Stein Nukes Dawkins, Then Freaks Out

04/17/2008


By Heidi Martinuzzi

Richard Dawkins is going to be very sorry today. There's a moment in Ben Stein's new movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that the revered biologist is not going to like at all.

As the preeminent source on evolutionary theory and Darwinism, Dawkins is being interviewed by the dry, laconic Stein, who gets him to talk about why he's so vehemently opposed to any possibility of Intelligent Design in any way, shape or form.

And then suddenly Dawkins starts to muse. He wonders sometimes, he says, why all DNA has such a deliberate signature to it. It's almost as if someone, or something, put their “stamp” on it, and maybe even placed the seeds of this DNA, in cellular form, on the Earth, on purpose, intending that it would reproduce itself and spread. Dawkins wonders at who this “intelligence” might be. Aliens? From another planet? He’s shy when he says it, blushing like a schoolboy, because he knows that he sounds a little silly. Yet he is not afraid to admit he thinks it’s possible that someone, or some THING, more intelligent than we are, made us on purpose. And how fascinating is that?

Cut to Ben Stein, feigning a perplexed look: "Did Richard Dawkins just say he accepts the possibility of Intelligent Design?"

It's Stein's ultimate "Gotcha!" moment. Everyone learned how to do this from Michael Moore.

Stein and Dawkins

And yet the film is deeper than that. My own training is in anthropology and I'm a committed Darwinist, but I have to admit that this movie, skillfully directed by Nathan Frankowski, caused me to give Intelligent Design a second look. Explaining the difference between ID (“Life is so complex, I guess maybe it was planned!”) and Creationism (“The Hebrew God made the world in six days”), Expelled interviews several scientists who actually lost their jobs because they considered Intelligent Design a worthwhile subject for study.

Richard Sternberg, a Ph.D. biologist, was fired from his job at the Smithsonian Institution after publishing a paper on the topic. Physicist Guillermo Gonzalez was refused tenure at Iowa State University because he documented a “design” he observed in the universe. Caroline Crocker, a biologist, was forced out of George Mason University for defining Intelligent Design in one of her classrooms. Expelled is definitely on the side of these scientists and against Dawkins and his crew, but Stein’s narrative tries to convince us he’s actually looking for “the Truth.” Well, he is, but he’s really looking for a strained truth of his own devising: that Darwinists are evil.

Ben

They're not evil, but perhaps what this film shows is that they've become so radicalized by the prejudices of their opponents that they're blind to their own lack of fairmindedness. While it’s unlikely that aliens came down and planted us here as part of some great experiment, isn’t it just as unlikely, in a common-sense kind of way, that life just “appeared” for no reason one day? Maybe, just maybe, something intelligent encoded the directions in DNA and placed it in a cell, where it would be safe, and then put the cell down on Earth and said “Go forth and multiply. Oh, and good luck, you’ll need it.” My first thought is: So, doesn’t that make us all machines of some kind? My second thought is: Oh my God, am I a Cylon? Are we ALL Cylons?

Dawkins

What’s going to make Richard Dawkins upset about his admission is that he is aggressively anti-religious, a “hater” of the Judeo-Christian God, and he has many times publicly denounced the theory of Intelligent Design as complete and utter hogwash. He frankly states, moments before his alien-musings, that the likelihood of God existing is about the same as “fairies, elves” and other fantastical creatures.

But apparently he’s okay with aliens.

That one scene is enough to open anyone’s eyes to the inherent hypocrisy not only of the scientific community but of humanity as a whole. Perhaps everything we think we know about our world should be put to the test more often by the scientific community. It’s easy to take for granted that certain things become "common knowledge" (global warming is bad; unicorns never existed), but then again Newtonian law was once accepted as the only physics, too. Then Einstein came along. Weren’t people once convinced that dinosaurs’ bones were the remains of long-dead dragons, and that they breathed fire? Wasn’t it not long ago that people died of common colds because science didn’t permit the dissection of human bodies for study? Aren’t we glad that people stood up to whoever was in charge only to arrive at greater and more complete truths?

So when Richard Dawkins, and many other scientists, heatedly deny the possibility of Intelligent Design because they claim it's “stupid,” they are refusing to entertain possibilities other than Darwin’s “survival-of-the-fittest,” “mutations-happen-randomly,” “environment-is-everything,” “free-will-does-not-exist” concept (and, in essence, are being closed-minded jerks).

Ben and Darwin

Ben Stein agrees, and Expelled does a great job of making this point. When he goes beyond that, the film stumbles. There's a very strange sequence in which Stein runs around Dachau and other Holocaust sites—we see the closeup tears on Stein's cheeks—claiming that Darwin is directly responsible somehow for Hitler. Moving from Darwinism to "social Darwinism," Stein insinuates that Darwinism leads to atheism, and that atheism leads to amorality and a devaluing of human life, and that leads to governments doing terrible things like sterilizing the mentally challenged (the eugenics movement of the 1920’s), killing Jews (the Holocaust) and creating totalitarian Communist states (Russia—no, seriously, Communist Russia is somehow a direct result of Darwin). This is where Stein goes overboard. To portray scientific thinking without God as the root of all evil is just as bad as claiming that scientific thought with God is stupid.

Dawkins, echoing several of the scientists interviewed, says that his pursuit of Darwinian science made him lose any faith in a higher power. But Intelligent Design claims that God and modern evolutionary theory can coexist. Darwin never explained how that first cell was created, and neither has anyone since then. ID advocates accept the doctrine of evolution, but also believe in the possibility that its "first causes" are not random. Maybe there’s a purpose?

