Wednesday, February 11, 2009

17 Shevaṭ 5769: Be Electrific Day/National Inventor’s Day/Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Obama's pick for health care”, “Congress: Help Keep Families in Their Homes”, and “Sign the ACLU's Petition to Shut Down Guantanamo Bay”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Catherine Martin Forges Ahead”: Muslims have to obey the rules of this country, just like everyone else.
  2. “Prayer proposal placed on school board agenda”: While I am all for prayer, is not having the school board pray together officially as a group a violation of the separation of church and state?
  3. The panel I participated in for “2009 Darwin Week in Charleston” was last night. My freshly-written review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed appears below in lieu of a weird thing.
Today’s news and commentary:
And now, my review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Enjoy (or be appalled at the movie) and share the weirdness.

Aaron


No honesty allowed: a review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
by Aaron Solomon Adelman
based on his notes for use in the panel examining this movie for Darwin Week 2009 at the College of Charleston

Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is the worst film to ever be passed off as a documentary which this commentator has ever seen. Given his strong belief in evolution, many might attribute this disgust for Expelled to the fact that it promotes creationism under the pseudonym of “intelligent design”. Far from it, actually. Being a creationist merely entails being wrong, and being wrong is neither a sin nor a crime. In fact, even if creationism were correct, Expelled would still be highly odious, and that is because of the overall strategy used to argue for creationism. The pattern contained in the list of offenses should be easily discerned by almost anyone.

