manicstreetpreacher is dismayed to announce the arrival in the UK of the Intelligent Design racket.
As previewed, a few weeks ago, I attended the first screening and debate by Premier Christian Media of the Intelligent Design propaganda piece Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at Imperial College London on 27 February 2010. Accompanying me were a friend who happens to be a secondary school science teacher and Evil Burnee, Paul S Jenkins, who has also posted a write-up of the event.
The Saturday, 20 March 2010 edition of Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? airs the first post-screening debates and broadcasts extracts. Speaking for ID was Dr Alastair Noble, former schools inspector and lay Christian preacher Steve Fuller, Professor of sociology at the University of Warwick. Speaking against ID were Keith Fox, Professor of Biology at Southampton University and Chair of Christians in Science and Susan Blackmore, Visiting Professor of Psychology & Memetics, University of Plymouth.
My question to the panel about Expelled’s claim that Darwin’s ideas influenced Hitler’s ideology is at 43 minutes on the podcast.
The second post-screening debate can be downloaded from the Unbelievable? features page. The speakers were Dr Alastair Noble and Dr Vij Sodera, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons advocating Intelligent Design and Prof Keith Fox, Biology, Southampton University and Dr Thomas Dixon, History of Science, Queen Mary London University who advocate Darwinian evolution.
My treatment of the film and debate will be divided in four separate posts:
- Expelled overview – The remainder of this post will give some general thoughts about the film and post-screening debate.
- Conspiracy? Cover-up? Expulsion? – Are atheistic evolutionary scientists aka “Big Science” deliberately suppressing a fledgling theory that has genuine merit?
- Arguing from ignorance – This post answers whether ID is a credible scientific theory in the resoundingly negative.
- From Darwin to Hitler? – My fourth and final post counters Expelled’s claim that there is a link between Origins and Dachau.
Judging by the laughter and applause from the audience, the screening was attended mainly by religious believers. In my personal experience, religious people will laugh and applaud anything and there was a depressing level of laughter and applause for this piece of creationist trash.
At 90 odd minutes, it’s not overly long. But at least half the running time is taken up by constant cuts to other images as if to help the audience understand the points being made: Western gunfights, people being beaten up and, most insultingly, images of concentration camps and the Berlin Wall, which Richard Dawkins dubbed a “Lord Privy Seal” (LPS). These grew extremely tedious before the halfway mark.
In the post-screening debate, American-born Warwick University sociologist, Steve Fuller, tried to justify the LPS as being no different to a Michael Moore film. Faint praise indeed. But since, Fuller then went on to take a cheap shot at David Attenborough as having such a clear evolution bias he was ruining TV science programming, I don’t hold the man’s opinion in a very high regard.
There was also the utterly ham-fisted presentation of atheist scientists and commentators. Dan Dennett, P Z Myers, Christopher Hitchens (who has one line) and Peter Atkins came off reasonably well. However, Michael Shermer and Michael Ruse’s interviews were butchered in a manner that would embarrass YouTube’s cassetteboy.
For example, Ruse attempts to explain that one of the theories of the origins of life is the theory proposed by the Scottish chemist, Graham Cairns-Smith, that organic life was preceded by a strange and intriguing world of replicating patterns on the surfaces of crystals in inorganic clays. This cuts to a voiceover of the film’s host, Ben Stein, incredulously asking whether we have abandoned science fact and have strayed into science fiction, and there is an irritating LPS of a wild-eyed fortune teller exclaiming, “Crystals!” As with all creationist debates, the object of the exercise is not to prove anything scientific whatsoever, but to discredit the evolutionary scientist in front of the cameras.
Similarly, when a representative from one of the academic institutions is interviewed trying to explain why one of the “expelled” lost their position, Stein colours the mood against him in narration by saying, “We couldn’t get him away from his script”.
Richard Dawkins’ interview is the worst. He is made up to look like a mad scientist with his normally neat hair looking like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. While Stein is stepping out of his black cab en route to the interview, Dawkins is shown being powdered by the film’s production team (Dawkins’ web and recording guru, Josh Timonen wrote afterwards that Dawkins never wears make up for public appearances) and is then made to wait as Stein turns up late. He is shot in dim light. In his appearances before the main interview he is accompanied by ominous music. Sadly, there is worse to come.
After Dawkins reads out the (in)famous passage at the start of Chapter 2 of The God Delusion (“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction…”), Stein asks him if that’s what he really thinks of God. Dawkins gives a suspiciously curtailed, “Yep”. I wonder what they left on the cutting room floor.
Dawkins then attempts to explain the circumstances he would consider an intelligent designer being responsible for the creation of life on Earth. In an attempt to give ID its best hypothetical shot, Dawkins answers that it could have been an extra-terrestrial intelligence, but of course we would then have to ask where that intelligence came from and so on; the infinite regress would continue until an evolution-type natural process explained how the first alien intelligent designer arose.
Naturally, the interview is cut so as to make Dawkins look as stupid as possible; as if he is seriously suggesting that an alien spaceship landed on Earth and planted the first seed of life. Stein says in narration that Dawkins is bending over backwards to avoid bringing God into the equation: he would rather it be little green men than the Almighty.
Dawkins gave the true story behind the interview at his address to the American Atheists Conference 2009, the relevant extract of which is below. For the video, the scene from the film itself is replaced by dialogue cards so as not to risk a copyright action from the producers.
For about two-thirds of the film, Expelled maintains a straight face that ID is a scientific proposition and a credible alternative to evolution. However, for the last 10 minutes, the curtain is well and truly raised to reveal the film’s true agenda to the sound of The Killers’ gospel-tinged “All These Things That I’ve Done”: to bring God into science classrooms so we can all praise him for his wondrous creation. Permit me just this one LPS:
Following the debate, Expelled’s UK DVD distributer, Mark Haville (who incidentally has posted a 5 star review of the Expelled DVD on Amazon UK without stating his interest!), of NPN Videos read out a prepared statement which hinted at a campaign in the coming weeks and months to lobby and legislate in order to bring Intelligent Design to the fore. May [Spinoza’s] God have mercy on us all.
In the meantime, I can only recommend sites like Expelled Exposed, which was set up by Eugenie Scott of the American National Center for Science Education to refute the film’s claims and protect the reputations of the people and institutions misrepresented in the film. There are also plenty of “alternative versions” knocking around the torrent pages with voiceover narrations and subtitles correcting the lies.
The next post examines whether there is any truth behind Expelled’s claim that “Big Science” is unjustly suppressing ID.
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