So while Ben Stein’s greater objective seems to be to make Richard Dawkins Benout to be pure evil and a hypocrite, Intelligent Design not only gets some much needed press but proves that those old-fashioned witch-hunt tactics used to stifle free-thinking scientists are still being used today to control the flow of scientific information. That's because a godless world that has no place for the sick, old, or imperfect is somehow less scary to science than a world where everyone is a Cylon: an organic and pre-programmed machine with a purpose.

I loved Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and I always watched Win Ben Stein's Money, but this is more like one of those speeches he used to write for Richard Nixon: so over-the-top that you can't totally trust it. It’s also kind of shameless the way he inserts both a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment and a Win Ben Stein’s Money reference in the film. It’s a good thing he accidentally makes some really good points.


Comments(138)

60613 | 09:31 am on 4/24/2008

... and neither would life itself! Or at least the social intercourse part of it. :)

that calvinist doug | 07:20 am on 4/26/2008

Raquel, et al, it was a joke. I know I'm not always right...just 98.675% of the time.

The Nam | 03:02 pm on 4/18/2008

"... perhaps what this film shows is that they've become so radicalized by the prejudices of their opponents that they're blind to their own lack of fairmindedness." Heidi M.

So if I espouse ID or a Biblical creation then it's my fault these Darwanists are closed-minded radical fools?

Nope - they are fools because they refuse to acknowledge God.

Anonymous | 05:48 pm on 4/18/2008

The Nam, I think you may have misunderstood. My point is that scientists who take darwinism for granted are closing themselves off to other ideas, some of which may have scientific merit and may go unexplored. This is not good, whether twhat they are closed from is ID or not.

My personal opinion is that ID IS worth exploring.

60613 | 09:33 am on 4/24/2008

You would paint anyone who "refuses to acknowledge God" as a fool?

The stench of your elitism is overwhelming! I'm sure Jesus would agree with you 100% -- you freak.

Steve Schlichter | 03:47 pm on 5/07/2008

I don't think it is an elitism. I am careful not to call people fools. However, I beleive in revelation and this has the unfortunate (for some) worldview attached to it that includes God.

The Bible is very clear that we have no right to call each other fools (Sermon on the Mount) but it is also pretty clear that he reserves that right when he says that a fool says in his heart that there is no God. (Psalms 14:1).

I think your problem is with him. Perhaps God is an elitist freak and you are barking up the wrong tree.

~Steve

micktransit | 08:11 pm on 1/12/2009

Belief in god yields no results whatsoever. None. It makes no testable predictions. There is absolutely nothing to commend it. The only point that believers can cling to, is that it makes them feel good. But huge numbers of people believe some other religion, often contradictory in crucial respects. Their belief appears to be as solid as yours. With a comparable feel-good factor. Sincere, fervent, blissful belief is obviously no indicator of truth.
Believers try to persuade us that if we switch off our critical faculties, and just BELIEVE, then we may become addicted to this self hypnosis. They're probably right, the mind is capable of self-deception. Including mine. But which religion should I pick? My local one? The one that suits my prejudices? I choose the only belief system which is capable of learning and changing to accommodate new knowledge. Science. You can keep your easy, delusional, blind religions with their promises of "no need to think, the answers are all in this old book." And yes, I feel good, too. :-)

David Williams | 07:13 pm on 4/18/2008

ID is worth exploring as theology, but it isn't science, dagflabbit. It isn't.

That doesn't mean that rational beings can't see signs of their creator. But the pursuit of those evidences isn't something for which science is intended. This isn't a hypothesis to be proven or disproven based on the data.

In no way, no how, and under no circumstances are the tools of science going to yield proof of God...at least not until the Maker is good and ready. Then, probably any cheap digital camera will suffice.

JoshH | 07:41 pm on 4/18/2008

And that's why schools should teach a basic ability to grok philosophical/theological arguments without being distracted by BS. "Intelligent Design" is an aesthetics-based theology/philosophy of science.

The problem is that the fundies would go apeshit over such a thing. Being able to see through the "seed-faith contribution" BS inherent to their worldview would be seen by them as "brainwashing children" (as if "Left Behind" and its related crock isn't).

Steve Schlichter | 06:48 am on 4/23/2008

This position (as common as it is) is baffling to me. No one is talking about trying to discover God, define him, or get a snapshot. ID is simply (in it's agenda-less form) looking at the cell (or the universe, or whatever) and determining what is the likeliest origin of it. If God is a possible origin, then you can shrug your shoulders and move on, or change your your major to theology, if you want.

Why is the acknowledgement of the possibility of a creator automatically unscientific while aliens seeding the planet (as long as they themselves evolved randomly) is somehow a compelling scientific notion.

~Steve

Amarie | 05:19 pm on 4/24/2008

Let me get this out of the way. I try to view the world from a scientific standpoint because it reveals God to me. Also, I believe God created the world and informed us of it in a need-to-know basis as to just “how” in the scriptures. I have no idea when exactly He did it. I wasn’t there. Do I believe it was 6 literal days? Actually, since it’s been shown that the speed of light is slowing down, I guess time could’ve been faster then and it could’ve been in less time than we would measure by today’s standards. So yeah, He can do whatever He wants. The chicken came first, obviously.