NOTE: Due to a self-imposed deadline, not every offense is explored or referenced as completely as it might be, especially those concerning biology. See the bibliography for other reviews.
  • The form of the film is propaganda. A good film would stick to the facts and examine the arguments. In Expelled, there is much extraneous content, especially in the form of old footage presented in black and white, which serves no purpose but to dictate the mood. Stein also feels free to ridicule his opponents. (Shermer; Rennie; Rennie and Mirsky; Mirsky).
  • Intelligent design is portrayed as a freedom issue, with Stein championing the the right of academics to believe in, advocate, and do research based on intelligent design and the right of reporter to report on intelligent design positively. He completely ignores that freedom of speech does not mean that anything goes and that being free to say something does not make it actually correct (Rennie; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks). In reality, there are always consequences. Freedom of speech works both ways: when one exercises freedom of speech, what one says may legitimately be subject to criticism, as everyone who hears also is equally entitled to free speech. Furthermore, while a political or legal right to free speech may exist, no one is under any obligation to believe what someone else says, to aid that person in their quest to communicate their ideas, or to treat them favorably afterwards. E.g., someone might step up on a soapbox and invoke free speech to advocate killing all the whales, but no one has to like such a person or give him/her a job afterwards, and the whale-hater is not exempt from protest from nature-lovers.
  • Stein presents several claims of persecution of those who support intelligent design. These are all irrelevant to the case of whether intelligent design is actually correct. Furthermore, the stories of all the “bad boys” have been debunked (Shermer; Rennie; Rennie and Mirsky; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks).
  • Stein lies about evolutionists, portraying them all as contemptible people (Rennie; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks). This is highly unlikely for any group not defined morally.
  • Stein lies about about the alleged controversy about evolution (Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks). Every competent scientist knows that the controversy does not exist in the scientific community, something which scientists interviewed in the film note. The controversy is actually a convenient fiction invented by creationists.
  • Stein lies about the nature of intelligent design, including falsely claiming that intelligent design is not religious, is not thinly disguised creationism, and is science. This is despite Stein maintaining an overall religious tone of a paranoid variety (Rennie).
  • Stein lies about and misunderstands evolution (Rennie; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks).
  • Stein lies about and misunderstands how science works. He pushes the notion that science is inherently atheistic and that scientists are engaged in a huge conspiracy in which all must adhere to a party line or face severe consequences. (Shermer; Rennie and Mirsky; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks)
  • Stein falsely equates evolution and atheism, pushing Richard Dawkins and his militant atheism movement as representative of science over Eugenie C. Scott and the belief that religion and science are compatible, bringing nothing in the way of proof for disregarding the latter. Stein denies that there are religious evolutionists, despite what Eugenie C. Scott tells him (Shermer; Rennie; Rennie and Mirsky; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks). (A list of material on compatibility between science and religion can be found in Appendix 1.) Stein papers over this discrepancy very badly. When one creationist interviewee is confronted with the fact that Catholics and liberal Protestants accept evolution as a legitimate belief, he claims the reason for this is “they’ll side with anyone against the Fundamentalists”, essentially claiming that Catholicism and liberal Protestantism are not “real” religions. Stein makes the dubious claim that evolution leads to atheism, no belief in an afterlife, no belief in free will, and no meaning of life; the fact that one or a few may have gone down such a path says next to nothing about the scientific community in general. Stein advocates a false dichotomy with atheism, evolution, eugenics, dehumanization, Nazism, communism, and evil on one side and religion, intelligent design, morality, freedom, American values, science, and good on the other. (Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks)
  • Stein repeatedly misunderstands and distorts what scientists interviewed are claiming.
  • Stein uses four intelligent design philosophers as sources for purportedly accurate information on evolution. (Keep in mind that philosophy and science have effectively parted company. Not to mention philosophers commenting on science are working outside their own field.)
  • Stein attacks science proponents over fighting intelligent design in the courts, conveniently ignoring that intelligent design proponents have been acting illegally in such a way that science proponents have needed to resort to lawsuits.
  • Stein makes the false claim that Mein Kampf (Hitler) and Nazism are based on Darwin, with the false implication that Darwin is responsible for the Holocaust (Shermer; Rennie; Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks). This should be obviously wrong to anyone who has read both Mein Kampf and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (Darwin, On the Origin of Species) and The Descent of Man (Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex). Hitler lays out material of a “Social Darwinist” nature in chapters 4, 10, and 11 of volume 1 and chapter 2 of volume 2 of Mein Kampf. For him, race is all-important and determines everything about the individual. He believes that humanity is divided into a number of distinct races which can be linearly ranked, and that any hybridization between races creates offspring of an intermediate character and inevitably leads to disaster. Hitler draws moral consequences from these supposed facts, insisting on race purity, no matter what the dictates of Christianity or any other religion are. In such a system, the best humanity can hope for is a constant struggle to avoid all humanity ending up as one mid-level race; there is no hope that humanity can ever end up better than the best that are alive now. This system cannot explain how the highest race (assumed to be Germans/Aryans) and the lowest race (assumed to be the Jews) could come into existence, as they could not have been created through hybridization. In fact, there is nothing in this system which could explain speciation. Darwin, on the other hand, has no concept of race or of ranking beings linearly. For him, the individual—or rather the range of variations between individuals is everything. Variation, combined with natural and sexual selection, is what drives the engine of evolution. This mechanism allows for change other than regression to the mean; new species may arise, and future generations make be better endowed than those alive now. Darwin also draws no moral conclusions from evolution; evolution for him is a description of how nature works, not a prescription of how we should live. It takes a huge stretch of the imagination to derive Hitler’s views from Darwin’s. What makes it even more incredible is that Mein Kampf makes a grand total of zero mentions of Darwin and zero mentions of evolution. Completely ignored is the long history of anti-Semitism which preceded the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859—incidents Darwin could not possibly be responsible for. In Appendix 2 the reader will find a very long list of such incidents; it could have been even longer, but it was largely limited to ones listed with specific dates. Anyone who knows anything about Jewish history knows that Christian Europe has a very long history of anti-Semitism, one which it is only now trying to come to terms with. The Holocaust really only differs from preceding anti-Semitic incidents in scale, not substance. Trying to pin the blame on Darwin when there are so many other clearer precedents makes no sense.
  • Stein takes material out of context. Many clips of those being interviewed taken in isolation might well be taken to mean something rather different than what Stein would have us believe they mean. Furthermore, Stein deceptively quotes Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man (Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, chapter V). The part Stein quotes:
    With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
    The part Stein does not quote:
    The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.
    By simple omission the meaning of the quote is morally inverted (Rennie and Mirsky; Mirsky)
  • Stein obtained some of his interviews via deception (Shermer; Rennie and Mirsky).
  • Stein used other people’s material without permission (Expelled Producers Accused of Copyright Infringement, ; Stein et al.).
In short, Expelled is filled with lies and half-truths, and lying and theft was used to create it. This is obviously intellectually improper; an argument based on a lie is worthless. Stein is also at risk of being sued for slander and copyright violation. But what is truly shocking is that Stein committed blatant transgressions of basic moral laws in Judaism, his professed religion, especially the prohibitions of moṣi’ shem ra‘ (lying) and lashon hara‘ (saying the truth in such a way as it can be interpreted wrongly, e.g., quoting out of context). The author of this review is under the impression that much of what Stein has done is generally regarded as morally offensive among non-Jews, too. If Darwin and evolution are so terrible, why does Stein not build a case on the facts? Why does he have to resort to dirty rhetorical tricks to make a case? If Stein cannot make a fair case for his accusations, why should anyone believe them at all?

