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Old 9th Jul 2009, 17:20   #1
Noumenon
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Default EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Stein

Why? ...why? ...why?
...anyone?
Though playfully mocked down the years for his lowing cow-voice and greyscale manner (he even does so himself in closing), presenter and comic actor Ben Stein's 2008 documentary EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed contains an absolute wealth of intelligence - from a certain point of view. His polemic presents an examination of the alleged bulwarking of a repressed and repressive scientific community against the honorable intentions of Intelligent Design proponents, who are themselves championing one of America's greatest causes: freedom. So, to pose a question of which Bertrand Russell himself might approve, whence comes that intelligence? We all know it, there is no and by definition cannot be evidence in nature for a supernatural designer - this is the core objection to Intelligent Design, that it would wastefully direct science towards an unattainable, inherently unscientific objective; but in this modest human artifact, the touch of human level intelligence can be seen everywhere you look. It is a piece of arch manipulation dressed up as reasoned investigation.

Stein interviews figures on both sides of the divide, but there is a very deliberate representation of ID supporters positively, detractors negatively. Supporters are filmed in their bright, comfortable offices or out in the sunlight; Dawkins by contrast lurks only in the dark places and there is a similar degree of subtle favouritism on display in other ways. On the whole, those speaking in favour do so at greater length and with less editorial intervention than those not, and frequently it is the IDers (any phonetic similarity there is coincidental) who are called upon to "explain" points made by their opponents. The pros aren't always civil in their criticism and the cons are sometimes permitted to retain their eloquence, but there is always a reason when this is so and it always works to undermine the evolutionary perspective. Stein may be demanding an even playing field for his agenda to compete on, but he certainly isn't demonstrating one for the away fans.

In the mingling of these interviews with disparate archive footage a leaf has clearly been plucked from the documen-tree (thank you) of Adam Curtis, the man behind the quite dazzling The Century of Self, The Power of Nightmares and The Trap - but Curtis' films employ irony and wit in the juxtaposition of images. When they provide moments of humour in Stein's film such random footage is used only as a punchline - effectively, perhaps, and there are other comedy touches as well. The game-show cartoon satirising Dawkins and the impossibility of randomly creating the first living cell certainly raises a smile, but part of the problem with Expelled - throughout - is in the basic misleading of the audience. Anyone with the slightest understanding of "random" selection can point to the fallacy implicit in the cartoon (actually, one can go about lining up various objections to its logic, though doing so might blunt the laughs a little), but amongst Stein's likely audience such knowledge is rarely distributed and in effect he only reinforces comforting and outdated misapprehensions.

This is far from the worst offense conducted though - using image juxtaposition Expelled implicitly links its evolutionary antagonists with repressive Communist Russia, and in a lengthy segment Stein explicitly presents the Nazis and the holocaust as direct byproducts of Darwin's theory. The acts of deliberate and involuntary sterilisation once perpetrated in America in the name of Eugenics are specifically attributed to Darwinists, and though Stein mentions in passing that Darwinists and Nazis are not the same thing there can be little doubt that this is exactly the impression he goes at length to underline. The notion that a horrendous misapplication of someone else's brilliant idea should invalidate the idea is utterly without merit; no more should Einstein be blamed for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than does the dropping of those bombs make his theories incorrect.

All in all, it would be nice to suggest the title of this film is one word too long - but you can't. There is a quite diabolical intelligence at hand here, but the only thing Ben Stein proves with it is that he is a willing lapdog of the world's moralising de-educators. Expelled is nothing more than a seedy piece of anti-evolutionary propaganda, a perpetual stream of misinformation that, to be perfectly frank, stinks to high heaven.

Last edited by Noumenon; 10th Jul 2009 at 0:19. Reason: general revisionism
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 17:39   #2
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

You're a brave man, Nou. I see you don't limit your intake of stinkers to the "literary" side of things. I'm impressed that you can bear up so well under such a steady onslaught of
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 18:13   #3
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

Thanks Paul. It's a calling.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 18:31   #4
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

Better you than me.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 18:37   #5
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

Hey, Paul, are you Americans actually intimidated by these ID cranks? Frankly, there is better evidence for Flying Saucers than there is for ID. The Bible is not, and was never intended to be, a scientific textbook.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 18:50   #6
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

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Originally Posted by gil View Post
Hey, Paul, are you Americans actually intimidated by these ID cranks? Frankly, there is better evidence for Flying Saucers than there is for ID. The Bible is not, and was never intended to be, a scientific textbook.
I definitely wouldn't say intimidated, Gil. Maybe outnumbered? It's hard to determine whether very many people actually believe it or if those that do are just especially noisy.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 19:45   #7
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

There are some amusing contradictions in Expelled. For example, Stein is talking to an IDer who, to get away from the Creationist label, more or less says "Oh, it doesn't have to be God doing it, just An Intelligence" - and that's fine, I get the implication: Aliens, right? For his part Stein just goes "oh" and nods, so clearly he's okay with it too.

Later he talks to Dawkins, who specifically agrees that it is at least conceivable that life on earth was intelligently sourced by some creator from elsewhere in the cosmos, but that this cosmic originator itself would have to have evolved by an evolutionary process and couldn't have just popped into existence as if by magic - during which Stein pulls a smug "you credulous idiot" kind of smirk.

So, in effect, Stein considers the idea of alien visitors more credible than natural selection. As long as it's a creationist saying it.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 20:51   #8
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

Sounds like Stein could do with a copy of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

More info here.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 21:23   #9
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

There's an excellent footnotey thing about the FSM in this video (it's not bad generally). The link below it is worth checking out too!

EDIT: Eeeek! I just noticed the clickable Last edited by text appearing beneath posts. Now the world can see hard evidence of my obsessive compulsive disorder... should it care.
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Old 9th Jul 2009, 23:09   #10
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Default Re: EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

The FSM Gospel is actually a pretty good read. Obviously it's a bit of a one-joke book and the original idea is probably more effective in its brevity, but as religious satire goes, it's chuckleworthy. And Henderson's done an impressive job of weaving everything into his religion (what does the AD in "2009 AD" stand for? Al dente, obviously. And Celine Dion is one of the best proofs of so-called unintelligent design, which is what happens when a creature with pasta for hands creates beer before it creates humans.)

I've avoided Expelled since I'm not sure if I'd react to it with a chuckle, a hearty pirate's belly laugh, or fury. Thanks for reminding me though, Nou; I sat through Religulous, the least I could do would be to look at the opposing view... well, actually, the least I could do would be to not watch it at all, but y'know.

RAmen.
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