event of 2008, but that is just my personal opinion. I found a good trailer and posted it over at: http://persifler.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/expelled/

Have a save trip.

Dale Fincher said...

I'm eager to see what will happen. I didn't realize it till it was too late, but they had a screening of it at the NPC in San Diego. I walked by the table at the convention and realized I missed a great opportunity! I was bummed!

onein6billion said...

"I see this movie as a refreshing approach to open up channels of discourse"

The "discourse" has been going on for 20 or 30 or 50 years. ID and creationism are not science. So it's a political discourse and this is just one more lying piece of propaganda from the creationists.

Dale Fincher said...

onein6billion,

I wish this were true that discourse has been happening. Yet ID isn't 'creationism' per se, though many creationists have jumped on the band-wagon. That it keeps getting attached to the word 'creationism' reinforces, in mind, how entrenched the naturalistic establishment is and the rhetoric they will use to close down discourse.

Even Darwinism isn't a fully naturalist position. Naturalism has been around much longer than Darwinism and longer than the so-called 'politics' of creationism.

What we have is a worldview discourse, more than anything else. Many in the university fear a slippery slope more than the arguments themselves. And because of that, they don't want to entertain the arguments either.

Many Christians are the same way about many issues. It doesn't make it right.

Darwin said, "I was a young man with uninformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them."

It's the 'religion' of naturalist/darwinists that I want to see discourse on. That's what Stein's movie is getting at. It too often seems like the fundamentalists it claims to abhor.

Personally, I don't care about the politics of it. I think much education today is sub par. Kids are raised on media, Enlightenment-gone-bad propaganda, and pragmatism. Even if schools did teach ID, they'd most would likely teach it badly anyway. So I don't know if I'm all for that either.

Thanks for taking the time to comment and for stopping by.

onein6billion said...

"Yet ID isn't 'creationism' per se"

So you say. Well, just you try to explain it to me. What is "intelligent design" and how could it ever be science?

"It's the 'religion' of naturalist/darwinists that I want to see discourse on."

That's not "religion", it's science. There's no need for discourse. There are plenty of books and articles and blogs about science. Science is the method that really works and produces discoveries and better understanding of the natural world. Creationism produces "teach the controversy" as though there really was a controversy.

Dale Fincher said...

onein6billion,

Your reply is the kind that makes this kind of discourse so tedious... but at least you ask... :)

"What is "intelligent design" and how could it ever be science?"

It is difficult for me to separate science from a philosophy of science. It would be like telling a historian to 'do history' when he replies what kind of model would you like me to use? History cannot be done devoid of a philosophy of history. Neither can science. It is irretrievably bound up with it. A philosophy of science (and there are many) tells us what counts as evidence, where to look, how to approach an experiment , how to interpret data, what conclusions can and cannot be reached, etc. The Scientific Method itself is a philosophy of science. It isn't science. You can't put it the Scientific Method in a test tube and examine it.

An example of how ID assists in science: vestigial organs. For decades the Darwinian model said these were a leftovers from the evolutionary cycle. Because of that philosophy of science, it did not encourage scientists to keep looking for answers to these organs. Standard education said, "These are leftover organs." And this was taught from elemetary school up to the highest halls of learning. Why not take the more scientific approach and say that "We just don't know what these organs are for!" Why insist the explanation that overstepped the bounds of science and interpreted according to a certain philosophy of science (namely, nauturalism). However, if ID were the assumption, it would tell us these organs are not meaningless but have a reason to be there. And today we've come to realize that these 'worthless' organs are not 'leftovers' nor as worthless as previously thought. ID expects that from the beginning. So it's a philosophy of science that tells us where to look and what to expect. ID isn't a 'science-stopper' in this illustration the way Darwinism is.

In short, to separate science out from the philosophy of science isn't good science. ;)

Remember the movie Contact, with Jodi Foster? She kept making appeals to 'science' in the SETI project by using Occam's Razer. However, Occam's Razer is a philosophy of science (and Foster's character didn't even use it right! LOL). That's another example of how science is married to its philosophy. Lose a philosophy of science and the study of the natural world is lost too.