Overall classification: Provocative pseudo-documentary.


Theological rating: F




Appendix 1: Resources on compatibility between science and religion:
  • Expelled Exposed (Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks), which also covers all manner of things wrong with Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
  • Finding Darwin’s God (Miller)
  • Hertz’s Ḥummash (Hertz 194-95)
  • Not in Our Classrooms (Scott and Branch)
  • Science, Evolution, and Creationism ( 29-32)
  • The Clergy Letter Project (The Clergy Letter Project)

Appendix 2: Anti-Semitism before On the Origin of Species (Darwin, On the Origin of Species ):

  • Egypt (see Exodus)
  • ‘Amaleq (see Exodus)
  • Bashan and Midhyan (see Deuteronomy)
  • Philistines (see Judges and Samuel)
  • Destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile (see Kings and Chronicles)
  • Zoroastrians (see Esther)
  • Syrian Greeks (see Maccabees)
  • New Testament (Carroll)
  • 70: Destruction of the Second Temple (Ben-Sasson 303)
  • 135-138: Hadrianic persecutions (Ben-Sasson 335)
  • 455-485: Persecution of Jews in Persia under the reign of Yazdigar III and Piruz (Ben-Sasson 380)
  • 470: Jewish scholars in Persia, including Huna’ bar Mar Zuṭra’, imprisoned and executed (Ben-Sasson 380)
  • 502: R. Ḥaninah and Mar Zuṭra’ crucified in Maḥoza’, Babylon (Ben-Sasson 380)
  • 610-632: Qur’an (Warraq 214-18, 28-29)
  • 627: Massacre of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza by Muḥammad (Warraq 78, 217)
  • 628: Reduction of the Jews of Khaybar to dhimmitude by Muḥammad (Warraq 217)
  • 629: Byzantine emperor Heraclius orders expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem (Ben-Sasson 363)
  • 640: Expulsion of Jews and Christians from the Hijaz by Umar (Warraq 217)
  • 643: Amr conquers Tripoli and enslaves all Jewish and Christian women and children (Warraq 231)
  • 717-720: The Pact of Umar (Warraq 230)
  • 930: Anti-Semitic attacks, murders, and forced conversions in Otranto, Italy (Ben-Sasson 412)
  • 1007: Persecutions of Jews in France (Ben-Sasson 412)
  • c. 1008: Al-Ḥakim B’amr Allah, Fatimid caliph of Egypt, imposes humiliating laws upon Jews (Ben-Sasson 406)
  • 1010: Hundreds of Jews in Spain massacred (Warraq 228)
  • 1012: Expulsion of Jews from Mainz (Ben-Sasson 412)
  • 1013: Hundreds of Jews in Spain massacred (Warraq 228)
  • 1016: Jews expelled from Kairouan, Tunisia (Warraq 228)
  • 1033: ≥ 6,000 Jews in Fez, Morocco massacred (Warraq 228)
  • 1066: Anti-Semitic riots in Granada (Ben-Sasson 405; Warraq 228, 36)
  • 1096: First Crusade massacres (Ben-Sasson 413-14)
  • 1099: Massacre of the Jews of Jerusalem by the Crusaders (Ben-Sasson 414)
  • 1145: Jews forced to convert to Islam or leave Tunis (Warraq 228)
  • 1165: Jews of Yemen forced to choose between conversion to Islam and death (Warraq 227)
  • 1171: Martyrs in Blois, France burnt at the stake (Ben-Sasson 420)
  • 1178: Jews of Yemen forced to choose between conversion to Islam and death (Warraq 227)
  • 1190: Anti-semitic riots in York, England (Ben-Sasson 420)
  • 1198: Jews of Yemen forced to choose between conversion to Islam and death (Warraq 227)
  • 1232: Massacre of the Jews of Marrakesh (Warraq 228)
  • 1235: Blood libel in Fulda (Ben-Sasson 482)
  • 1243: First recorded libel of a Jew desecrating a host (Ben-Sasson 483)
  • 1250: Charge of ritual murder in Saragossa, Spain (Ben-Sasson 488)
  • 1255: Blood libel in Lincoln (Ben-Sasson 482)
  • 1286: Blood libel in Munich (Ben-Sasson 482)
  • 1288-1294: Devastation of the Jewish communities of southern Italy (Ben-Sasson 465)
  • 1290: Expulsion of the Jews from England (Ben-Sasson 475)
  • 1290-1293: Devastation of the Jewish communities of Napels (Ben-Sasson 465)
  • 1291: Jews of Tabriz forced to convert to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1298: Host desecration libel in Roettigen (Ben-Sasson 486)
