A response to Stein’s documentary on Intelligent Design

After watching a trailer for Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed trailer, I had a few responses to some of the points he is making. I agree that we should not allow people to bury free inquiry and stifle discussion on established ideas. I also think it’s completely to ask these serious questions about the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. Finally, I think there is a lot of dogma on both sides of the table and no one is left without blame.

However, I find three things wrong with just this movie trailer (beyond the techniques that all documentaries use – cutting people off when they say something that sounds bad out of context, and using negative words like “dumb luck” and ”mud” to describe the other side’s views)

1) Free Speech or Bad Research?
Stein is trying
to frame this as an issue of free speech. It’s ok to say whatever you want, but not every journal will publish you, and not every institution will hire you. I’m sure most newspapers or universities wouldn’t publish/hire you if you said that US national policy should be that all white people face 40% income taxes. This is not a violation of free speech.

2) Are All Nervous Suspects Guilty?
By emphasizing that “Darwinists are afraid”, Stein is trying to suggest that they are hiding something. I think what it means is that many scientists are concerned that since the theory of evolution runs counter to many of our “instinctual” ideas about life – the improbability of life (or as he calls it mud) leading to humanity – that it’s easy for people fall prey to common-sensical and at-first-glance convincing theories of intelligent design.

However, many of our instinctual ideas about other things are also wrong – earth revolves around the sun, humans are 99.9% the same as chimpanzees, centrifigual force does not exist… All these theories have been tested time and time again and shown to be correct. Like evolution.

3) How Established is Evolution Anyway?
Evolution is not something you choose to believe. It’s like saying you believe in gravity. Evolution and gravity are both fact and theory (wikipedia)and both are widely accepted by the scientific community as being true. However only evolution hits home for many religious people and I think that is why there are more people interested in attempting reconciling the two through intelligent design.

In Conclusion
This article is long, and I apologize. This is a topic I’ve been very passionate about since I arrived at Stanford and learned that only 15% of Americans think evolution is true. There is a lot more out there to learn – some stuff will be true, some won’t.

One place I think you can start at is Talk Origins – 29+ Evidence for Macroevolution It’s a bit dense, but the evidence is solid, with lots of links and best of all “Potential for Falsification” (what science is based on) is given for every piece of evidence.

Finally, a cool video that validates Darwin’s prediction of a moth with a 12 in tongue (Herg, I know what you’re thinking you sicko) living in the jungle.

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