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Wirthless Expelled Review

05/05/08

Permalink 02:55:57 am, by Ritchie Annand Email , 1556 words   English (CA)
Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

Wirthless Expelled Review

Based on the misrepresentations in the Expelled! movie, reason tells me that a unilaterally positive review is liable to partake of a number of factual inaccuracies in the movie, and add its own bad conclusions.

Well, one out of one so far.

In a credulous and blithering post entitled Ben Stein is the Rosa Parks of Darwin Skeptics, Kevin Wirth lays out a positive review and some commentary on the Expelled pseudodocumentary.

Years ago Rosa Parks got on a bus and sat where she shouldn't have - a form of protest letting the world know she'd had enough. Ben Stein, about as unlikely a candidate as Rosa for similar notoriety, has now done much the same thing, only this time the issue isn't about racial prejudice, it's about prejudice against those who question any aspect of evolution.

Well, for an easy objection, Ben Stein is no Rosa Parks. He's no Ghandi, Galileo or Martin Luther King, Jr., either, lest someone be trying to reserve any more pedestals that Stein is most unfit to occupy.

The larger claim, though, "prejudice against those who question any aspect of evolution" is bullshit, unless you modify the phrase to have "by using the already-disproven Second Law of Thermodynamics argument".

Kimura's Neutral Theory did not get him Expelled, and neither did Gould get ejected for Punctuated Equilibrium. The most aggravating thing about this, of course, is that intelligent design luminaries know this, in part because they are constantly quoting these sorts of working evolutionary scientists.

(Instead of doing their own damned research, I might add!)

...

Academia largely regards Darwin doubters as the intellectual lepers of our day, and have exacted untold misery as their nefarious acts of discrimination, persecution, and good-old-boy politiking have been allowed to run rampant against students, scientists, and professors.

Kevin is the editor of "Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth About Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters". You would think that, given an entire book about such escapades, that Kevin and Jerry Bergman could have spared a single instance of true academic suppression, instead of the parade of self-made martyrs like Sternberg that were in the movie. For pity's sake, there ought to be real suppression happening just statistically.

A large portion of Kevin's rant seems to be bent on painting the entirety of academia as being P.Z. Myers, and further, painting what P.Z. Myers says as not only hate speech, but somehow baseless and directed at all Darwin dissenters.

It is a golden, standard rule. When dealing with quotes offered by any creationist or intelligent design activists, check the source. Nothing succeeds like quoting out of context.

How about this P.Z. Myers quote?

"The only appropriate response should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing of some teachers, many school board members, and vast numbers of sleazy, far-right politicians … I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots."

Note the note: "note - this is a blended quote from two different Myers sources"

Why blend quotes at all?

The two parts of the quote are quite separate. One comes from here. I provide them here in fuller context:

Don't tell me to be dispassionate or less unreasonable about it all because because 65% of the American population think creationism should be taught alongside evolution, or that Americans are just responding to common notions of "fairness". That just tells me that we scientists have not been expressing our outrage enough. And yes, we should be outraged that the president of our country panders to theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists; sitting back and quietly explaining that Bush may be a decent man who is mistaken, while the preachers are stridently condemning all us evilutionists to hell, is a damned ineffective tactic that has gotten us to this point.

I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don't care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way.

The other here:

Yeah, I’m afraid the ”civilized academic debate” was settled about a century ago. Scientists have been engaging in that ideal, non-militaristic fashion for quite some time, and still are – those discussions go on in the pages of the journals. Unfortunately, while we have been doing everything in the proper civilized way, the forces of ignorance have not; they have lied their way into considerable power.

Here I am, a biologist living in the 21st century in one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the two biology teachers in my kids’ high school is a creationist. Last year, the education commissioner in my state tried to subvert the recommendations for the state science standards by packing a hand-picked ’minority report’ committee to push for required instruction in intelligent design creationism in our schools. All across the country, we have these lunatics trying to stuff pseudoscientific religious garbage into our schools and museums and zoos.

This is insane.

Please don’t try to tell me that you object to the tone of our complaints. Our only problem is that we aren’t martial enough, or vigorous enough, or loud enough, or angry enough. The only appropriate responses should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many schoolboard members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians.

My point here would be that if P.Z. Myers was actually somehow as powerful as creationists/intelligent designists like to pretend he is in order to scare the faithful, would one not expect a post like this:

(fantasy) Here I am, a biologist living in the 21st century in one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the two biology teachers in my kids’ high school is a creationist. I got them kicked out. Same for that stupid education commissioner. AAAhahahaha!

...instead of expressing long-term abject frustration?

Still, they compare evolution to Nazis ("no we didn't!" - yes, you bloody well did!), so what else would one expect?

But Expelled reveals that this is much more than simply a war of words: real people are losing real careers right and left, all because they dare to dissent against one or more aspects of evolution.

Well, we will just have to see what the truth coefficient of the magical new book is, will we not? Preferably expressed in units of "moon hoaxer".

