CultureWatch: The gift that keeps on giving

I’ve been expecting this. A documentary exposing TEH EVIL DARWINIST CONSPIRACY would have to receive nothing other than lavish praise from CultureWatch author Bill Muehlenberg. Let’s see what he thinks…

It is very risky business indeed to seek to cross the atheist/materialist/Darwinist camp. If anyone dares to question the conventional wisdom here, the inquisition immediately snaps into place, the storm troopers are unleashed, and the heresy trials begin.

LOL! Talk about hyperbole. We’re only into the first paragraph and we have comparisons to inquisitors and Nazi storm troopers. Anyone seeking for a remotely coherent and reasoned discussion about evolution will have navigated away from Bill’s blog by now but, out of nothing more than morbid curiosity, let’s push on.

Science is supposed to be about free inquiry and the pursuit of truth. Evidence should be followed wherever it leads. But scientism is a different story. It comes complete with a set of materialistic presuppositions, and any challenges to the ideology are treated as heresy or apostasy.

By ‘scientism’ Bill means any scientific process or finding he finds irreconcilable with his theistic presuppositions. He complains about ‘materialistic presuppositions’, revealing his ignorance of what science really is. How many times must it be said that science seeks to posit natural explanations for natural phenomena. Science deals exclusively with the natural, material world. When you start offering supernatural explanations for things you’re not doing science – it’s that simple.

A great example of this is the reaction of the atheists and the anti-supernaturalistic scientists to the new film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

‘Supernaturalistic scientist’ is an oxymoron. We should certainly hope that any scientist will be ‘anti-supernaturalistic’ when it comes to science.

Expelled was released today in the US. It is a documentary produced by Ben Stein about how those who even think about questioning the materialistic assumptions of Darwinism find themselves becoming persona non grata in the universities and scientific community.

I wonder – is Bill concerned about the materialistic assumptions of Newtonian mechanics or relativity? Is he concerned about the materialistic assumptions of the theory of plate tectonics? Why is it that only ‘Darwinism’ (and by Darwinism we can assume Bill is referring to the theory of evolution by natural selection) comes under fire for its ‘materialistic assumptions’? Here’s why: The Bible says that Bill’s God created humans as they are today. Evolutionary biology contradicts this so suddenly we need to start questioning its ‘materialistic assumptions’.

Specifically it is how those who think there might be some scientific merit to the concept of Intelligent Design are hounded out of our schools and treated like Nazi scum. This is a documentary, in other words, about censorship, anti-theistic bigotry, and the witch hunts of scientism.

‘Treated like Nazi scum’? Is he serious? Bill desperately wants to believe the alleged cases of persecution presented in Expelled are true, and for that reason he hasn’t ventured beyond the fundie-friendly walls of the ID friendly websites to find out the full story.

The film was released in some 1200 cinemas, the most for any documentary. In it Stein interviews both proponents of ID, and its critics. But already the atheist websites and magazines are running hot, claiming the film is simply propaganda, that Darwinists were deceived into appearing in the film, and making all sorts of other nasty charges about Stein and the film.

ID critics were mislead about the film. They were originally asked for an interview to form part of a documentary called Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion described on the Rampant Films website thusly:

Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion
It has been the central question of humanity through the ages: How in the world did we get here? In 1859 Charles Darwin provided the answer in his landmark book, “The Origin of Species.” In the century and a half since, geologists, biologists, physicists, astronomers, and philosophers have contributed a vast amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God. The conflict between science and religion has unleashed passions in school board meetings, courtrooms, and town halls across America and beyond.

So you can imagine the surprise of the interviewees upon discovering that they would be appearing in a film about the supposed persecution of ID advocates in universities, schools and research institutes throughout the US. The producers have tried to claim that the film underwent a name change and adopted a different perspective after the interviews took place, but this has been shown to be untrue. It was always their intent to produce a pro-ID propaganda film.

Indeed, it is the typical case of ad hominem attacks by the atheists and Darwinists. Instead of actually dealing with the issues, better to simply assault the messenger. Some of the articles are less bitter and ugly than others, but all are intent on crucifying the man and his message.

The amount of interest in this film from scientists and ID-critics has been huge. Does Bill seriously believe that they haven’t ‘dealt with the issues’? Ben Stein has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, and with good reason. His stunning ignorance of evolutionary biology and other basic scientific concepts is truly something to behold. And again, how many times must the IDC’s (Intelligent Design Creationists) be told – criticism is not the same as persecution.