I can read what some smart people, believers and non-believers have discovered about the Fertile Crescent as the cradle of civilization, and about floods and the geologic records and stuff. But again, it’s hard to measure how old things are when we don’t know how old they appeared to be when they were created or what catastrophes do to our interpretation. All I see are people fighting for their faiths. Everyone gets their knickers in a twist when some new thought is publicized that threatens their position. Lots of creationists or ID people don’t like it when evolutionists gets press or sell their books or control the schools with a stranglehold so narrow-minded they can look through a key hole with both eyes.

Evolutionists wet their pants at the thought that someone might actually challenge their belief system by daring to state in a public forum that they disagree with them, and revert, oh so intelligently to calling names and spending way too much time trying to refute ideas with overreacting spin-PhDs. So what if Mount St. Helens proves that previously measured layers of some canyons that were thought to take, say “bunches” of more years to form, actually took a couple days to make. “So…” is their answer, “Not everything was formed by magma…(really?)…so we got that wrong, we’re certainly not going to change our views or revise any books with the truth about that. You’re just a bunch of dummies looking to prove a young earth, you,…you…dumbheads…. Only catastrophic measuring is suspect. Everything else is ours. Got it?” (Paraphrase)

So in my worldview, God created Planck to understand God’s constant. Of course Planck gets all the credit and quantum physics eventually takes its lovely course. And I’m on board with this. It’s really cool. But the trouble is, it’s scientific. So evolutionists have to abandon science to maintain their faith. Things move from order to chaos. Let’s say I start with a substrate of my clothes in a dryer. I’ll even help things along by adding heat. If I could live, say, a billion years, and never run out of Cling Free, my clothes would never, ever, never come out sorted and folded. Socks would not pair up in the right colors, tee shirts would not be folded just the way I like them. It would never happen. It’s a scientific fact. Physics says things become more disordered over time. A bunch of bricks in my backyard will never form a building with plumbing that works, even if I cheat and throw in some pipes. That would take intention and purpose. Ants don’t one day suddenly decide to form a colony. Bees don’t just say, hey, let’s all work together and make a big thingy. We’ll call it a hive. It would never, ever, ever, ever happen. That requires intention and purpose. But only if you think scientifically and mathematically. Which lots of Christians are afraid to do and lots of evolutionists simply refuse to do. Anyway, I have to go get my clothes out of the dryer and fold them.

that calvinist doug | 01:09 pm on 4/25/2008

Nice post!

mountainguy | 07:14 pm on 4/18/2008

1. Darwinj is not guilty of nazism. Were the nazis who misinterpreted Evolution theory in a way to support their "superior race" theory (just like the creationists of Ku-Klux-Klan misinterpreted the Bible in a way to support the idea of "WASP people are the God's people).

2. I'm both christian and evolutionist. I respect Dawkins, but I don't follow him, not only because of his atheism, but also because Dawkins is utterly and bitterly neodarwinist (ie: functionalism, reductionism, gradualism and a excesive gene-centered view of evolution). I'm more on the structuralist, punctualist, holist and not totally gene-centered view of evolution.

Papist Spy | 08:40 pm on 4/18/2008

Maybe readers should check out the page at www.sciam.com, titled "Six Things Ben Stein Doesn't Want You To Know." To me the two most salient are that Stein lied about the purposes of his interviews and that the tales of persecution are bogus. The Smithsonian researcher wasn't fired - his appointment ended, and it was renewed. The Iowa astronomer wasn't fired, he didn't get tenure. He was hired to generate fundable research and support graduate students, and he didn't do it. Now I think the whole funding game is vile, but he was hired with certain expectations and didn't fulfill them. If he doesn't want to play by those rules he can choose a small campus not run on grants, like I did.

Jdog, you claim "there is no way that it [evolution] works at a cellular level." Where's your evidence from the scientific literature? Not an ID blog or an ICR newsletter, not something by Hans Behe or Ann Coulter, not something you intuitively dreamed up, but actual published science? Do any of you that are pronouncing evolution unworkable ever read any real science at all? Written by actual working scientists and reviewed for reliability by other scientists? Say Scientific American, which virtually every month has articles on how this that or the other evolutionary puzzle has been solved?

Somebody give me ONE scientific idea to come out of ID. By scientific I mean something (not already known) that can be tested and either verified or (here's the nasty part) disproven? Irreducible complexity? If you can define it rigorously so we can tell whether something has it or not, maybe. Show me how I can determine whether or not something is irreducibly complex?

Want I should play by my own rules? Fine, here are THREE tests that could play havoc with evolution:
1. Find undisturbed rocks with highly out of order fossils in the same layers. Say, modern pine cones in a Permian coal bed, or recent clams and Cambrian trilobites, or ichthyosaurs and placoderms. They have to be undisturbed and the fossils obviously in place, because creationists like to deny the existence of thrust faults and reworked pebbles.
2. Find a process that can accelerate radioactive decay under natural field conditions by millions or billions of times. Not only would you crash the geologic time scale, you'd get the Nobel Prize in chemistry and physics (for obvious reasons), as well as medicine and peace (for finding a way to neutralize radiation hazards). If you wrote it up well enough, you might even get the prize for literature and complete the hat trick.
3. Find organisms (fossil or living) with structures completely unrelated to existing ones. Say, they move with wheels or propellers, or birds with four wings, or mollusks with metal shells. If organisms are created in their present forms, why not?

Recently the head of Chi Alpha at a nearby campus spoke locally and lamented that once Christian kids reach college "they learn that everything they've been told is a lie." I wanted to raise my hand and ask if maybe not lying to them was on the table. Five minutes exposed to what evolution really teaches is enough to undo eighteen years of uninformed Sunday School taught out of ICR manuals. Five minutes exposure to what Buddhism or Islam really teach (oh, BTW, are you aware that widespread Internet rumor about verse 9:11 from the Koran is a hoax?) totally demolishes the scare stories they hear at church.