  • 1298-1348: Anti-Semitic libels, false charges, riots, and massacres throughout Germany (Ben-Sasson 486)
  • 1306: Expulsion of Jews in France (Ben-Sasson 465)
  • 1318: Jews of Tabriz forced to convert to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1333: Jews of Baghdad forced to convert to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1344: Jews of Baghdad forced to convert to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1348-1349: Anti-Semitic massacres due to blaming the Black Death on the Jews (Ben-Sasson 465)
  • 1387: The Canterbury Tales, including The Prioress’ Tale, which is about a blood libel (Ben-Sasson 482-83)
  • 1391: Anti-Semitic riots in Spain (Ben-Sasson 569)
  • 1407: Anti-Semitic riots in Poland (Ben-Sasson 580)
  • 1412: King John II of Spain orders ghettoization of Jews and Muslims (Ben-Sasson 584-85)
  • 1453: Ritual murder libel in Breslau (Ben-Sasson 580)
  • 1475: Ritual murder libel in Trent (Ben-Sasson 580)
  • 1491: “The Holy Child of La Guardia” blood- and host-desecration-libel (Ben-Sasson 590)
  • 1492: Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (Ben-Sasson 570)
  • 1494: Anti-Semitic riots in Cracow (Ben-Sasson 581)
  • 1495: Expulsion of Jews from Lithuania (Ben-Sasson 582-83)
  • 1497: Forced conversion of Jews in Portugal (Ben-Sasson 631)
  • 1498: Expulsion of Jews from Nuremberg, Germany (Ben-Sasson 576)
  • 1516: Ghettoization of the Jews of Venice (Ben-Sasson 639)
  • 1519: Expulsion of Jews from Regensburg (Ben-Sasson 578)
  • 1543: Publication of On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther, with proto-Nazi content (Ben-Sasson 650)
  • 1555-1556: Anti-Semitic persecutions in Italy by Pope Paul IV (Ben-Sasson 657, 67-69)
  • 1617: Jews of Persia persecuted and forcibly converted to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1622: Jews of Persia persecuted and forcibly converted to Islam (Warraq 227)
  • 1648-1649: Massacres of 1948-1649 at the time of the Cossack Revolt in Poland (Ben-Sasson 656-57)
  • 1653-1666: Jews of Persia forcibly converted to Islam by Shah Abbas II (Warraq 227)
  • 1670: Expulsion of Jews from Vienna (Ben-Sasson 755)
  • 1700: Publication of the anti-Semitic book Judaism Exposed by Johann Eisenmenger
  • 1734: Haidamak Cossacks capture several small eastern Polish towns and murder and rob Jews and Poles
  • 1740s-1750s: Nearly annual anti-Semitic riots in eastern Poland (Ben-Sasson 752)
  • 1744-1745: Expulsion of Jews from Prague (Ben-Sasson 755)
  • 1750: Haidamak Cossacks capture several small eastern Polish towns and murder and rob Jews and Poles
  • 1768: Thousands of Jews killed by marauding Haidamak Cossacks in eastern Poland
  • 1770-1786: Expulsion of Jews from Jedda (Warraq 237)
  • 1790: Jews of Tetuan, Morocco massacred (Warraq 237)
  • 1807: Attempted expulsion of Jews from outside of the Pale of Settlement in Russia (Ben-Sasson 758)
  • 1808: Napoleon’s “Infamous Decree”, interfering with Jewish communities and religion (Ben-Sasson 762)
  • 1815: Publication of the anti-Semitic pamphlet The Mirror of the Jews (Ben-Sasson 804)
  • 1819: Anti-Semitic riots in Germany (Ben-Sasson 804)
  • 1828: Jews of Baghdad massacred (Warraq 237)
  • 1833: Publication of the anti-Semitic book On the Attitude of the Jews Toward the Christian States (Ben-Sasson 805)
  • 1834: Attacks on the Jews of Safed (Warraq 237)
  • 1839: Jews of Persia suffer forced conversions to Islam and massacres (Warraq 227, 37)
  • 1840: Damascus blood libel (Ben-Sasson 847; Warraq 237)
  • 1843: Publication of the anti-Semitic book On the Jewish Question by Bruno Bauer (Ben-Sasson 806)
  • 1845: Publication of the anti-Semitic book The Jews, Monarchs of the Age (Ben-Sasson 872)
  • 1847: Publication of the anti-Semitic book The Attitude of the Christian State Towards Deism and Judaism (Ben-Sasson 805)


