Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed" (Movie Review)

Here's a review of the movie "Expelled" which I submitted for the Orlando Sentinel last month. (It was rejected) I was trying to be as single-minded as I was capable of, focusing tightly on the concept to which the film also tries adhere, that true academic freedom would demand that students be able to evaluate honest portrayals of each idea. Currently, the way the law is being interpreted, that is not possible.

Scopes and Darwin, it appears, lived in an era of more academic freedom than is possible today.

In 1925, the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial," in Dayton, TN, was about whether a teacher violated what was then accepted law in Tennessee--that no theory should be taught by a state-supported school which denied Biblical Creationism and substituted instead that man descended from a lower order of animals.

At the time, the American Civil Liberties Union advertised in the local newspapers for a willing teacher to violate and challenge this law in court. John Scopes was recruited for the cause, and his recruiter signed a warrant for his arrest.

William Jennings Bryan, the best-known member of the victorious prosecution team, supported the taxpayers' right to determine what was taught in the tax-supported schools, though his own primary objection was the teaching of evolution as if it were scientific law, (after nearly 150 years, it still has not been upgraded), to the exclusion of competitive ideas.

Scopes, although he lost the case, was assessed the minimum $100 fine, and, because of a technicality in how the fine was assessed, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Dayton court's decision.

It seems we live in an environment much more hostile to free thought today. The ACLU does not seem prepared to defend the right of today's teachers to dissent from an exclusively evolutionary science curriculum.

Evolution is (largely) uncontested in our public schools today. To today's students in tax-supported schools, must it not appear that no rational, educated person would entertain a competing idea? Could it be true, then, that 82% of Americans, (according to a 2004 CBS News poll), apparently believe in the truth of either the literal, Biblical, account of Creation or some level of divine intervention in evolutionary processes?

Could it really be that once a scientist such as Michael Denton becomes convinced that unguided chance could not be responsible for the design of the incredible complexity we're increasingly becoming capable of perceiving in even the "simplest" biological systems, he loses the ability to think rationally?

No, what is quite apparent to most of America is that this is not true. There is an establishment view that today has a clear upper hand in education, media and government, and will not tolerate the presentation of alternative views. Ironically, the opposition is silenced by equating it with religion and thus, rendering it a supposed violation of the mythical Constitutional amendment barring the government from appearing to approve of religion. In short, our ability to think for ourselves on this issue simply will not do for our children.

But if we are mostly unreconciled with Darwinian Evolution, we don't appear to be passionate enough about the indoctrination that occurs daily in our schools to effect change. ( Indoctrinate: v. to teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically ) The view of the majority of the population is, in fact, excluded by a technicality. Why? Because it is not the truth? How are students to determine whether or not it is the truth?

May I quote John Scopes' statement after his conviction:

"Your Honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom - that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our Constitution of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust."

Would it not be a better system if our teachers had freedom to familiarize their students with the genuine arguments of Intelligent Design, rather than being forced to ensure their ignorance of the concepts involved?

In February, I was invited to attend a pre-release screening of the Ben Stein film, out in theaters now, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I found it to be provocative, a film that equips thinkers with the arguments necessary to bring out reasoned discussion of the ideas of Intelligent Design. Perhaps even more importantly, the film is an alert to the freedom of conscience issue raised by the Intelligent Design Movement's expulsion from the marketplace of ideas.

Darwinian scientists today tell us there is no controversy. The American people are smart enough to know this is not the case. In fact, controversy has dogged this theory since its beginning.

There has been controversy over equivocation on words like "species" and "evolution" itself, controversy over questionable examples given in support of the theory such as the changes in Peppered Moths, evolution of the horse charts, controversy over outright hoaxes such as Piltdown Man and Ernst Haeckel s recapitulation embryo sketches, and controversy over unscientific ideas such as spontaneous generation, Lamarckism, and the modern Hopeful Monster hypothesis. This is all old news to anyone familiar with Darwinian Evolution's baggage and difficulties.

This film carefully investigates several important points, willing, with wit and panache, to slow down long enough to let some of the inescapable problems with Darwinian Evolution sink in such as the fact that it's really an astounding generalization to observe tiny changes and assume that the cellular factories which are the building blocks of life could have arisen from blind chance, as well as the fact that the very title of Darwin's book, On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection. proves that the theory was indeed conceived to answer the question of how life arose.

Darwin himself, in fact, makes a statement, in the conclusion of that volume, whose implications could not be discussed in the public schools of today:

"Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed by the Creator."
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859. Italicized words added in the Second Edition, 1860.

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