Kevin takes and lovingly cups another steaming handful:

The intolerance extends way beyond that small group to include evolutionists who have doubts (because they give comfort to the "enemy") -- that means literally anyone who is skeptical about any aspect of neo-Darwinian logic is a target of Myers-like inquisitioning. Who are the likely targets? If you are a teacher, and you want to share periodical articles from widely respected and refereed science journals -- articles that question some aspect of evolution -- you are a target. If you are a student, you will be asked "Do you fully believe in evolution?" If you say no - then kiss your GPA goodbye, look for a special love note in your school transcript, brace yourself for hard questions during your oral exams (designed to deny you a degree), and forget about that summer science project you were hoping to participate in.

Holy bullshit, Batman!

The student story sounds utterly apocryphal, presented as such with over-the-top hardships and no details. If such an incident ever did occur, it would be grist for the mills. Find the story for me if you can. Perhaps it is simply waiting as a juicy tidbit in the upcoming book.

In any case, it is implied to be typical, which is bullshit.

"Myers-like inquisitioning", for one, but in particular, "If you are a teacher, and you want to share periodical articles from widely respected and refereed science journals -- articles that question some aspect of evolution -- you are a target" is fabricated crap.

For one, there are plenty of articles that question some aspect of evolution. They are scientific articles, though. You will not find such adherence to using journal material by those committed to the creationist or intelligent design cause. Crocker, for example, pulled things straight out of Wells' anti-evolutionary hit piece of piss-poor scholarship, Icons of Evolution. The materials and ideas come from creationist and intelligent design think tanks, and they are simply full of lies about evolutionary theory.

Having read up quite a lot on the similar goings-on in the 1981 trial in Arkansas about the legality of teaching "creation science", the playbook is still the same, and from looking through the archives at the Expelled! blog, every single refuted argument is presented afresh as though it were recently discovered and never answered.

Then again, I expect such paranoid prevarication from Kevin. In his screed GEE-ology of Biology, he repeats over and over the likes of:

Opponents of ID make this wild-eyed and totally erroneous claim of “it’s religious!” because they think it’s the only way they can keep ID out of our schools. No folks, ID ISN’T RELIGIOUS!

No, it's religious.

2 comments

Comment from: Kevin Wirth [Visitor] Email
Kevin WirthDude. Thanks for giving my views broader exposure.

FIRST.

"A large portion of Kevin's rant seems to be bent on painting the entirety of academia as being P.Z. Myers, and further, painting what P.Z. Myers says as not only hate speech, but somehow baseless and directed at all Darwin dissenters."

You need to stop putting words in my mouth. I don't view the entirety of academia as being P.Z. Myers, but I sure have seen plenty of profs like him, and he DOES promote hate speech and DOES direct it at a significant portion of Darwin doubters. You disagree with this?

SECOND

"But Expelled reveals that this is much more than simply a war of words: real people are losing real careers right and left, all because they dare to dissent against one or more aspects of evolution." (my comment)


"Well, we will just have to see what the truth coefficient of the magical new book is, will we not?" (your comment)

Yes you will. I recommend that you read the book when it comes out (looks like around July 15th at this point...)


THIRD

"Holy bullshit, Batman!

The student story sounds utterly apocryphal, presented as such with over-the-top hardships and no details. If such an incident ever did occur, it would be grist for the mills. Find the story for me if you can. Perhaps it is simply waiting as a juicy tidbit in the upcoming book.

In any case, it is implied to be typical, which is bullshit."

It's not B.S., and yes it really is true. Profs Dini, Patterson, and Cailliet are cited in my book as either attempting to insert comments into student transcripts or advocating the same or actually writing a letter of 'recommendation' that intended to derail the career of a student because of his alleged 'religious' beliefs. You better believe this isn't B.S.

The REAL B.S. is from these folks, and bigoted folks like Myers who seem to think that 'religious; folks are not capable of doing good science. Now THAT is total B.S.

FOURTH

No, ID is NOT religious. It may be CONSISTENT WITH some religious views, but that's where you and other folks get tripped up. ID does not rely on ANY references to religious text, nor does it delve into anything religious. People like you insist that it is because it seems to serve your cause, for some strange reason.

So, I have three words for you.

READ THE BOOK.

(When it comes out)





06/27/08 @ 23:20
Comment from: Ritchie Annand [Member] Email
Ritchie Annand
Dude. Thanks for giving my views broader exposure.


Inasmuch as my rant does, you're welcome :)

You need to stop putting words in my mouth. I don't view the entirety of academia as being P.Z. Myers, but I sure have seen plenty of profs like him, and he DOES promote hate speech and DOES direct it at a significant portion of Darwin doubters. You disagree with this?


Given that you did not narrow the scope of "academia" between "lepers of our day" and "exacted untold misery", on top of spending a disproportionate amount of time on P.Z.'s own views without pointing to a more moderate example, you could perhaps see the confusion?

