May 12, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinist Intolerance Continues Unabated after Expelled

Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed has ranked #12 in documentaries after 3 weeks.  It could easily rank much higher after the DVD comes out.  Has the scientific community shown any signs of remorse over their treatment of individuals and groups who question Darwinism, as illustrated in the film?

  1. ICR expelled:  On April 24, a week after Expelled hit the theaters, the Texas State Board of Education denied the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) the right to grant graduate degrees in the State.  ICR, a privately-funded organization, had been granting Master’s degrees in California for 27 years.
        It appears that Commissioner Raymund Paredes made his recommendation to deny the authorization after consulting with an undisclosed group of educators in non-public meetings.  It also appears that ICR’s well-known creationist position, not the academic standards of its Graduate School, was the reason for the decision.
        ICR, which had been expecting easy approval based on a positive recommendation from the Site Evaluation Team in December (see ICR press release), considers this a clear case of viewpoint discrimination and an abridgement of their academic freedom.  Their statement includes a 371-page document that had been delivered to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  Even some of the most liberal supporters of intelligent design, who disapprove of young-earth creationism, have expressed alarm at the decision because of what it portends for any viewpoint deemed to lie outside the scientific consensus.
        Paredes may have been influenced by a negative editorial that appeared in Nature February 28.  The editorial revealed that concerted arm-twisting was going on behind the scenes: “High-powered scientists in Texas are already weighing in, asking board commissioner Raymund Paredes to deny accreditation,” it said, “And there are signs that the board is listening.”  The editorial called ICR’s creationist position “anti-scientific” even though its professors have PhDs from secular institutions.  It even accused the graduate school of dishonesty: “ICR has managed to con its way into the California educational system for decades.  Texas must not succumb as well.”  ICR has always been above board in its dealings with the states of California and Texas.  They never pressured anyone to succumb to anything.  They met all requirements and answered all questions.  This amounts to libel, but ICR was never given an opportunity to respond.
        Naturally, Nature was delighted in its April 30 issue with the denial decision.  They proudly quoted a compliant commissioner, who had learned his talking points well.  “Religious belief is not science,” Paredes said.  “Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing.”
  2. Context is key:  Nature took the following swipe at Ben Stein in its featurette Sidelines: Scribbles on the Margins of Science from May 7:

    “Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.”
    Ben Stein, star of anti-evolution movie Expelled, adds his sensible and rational voice to the science-versus-religion debate, during an evangelical webcast.

    Stein’s comment was a summary statement at the end of a long discussion about Nazi science, not science in general.  In the movie, Stein had made it clear he supported true science.  His investigation was about the intolerance of Darwinists, whose leading spokespersons (Richard Dawkins, P. Z. Myers, William Provine, E. O. Wilson) are atheists, toward intelligent design.  This out-of-context quote not only Nature’s complete denial of any culpability for fostering intolerance, but an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the whistleblower.

  3. Freedom is slavery:  Scare tactics are often effective for avoiding rational discussion.  A news story in Science took on the difficult task of explaining why it is important to oppose academic freedom legislation.  Reporter Yudhijit Bhattacharjee set the tone of her investigation of Academic Freedom bills with a scary metaphor, “If creationism is a mutating virus, as many educators believe, then its latest guise is legislation to protect ’academic freedom.’”  The scare quotes imply a conspiracy is lurking.  Selling this line is a bit of an uphill battle, though.  She quoted Barbara Forrest, activist against the bill in Florida, saying “It has been difficult to rally opposition.”
        Casey Luskin at Evolution News pointed out that Science quoted no proponents of the bill – only opponents.  Bhattacharjee quoted evolution defender Eugenie Scott, for instance, claiming that Academic Freedom bills are essentially a “permission slip to teach creationism,” though there is nothing of the sort in the wording of the bills to suggest such a thing.  Luskin used it as an illustration of “checkpoints” outlined in Expelled that guarantee the party line goes unchallenged.
        Incidentally, the Academic Freedom bill in Florida, which had looked set to pass earlier, got defeated by procedural derailments rather than debate, reported Robert Crowther for Evolution News.
  4. To revile or not to revile:  Science on May 9 printed a pair of letters on the subject of whether to be considerate of creationists.  (It should be noted that Darwinists lump creationism and intelligent design in the same category, despite volumes explaining the differences).  They were responding to an earlier article that told, somewhat sympathetically, the story of one young scientist’s “traumatic” journey from evangelical belief in creationism to evolutionism.
        Craig Stevens (Oklahoma State) could not stomach the sympathy.  “Science magazine is not the place to give even a hint of respectability to those who would deny the fundamental fact of evolution,” he said.  “There is too much at stake, for our children and our society, to give any credence to those promoting unscientific nonsense (creationism or intelligent design) and justifying irrational beliefs under the guise of religion.”
        Andrew Whipple, biologist at Taylor University, had a more conciliatory tone.  Based on his experience with students coming from a Biblical creationist background, he called for humility:

    We within the scientific community must continue to present the demonstrable evidence from the physical realm and clearly express how that evidence supports our current interpretations.  This effort is not served well at all by dogmatic pronouncements such as “Evolution is fact,” even if such statements are accurate.  Furthermore, for members of the scientific community to make theological statements in the name of science is philosophically illegitimate, and destructive in our truth-seeking efforts.  In this short essay, Science has published the only example I have read in the leading scientific literature that takes the time and effort to understand and express what really drives the concerns of the majority of evangelicals, and does so in a manner that respects the integrity of both the scientific endeavor and the integrity of the faith commitments within the evangelical community.
        Allow me to suggest that this serves as a call to us in the sciences to be more humble as we interact with the faith community.  We as scientists ought to be those most keenly aware of the tenuous and ever-changing nature of human knowledge, even as we build on that which has stood the test of time.  We ought to behave as though the faith community poses no threat to the integrity of science, just as the faith community ought to behave as though science poses no threat to the integrity of faith…. Let us all humbly seek for truth as we respect one another’s efforts to do so.

    Even in this conciliatory letter, however, Whipple still implied that evolution is a fact because it has stood the test of time, which implies the dubious proposition that time is a measure of scientific validity (see best-in-field fallacy).  He also drew an either-or distinction between the science community and the faith community.  This fails to identify the faith involved in evolutionary theories.  It also ignores the scientific evidence those with non-evolutionary theories employ in defense of their views.  What may be most noteworthy, however, is his observation that the article was the “only example I have read in the leading scientific literature that takes the time and effort to understand” the concerns of the majority of evangelicals in a respectful tone.

  5. Beneath disdain:  CMI published a response to a campaign by the Geological Society of London to fight creationism.  (The quotes are from before the release of Expelled, but it is unlikely the film altered their attitude, based on condescending reviews in other pro-evolution journals.)  In an editorial from the January issue of their magazine Geoscientist, Ted Nield not only conflated Intelligent Design with Young-Earth Creationism, he looked for space in the dungeon below contempt to find words to express the depth of his disdain.  “Are Young Earth Creationists, Intelligent Designers and other adherents of long-exploded ideas even worth the expenditure of our contempt?” he asked.

Some commentators have expressed alarm at the condescending tone that academics express to those outside their peer group.  In a guest editorial for the UK Times Higher Education, Dennis Hayes exposed the disdain academics have for the general public.  He found it ironic that academics are trying more to engage in public outreach while simultaneously treating the public as hapless, hopeless, ignorant and prejudiced.  He pictured academics as out of touch – living in a closed society that generates misanthropic attitudes.  Their own habits, though, provide a poor model for how one should behave like an intellectual: “At academic conferences, there is little discussion; there are hundreds of papers but few questions,” he accused.  He warned that progress in understanding will only come when academics open themselves up to debate (cf. 04/09/2008).
    More focused on the issues brought up in Expelled was Ken Conner’s op-ed piece for Townhall.com.  He alleged that modern academia is in a 1984 time warp, with its own thought police and revisionist policies.  He alluded to the Orwellian turnabout wherein Academic Freedom bills are being opposed as “academic tyranny” by the very people who refuse to allow criticisms of their views.
    Conner juxtaposed the derisive comments of Darwinists against ID with some of their own irrational views expressed in Ben Stein’s documentary, such as life being seeded by space aliens or on crystals.  “Intelligent Design,” he remarked, “seems eminently plausible compared to the ravings of these scientists who appear educated beyond their intelligence.”
    At issue, though, is the academy’s intolerance of contrary views.  “These efforts to extinguish controversy and to mute dissenting voices are antithetical to traditional notions of academic freedom,” he ended.  “But that doesn’t bother the scholars who are interviewed in the film.  In the academy, it’s 1984 and, in their world, freedom is tyranny.”

