Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video Recommendation: "Expelled"

Alert: Videos rarely get recommended on this blog, but here goes:

We rented and watched the Ben Stein video "Expelled" the other day. I recommend it. The whole video is worth watching merely for the final segment when Stein ties atheist crusader Richard Dawkins into a philosophical pretzel by pressing the question of where life on the planet initially came from. Dawkins ends up hypothesizing that a highly evolved alien civilization "seeded" life on earth. And he ridicules "religious" people who believe in the Creator God of Scriptures?

JTR

11 comments:

John Bowman said...

I'll second this recommendation. We very much enjoyed it but it was eye opening. The collective conspiracy to avoid even a debate of observable facts (ironically, the very definition of science) in the education and science "systems" is very concerning.

And anytime you can make Dawkins shift uncomfortably in his chair and sweat a little it should be considered for an Oscar.

Anonymous said...

The American Scientific Affiliation (http://asa3.org/) has a valuable list of reviews, pro and con. The one by Jeffery Schloss is especially thoughtful and well-annotated. Though more critical of the film than you, he would certainly agree with you about the portrayal of Dawkins.

Lonnie said...

I think the Wikipedia article pretty much covers everything I might say about this film.

While I'm hardly a fan of Dawkins, I think its pretty clear that he was misrepresented through editing. If you ask an atheist "under what circumstances could intelligent design have occurred..." then you're likely to get that sort of answer. The point Dawkins was making (and lost in the editing) is that even if life on Earth was "designed" then it doesn't automatically imply a god was involved. Making that kind of assumption is the same kind of poor logic that permeates creationist arguments. After all, even if evolution were proven totally false, it wouldn't mean creationism is correct.

Even worse it perpetuates the notion somehow that evolution and Science are somehow at odds. Now that is something Stein could have legitimately criticized Dawkins for... if he weren't so guilty himself. From this perspective Ben Stein is just as much an enemy of faith as Dawkins.

IMHO, if you want to know why the U.S ranks as one of the lowest countries in terms of science education in the developed world, then you can thank films like this.

SB said...

Lonnie,
you said, "The point Dawkins was making... is that even if life on Earth was "designed" then it doesn't automatically imply a god was involved." And, you follow that comment by denigrating "creationists" for "assuming" God as evidence of their "poor logic."

I take issue with your logic! By the world's standards I am an "educated" man. I have a Master's degree and I am currently completing a PhD. But, I consider myself a "simple" man with simple thoughts and ideas. Here's what bothers me about your logic and Dawkins's logic and the logic of everyone that denies God the glory he deserve as Creator: you cannot even adequately answer the logic of a five year old.

Here's how I see the conversation going:

Atheist: Little Billy, you and your friends are the product of some random, cosmic event (fill in "Big Bang," "Primordial Soup"-not sure if Campbell's or Progresso, etc.)

LB: But, where did the Big Bang come from?

Atheist: Well, we (being the "scientific community") aren't sure, but we believe (note the FAITH) that a very unique mixture of compounds happened to come together and explode and it happened to develop the elements necessary for life, and so on.

{obviously you are now beyond the logic of the five year old}

But, I'm now 28, and I am still frustrated by smart men (PhDs, Dawkins, etc.) who won't answer the question in its simplicity. The point is everything comes from something. Nothing is that was not created. To stop that chain, you must have a Creator. And, I am not just positing an "Unmoved Mover." Why not? Because the Creator, God, is more than the starter of a chain of life. He is our Redeemer in Christ.

Romans 9:20-23: But who are you, O man,to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

Lonnie said...

SB,

You've totally missed my point. My favorite flavor of Ice Cream is not Chocolate, does that mean it logical to conclude it is Vanilla? (Couldn't it be Strawberry, Mango etc?)

Any logic that says "A is false, therefore B is true" is a deductive fallacy. We'd do a grave disservice to our children to teach them that kind of bad reasoning.

In this case, saying Evolution is false does not prove Creationism is true. If you want to logically prove Creationism then it has to be done on its own merits. To do it scientifically, you need to have a falsifiable hypothesis (i.e. a testable condition that, if true, would prove your claim false).

Furthermore, your question asked by a five year old doesn't help your case either. Perhaps every child at some point also asks "Does God have a mommy?" In other words, if something must come before the big bang, then by that very same logic, surely something must have come before God as well. Essentially, claiming "God did it" is really just avoiding the question.

You can even say you'd prefer not to use standard conventions of logic and scientific reasoning in favor of faith. That's a reasonable viewpoint, but then you can't really call any of your conclusions "science".

In addition, science does actually have answers to the questions you are asking, if you really want to hear them. Keep in mind, when scientists say that the Big Bang created our universe it is only shorthand for explaining that our current universe was created by a big bang. It is assumed that there were universes before that which collapsed to form the singularity which exploded to create matter as we know it.

