Friday, July 18, 2008

This Is Where It All Breaks Down

In the wake of the release of Expelled : No Intelligence Allowed, it's become apparent that there just cannot seem to be any rational discussion of the virtues of Intelligent Design theory as compared to Evolutionary Biology.

As numerous sources will demonstrate, neither side of this debate is immune to the divisiveness and base irrationality that has swirled around this topic.

First, consider the following video of EZ Meyers and Richard Dawkins -- the latter of whom recieves what could very well be considered to be his comeuppance in Expelled -- discussing the film:

One would expect better from two such "leading intellectuals" as Meyers and Dawkins.

They start off by discussing Meyers' ejection from a screening of the film at the Mall of America -- Dawkins, for his own part, was admitted to the same screening.

While the facts surrounding the matter seem to continue to be a matter of some dispute, Meyers and Dawkins aren't far off the mark at all in describing it as "inept public relations".

But from there, Dawkins continues to let the obnoxious -- polishedly obnoxious, but obnoxious nonetheless -- side of his personality show, as he tries to pick the film apart not based on the facts or ideas contained in the film, but rather on editing technique and such.

"It was a bad film in every possible way," Dawkins insists. "It was also extremely boring."

The irony of Richard Dawkins, of all people, dismissing a film as "extremely boring" should require little explanation. Then again, of course, this is Ben Stein we're talking about -- a man who has become an iconic (if self-effacing) figure in comedy for his ability to induce boredom.

Dawkins further insists that computer generated video of cell generation is "too good" to be the work of the Expelled producers, and Meyers jumps in, attempting to credit it to the XVIVO multimedia group at Harvard University.

Premise films insists that they produced the clip themselves, and careful examination of the two pieces of work (the absolutely gorgeous XVIVO work can be viewed here) bears this to be true -- although it's hard to imagine that the XVIVO work didn't provide significant inspiration for the Expelled clip.

To take Meyers' suggestion of outright copyright violation in this particular video seriously is very difficult to do, as he actually has to stop and ask Dawkins if Expelled features any commentary during the allegedly offending clip (clearly, he has not yet seen the movie himself and could not be expected to be able to objectively judge the two clips).

Dawkins insists that the Harvard multimedia department would have had to be "duped" into allowing the use of the video -- again, conclusively not the same video -- and continues to insist that he and Meyers were Duped into taking part in Expelled.

Eventually, after returning to the complaint about Meyers being refused admission, they finish their video by discussing whether the film is second-rate or third- or fourth-rate.

The entire video comes across less as a substantive rebuttal of the film, and more as a pair of demagogues whose pride has been severely wounded.

Which would be entirely understandable, considering how significantly Dawkins managed to humiliate himself in the course of his great "showdown" with Stein in the film, as shown in this particular video (consider it exhibit B), this time of Ben Stein making himself more than just a little transparent on Glenn Beck's show on CNN:

Beck starts off by insisting that if the "New York Times hates a movie" then he himself would love it (again, an extremely mature, rational attitude).

Stein insisted that people across the United States were "standing and cheering" at the end of Expelled. However, considering the scores of self-styled Darwinists are flat-out refusing to see the film at all (again, an extremely mature, rational attitude), it isn't hard to imagine that most of these people are arriving at the theatre with pre-concieved notions in favour of Intelligent Design or Creationism.

The video features Dawkins' admission -- likely the source of his aforementioned wounded pride -- in the film in which he suggests that if an "ntelligent designer" exists as ID theory suggests, it would have to be a space alien.

Stein then criticizes Darwinism for being unable to explain gravity or thermodynamics -- neither of which are a phenomenon that Darwinism ever even attempts to explain. He then criticizes Darwinism for being unable to explain the origins of life. Again, Darwinism -- in the purest sense of the term -- doesn't attempt to explain this.

Ambiogenesis -- the field in which Dawkins studies -- does, indeed attempt to do so. But while this particular field of Evolutionary Biology -- a broader field based on Darwinian principles -- it itself isn't confined strictly within the confines of Darwinist thought.

In sort, Stein is criticizing Darwinism for being unable to explain things that it lays to claim to explain. It's a key logical misconception that only obscures the margins of this debate.

Stein also notes that he feels sad for Dawkins and his fellow atheists by noting he "feel[s] bad for them and their circles because they don't have god in their lives". Again, this obscures the margin of this debate -- is it about science, religion, or lack thereof?

Stein also suggests that Dawkins and his "circle" reject the existence of God because if God exists, they'll be judged.

But judged for precisely what? Being atheists? Being evolutionary biologists? Precisely what?

Stein doesn't provide the answer to this question, but he does conclude with an extremely valid point: the cold moral asceticism that atheism at least seems to promote -- via the lack of any real arbiter of human morality -- seems to lend itself to immoral acts, at least the hands of those predisposed to such acts in the first place.

But for as dogmatic and ideological as Meyers and Dawkins seem to be in their "rebuttal" video to Expelled, Stein seems to equal during his Glenn Beck appearance.

If asked, any one of these individuals would insist that they are the ones trying to take part in a rational scientific debate. Yet it seems every time they actually open their mouths to speak, rationality flies out the door and dogmatism appears in its stead.

In the end, this will likely be the ultimate legacy of Expelled -- a film that posed a challenge to the scientific community to take part in an open debate, but only served to further entrench both sides of the so-called "debate" so that no rational debate can ever occur.

If the breaking point hadn't occurred long, long ago, Expelled would have been that very breaking point.


  1. I'm not sure what you think you're proving by demonstrating yourself to be some crazed atheist militant.

    Whether you understand it or not, the Eucharist is more than just a "frakkin' cracker" to Catholics. To them, the Eucharist is one of the most important symbols of their faith.

    For somebody to make use of one for highly dubious purposes certainly could be construed as a hate crime.

    You can agree with it or you can disagree with it. But in a day and age where people excoriate Americans for flushing pages of the Koran down the toilt at Guantanamo Bay (and rightfully so), I'd say Catholics are perfectly entitled to be angry with individuals like Cook. That doesn't excuse behaviour such as death threats, but they have the right to be angry.

  2. Dawkins had good reason to think that the animation in Expelled was indeed the same one by XVIVO. ID proponent and all around douchebag, William Dembski did use XVIVO's video in his own lectures with the original commentary removed and a new creationist commentary added.

    This is well documented. Just Google william dembski xvivo.

  3. Which I was actually well aware of. And I suppose it warrants bringing up.

    Now that being said, it wasn't Dawkins who made that allegation. It was Myers. And he hadn't even seen the movie yet.

    As a result, his accusations are libelous. Fortunately for Myers, the Expelled producers aren't as litigious as Yoko Ono.


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