Grant | 12:09 am on 4/19/2008

Papist Spy-

I think it is some what interesting that you call out Ben by saying the tales of persecution were hoaxes. Did you expect that the institutions (The Smithsonian and ISU) would tell these men something like, "We don't like you because of ID so get the heck out?" That's not at all how persecution usually works. The Black basketball coach wasn't fired because he was black but because he didn't win enough games, etc. If you are going to call Ben out then you have to put down a bit more than you did.

I do not know the story of the Smithsonian man, but I know the man from ISU personally. I was a student at ISU at the time, and I can say that it was clearly persecution. An atheist professor on campus had even started a petition to remove any faculty from campus that embraced ID. Mr. Gonzales is an incredible man, scientist, and instructor, so please check into your facts more before you speak up.

Respectfully Yours,
Grant

Papist Spy | 12:21 pm on 4/21/2008

SciAm.com has details and the National Center for Science Education site (http://www.ncseweb.org/) has a ton more more. You can easily find the details at http://www.expelledexposed.com/. Asking me to supply more in a brief post is merely a smoke screen.

Of the six "expelled" scientists, only one (Gonzalez) had a seriously negative career outcome. He didn't get tenure because he wasn't doing any original research. He merely reworked research he'd done elsewhere. One other didn't get re-hired as a temporary instructor, something she had no right to demand anyway. The others merely experienced criticism, and not especially harsh criticism at that. Try writing a paper, spending weeks on it, then getting it back from a journal mauled to bits if you want to know what real criticism is all about. Criticism is not persecution.

Rory | 01:35 pm on 4/19/2008

Papist Spy, I love your three tests. Just made God that much bigger than me.

OnTheMount | 02:24 am on 4/21/2008

I will except the challenge of #2 listed by Papist Spy. To my knowledge, the rate of radioactive decay can only be changed by taking material and accelerating it to a very high speed where time would slow down for it. At close to the speed of light the rate would change considerably, at least from our viewpoint. That much is already generally accepted in the scientific community. Now about the geological time scale you mentioned. It is based on the supposed rock-solid reliability of various dating methods based on radioactive decay. The problem, as always, is a question of assumptions. Are the assumptions being made faulty or not? If the assumptions have a fault then the results will not be accurate either.

For example lets take one of the common ways used to date a rock sample--Uranium/Lead dating. Specifically, U238 decays into Lead-235 at a certain rate that is constant, at least while it remains on this earth. According to the latest theories, heavy elements are created when a star goes Nova. Both Uranium and Lead are created then in the blast and then hurled out in space as space dust, which then eventually accumulates with the pull of gravity into space rocks of various sizes. These collide with each other and form bigger rocks which eventually crashes into the mass of our planet. In this way our planet was seeded with star stuff and the heavy elements which are found on our planet. But by the time they have reached our planet, at least some of the U238 has already decayed into Lead.

Then our planet cools and rock solidify. Some are formed underground and in certain cases veins of heavy metals are formed which we later find and are mined. In other cases they erupt as lava or ash and cool to form the most basic types of rocks. Later on any type of rock at the surface is exposed to the elements, is weathered, and can be transformed into sedimentary rocks. Other rocks underground can be changed again into metamorphic rocks by an increase in heat and pressure. Fossils are usually found in the sedimentary types of rock. The heat and pressure of metamorphic rocks would destroy any fossils that they formerly contained.

The assumption is that every time any rock is formed, at least where fossils can be found, that that rocks contains U238 but never, ever even the slightest trace of Lead-235. The only process on the planet that I am aware of for sorting these two materials out from each other only occurs deep within the earth. At the surface trace amounts of both of these elements can be found in many different type of rocks and in many places. This is what makes it possible for this type of dating to be done on a sample. But because the dating only can yield an accurate date if no lead was present when the rock actually formed, dating only can give a maximum possible date. Any dating, therefore, would be exaggerated by the exact amount of how much lead was present when the rock was formed. And how much is something that no one can know.

If you have an answer to this little problem of what I call a faulty assumption big enough to drive a bus through, then I would be very open to hear it. The other radioactive dating techniques also have the same problem. How much of the daughter element was present when a given sample was formed? Only God knows, if He exists of course. To always assume that none was present, I suppose, only can make an ass of oneself. I find nothing at all "Scientific" about this basic assumption.

Papist Spy | 10:32 am on 4/21/2008

I'm glad you "excepted" my challenge, although "accepting" would have been better. And thank you for proving everything I said about the lack of scientific knowledge among ID advocates. Are you aware there are other dating methods than U-238 and you can use them on a rock to get consistent ages? Are you aware that there is no such thing as Lead 235? Uranium 238 decays to Lead 206 (the difference in mass results because of the emission of alpha particles). Natural lead also contains Lead 208 (from Thorium), lead 207 (from Uranium 235) and lead 204 (not formed by decay at all). So you can compare the ages from U-238/Pb-206, U-235/Pb/207 and Th/Pb-208 and see if they're consistent. Also you can compare them all with Pb-204 and tell whether or not there was any lead there to begin with. If there's no lead 204, all the lead formed from decay. And then there are potassium-argon and rubidium-strontium dating methods as well.