Oh, and I say all of this as a Theist. I happen to think Dawkins is wrong about the existence of God, and futhermore I think it is outside the realm of science to even ask the question. Science exists merely to provide data, not to tell us what it means. Likewise, I don't look to Religion to tell me how to build a car or how atoms work.

If you choose not to question this Universe you live in, then I won't judge you for it. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist or Philosopher. Just because you don't want to ask the honest tough questions though, doesn't mean that there aren't answers out there to be found.

SB said...

Lonnie,
you are truly exasperating. First, if you want to see the efforts of someone having "thought hard" about questions like these, I would not choose to observe such activity via the blogosphere.

Secondly, I am not claiming "A is false therefore B is true." I am claiming B (if by B you mean God exists) is true. In other words, God does exist. I do not need to debunk the theories of science in order to posit the Truth that God Is. Following this line of thought, I'm not just saying evolution is wrong, or the "Big Bang" is wrong. I am saying that any explanation as to existence is wrong if the God of the Bible is not given as the answer. Hence, my conclusion does not depend upon the falsification of A, B, C, D or anything else.

In fact, I stand without reservation on the truth of God's revelation as the substance of my thoughts. If you think that is evidence of an unwillingness to "think" then you deny the complexity of Scripture and theology and the massive evidence of the extant work of centuries of theologians, pastors and laymen.

You think that you sufficiently replied to the question of the small child who asks did God have a mommy, but once again you proved my point, and years of observation of so called "scientists" attempting to prove what is beyond man's knowing. When the five year old asks if God had a mommy, he is tapping into a fundamental logic of the created order. That small child knows that he came from somewhere, his dog Buffy came from somewhere, that everything comes from something. But, answer him, and me, this: what is the ultimate cause? What does science say to that? It can say nothing. The mouth of science is shut.



Aristotle was not someone I can agree on regarding religion, but he, my friend, was a true scientist. Where did his rationalism bring him? He reasoned that there had to be a Creator, an "Unmoved Mover," otherwise very basic logic leads us to regress infinitely without ever reaching a explanation to the "chain of being."

How can you be a theist and a scientist? I think I know how, or at least how you would justify such a conjunction, but it again is illogical. A theist at minimum believes in the existence of a deity. A scientist believes in a rational explanation to every thing. But what is rational or "scientific" about a deity. If you stay true to your own premises, then as a philosopher you would posit, again at minimum, that a deity is transcendent, meaning it is beyond man's knowing or comprehending. If this is not part of your definition then you are not defining a deity because a deity cannot at once be god and man. But, if you want to be a scientist and a theist what must you do? Simple. You must construct your own god, a god that can be explained by science and hence no longer a god because it is subject to your own reasonings, your dictates. You know what Christians call such a god? An idol!

You say that you want to let science discover the data, and leave it to religion to interpret that data. But there is a significant misunderstanding in the sovereignity you want to grant to each endeavor. If you let science reign supreme in the task of discovering facts and truths about the created universe (which again, I claim is not possible; science cannot discover everything and therefore is need of God's assistance) and then you allow religion to come in and interpret the value or meaning of those facts, what you have done is subordinated revelation to reason. You have said essentially what John Locke argued, that revelation must stand the test of reason. But, again, what are you left with? You are left with man saying he is the worthy tribunal of God's truth. This is logically absurd. If man's reason is to determine revelation then it is not revelation anymore. It is what you think it right or scientific. You end up with the Jefferson Bible.

Steve Minyard said...

I whole heartedly recommend this film as well, though I wish that it had gone farther in linking the belief of Darwinism by a society and how that society implements it. The Nazis are a clear case of a people saying, "Wow. This theory is great. Let's do something with it..." but similar attitudes are alive and well but with more friendly-sounding titles like bioethics and "family planning." Eugenics was debunked earlier the last century but its morally bankrupt philosophical base is still taught today.

Lonnie said...

Steve,

You may be surprised to learn that Hitler never mentioned evolution or Darwin once in all his many speaches and justifications for genocide and eugenics. What he did mention repeatedly in his justifications was Catholicism.

Go back and check out the history on this. Basically Hitler's actions were well within the context of how Jews had been treated by the institutions of Christianity within Europe for hundreds of years. In fact, there were laws way back before Shakespeare's day that made money lending the only occupation that jews were allowed to have (under the Christian-based belief in the evils of money lenders). This ironically led to Jews having a disproportionate share of wealth in countries like Germany fueling resentment then stoked by the fires of religious hatred.

Now that said, Darwin's flavor of evolution has been misused, but not by the likes of Hitler but rather corporate robber barrens who justified their actions under the pretense of "Social Darwinism". Even so, Darwin's model of "Survival of the Fittest" is now rather out of date. Current models of evolution are community-based and account for cooperation being as important (if not more important) than competition in natural selection. In fact, the work of scientists like Lynn Margulis has demonstrated that entire kingdoms of life, probably originated from symbotic fusions of different species. (Forget mixing races, this is mixing of entirely different kingdoms of life!)

