Hey look! I’m back! Did you guys miss me?
Don’t answer that.
I haven’t been around much lately because, frankly, my interests were deftly diverted elsewhere. Specifically, I’ve been following the farcical comedy that comprises the pre-release marketing of Ben Stein’s pro-creationism film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie is scheduled for theatrical release April 18 and if things keep following their current course, it will strangle itself nearly to death before the first showing.
Now, before I get to railing, I should mention that I personally feel Darwinian Evolution and Christian Creationism do not need to be mutually exclusive. Indeed, what is the creation story in Genesis if not a metaphor for evolution? Wouldn’t the omnipotent being that created logic itself be obliged to form the rest of its creation logically? The answers seem plainly obvious to me – even the imminent scientist Richard Dawkins admits it’s as unscientific to claim there is no God as it is to claim there is one – yet there are scads of people who choose to reject scientific fact while simultaneously embracing a hocus pocus version of man’s beginning. Why that is, I cannot say. I am forced to assume it is because believing in magic requires less effort than understanding science.
OK, so, Expelled. *sigh* At its best, it’s a warning of how utterly wrong things can go when personal agendas supersede proven actualities. At its worst, it is misinformative, anti-intellectual propaganda that obfuscates its topic by playing on the emotions of its audience. Here, do me a favor and go watch the trailer; I’ll wait.
As you see, the premise is that scientists who support Intelligent Design over Evolution are unduly persecuted and discriminated against in the scientific community. The contention of the film seems to be that the world’s notable researchers have formed a sort of scientific lynch mob and that they actively go about destroying the careers of other scientists, specifically those who reject the discoveries of Charles Darwin. A further implication of the film – and the real problem as I see it – is that the notion of Intelligent Design is as scientifically valid as that of Evolution.
In order to get at the truth about the first claim – that scientists who embrace Intelligent Design are discriminated against – we must look at the second. Darwin arrived at his conclusions regarding Natural Selection by following the scientific method. He observed, he experimented, he formulated hypotheses and, most importantly, he tested those hypotheses. He came to sound scientific conclusions based on empirical data. By way of contrast, there is absolutely no known scientific method for arriving at the conclusion that some unseen being designed us. In fact, it’s been frequently speculated that an omnipotent being could certainly have done a much better job.
So, given that Intelligent Design has no basis in science, is it really any wonder that true scientists are calling bullshit on the hacks who present it as if it does? Are we really expected to call them scientists if they reject the scientific method? Is it wrong for people who base their work in facts to insist metaphysics remain in philosophy where it belongs?
Let’s say I decide to teach Brazilian jiu jitsu. I start up a school and offer to teach anyone who will come this brutal and effective martial art. Considering my training is in Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, it would be completely understandable if some actual jiu jitsu students noted I was a fraud and snapped me into pieces for it, right? Exactly. If they went around telling everyone, including my students, that what I was teaching wasn’t jiu jitsu, would that be discrimination? Could it even be called persecution? Or would it just be telling it like it is?
For the record, I have no problem with people choosing to believe they were specially created by God, that they contain some piece of the divine. I happen to think it’s a rather spiffy notion myself. It’s the most significant idea in philosophy.
But it isn’t science.