Anyway, I asked for a process that can speed up decay enough to fit the creationist time scale. Got one that you can demonstrate on a real rock?

that calvinist doug | 11:29 am on 4/21/2008

Papist,

I think the salient point that lots of us here are trying to make is that it wasn't that long ago when Newton rightly thought the atom was the smallest block we had, and now we have string theory, and who knows what else we'll have later...remember that it's only been about 100 years since the airplane was crazy hypothesis. It's always a good idea to mix a healthy dose of humility with science.

Papist Spy | 12:36 pm on 4/21/2008

Humility? Where's the humility in writing "except" when you mean "accept," talking about "Lead 235," being utterly unaware of all the tests scientists use to ensure radiometric dates are accurate, and then thinking you can talk knowledgeably about science, as one of my other respondents did? Richard Dawkins is woefully uninformed about Christianity, but he's Thomas Aquinas compared to the level of scientific literacy I see in most of the posts on this topic.

Scientists are not self appointed experts. They are real experts. The people who are rushing to defend Ben Stein are the self appointed experts. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10, NIV). If ID believers can't even be trusted with the facts of this world, what possible reason is there to think they have anything useful to say about spiritual matters?

that calvinist doug | 01:10 pm on 4/21/2008

Papist, seriously dude, take a valium. First off, I think you're confusing my post with one by someone else, as I assure you, I know the difference between "accept" and "except." Besides, I didn't use either word in my post. Secondly, I never said a word about dating or the techniques involved. Thirdly, there are times when I have posted a typo (although not in my post to you) but that is different from a misspelling, or for that matter, a syntax or grammatical error; and besides, your entire response is only proof to me that you are not interested in dialogue, only somehow "proving" to everyone who reads your comments how unbelievably smart you are...snore. I couldn't care less, friend. Your attitude makes anything you have to say repulsive-not ideal in any attempt to win friends or influence people. Say, I bet they're offering a Dale Carnegie course at a community college near you...

Stop Simplistic Thinking | 08:19 pm on 4/23/2008

Hey Calvinist,

I disagree with your characterization of the Papist's posts. He wrote some very intelligent material, and I think the thread was enhanced by having his insights. I don't think he was antagonizing, not even the least bit. His challenge was not arrogant, he was itemizing some ways that, if new evidence was found, the ID or even Creationist perspective would have some scientific evidence for their cause- I view that as being open and helpful. His response to the other guy may have been discourteous,but have you not responded sharply and forcefully when you have believed that someone has misrepresented Biblical text? Should he not have the same response when someone badly misrepresents fundamentals of science? I encourage you go back to his original post and read it without a predefined idea of his "agenda"....I think it was thoughtful work well done.

that calvinist doug | 07:06 am on 4/24/2008

SST, I disagree. He apparently didn't read my post at all, because he accused me of things I didn't even say.

Anonymous | 05:09 pm on 4/28/2008

The whole pointing out other people's misspellings/typos to somehow prove their unintelligence thing is getting old. After reading through the responses I have seen it used three times. Spelling and science have no correlation in this argument. Apparently we have all reverted to 5th grate tactics in order to have the satisfaction of making us feel like we won. I agree with Doug. Tact is the only effective way to get your point across. Both sides need to grow up.

ny guy | 10:27 pm on 4/18/2008

Has anyone here ever read a book by Thomas Kuhn called "Structures of Scientific Revolutions"? At the time that he wrote it he was a professor of Philosophy. His subject of study was history and the philosophy of science. The book itself examines how we as humans have responded to our own discoveries. In the book, through historical research he shows that scientific advancement doesn't happen in the Cartesian way that we believe it does. We like to believe that there is a continuing body of facts and knowledge that is always pointing in the same direction and growing as time progresses. But what history shows is that what happens is that there are successive dominating scientific paradigms. And what happens (and this is repeated throughout history) is that this paradigm becomes so dominant that anyone who questions it on any level is deemed a scientific heretic. But eventually enough people run into questions that violate the rules of the paradigm and push through the ostracizing attacks and gain a voice loud enough that eventually it is heard and there is a revolutionary scientific paradigm shift that becomes the new accepted norm. Eventually this paradigm becomes the one that excludes the next group of challengers. In each ruling paradigm the adherents of it see it as the definitive overarching story of scientific truth and treat the past theories with contempt. Any inconsistencies in the current theory are dismissed as "something that we haven't figured out yet, yet there is a firm belief that eventually all answers found will support the thesis of the current paradigm. Each paradigm that wins believes that it has arrived. That is until the crisis of too many inconsistencies reaches changing momentum and it is usurped.

I found this book to be a bit of a hard read yet the insights gained from it were extremely relevant to the debate at hand.

Here are two links that speak about Kuhn

The Wiki one is short and to the point-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn

The other is a bit more scholarly but more information to get through-
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thomas-kuhn/

Kuhn was a pretty cool guy (he died in 1996)

mountainguy | 01:44 pm on 4/19/2008

You're right man. I didn't read the whole book, but what Kuhn says there is really important in those issues.

David Williams | 09:54 am on 4/19/2008

I find myself wondering this morning how we this burgeoning new line of ID research will inform other fields of human endeavor.

Like, say, pharmaceutical research. Or structural engineering.

