Sunday, January 20, 2008

Expelled: The Intelligent Design movie

Cross-posted with a tongue-in-cheek quiz at the Daily Kos.

The whole problem with intelligent design is that its proponents like to say it is science, and that the status quo of scientists are not allowing this new concept to be introduced into science classrooms, from some sort of discrimination or something. It's a reasonable enough sounding argument, and the premise of the new documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." And the makers of this film want people to see this movie so badly that they're offering to pay schools and churches $5 per student to see it. I first read about this on The Daily Irrelevant and The Bad Idea Blog.

What intelligent design proponents - in the movie and elsewhere - don't tell you is that science and scientists do not have PR campaigns. They don't have to pay money to people to accept scientific theories and facts. They quietly go about their work in the halls of academia, in the laboratory, using computer models, in the field doing experiments, publishing results in scientific peer-reviewed journals. This is how science works. Scientific ideas don't need a PR campaign, films, and money to promote themselves. They MAY use these techniques as teaching tools, but that is generally after a scientific concept is well established.

Intelligent design is not well-established, and despite what the film may tell people, it's not being expelled. It doesn't have enough data or studies behind it to be put into textbooks. In fact, it's not even science. Somehow we as a society seem to have forgotten what science even is. This shall not do! Science revolutionized the way people thought, paving the way for the amazing scientific and technological advances since then - germ theory, vaccines, antibiotics, traveling to the moon. The key here is that science requires scientists to throw out ideas that don't have supporting data. Every scientific hypothesis is always open to falsification - being shown to be false.

The whole problem with intelligent design as "science" is that the concept has a predefined result - that the origins of the natural world must literally match the Genesis Creation account. Science does not work if you have a pre-set conclusion! No, for a process or idea to be science, those testing the premise have to be able to throw out the hypothesis if the data doesn't fit. Intelligent design is not willing to do that. Because that would mean they are saying, nope, we're wrong. God didn't create the world. At least that is what the fear it means.

People that promote intelligent design KNOW that there is a God who created the universe. And I, myself a Christian, believe that they're right. But that doesn't make intelligent design right. Because ID does not even provide a proper mechanism, or method, through which the universe came into existence other than "God did it," (technically, their terminology is that the world has "irreducible complexity" that could not possibly have been created by anything other than an intelligent designer).

However, evolution by means of natural selection has amazing explanatory power in terms of how the world could have gone from single-celled organisms to complex beings, even human beings. There's no scientific controversy over evolution. There is ONLY a social, religious and cultural controversy.

Another problem with intelligent design proponents is this - very few people who follow it have ever taken a college Biology class in which they learned about evolution and its evidence. Instead they learn about evolution from those attacking it, in the churches and by the "professional creationists" who make money by selling books and making movies to promote their views. And now if you will excuse me, I need to go worship my Noodly master. Ramen!


Sus said...

Now if one is "offering" to pay people to view their art, isn't that sort of like saying, "Hey, we don't care if you truly believe or like what we have to say or show you but hey here's some money!" Shit, I'll go see it if they want to pay me!

I do kind of disagree with you on the "science and scientists do not have PR campaigns." comment. Basically I view a lot of modern medicine to be a PR campaign. Sure I understand that the scientists creating the vaccines aren't necessarily the one's creating the ads but at the same time I often wonder how often medicine gets "ok'd" just so someone can get their name recognized and the drug put on the market.

Just the itty bitty paranoid part of me peeking out! ;)

PjB said...

Great blog! We need more folks like you. Keep up the good work.

Peter Bryant


Sus - you're right that sometimes technology or scientific endeavors DO have PR campaigns. But the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry are not SCIENCE themselves, but the fruits of years of research. The companies then take up a sceintific "result" and push to get it used or accepted by society. My main point was that the process of scientific inquiry takes years and many multiple independent studie before a concept becomes accepted as not just "one study" but a theory like evolution. ID - even if it WERE "scientific" (rather than having a preset answer) would still be in its infancy and so their groups' desire to get it into textbooks is as ridiculous as the tobacco industry trying to get into school textbooks that smoking is good for you! but convincing the public of buying something - whether a product or an idea - THAT is the job of advertisements, which are really just subtle propaganda or "PR".

That is why the Expelled movie is not doing intelligent design any favors. If you dig deep enough and are not dead-set on the conclusion I believe even those convinced either that ID is "God's way" or that evolution is false will see the truth. They usually don't want to dig much though. Many people do not like to challenge their beliefs because it's difficult and uncomfortable. I think I'm going to make this a post in itself!


Peter - thanks for the comment and I'll check out yor blog! Soryr it took me so long to post your comment - I didn't see it for some reason.