In other words, there's no possible way that someone could misuse modern concepts of evolution to justify genocide or eugenics. Anyone attempting to do so would showing their vast ignorance of the theories. After all, science teaches us that muts are far healthier than purebreds, and diversity is the sign of a healthy population or ecosystem.

By focusing on Darwinian evolution, Stein merely shows his own ignorance of the actual theories. No intellegence allowed? Certainly not in this film... and if that's the kind of education he's advocating, then I'm glad creationists like him are losing the battle.

SB said...

I think my second response to Lonnie got lost somewhere in the ether of the blogosphere.

I'll boil it down to one question: 1a) Lonnie, what is the ultimate cause of matter or what I call creation? 1b) Is science capable of answering that question? 1c) If not, then science must then bend to faith on questions of first principle?

See, it was one question, really.

Lonnie said...

SB,

Looks like Riddle went back and approved your previous post so I’ll include it in my response.
First of all, I think you are confusing some of the terms I’m using. When I speak of “reason” I’m actually speaking of a well defined methodology of logic. I also concede that it is not the only pathway to knowledge. In fact even Science is full of anecdotes where the solution to a problem came in a dream, through an accident, intuition, etc.

Also, when I speak of “science”, I’m speaking of the scientific method. (Not the over simplified model often taught in school). Now I have no doubt that you are a thoughtful person, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a “Scientific” person, nor does it mean that you place a high priority on using reason versus other valid mechanisms of thought. One can even make some very good arguments that both the scientific method and reason are inherently flawed, and thus Science is poorly equipped to answer certain questions.

As the main issue is not “what is truth” but rather “what should be taught in science classrooms?”, I think the definition of science is rather important. After all, this movie tries to make the case that ID is “science” and therefore should be taught in science classes. My point, and that of pretty much all mainstream science (and the courts) is that by definition ID is theological in nature and thus inappropriate for a science classroom. Until we redefine science and the scientific method, I believe this is the right thing to do.

Even in your own logic, you start with the assumption of a biblical god and work from there. Unfortunately, that makes the basis of your argument theological, not scientific, and thus not science. Futhermore, I’d argue it is an unnecessary starting place since it is outside the scope of the original question. If God created things, surely he would have had a method to do so, and thus the method could be studied. To claim “God did it”, and that we shouldn’t ask why or how, may be your viewpoint, but it isn’t science.

As to the ultimate cause of matter, I think you make rather large assumptions. First of all, just because infinity is a difficult concept for the human brain to grasp doesn’t mean it is illogical. Thus, I can’t see any compelling evidence that an original cause is necessary. Keep in mind the Greeks had neither a concept of 0 nor a concept of ∞. What is the first negative number? Did time have a beginning? If so, then what happened before that? Does space have a beginning? Have you ever seen it? What would that end look like? A wall? If so, that would be something… and so forth. For that matter, where is the beginning of a circle?

Personally, I think it's far more logical to assume that whatever exists must be a cycle not a linear creation. In this situation, creation wouldn't be something that happened log ago, but rather something still occuring. For example, even Matter isn’t something that was all created long ago but something which continues to be created as energy is converted to mass. E=MC2. Under certain conditions, you can even observe this occurring.

As for science, it has a rule that while it doesn't explicitly forbid wild conjecture that it isn't science until it actually becomes testable. Therefore, science can neither confirm nor deny anything prior to the big bang at this point since there is no evidence prior to that point. So while it would be logical for scientists to assume there was something prior to the big bang, it would currently be unscientific to put forth an actual theory at this point in time. Think about kind of like a crime… if the police thought there was a murder but could find no evidence nor a body, then they could not charge anyone with homicide.

As for your question about whether reason or revelation takes precedence, then I would continue to make the case that they serve very different purposes. While it is completely possible for someone to have a scientific revelation, generally it isn’t the mechanism one would generally use to build a hybrid engine, or design a radar gun. Likewise, if one wants to know the gene responsible for Sickle Cell Anemia, then it’s not going to be all that helpful. If that was a priority of God, then certainly it’d say something in the bible about it; however, I think God would probably be more concerned with our souls, and how we treat each other, than that stuff we build. Thus no religious text on earth that I know about, contains the cure for cancer, or the instructions for a rocket ship. Likewise, I’d be equally surprised to find a detailed description of how matter works, or how species change over time and adapt to their environments.
In fact, I’d say that putting too much emphasis on trying to finding the literal truth in every phrase creates a situation where the actual point and meaning of the story is lost.

As to the question of how I can believe in both Science and God, it is because my beliefs are far closer to that of Thomas Paine who said:

"The word of God is the creation we behold ... It is only in the creation that all our ideals and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech, or human language, multiplied and various as they be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God."

SB said...

Lonnie,
I've enjoyed our exchange of ideas. If you'd ever like to talk in person and at greater length let me know. Here is my email address: sbelcher@virginia.edu