Expelled should be

There’s been a lot of buzz around the new shockumentry “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. Wikipedia has a fairly well referenced account of the events so far, but I’ll summarize briefly for those who may not have been following the debacle.

The movie has worn many faces in its journey so far: it claims to be a documentary about how Big Science has been expelling its members should they show any inclination towards believing Intelligent Design. It ends up being a rabid anti-evolution propagana engine whose trump card involves blaming all evolutionary biologists for the Holocaust. But once upon a time, for as long as it was convenient to fool a few big names into giving interviews, it was masquerading as a little film called “Crossroads”, which was supposedy about investigating why creationists still cling to their beliefs about evolutionary theory in the face of overwhelming evidence. Mainstream critics think it is a poorly-made, amateurish attempt at filmmaking, scientists think it’s a pack of lies, and the christians think it’s Oscar material.

Ignoring all the deviations into fantasy, the core premise is basically this: they bring forward a number of people who have recently claimed to have been ‘expelled’ by Big Science because of their beliefs. What we really have is a volunteer editor who pulled a last-day-on-the-job fast one by slipping an ID paper past his journal’s review process, a sub-par astronomy professor who failed in his tenure application because his research output was not up to scratch, a teacher whose contract was not renewed after several students lodged complaints about her, a professor whose university wanted him to make some changes to his website before they would continue to provide him with free hosting for it, a journalist who suffered apparently nothing as result of her poorly-researched articles, and a pro-ID advocate who had some people say some mean things about him on the internet.

Given that this content doesn’t exactly make for stirring stuff, it’s no wonder that the Expelled team had to jazz things up a bit. But let’s assume for just a minute that they didn’t have to lie and resort to hysterical theatrics to draw this pity party out into a feature-length film. Let’s assume for a moment that they could find even one, just one, person who had legitimately been fired from their job as a scientist or educator as a result of their pro-ID stance, and with an otherwise sterling and exemplary record. What I want to know is, even in that situation, would Big Science be wrong?

Seriously, let me put it a few different ways so that you can see what I mean. Would we be suprised at any of these headlines:

  • Biology teacher fired for advocating Stork Theory
  • NSF denies astronomer funding for Sun Sign Astrology research
  • National Geographic editor ridiculed by colleagues after slipping pro-Flat Earth article into print
  • Doctor “shocked” by online response after blog post encouraging the medical establishment to study The Force
  • Cambridge professor ordered to remove his Raelian Research Center page from the university website and return funding received from the Raelians
  • Journalist’s integrity questioned after article claiming “There was no Holocaust”

Can you imagine your child coming home from school and telling you that their teacher was teaching them how to cast spells and hexes, and they needed a newt for homework? You’d be on the phone to the school in a jiffy. What would follow may be summarized by a brief animation of the becloacked hag being booted out of the school and her broomstick following swiftly after. No one would raise an eyebrow, except perhaps a few velvet-clad, Anne Rice-reading pagans protesting something about white magic. Certainly no one would make a movie about how advocates of Witchcraft are being expelled from schools across the country by Big Education, and it’s Salem all over again and the principal is personally responsible for the Inquisition (cleverly intercut with scenes from Joan of Arc, for which they are swiftly sued by Luc Besson).

The whole thing is ludicrous. Ben Stein may as well have made a movie about how second-rate hacks at the denoument of their careers are making fools of themselves in cinemas across the country, and being unjustly harrassed by Big Critics.


8 Responses to “Expelled should be”

  1. I’ve kept half an eye on this film since I heard about it, incidentally when it was still called crossroads. Quite apart from its content, I’ve never seen such a textbook example of creationist dishonesty. Yes, from tricking honest people into participation, editing their statements to deceive the lay public, all the way up to blaming science for the holocaust: it’s all there. It never ceases to amaze me how creationists cry foul while following the above MO.

    “No intelligence allowed” indeed, no scruples either… unless of course the movie title refers to its makers and intended audience.


  2. Wow! I’ve just realised that I should start blaming bad things on Big Witchcraft!

  3. When I was in middle school, we had a substitute teacher do just that. She was a long-term sub, and the second week she was there she started sharing her belief in witchcraft with the class. She was fired immediately and escorted from school grounds. There was no backlash by pagan parents, offended that their beliefs were being trampled.

    The Expelled Exposed site (http://www.expelledexposed.com/) is a nice refutation of the movie, although in recent interviews Ben Stein has been doing a pretty good job of shooting himself in the foot anyway.

  4. Bunny Chow Mein Kampf Says:

    I do believe that there have been questionable expulsions from “Big Science”. However, I have found that it is based mainly on politics rather than science itself and the battle often gets personal.

    However, this certainly does not apply to Intelligent Design/Creationism. Is ID even a testable theory ? And how big is “Big Science” compared to organised religion ? Are these “lone” scientists who believe in ID really alone or do they receive strong support from religious organisations ? Is it possible that they make far more money from supporting ID than from being a genuine scientist ? If he/she had a book deal they’d make millions.

    Lastly, somebody please tell me why Gary Schwartz has not been expelled from his university ?

  5. Con-Tester Says:

    Bunny Chow Mein Kampf asks:

    Is ID even a testable theory ?

    No, not as long as ID proponents cannot give a functional definition of “irreducible complexity” and of “complex specified information” and other terms they are so fond of bandying about. So far, their definitions boil down to, “I can’t explain it, so it’s goddiddit”.

    If, on the other hand, the question was rhetorical, the answer would be, “Yes. It makes the testable prediction that religious nuts will support it, owing to an oversupply of reducible simplicity”.

    ID supporters who work from within scientific ranks stand to win the Templeton Prize. While non-religious scientists could in principle also win it, history has shown this to be considerably less likely.

    As for Gary Schwartz’s persistence in the halls of academia, I’d be speculating but it could have a lot to do with tenure and not wishing to cause a fuss and avoiding the likelihood of ensuing claims to martyrdom.

  6. My personal favourite bit of really bad acting from Stein is when someone tells him that lots of people died in the concentration camp and he acts all sad as if that’s the first time he heard about it. Also, regarding your list of comparable headlines, there are lots of publications that would pay a journalist to write a holocaust denial story.

    And there would be a massive groundswell of online support for research into The Force.

  7. On the other hand, What the Bleep Do We Know, eh?

  8. Отличная статья, спасибо!

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