The reason why ID isn't 'creationism,' per se, is that ID is a philosophy of science whereas Creationism has its origin in a holy book. You don't even have to believe a holy book to be an ID proponent. You don't have to be religious to believe with good philosophical arguments that an intelligent design exists (ask Anthony Flew). But you do have to believe a holy book to be a Creationist.

When I called it the 'religion' of naturalism, it was tongue-in-cheek. I find many hold to it sometimes as irrationally as some religious people hold to religion. Yet naturalism is a philosophy of science, it isn't science. Sorry to have to keep repeating myself. But that's the blunder many just keep skipping over. Naturalism is a philosophy of science that was first codified in the West in Epicurus 2,500 years ago and continues marching on to this day. And Epicurus reached his conclusion complete separate from a scientific endeavor and for various personal reasons. Why? Cause it's a philosophy, not a science. It's just that some scientists use this philosophy to do their science. And that's what Stein's movie is drawing to everyone's attention. The elephant is in the living room and nobody wants to talk about for fear of what might happen.

In some ways ID is ahead of the game in popular culture because popular culture doesn't realize science is dependent on philosophy and not the other way around. Because modern westerners have lost the skill and value of integration, these confusions continue to propagate themselves in publications like TIME magazine and National Geographic, etc. Sad really, cause I think the public can handle a real discourse on the philosophy of science and starting calling things what they are.

All that said, I'm not against evolution, per se, either. I'm just against the extremist position of naturalism being pushed on everyone as if it were science... as if the natural order rules out an intelligent designer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say, science as merely an observation of nature and its processes CANNOT, by its very nature, rule out an intelligent designer. It would be overstepping its abilities, like a blind guy teaching on the experience of color.

onein6billion said...

"The Scientific Method itself is a philosophy of science."

Nonsense. The Method is a method.

"An example of how ID assists in science: vestigial organs."

Nonsense. New scientific results for the human appendix. No help from creationists.

"Why not take the more scientific approach and say that "We just don't know what these organs are for!""

Of course! And now there is a scientific theory about the human appendix. So we have a possible scientific explanation. But "we don't know yet" is not a good place to start claiming that ID is useful.

"it would tell us these organs are not meaningless but have a reason to be there."

Ok. Creationists have had 20+ years to do that. What did they come up with for the human appendix?

"ID expects that from the beginning."

Wonderful! But there is the little question - WHY? Why does ID "expect that"? ID predicts that EVERY vestigial organ will have a purpose? WHY? Because God said so? That's not science! Can ID actually find the purpose for each? Why not? Because ID is not science?

"ID isn't a 'science-stopper' in this illustration the way Darwinism is."

Of course it is! ID has no good answer to the WHY question. Only science has a scientific answer to the why question. And "I don't know yet" is not a science stopper.

"In short, to separate science out from the philosophy of science isn't good science."

Silly sophistry statement. Science is DOING. The philosophy of science is WHY and HOW are we DOING.

"good philosophical arguments that an intelligent design exists"

ROTFLOL That's not science. Name one.

"It's just that some scientists use this philosophy to do their science."

That all causes and effects are "natural" is the basis for science. It's not a "philosophy", it's the bedrock. It's part of the fundamental definition of good science.

"And that's what Stein's movie is drawing to everyone's attention."

Riiight. That's why "Darwin led to Hitler" is such a fundamental part of the movie. Because the "philosophy" of naturalism requires that the Jews be exterminated. Wait - maybe Martin Luther had something to say about this subject. Maybe Hitler just needed a good scapegoat to fuel his nationalism. We've certainly had a lot of Hitlers killing Jews over the last hundred years because of this philosophy of naturalism. Not. Maybe the religion of Islam is a little more dangerous to Jews.

"as if the natural order rules out an intelligent designer."

Well? Where's your scientific evidence for an "intelligent designer"? What did it really do? When? How? Why?

"CANNOT, by its very nature, rule out an intelligent designer"

So what? Unless and until someone produces convincing evidence of something, it's completely unnecessary. Science is about cause and effect. The scientific method tries to explain the observed effects with theories about natural causes. There's fossil evidence and there's DNA evidence and there's a theory of evolution and the theory certainly seems to do an excellent job of explaining the observed effects. Google tiktaalik. Evolution predicted that the common ancestor of all land animals (and whales) would be found at that particular geologic time. So all they had to do was go look for it. So they did. ID didn't seem to have much to do with it.