Poor, lovable old Ben Stein.  Likeable, funny, common-sensical, soft-spoken, unflappable; a kinder, gentler celebrity one could hardly find, but now he has joined the Expelled.  His reputation will be forever tarnished as one of “them.”  All he wanted to do was open up the debate about Darwinism again.  Such an innocent quest.  In his droll, deadpan way, he interviewed the leading lights on both sides (and not a single young-earth creationist, by the way – those who have been so systematically marginalized that the mere mention of them brings a Pavlovian growl).  Ben never raised his voice.  His questions were the innocent, honest questions that a man on the street might ask.  In a country that values academic freedom, what is it about this issue that gets scientists so upset?.
    In each interview, Stein sat there meekly without interrupting.  He gave plenty of time for Dawkins, Myers and Ruse to explain what they meant.  His producers sent them the types of questions that would be asked, paid them for their time, got their permission to use the footage, and followed standard documentary protocol.  For this crime he has been viciously slandered by scientists and the secular media, who show absolutely no sense of remorse for their intolerance.  They continue to illustrate the very point of Expelled: question Darwin and your career is over.  If there is to be any revolution, any pressure to tear down the Berlin Wall that protects Darwinism from honest questions, it won’t be starting on the Darwin side.  If anything, they are building it higher and thicker.
    Are you shocked by this?  That academics, the ones historically the champions of academic freedom, have become some of its most vicious enemies?  That the very ones who should be models of civility and rational discourse turn into sneering, snarling Dobermans at the mere sound of intelligent design?  How could it be, when so many great scientists in history exalted the supreme architect of the universe in their work, and pointed to their admiration for God’s designs as motivation for doing science, that this could happen?  It does happen, and it happens elsewhere, too: the very institutions set up to solve the problem wind up making it worse.  Consider the following parallels.  Recognizing that there are exceptions in each case, charges have been made repeatedly by numerous commentators that the following institutions do the opposite of what they were designed to do.

  • Labor unions: Initially motivated to address real issues of worker rights and safety, unions and their bosses are almost synonymous with corruption.  Workers refusing to join become targets of intimidation and physical violence.  States have had to pass Right to Work laws (imagine that!) to protect workers from the very unions that were designed to help them.  The unions, of course, spend their millions from the dues extracted by force from paychecks of common workers to lobby against such legislation, and routinely oppose any attempt to allow workers to designate whether they wish their dues to be spent on lobbying or not.
        To add insult to injury, labor unions pile on so much burden on corporations through exorbitant and unrealistic demands for pensions and benefits (enforced by threats of crippling strikes), they end up killing the goose that lays the golden egg – the employers who create jobs.  The high cost of employment causes companies to go out of business or look overseas.  Who loses?  The laborer.
  • The National Education Association has been called the most useless bureaucracy in Washington.  One might think that it exists to help teachers and students.  Instead, like the teachers’ unions, it defends and protects a top-sided bureaucracy bloated with administrators and office workers.  Despite billions spent on education, student-teacher ratios continue to rise, test scores continue to plummet, American students continue to fall behind even many third-world countries, and some teachers have to spend their own money buying textbooks.  Who loses?  Public school students.  Private schools and home schools, without NEA help or government funding, at a fraction of the cost, graduate students that score substantially higher on average.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts exists, one would think, to uphold high standards of art appreciation and taste, to reward those with true talent, and to promote expressions of artistic excellence that bring national pride.  How many new Mozarts or Raphaels can you name that thank this institution for their patronage?  By contrast, how many news reports have you heard about “controversial” government-funded displays of a crucifix in urine, or a dung-splattered Madonna, or “artistic” exhibits of pig parts in formaldehyde?
  • Racial organizations:  Does any member of an ethnic minority really need an organization to speak for him?  That’s an interesting question itself, because it would certainly backfire if some ethnic groups tried it.  Regardless, certain black commentators (Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Juan Williams) have been pointing out for years that well-known black organizations and their high-profile leaders actually do more harm than good for black families.  This is because creating an atmosphere of crisis is essential to their ongoing leadership.  Actually solving problems would make them irrelevant.  So while fatherless families, drug abuse and dropout rates never seem to improve, certain high-profile black leaders literally scream about racism in America with half truths, stoking the fires of racist conflict that keep them in the spotlight and create a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Individuals who succeed and become integrated into the colorless society are accused of abandoning their roots; they are called awful names.  The concentration on black identity works to perpetuate the very segregation that early civil rights leaders worked so hard to eliminate.
  • The United Nations is perhaps the most egregious example of an institution becoming its own nemesis.  What was the UN’s founding goal?  World peace: to have nations work out their differences by diplomacy rather than war.  There is arguably no war since its founding that the UN has successfully prevented, and oftentimes, it has made things worse.
        The same goes for its “humanitarian” causes.  The world has known about the Sudan genocide for years; millions have died, and the UN has done worse than nothing: reports of UN workers raping the people they were sent to help have been scandalous.  UN workers also stood idly by or fled during the Rwandan genocide.  The UN was irrelevant in Cambodia, or in Iraq, or in any communist or radical-Islamic country you can name.  The first relief workers on the ground after a disaster are usually privately funded Christian ministries like World Vision, Baptist World Alliance, Christian Freedom International and Gospel for Asia.  The UN is so inefficient with relief, it sends supplies locals cannot use (condoms to families who are starving), or the food rots on the tarmac, or it is delivered into the hands of corrupt dictators instead of the suffering people.  Imagine the craziness of sending relief to the Sudanese government, which uses it to buy weapons to attack Darfur!  Millions of Africans die from malaria but the UN opposes spraying to kill the mosquitos that carry it.  Millions die from AIDS but the UN opposes teaching people about the most effective prevention: abstinence.
        As for diplomacy, UN General Assembly meetings become soap boxes for the most radical countries to denounce the West.  Since there are so many of small-country dictatorships, any voices of reason from democratic countries are often drowned out.  The Security Council can never oppose totalitarian atrocities because one of the worst perpetrators, China, has veto power, as did communist Russia throughout the Cold War.  The UN’s inability to act is legendary.  Regardless of what you think about the Iraq war, President Bush’s coalition waited and waited for the UN to act on its own resolutions which mandated a military response to Saddam Hussein’s violations of UN rules.  Coalition leaders pleaded with the UN to act on its own promises.  The UN did nothing.
        Meanwhile, the magnitude of the scandals at the UN – oil-for-food being one of the worst in history – is breathtaking.  Does anything change?  Kofi Annan brought in Paul Volcker to investigate and propose reforms.  Volcker found that oil-for-food was not unique, but endemic to the UN’s practices.  He proposed sweeping reforms, including opportunities for outside audits.  None of them were passed.  After months of negotiations, the reforms were rejected by a margin of two to one!  Endemic corruption has thus been validated as official UN policy.
        The world is now teetering under the threat of a nuclear Iran and North Korea, but the UN is essentially irrelevant, if not obstructionist in countering the threat.  In sum, the greatest threat to world peace is now arguably the very institution chartered to safeguard it.
        For a depressing report on how bad things are in the UN, read an article by a man who knows, and who tried to fix it: former ambassador John Bolton.  Writing for Imprimis April 2008, he said that any hopes that the UN could offer world peace have been completely dashed – and he gave plenty of stark examples.