Bill then discusses Ron Bailey’s review of Expelled in Reason magazine:

[T]here are a few very interesting admissions found in his critique. For example, he actually admits on a number of occasions that Stein is right, and people are losing their jobs because of their scepticism of Darwinism.

Take this representative sentence: “But ID proponents in the academy are not being dragged off to concentration camps by goose-stepping Darwinist thugs – the worst thing they suffer is the loss of their jobs.” Thus he in fact concedes the case of the film, that there is censorship going on and people are being kicked out of their positions. But he simply dismisses all this as not being as bad as what might have happened in Nazi Germany.

It is the Expelled documentary which first drew comparisons between the treatment of ID ‘martyrs’ and the treatment of political opponents of the Nazi regime. It seems even Bill has forgotten that at the very beginning of his article he described ‘Darwinists’ as Nazi storm troopers, and when this type of rhetoric is dismissed as hyperbolic nonsense he accuses his critics of deploying the NABA (Not-as-bas-as) defense. The truth is, nobody actually lost their jobs for believing in ID (and I find Bailey’s choice of words here to be a little clumsy). See here for the full stories on the ‘Expelled’.

He also claims that ID is “all worldview and no evidence”. Many would argue that this is certainly true of philosophical naturalism, scientism, and much of Darwinism. Assumptions are made without evidence, and everything else is meant to fit into that preconceived mould.

Philosophical naturalism isn’t the subject under discussion. ‘Scientism’ is a made-up word used by Muehlenberg to dismiss any science which challenges his biblical understanding of the universe. ‘Darwinism’ (evolution by natural selection) is supported by evidence.

Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin expressed this well: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” Such quotes can be multiplied at length.

Makes perfect sense. Science focuses on the evidence, and to dismiss a finding because it is not intuitive has proven to be a mistake in the past. For example, there was a time when it seemed absurd that someone could really believe that the earth circled the sun.

Such is the animus against God, that many intellectuals have simply ruled him out a priori. They would rather believe in any nonsense instead of God. Thus one often needs more faith to be an atheist, because of some of the bizarre scenarios posited by the anti-theists.

Stein for example asks these true believers how they believe life emerged. Dawkins “incautiously” (as Bailey phrases it) brings up the notion that aliens may have seeded life on earth. Of course this is the old “directed panspermia” idea promoted by Crick and Orgel in 1973, one which seems to require as much faith as any other theory of life’s origins. But because it does not entail God, secular scientists are quite happy to latch on to it.

Dawkins does not subscribe to directed panspermia. See here for his real thoughts on the matter.

And despite the criticisms, the words of scientists make up a good portion of this film. As Chuck Colson explains, “Many distinguished scientists were interviewed for this film and given the chance to express their views. Just like their Darwinist counterparts, the advocates of intelligent design and their supporters who are interviewed are there to talk about science, not to dismiss it. These are people like Cambridge physicist John Polkinghorne; Oxford mathematician and philosopher John Lennox; journalist Pamela Winnick, who has received hate mail for covering the issue; and biologist Caroline Crocker, who was fired from George Mason University for discussing intelligent design in the classroom.

An invalid appeal to authority. “These people support ID and they have science qualifications!” No doubt Bill is aware that for every ‘scientist’ who believes ID has more scientific merit than evolution by natural selection there are countless others who disagree with them. Strongly. Furthermore, since we’re talking about biology wouldn’t it be better to seek out the opinions of reputable biologists rather than physicists, mathematicians and journalists? Also, for the full story on Caroline Crocker see here.

The truth is, everyone has a worldview. The evidence that is available to examine is the same evidence which atheists or theists look at. Atheists and reductionist scientists may not like the way Intelligent Design theorists assess the evidence, but the IDers have every right to at least be allowed to make their case.

IDers do try to make their case and it has been soundly rejected by the scientific community. There are numerous books and websites devoted to the topic, and nothing presented therein has passed scientific muster due to the fact that ID is intrinsically unscientific.

Militant atheist Michael Shermer, in his denunciation of Stein and the film, simply ends his piece by saying that we must “build up that wall separating church and state”. Again, as Colson reminds us, not all who are critical of Darwinism or are supportive of ID are religious, yet Shermer just tries to make this a battle between religion and science, a typical atheist trick that does not get one very far.

