05 May 2008

War of the worlds

Hold on to your hats, I actually went to a movie this weekend! I cannot even remember the last time I saw a movie since I just can't sit still in a movie theatre for that long. It could be Type A personality disorder rearing it's ugly head or maybe I have attention deficit disorder...or maybe most movies are just boring. There, I said it.

I went with a couple other moms to see the movie Expelled, not like the rest of my countrymen who were tripping over themselves to see Iron Man. I'm so not cool. There was a prior chance to see the movie, I guess it was a free advanced screening, but it happened to be on Holy Thursday of all days. That didn't work. Finally got to see it over the weekend.

NB: I'm doing a movie review here, folks, my intention is NOT to debate this topic so take it outside to another blog. I will say this however. Most people reading my blog know that my background is in science, chemical engineering. I worked in a research capacity in this field. That being said, I am a Catholic, I believe God created the world. But, the idea of evolution does not jar my belief in God as He is the Uncaused Cause that brought everything about. Darwinism stops at the feet of God, but fails to look up and see the Creator.

The movie is Ben Stein's platform, in documentary format, to illuminate how some scientists are being silenced in academia for their beliefs in Intelligent Design (which is not equivalent to Creationism). Not even a belief in God or any type of God, mind you, but for the pure mention of the idea of Intelligent Design sans any notion of the Judea-Christian God or even any other known deity.

I found a review online (I had checked with scificatholic.com, but no review, what's da matter, eh?) Here are some snippets from Hot Air's review, that saved me a great deal of typing and I can comment ala Father Z style, emphasis and comments are mine.

The documentary features Ben Stein on a quest to understand the near-hysteria (a wee bit strong IMHO) caused by scientists who so much as broach the idea of intelligent design in papers or in research. It follows Stein as he interviews professors denied tenure, editors fired, and journalists shunned for touching the subject even at its most innocuous levels.

Rationally, we have to admit that some use ID as an excuse to teach the more literal form of Creationism that has been used to argue against evolution entirely, especially against teaching evolution in primary-school classrooms. That admission does not appear in Expelled, which is a glaring omission (the film was talking about ID, not Creationism and was dealing with academic freedom, so this issue would've been good to mention, but is the subject of another movie...and I do believe this point was made by the Darwinists as they dismissed ID out of hand as Creationism). It tends to take out of context the frustration some scientists have about ID, and its place in polarizing the debate over its use. Properly framed, ID accepts all of the science without accepting its transformation into its own belief system.

What do I mean by that? In this, the film does an excellent job of demonstrating atheism as a belief system. Atheism as represented by Richard Dawkins and others in this film gets exposed as exactly the kind of belief system they claim to despise (exactly -- they truly do despise a belief in any God). They can’t prove God exists — and they can’t prove God doesn’t exist. They make the common fallacy of arguing that absence of evidence amounts to evidence of absence.

But in a way, this is all secondary to the real issue of the film: academic intolerance. The debate over ID vs Darwinism sets the table for a truly disturbing look at academia. Science should be about the free debate and research of ideas and hypotheses for duplicable results and provable theorems. However, as the examples Stein and the film provide amply show, the Darwinist academic establishment will brook no dissent from the orthodoxy — and scientists have to be shown with hidden faces to speak to the issue for the film (the entire argument of God and evolution aside, the intolerance in this arena is staggering).

Amusingly, Stein asks people how the first cell came to be. None of the scientists could give him a straight answer. Dawkins himself admits he doesn’t know and that no one else does, either — but postulates that aliens could have brought life to this planet, and then postulates that another alien civilization could have brought life to that planet, and so on. He then concedes that one entity could have been the original source … but insists that entity could not possibly have been God. For this he gives absolutely no evidence at all, relegating it as a belief system somewhat akin to Scientology.

All of this is extremely effective, as are the many allusions made to the Berlin Wall during the film (OK, here's where I thought it got a little tiresome. Stein is Jewish and understandably we can see his concerns, but the Nazi stuff was a bit overplayed. They did tie this in with eugenics, but only made topical mention of Margaret Sanger and her direct influence of the Nazi "eugenics" machine.) The theme runs throughout, and it explicitly refers to the defensive academic establishment as having built a wall that tramples on freedom of thought and discourse. Less effective is the heavy references to the Nazis in the movie. Although emotionally affecting for some obvious reasons, the fact is that while the Nazis were mostly Darwinists (along with a lot of other things), the vast majority of Darwinists aren’t Nazis. Certainly the eugenicists in Nazi Germany were mightily influenced by Darwinism, but America had its own eugenicists, which the film points out (albeit briefly).

Overall, though, the film presents a powerful argument not for intelligent design as much as for the freedom of scientific inquiry. If scientists get punished for challenging orthodoxy, we will not expand our learning but ossify it in concrete. Expelled: The Movie is entertaining, maddening, funny, and provocative, and well worth your time.

* Complete Hot air review with dozens of comments debating this topic...if you're so inclined


D. G. D. Davidson said...

Sorry there's no review at The Sci Fi Catholic. I haven't seen it, but maybe I will now.

swissmiss said...

I see so few movies that when I saw this I was eager to see if you had reviewed it! Don't know if it will be in the theaters for much longer. Look forward to hearing your review if you get a chance to see it.

Ray from MN said...

Having successfully completed Geology 1 (Physical Geology) and 2 (Paleontology) and their labs at the U of MN, I dare to expound on the subject of evolution.

Physical Geology is the study of the origin, history, and structure of the earth. This is usually taken to mean the formation and movement of major features like continents, oceans, mountains, deserts, glaciers, rivers, lakes and other physical characteristics of the planet.

Physical Geology researchers calculate the Earth as being billions of years old. And like "science" it can be demonstrated and repeated. (But it's difficult to demonstrate mountain formation and continental shifts in a laboratory or develop a mathematical formula to describe it).

Physical Geology is extremely important and pays off financially in mining, construction, seismology (earthquakes), climate and ice age studies, oil and gas exploration, and scads of other industries and studies.

And yes, God could have created the planet like we find it in one fell swoop; but I don't think He did.

Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils extracted from the different rock and soil formations and sea, lake and river bottoms.

Fossils are the remains or traces of the bones of animals, birds and fish (and their evolutionary predecessors) that over time have turned to "rock." Their age can roughly be determined by using Physical Geology to determine the age of the physical formation in which they were found.

Paleontologists have used the limited number of fossils that have been found to determine the various ages of creatures, including human beings.

The problem is that there is not always fossil evidence for their conclusions. For example, no "half bird, half fish" fossil has been found.

My sixth grade nun teacher taught me that it is not wrong to believe in evolution (even though it is only a "theory") as long as we believe that at a certain point in time, a date not known, God intervened and placed human souls, created in His Image and Likeness in a male and female "ancestor" of the human race (Adam, which means "man" or "mankind" and Eve, which means "living one") and from then on cared for them as His children.

The jury is still out as to whether or not Darwin's Theory will become Darwin's Law of Evolution. I won't hold my breath.