Dale Fincher said...

Half of your comment I don't even think needs a response as I think the reader can see for himself/herself that you've missed my point. But I'll respond to some of it anyway so that you may, hopefully, see it more clearly.

"Nonsense. The Method is a method."

This is the first of several statements you made that missing my point. Announcing this tautology doesn't do anything for your case. The scientific method is part of the a philosophy of science. There's no way to get around it. I happen to think it's a good philosophy of science, but some may disagree. Regardless of agreement, it's still a philosophy. The method by which we base much of science is, itself, not scientific. It's philosophical.



"Nonsense. New scientific results for the human appendix. No help from creationists."

Again, missing the point.

"Of course! And now there is a scientific theory about the human appendix. So we have a possible scientific explanation. But "we don't know yet" is not a good place to start claiming that ID is useful."

Go back and read again. You missed my point. My point is that many scientists over-spoke the naturalist case by saying those organs are useless leftovers of evolution. They had no right to say that scientifically since science didn't say that. It was a certain philosophy of science that said that and put it into the textbooks. NOW scientists know that isn't the case because the natural world itself corrected the philosophy (which can and should happen). But it also reveals how entrenched we are in our philosophy even though we call it 'science.'

"Ok. Creationists have had 20+ years to do that. What did they come up with for the human appendix?"

LOL... again, that's not my point. My point is that ID 'expects' these organs to have a purpose; they just don't happen to be there for no reason. So I'm saying ID says to keep looking, no matter what scientists makes the discovery.

"Wonderful! But there is the little question - WHY? Why does ID "expect that"? ID predicts that EVERY vestigial organ will have a purpose? WHY? Because God said so? That's not science! Can ID actually find the purpose for each? Why not? Because ID is not science?"

I think your emotions are getting in the way of the argument here and is clouding the air. ID expects it because ID assumes teleology in the universe. ID expects an 'appendix' is FOR something, not just something that happened to grow there.

Saying "because God said so" continues to miss my point. God doesn't have to 'say' anything for there to be teleology in the universe. ID isn't explaining the purposes for each, it only guides the research to look for purposes for each.

"And "I don't know yet" is not a science stopper."

I agree with you, that's what I was saying. Science-stopping is when a philosophy says it HAS the explanation and so science should not spend any more time on the matter. This is what vestigial organs were for decades.

"Silly sophistry statement. Science is DOING. The philosophy of science is WHY and HOW are we DOING."

I don't want to this to come out wrong, but your statement makes me very suspicious that you've ever studied the philosophies of science. You are right that a philosophy of science will tell us HOW we are to do science. And that's the whole point I've been making. I'm glad you finally agree with me. ;)

""good philosophical arguments that an intelligent design exists""

"ROTFLOL That's not science. Name one."

Ask the leading atheist of the 20th century, Anthony Flew, about why he became a theist. You're so quick to laugh...

"That all causes and effects are "natural" is the basis for science. It's not a "philosophy", it's the bedrock. It's part of the fundamental definition of good science."

You're missing the point again. You've fallen into a self-defeating argument: you say there's no philosophy involved then you call the relations of the natural order as a 'bedrock.' That, too, is a philosophy. To call it the 'bedrock' is to simply announce the philosophy. But there are anti-realist philosophies of science who don't hold it as a brute fact but see the natural world as simply phenomenon that may or may not even be real. It's data collecting, not getting at the real state of affairs.

"Riiight. That's why "Darwin led to Hitler" is such a fundamental part of the movie. Because the "philosophy" of naturalism requires that the Jews be exterminated. Wait - maybe Martin Luther had something to say about this subject. Maybe Hitler just needed a good scapegoat to fuel his nationalism. We've certainly had a lot of Hitlers killing Jews over the last hundred years because of this philosophy of naturalism. Not. Maybe the religion of Islam is a little more dangerous to Jews."