That there are a handful of secular ID advocates does not negate the fact that the primary driving force behind ID is religion. Muehlenberg himself makes this nice and clear by complaining that the God-hypothesis doesn’t get a hearing in the world of science. The primary talking point of IDC’s in their public campaign to undermine science is not that ‘evolution is flawed’, but that their God-friendly views aren’t getting a hearing in school science classrooms. Supposedly only one ‘world-view’ is being presented and it’s only fair that theirs is taught alongside it in the interest of fairness.

Indeed, this is simply playing fast and loose with the truth. The Darwinist camp itself admits that their commitment to evolution is often as much an article of religious belief as sound science. Thus even Dawkins, in one of his more candid moments, can confess, “Natural selection – well, I suppose that is a sort of matter of faith on my part since the theory is so coherent, and so powerful.”

The quote above does not support Muehlenberg’s proposition (as I pointed out to him on a (censored) comment on his website in the past). Firstly, Dawkins describes the theory of natural selection as coherant and powerful because of the evidence which supports it. Secondly, when he says he has ‘faith’ in the theory, he means it in the same sense that one has faith in the theory of gravity. He is clearly not using the word ‘faith’ in the same sense as religious faith, and Muehlenberg knows this.

Or as Michael Ruse could admit, “Evolution came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity. . . . I must admit that in this one complaint . . . the [biblical] literalists are right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”

Of course Muehlenberg knows that the vast majority of the ‘atheist/materialist/Darwinist camp’ would disagree with this, but the exception proves the rule for Bill. Evolution is not a religion – it is a scientific theory which explains biological diversity. It doesn’t provide guidelines on how to live one’s life – it tells us how things are, not how things should be.

Another day, another poorly argued hyperbolic whingefest from Bill Muehlenberg. This latest effort demonstrates that he has no interest in exploring the issues raised in Expelled in any depth whatsoever. He’s read all he needs to at the Discovery Institute website. The alleged cases of persecution have been dealt with at length in numerous places but IDC’s just don’t want to know. Unfortunately, the facts play havoc with their narrative, therefore they shut their eyes to the evidence in the same way they refuse to honestly examine the evidence for evolution.

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~ by Sammy Jankis on April 20, 2008.

4 Responses to “CultureWatch: The gift that keeps on giving”

  1. Oh boy I love it when you have already broken down one of Bill’s posts before I even read it, saves my head! Thanks 🙂

  2. If anyone dares to question the conventional wisdom here, the inquisition immediately snaps into place, the storm troopers are unleashed, and the heresy trials begin.

    Nobody expects the Darwinist Inquisition.

  3. So many fallacies, so little time . . .

    He also claims that ID is “all worldview and no evidence”. Many would argue that this is certainly true of philosophical naturalism, scientism, and much of Darwinism.

    “Philosophical naturalism” is a strawman. Science does not presuppose philosophical naturalism. Science operates according to methodological naturalism, seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena, or demanding that natural explanations be ruled out absolutely before “supernatural” explanations can be considered. Why? Because this approach to doing science works. It’s not a question of prior philosophical or ideological commitment: it’s simply a question of pragmatism. If Bill thinks “God did it” leads to better results, it’s up to him to demonstrate this. No-one on his side of the argument has been successful thus far.

    Such is the animus against God, that many intellectuals have simply ruled him out a priori.

    Strawman number 2, by way of false dichotomy. If Bill thinks God counts as a scientific explanation for x, he needs to show the evidence that this is so. Not believing in God due to the lack of evidence, and not considering God as an explanation for a given natural phenomenon does not constitute having an “animus against God.”

    Militant atheist Michael Shermer . . .

    And Bill complains about ad hominem attacks . . .

    Again, as Colson reminds us, not all who are critical of Darwinism or are supportive of ID are religious, yet Shermer just tries to make this a battle between religion and science, a typical atheist trick that does not get one very far.

    Ahem: “There are people out there who want to keep science in a little box where it can’t possibly touch a higher power, and it can’t possibly touch God” (Ben Stein, Expelled).

  4. Oh boy I love it when you have already broken down one of Bill’s posts before I even read it, saves my head! Thanks

    It’s not much fun having to wade through so much fallacy-ridden nonsense, but someone has to do it every now and then. I’d put all of this to Bill at his own website but we all know how comments are screened for evidence and logic, and if the results come back positive the comment is quickly quarantined and expelled.

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