It's not B.S., and yes it really is true. Profs Dini, Patterson, and Cailliet are cited in my book as either attempting to insert comments into student transcripts or advocating the same or actually writing a letter of 'recommendation' that intended to derail the career of a student because of his alleged 'religious' beliefs. You better believe this isn't B.S.


Two of those stories mentioned in Bert and Brad's article, yes?

Patterson is certainly a vocal one, and there would have been hell to pay if his recommendations would have been enacted.

One line of his quoted in the article stood out to me:

[Patterson] As a matter of fact, creationism should be discriminated against, not only because it is such pathetic science, but also because so many of its chief proponents resort to dishonest tactics and publish counterfeit arguments for public consumption. These are solid grounds for discrimination against creationism by all respectable scientists, scholars, and educators.


Out of all the things that concern me about "Darwin doubters", such as one can make an identifiable group, it is the question of academic integrity of the sources. Wells, Johnson and Dembski, in particular, are reprehensibly duplicitous.

I always have time for honest "Darwin doubters", though it can be beyond tiresome to hear bad arguments from the 70s and 80s recycled yet again.

Poke through Expelled's own blog - I take the time and am willing to engage.

Dini's case, much as the complaint may be, I understand.

[Dini] One can deny this evidence only at the risk of calling into question one’s understanding of science and of the method of science. Such an individual has committed malpractice regarding the method of science, for good scientists would never throw out data that do not conform to their expectations or beliefs.


I agree with the sentiment, although I still think that creationist students should be allowed to proceed regardless.

The CNN interview with the student and some analysts was fairly interesting. I liked Toobin's comments at the end:

[Toobin] I think it would be totally different and I think it would be totally impermissible. The difference is you can't make an argument that there is -- that being black relates to this professor's field, Professor Dini's field. That has nothing to do with it, but evolution really does have something to do with his field. It relates to the subject he's giving recommendations to and I think he has to have some freedom there.

...

But I know -- I hope I don't get thrown out of the legal analysts' council for this. But, you know, it seems like a little common sense, not law should be involved here. Maybe Professor Dini could say in his letters, look, we disagree about this issue, but the student has the following strengths. You know, the old phrase don't make a federal case out of it -- it seems like a common sense compromise might be in order here.


Basically, it comes down to the fact that Dini could not write the letter in good conscience, and neither could Micah answer Dini's question the way Dini would want it in good conscience.

Such things are going to happen when religious truth-claims clash with what has been empirically determined.

I note, too, that in these two cases, anyhow, Intelligent Design was not at issue.

The REAL B.S. is from these folks, and bigoted folks like Myers who seem to think that 'religious; folks are not capable of doing good science. Now THAT is total B.S.


I've seen P.Z.'s views over the year, and despite his vehement opposition to religion, he does not go so far as your statement implies. Case in point, he disagrees with Miller's religious beliefs, even "moderate" as they are, and even with his apologetics on rationalizing the theistic evolutionary view, but not with the man's science.

No, ID is NOT religious. It may be CONSISTENT WITH some religious views, but that's where you and other folks get tripped up. ID does not rely on ANY references to religious text, nor does it delve into anything religious. People like you insist that it is because it seems to serve your cause, for some strange reason.


Do we seriously have to pretend that Intelligent Design is non-religious?

Wells, Johnson, Dembski and thousands of supporters claim this all the while winking at each other in plain sight.

It does not matter how Intelligent Design is defined. It matters to what ends it is used, and what the supporters believe it represents.

This is not "insisting because I think it serves my cause". I see what people are doing, and I am not required to play the naive gentleman who sees the purported definition of Intelligent Design as something other than an attempt to put secular window dressing on creationistic arguments to avoid constitutional challenges.

The mere fact that whether common descent is factual is a still-undetermined position makes Intelligent Design a fairly useless Big Tent in the search for knowledge.

The seminal court cases dividing the eras between creationism, creation science and Intelligent Design did not wipe my memory clean of what the techniques and arguments entailed in each case.

Still, my baseline has and continues to be what integrity and honesty is brought to the enterprise. That's the most important.

If someone has the idea and the fortitude to go out and try to find their Creator, then all the more power to them, as long as they are willing to make sure that their lab and statistical methods pass muster - just good experimental control and proper use of statistics.

What I see from the Intelligent Design community, however, is a general disinterest in doing the footwork.

If Intelligent Design advocates have an aversion to doing science, outside of potshots, "reinterpretations" and papers with unsupported axioms (I've read "No Free Lunch"; it's an insult), then their reputation in the science community is not going to fare well.

So they go to the court of public opinion with their own version of "Clinton killed Vince Foster".

They could do their own labwork in their own facilities; there are supporters who would have the funds. They could even just suggest experiments that could settle key points on the Intelligent Design/Evolution (something apart from those motivated by gross misunderstandings, like "why don't you make life from scratch in a test tube?")

There has to be something more than the false dichotomy of picking at evolution to prove Intelligent Design.

That's where I'll leave the conversation for now. As for me, I'll wait for the first few reviews of your book first, but you are welcome, of course, to stump for your book here :)
07/01/08 @ 02:27