PlagueWatcher | 12:45 am on 4/20/2008

And here I thought Ben Stein was a Rational person. Now I find he believes in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. oh sorry wrong childish myth. He believes in some Giant Primate that created the entire universe 4500 years ago, who loves us and tortures us in unequal measure. I guess that rationality has no bearing here after all. You see, a Rational Mind, relies on evidence, observable, repeatable evidence, not books written by ignorant savages, back when every one thought the world was flat, that stars were holes in a backdrop and bad things happened because of Demons.
Sorry but if you claim to believe any part of this nihilistic superstition then you must accept it all. Sure I don't want to die either. But belief in immortality has no rational basis. It is just the biological urge to Not Die.
The problem with this immortality bit, is that it makes your life, your REAL and Verifiable Life, not very important. What the heck suffer 50-80 years, doing whatever the Medicine Men tell your ass you to do. WOW! how nice for them! work your ass to the grave, give them everything they need to live in privilege, and they will say some magic words, and you get to live forever.
So instead you do what they say , then die and exist no longer.
Life is Rare, precious, and FINITE. when you die, YOUR OVER! No afterlife, no angels, none of that pie in the sky when you die crap.
YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! so why let yourself be operated by a huge psycho-spacial Parasite. Why not live a fulfilling life? Why not make each day worth something special.
The only arguments FOR this ridiculous belief system are based on hearsay written in a language none of you can read. (aramaic etc.)
For thousands of years, many argued in favor of slavery, often quoting the scriptures. Oh yeah the same ones that condone and command murder, genocide, rape, incest, taxation and slavery, while forbidding haircuts, poly-cotton blends, companion planting, shrimp, and consensual sex, among other things. For thousands of years, those that spoke against slavery or universal human equality were viewed as dangerous radicals. Equal rights for women? Africans as real people? not according to holy writ.
If you were on trial, Mr Stein, for murder or child rape, how would you feel if the "evidence" against you were writings by persons dead over 1000 years? what if your perfect alibi, 100 pages of forensic evidence and the testimony of 10 experts with photos, fingerprints and physical evidence did not match the ravings of a desert maddened hermit's starvation induced hallucinations of a millennium ago.
Look Ben, I'm sorry your feeling old and closing in on the end. It's too bad you didn't live a life understanding its finitude, and talk to that cute girl or take that cruse or pursue an interesting life. But you made your choices, based on stupid ideas of superstitious, ignorant, sun-blinded primitives. Too Bad.
I understand your pissed off at all that waste. But it is at best wicked and cruel to try to get others to waste their precious finite lives serving the uber-parasite that is religious belief. But just as slavery and chattel treatment of women has been rolled back around the world, so to this venal, mean spirited, superstition will also be rolled back. It make take centuries, because of the ways religion preys and exploits the weak, the ignorant, the helpless, the hopeless, assimilating them onto this monster of a mindset that consumes human life and gives back only empty illusions of immortality.
The human consciousness is evolving past these primitive mythologies ( oh maybe you don't believe in evolution either? perhaps you'd prefer to use all the old, now useless antibiotics that the disease organisms have evolved beyond)
Face it, be part of a rational world, or go back to the 7th century with all the other po'bucker hilbillies, sand raddled islamo-fascists, and bat potioned witches.
I dare ya to debate my ass, much less my brain. hell, I'll even pay
my own air fare.
But then rational debate is not part of the superstitious system

mountainguy | 02:59 pm on 4/20/2008

"Sorry but if you claim to believe any part of this nihilistic superstition then you must accept it all."

So, according to you every christian must be a six-day creationist? Heyy! you're as biased as any dangerous fundamentalist. Hahahahaha, some atheists are a lot more "literalists" than the most fundamentalists. Off course, you're not a religious fundy who would like to burn up heretcis. Its just funny to see that your hermeneutics are not much diferent than fundy's ones.

plaguewatcher | 01:26 pm on 4/23/2008

If you speak to a Frenchman, you speak French, so if my "hermeneutics" seem similar to those of the "Fundies"it is to make sure the message achieves its chosen receptors. As far as belief systems go, I have no problem with picking your favorite bits out of a text or scripture, I do so myself, borrowing from many sources to give myself an ethical code that is satisfactory and meaning full. But I don't call myself by a label reserved for those that are adherents to a particular belief. So though I may incorporate teachings of Jesus, Lao Tzu, Epicurous and Marx (Groucho, not Karl), I do not call myself a Christian, Taoist, pre-socratic or Marx Brother. I suppose the disconnect I encounter is indeed from the surge of the fundamentalist/literalist. So those that may use the label, Christian should be considered to accept the entire philosophy as a whole. Revelation 3:16 "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Also since you like the word-hermeneutics (literally the study of Hermes, a greek pagan god) - consider that if I abandoned this linguistic absolutism that pervades modern Christian thought, then I could be proclaimed guilty of relativism. So yes I use the absolute Aristotelian, Manichaean-dualism that pervades this belief system.
Now I need to be fair. It is obvious that this site is not a ravening fundy spot, for which I am grateful, but indeed a venue for more civilized discourse. So I offer you, dear reader, these questions.
In a high quality tomato patch, the soil is rich and brown and perfect for said garden. Now take a handfull of it and rub it into grandma's couch. Is the soil "good" or "bad" or is it conditional upon where it is?.

Faith, belief without evidence, or even in the face of contrary evidence, seems to me an irrational concept. Any "miracle" sufficiently examined always shows some phenomenological basis. The very real feelings people have and quote as proof of the divine are no different than the very real feelings some experience at a particularly good monster movie. I have experienced similar phenomena my self, from a great variety of religious practices, as well as some very secular ones. So my question is, at what point does a rational educated mind abandon that rationality in favor of "faith"? Is it merely a response to overwhelming fear? Or to fill in the missing pieces of a reality that we might wish to be finite, but extends far beyond our ken?