I haven't seen the movie... only review write-ups. I'm not familiar with this part of it, if it's there. I would certainly not say that Darwin leads to Hitler. But I would say that naturalism does not ground morality strong enough to prevent a Hitler or to call a Hitler unjust. There's been a lot of bloodshed in the 20th century at the hands of atheistic regimes. Historically, many theists have shed blood too. The question is how do we judge them? On the theist view, both were wrong. On the atheist view, it's a little more dubious.

I agree with you that Islam is also dangerous to the Jews.


"as if the natural order rules out an intelligent designer."

Well? Where's your scientific evidence for an "intelligent designer"? What did it really do? When? How? Why?

I think the natural order is what it is. When we see design we start making inferences. But nothing in science says, "Ah, ha, I just discovered God! Or ah, ha, I just discovered there is no God!" No, it's the philosophy of science that may tread into those waters, and philosophy of religion ultimately. Modern people put a lot of veracity in the hard science to answer things that are outside the field of the hard sciences. It'd be like asking the average Australian what's it like in the Oval Office... why would he know? That's not where he lives or works. Same with science in particular and empiricism and logical positivism in general (views which have been found wanting).

"So what? Unless and until someone produces convincing evidence of something, it's completely unnecessary. Science is about cause and effect. The scientific method tries to explain the observed effects with theories about natural causes. There's fossil evidence and there's DNA evidence and there's a theory of evolution and the theory certainly seems to do an excellent job of explaining the observed effects. Google tiktaalik. Evolution predicted that the common ancestor of all land animals (and whales) would be found at that particular geologic time. So all they had to do was go look for it. So they did. ID didn't seem to have much to do with it."

Again, this still misses the point of what I'm getting at. And, I'm not against the theory of evolution, per se, as I've said before.

Thanks for stopping by. I'm afraid that if you continue to refuse to address my point that science is done according to a philosophy of science, I'll not post your comments, for the sake of my readers weeding through unnecessary words. I'm sure you understand.

onein6billion said...

"Ask the leading atheist of the 20th century, Anthony Flew, about why he became a theist."

Nope. Flew is a doddering old fool and the "book" he supposedly wrote appears to be what his ghost writer wanted to say.

An appeal to that authority is worse than useless.

So you have not said anything about "good philosophical arguments that an intelligent design exists".

"But there are anti-realist philosophies of science who don't hold it as a brute fact but see the natural world as simply phenomenon that may or may not even be real."

More sophistry.

"And, I'm not against the theory of evolution, per se, as I've said before."

Well, you don't want to waste your time and money watching Ben Stein's creationist nonsense.

Dale Fincher said...

<"Flew is a doddering old fool and the "book" he supposedly wrote appears to be what his ghost writer wanted to say.

An appeal to that authority is worse than useless.">

LOL... first, an ad hominem toward Flew is worse than an appeal to authority.

Second, at least an appeal to authority is a legitimate argument and is done all the time when people mention Darwinian theory and appeal to "scientists say..." arguments.

Third, there is more than his book I'm referring to. A google search will show you. And his long interview with Habermas is particularly interesting.

Third, his arguments are actually worth considering (as are the arguments in the broad philosophy of religion discipline). He shows, and I agree with him, that logical positivism has resurrected, even though it's been debunked decades ago. And people are swallowing the philosophy and calling it 'science.' That's simply a historical and sociological observation and one to be seen by anyone paying attention.

<"So you have not said anything about "good philosophical arguments that an intelligent design exists".">

If you won't allow an appeal to an atheist who found naturalism wanting, I don't see how you'd allow any other arguments either. You haven't show yourself charitable enough to listen.

<"But there are anti-realist philosophies of science who don't hold it as a brute fact but see the natural world as simply phenomenon that may or may not even be real."

More sophistry.>

To say such tells me you don't understand it. And I'm doubting you want to understand it. I cannot help someone who does not want to understand. And it's a great example of the way discourse is shot down in this area. Instead of charity we get logical fallacies and attacks. And I think this is why ID is growing...

<"And, I'm not against the theory of evolution, per se, as I've said before."

Well, you don't want to waste your time and money watching Ben Stein's creationist nonsense.>

So we ignore social phenomenon because it's nonsense? The mere fact that a cultural conversation is happening is interesting enough.

And I thank you for your exchange on my blog... I think you've given my readers even more reason to see the film.