Bibliography:
  • Ben-Sasson, H. H., ed. A History of the Jewish People. Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing House, 1969. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Univerisity Press, 1976.
  • Carroll, James. Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
  • The Clergy Letter Project. Available: http://www.butler.edu/clergyproject/. 2009-02-03.
  • Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. 2nd. 1874. Available: http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/darwin/descent/index.htm. 2009-02-03.
  • ---. On the Origin of Species. 6th. 1859. Available: http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/darwin/origin/index.htm2009-02-03.
  • Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks. 2008. National Center for Science Education. Available: http://www.expelledexposed.com/. 2009-02-03.
  • Expelled Producers Accused of Copyright Infringement. 2008. Available: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/US/301_expelled_producers_accused_of__4_9_2008.asp. 2008-04-10.
  • Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. 2008. DVD. Logan Craft, et al., 2008-04-10.
  • Hertz, J. H., ed. The Pentateuch and Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation and Commentary. London: Defus d'universitah Oxford, 1929-1936. 2nd ed. London: Soncino Press, 1961.
  • Hitler, Adolph. Mein Kampf. 1933. Available: http://www.mondopolitico.com/library/meinkampf/toc.htm. 2007-04-01.
  • Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of. Science, Evolution, and Creationism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
  • Miller, Kenneth R. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution. New York: Cliff Street Books, 1999. Perennial ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
  • Mirsky, Steve. Never You Mine: Ben Stein's Selective Quoting of Darwin. 2008. Available: http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=61D30BEB-A65E-7583-BB264FABBD4CD879&sc=rss. 2008-04-18.
  • Rennie, John. Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed. 2008. Available: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ben-steins-expelled-review-john-rennie&print=true. 2008-04-10.
  • Rennie, John, and Steve Mirsky. Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know... 2008. Available: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=six-things-ben-stein-doesnt-want-you-to-know&print=true. 2008-04-16.
  • Scott, Eugenie C., and Glenn Branch, eds. Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools. 1st ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.
  • Shermer, Michael. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-Free Attack on Darwin. 2008. Available: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ben-steins-expelled-review-michael-shermer&print=true. 2008-04-10.
  • Stein, Lisa, et al. News Bytes of the Week--Imagine There's No Evolution: Yoko Says Oh No to Expelled. 2008. Available: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=news-bytes-yoko-and-expelled&print=true. 2008-06-08.
  • Warraq, Ibn. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995.
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