And finally, what's wrong with being and doing good for it's own sake? If the reason we behave is based on the punishment and reward system of heaven and hell, are we realy being moral? Or are we just trying to gain favor and avoid punishment.

Our Mythological heritage is very important. It can transmit to us valuable lesson about ourselves, reveal moments of history and inspire great works of art and culture. But when we treat myth as absolute truth then we open the door to the most venal behaviors of mankind, tribal superiority, designation of unbelievers as non-persons, adoption of barbaric social realities like slavery and woman trading.
Rational thought and the processes of science are revealing a universe far more wondrous than anything every imagined by those scribes of centuries ago, secular intercultural exchanges are making the best social inventions of the world available to anyone to adapt adopt and implement.
We can venerate what came before, what made us who we are, but to adopt as a whole such beliefs is tantamount to accepting that since great granddad owned some africans that it is alright that we do to.

Oh and Mountain Guy,, am I biased? Yes I am, everyone is. But the point is to be able to look critically at bias, and to use our intellect to evolve new understandings. You assume that I am an atheist, that's bias on your part.

I welcome further dialog, and thanks for reading.

Anonymous | 07:32 pm on 4/23/2008

"Oh and Mountain Guy,, am I biased? Yes I am, everyone is. But the point is to be able to look critically at bias, and to use our intellect to evolve new understandings. You assume that I am an atheist, that's bias on your part."

mea culpa. Yes, we are always biased (is this just psycological?).

"In a high quality tomato patch, the soil is rich and brown and perfect for said garden. Now take a handfull of it and rub it into grandma's couch. Is the soil "good" or "bad" or is it conditional upon where it is?."

Nice question. If you ask me, the concept of absolut is very religious. Off course there are things that can be "good" in a context, and "bad" in another. Then I ask: Is there any sense talking about the soil being good or bad itself? If we talk about agronomy, then the soul is "bad" or "good" according to our needs, or to one species of plant, or to a kind of vegetation-floristic formation. If we talk about ethics, the soil is not good or bad; then, we use good and bad as an ethical judgment. In this case, we probably would say something like "the boy did bad when he rubbed soil into grandma's couch". Or "it is bad to rub soil into grandma's couch". See, we use "good" and "bad" for our actions (off course, we must always think about the context... that's pretty important).

"Our Mythological heritage is very important. It can transmit to us valuable lesson about ourselves, reveal moments of history and inspire great works of art and culture. But when we treat myth as absolute truth then we open the door to the most venal behaviors of mankind, tribal superiority, designation of unbelievers as non-persons, adoption of barbaric social realities like slavery and woman trading."

I agree. We religious (I prefer to be called "(christian)-believer") shouldn't be much sectarian. I think that "THE absolute truth" itself is God (Or maybe absolut truth is one atribute of God). But this seems to be a very "deeply-spiritual term". We can't say "hey, I have the absolut truth", or "My way of reading the Bible is the absolut truth", or "My worshipping is more according to absolute truth than other's worshipping", or "My way of dressing is the correct".., off course, there are dogmas, but the most of the times we've been sectarian for things that are not that important.

"Rational thought and the processes of science are revealing a universe far more wondrous than anything every imagined by those scribes of centuries ago, secular intercultural exchanges are making the best social inventions of the world available to anyone to adapt adopt and implement."

I don't think that secularism is the best (I totally agree with church-state separation; in fact, I hate the concept of state, so I hate this "We are a christian nation" stuff), but its true that science and rational though have gave us a lot of good things, a lot of discovers, they have shown some truths about the nature of universe.

Ps: Spanish is my mother tongue... my english is not the best.

mountainguy | 09:36 pm on 4/23/2008

Hey Plaguewatcher: this anonymous its me (mountainguy). I made a mistake at posting mi nick...

luke h. | 01:24 pm on 4/23/2008

Dude...three points:

1. My wife works in Xian ministry. I assure you, there is no money in it. :)

2. If I'm really going to die and completely cease existing, I don't really much care whether I live my life "ignorant" or "suffering" or whatever words you want to use. After all, I won't be around to regret it.

3. If you feel the need to troll Internet message boards trying to convince people they should believe the exact same things as you, even though you have no evidence for them, you're still a slave to religion.

Just sayin'.

ny guy | 02:27 am on 4/20/2008

wow thanks a bunch, I am now enlightened, I think I'll go back to atheism now because you have shown me that I am foolish for being a theist of any sort.

So is your point that anyone who doesn't adopt a completely naturalistic world view is irrational and needs come over to your side or be deemed an idiot?
Poor Einstein, that guy was dumb.

BTW- Why do you assume that no one is able to read or study the original languages? For my BS and Masters I had to take Greek for two years, Hebrew for two years, and a couple classes of Aramaic.

V V V V V

"The only arguments FOR this ridiculous belief system are based on hearsay written in a language none of you can read. (aramaic etc.)"

Wes | 03:19 am on 4/20/2008

Heidi I don't think you understood Dawkins. Speculating that aliens caused us isn't the same as believing in a supernatural causal agent. He means that the aliens would have to have been evolved beings also. The aliens would have been an evolved intelligence whereas a god would have to have been a "just is" agent which is incoherent since "anything" can be "just is". Dawkins doesn't pretend to know how the first causal agent came into being, if indeed there was one but if there was it couldn't be complex. He has said this many times in other arenas. Also, go to the NCSE's (National Center for Science Education) web site for an accurate over view of what REALLY happened to those "persecuted" science folks. It's not what's portrayed in the movie.
Wes

Charlie J. Ray | 05:41 am on 4/20/2008

I find it strange that Heidi Martinuzzi fails to mention the seminal sociology/philosophy of science work written by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn clearly demonstrates that so-called "objective" science is as much influence by peer pressure, prevailing hierarchies of the scientific community, and generally accepted views in society at large as it is by the scientific method itself. In fact, even the process of choosing what subjects to study, what experiments to perform, and what results are expected are all subjectively selected. Hence, there is no such thing as a purely "objective" scientific method or theory.

