Thursday, April 03, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Alllowed

So there is this movie coming out just before Pesach. It aims to "expose" the fraudulent "scientific establishment" and its systematic repression of ideas.

This movie is about Intelligent Design. Most of what I want to say about it is already written in Wikipedia, so I will direct you there first.

A few observations:
Anyone who does not recognize that academia, like any other complex power structure is not just a bunch of scientists working in labs and presenting their findings, is beyond naive. Of course there are politics, back stabbing, dishonesty. However, it is fascinating to watch this group claim a conspiracy of suppression and systematic persecution. And claim that evolution leads to Nazism.

It is fascinating because without a doubt if the people backing this movie (right wing Christian organizations) had their say, evolution would be banned, as would probably be astrophysics, and a whole bunch of other sciences which may lead to conflicts with traditional Biblical interpretation. Let's recall that the Scopes monkey trial was not very long ago.

This of course is a classic tactic of demagogues. Accuse your opponent of doing the very thing you are doing yourself (A certain commenter from XGH's blog comes to mind).

In general, this seems to be a purely American phenomenon, and I think ultimately all that will happen from it is just the further lagging of the American scientific establishment.

Oh well...


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April 04, 2008 12:03 AM  
Blogger The Candy Man said...

Thanks, kvetcher. As a lab scientist myself, I can vouch for the fact that we scientists are WAY too disorganized to come up with any kind of vast conspiracy on behalf of evolution.

Every scientist has his own opinion, and there's no united front. But we leave our religions out of our decision-making. The most rational approach to the data is to admit that evolution happens. The molecular revolution has only strengthened that view.

All that being said, I do think the scientific "communicators" have done a rather poor job of explaining the fundamental proofs for evolution to the public.

April 05, 2008 8:48 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...


one thing that is on my mind lately is the fact that like in any social context, there is a political aspect to science. it is not just a purely academic endeavor and theories and ideas need to be marketed and sold. Also there is an establishment which to a certain degree will protect itself against truly radical ideas. But to expect this to not be the case is naive and un-realistic.

April 05, 2008 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

“The Candy Man said...
Thanks, kvetcher. As a lab scientist myself, I can vouch for the fact that we scientists are WAY too disorganized to come up with any kind of vast conspiracy on behalf of evolution."

CandyMan it doesn’t have to be so organized. There is establishment pressure in science. They also will laugh at new ideas and ostracize collegues and this isn’t just an Evolution thing. The idea that it's just disinterested scientists is to not give scientists credit. If it's just data that’s not credit or science. Science comes up with explanations for the data that then make further predictions. An attitude of the nonhuman scientist helps to make people unaware of how science works. For a good book on the scientific establishment giving a hard time because of entrenched ideas read:Faster than the speed of light by Joao Magueijo.

April 06, 2008 10:51 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

RG, I believe you are essentially agreeing with everything CandyMan said! And we aren't even playing a game:)

We all agree that success in the scientific establishment, like many human social networks requires an understanding of social politics and human nature.

We all agree there is not a "conspiracy"

We all agree that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Scientists like the religious establishment are conservate in nature. We can see where things like Cold Fusion led...

In terms of Magueijo's book, it is mostly a PR job. He admits in the book that he is very undorthodox. He is a hot-head, he called editors of various journals idiots in public, he said insulted people that don't subscribe to his theory. That is most likely why he didn't get too far. And actually his work was built on top of Moffat, and other people are doing work in the field of VSL theory, so you can't even say that his work is being suppressed. It is just that the entire world is not bowing at his feet yet.

April 07, 2008 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

I know the guy is a big jerk personaly speaking and I'm not the only one to think so. I also do not believe in VSL, still he documents experiences which people have to go through.

April 07, 2008 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel said...

Jerk or not he has a cool name. :-)

April 07, 2008 9:33 AM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

"Intelligent Design" or "ID" is just another way of putting "G-d did it" into force in the world's collective bank of "what's known".

They can say it could have been UFO space aliens, extra-dimensional energy beings, or anything else, and they still mean, "G-d did it".

This just goes back to the same crux as the silliness in looking for absolute truth in religion where by implication "fact" is much closer than "truth" with respect to what is ultimately wanted.

I refer again back to Douglas Adams' throw-away lines (much like Einstein's E=mc2) which was such genius:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid from making a fortune when he used it a the central argument in his book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

Though Adams was an atheist, his statement embodies the single best idea I know about G-d and me: if it is a matter of proof, then it is a matter if I am right, not if G-d is right, and thus is about me. If it is a matter of G-d being right, well, you can only have conjecture and we call that religion.

Much of the skeptidox blogging world is filled with a total missing of this point and endless arguing over the veracity of the scriptural process. It's led to the infamous "20 foot tall Moses" thing among many many others.

In the case of evolution versus creationism, it's another facet. It's a matter of one person or group of people being and more to the point believing they are right and as you know, believing is not real. People can be right and believe themselves wrong. They want ID to be embraced because it is one step from returning "G-d did it" to center stage and the more people who express agreement, the more they feel secure and right.

Sadly, people feel the same thing about "the arrow of time", "the speed of light", and "the genius of Pauly Shore" just to name three, and we have no proof of these either. But some people take them on faith. Well, the secure together ones at least. The insecure ones want to make us accept things for which we have much less proof than what we had for dinner, and I don't pray to my oven.

April 07, 2008 2:47 PM  

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