Yes, it is possible for institutions to become the worst enemies of the values they were created to protect.  Don’t be surprised to see the defenders of Big Science behaving badly.  When you see haughty, incorrigible, self-interested, dogmatic, irrational, corrupt, sneering hotheads claiming to speak for “science,” remember that other big institutions have called black white and white black.  Other institutions have paid off the torturers with funds designated to help prisoners.  Other institutions have poured gasoline on fires they were sent to quench, and killed the children they were sent to feed.  Is there a common denominator to these reversals of values?  As an exercise, check out how many are led by secular progressives embracing radical leftist ideology.  At a more basic level, try human depravity.  Give any depraved person or group power, and you know what power does.
    Each of the institutions listed above has some honest, hard-working individuals who don’t deserve the blame for what Headquarters is doing.  Some of them decry the abuses but work within the institution either due to lack of alternatives or from sincere hopes to bring reform from within.  A great many of the rank and file probably don’t even know what is going on.  They assume an institution with a nice sounding name is doing its job, and they try to do theirs the best they know how.
    Maybe that’s the point.  The best work is done by individuals.  Science began with individuals.  As an individual, you can make a difference.  As an individual, you can change the world. 

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Comments

  • bem49 says:

    Wow “the fundamental fact of evolution.” Sounds like someone needs to go back to Science 101 and learn the definitions of “theory” and “fact” and why a theory cannot be classified as a fact. O wait, that isn’t taught in schools because anything that even hints at questioning the dominance of evolution is thrown out. It’s ironic that the Science Channel has the motto “Question Everything,” who forgot to put the “except evolution” at the end?

    And why are they so upset about debating evolution if it’s such a fact? Surely every debate would end with ID’ers looking like fools so why not welcome them? Or maybe they are afraid ID’ers would expose the holes, the inconsistencies, and the problems?

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