Science, like historiography, has been exposed as influence by presuppositions and prejudices of those in power in the scientific community. In essence, science, like religious authorities, has dogma that cannot be challenged until a paradigm shift occurs when prevailing scientific dogam is challenged. It is at this point that all that was generally accepted as true before is now shifted and changed to a new prevailing theory or paradigm.

Any human endeavor is inherently subjective, no matter how objective the scientists involved try to be. A historical review of scientific theories and corrections is more than adequate to demonstrate this. Just my opinion.

ny guy | 11:01 am on 4/20/2008

I agree, Kuhn's work was pretty impressive. And it made a lot of sense to me because thats what we as human beings have done with every subject under the sun. Thanks for mentioning Kuhn as well.

Bewildered | 07:02 pm on 4/21/2008

"Ifind it strange that Heidi Martinuzzi fails to mention the seminal sociology/philosophy of science work written by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions."

You do? I don't. I've never even heard of what you just said. There's no reference in it anywhere in the film.

Anonymous | 08:52 am on 4/20/2008

You can argue about this subject, but in the bigger scheme of things, what does it really matter? I'm happy I'm still breathing and am alive, for God's sake!

Anonymous | 11:27 am on 4/20/2008

i think the whole debate is kinda silly... Darwinism, is just another belief structure. PK Meyers (or one major Darwinist) and Dawkins go at it over the whole spontaneous versus non-spontaneous evolutionary theory all the time. That the plain simple fact is that in some species they're are "missing links" and Dawkins claims the links haven't been found because of migratory patterns, while Meyers, says why not a jump in evolution thus skipping a "missing link."

So are the "christians" any better? except we have WAY too many other crappy things to argue amongst ourselves about, post-trib-mid-trib, armenian, calvinist... the list goes on and on.

So my question is, who really cares anymore. Everyone everywhere wants everyone to believe in whatever they're selling.

Anonymous | 05:16 pm on 4/20/2008

PMSL.

Only the 'ol ID Vs Evolution debate can bring heaps of not-funneh to the door. Complete with a couple of the 'new' militant Atheist types as well I noticed, well, new atheists with the same old arguments.

Personally, I've been looking at this debate for around twenty years and I think I've reached a conclusion. That conclusion is that like a lot of other controversial topics, the actual evidence is kinda-sorta ambiguous (but to me it screams "OH HAI! Ceiling Cat was here!)which gives us the 'liberty' of being able to squeeze it into our own predefined worldview.

It think it's kinda clever of God to set things up so that all of our human expertise counts for squat.

Or in the words of Bender's God:

"When you do things right people won't be sure you've done anything at all"

Peace out homies.

Questioner | 05:23 pm on 4/20/2008

AMEN that the debate is silly! Anyone who sees conflict between the theory of evolution and faith in God understands neither. Do you suppose that "HOW?" and "WHY?" are the same Question? Of course not. Are mind and soul the same? Of course not again. Some try to make a religion of science, others a science of religion. Both are (please excuse the crudity) mental masturbation: exciting to experience but fruitless.

Anonymous | 05:33 pm on 4/20/2008

Questioner,

No, I think you missed my point. My point is that there IS NO evolution to be reconciled with ID in the first place. The actual evidence we have that 'things change' is is so far from the extrapolated conclusion that 'thing change into other things' that it requires much more faith to believe in that than almost anything else I can think of. Well, maybe scientology. ;-)

Cheers

Questioner | 06:19 pm on 4/20/2008

O.K. Say it's silly for reasons you don't see. Of course things change! "When I was a child..." etc. Also consider the rhinovirus (common cold) which can not be immunized against because it almost continuously changes. Give up your medical treatment if all is as it was. Give up a New Testament if you wish to live in a past that has passed you by.

Anonymous | 07:27 pm on 4/20/2008

And yet the virus is still a virus after all these years.

That's all I'm trying to say.

When someone sees it change into an armadillo then I'll take Darwinism seriously. Until then it's just another faith system competing against all the others.

CHeers ;-)

Qustioner | 07:45 pm on 4/20/2008

A sophomoric argument. Transition is still transition. Again -- How not Why. Open your eyes and heart. Do you not believe God expects us, the universe, etc. to reach maturity? Or were you born a man (not being sexist, let's just say adult human) knowing and being all you will ever be?

Sorry, no cute icon to bring up the end of this entry.

Anonymous | 01:20 am on 4/21/2008

Sure a transition is a transition, but those observed transitions do not warrant the conclusion that Darwinism demands. And why do you assume that it more mature to accept an idea which I see little evidence for over and above one which I see tons of evidence for? Wouldn't that involve me being dishonest?

For me it's not even a question of 'how' or 'why' but 'if', and if 'if' can't be presented then 'how' and 'why' dont even need to come out of the house. ;-)

Anonymous | 08:01 pm on 4/20/2008

"The Essential Nature of the Mind," by Dudjom Rinpoche.

No words can describe it

No example can point to it

Existence does not make it worse

Nirvana does not make it better

It has never been born

It has never ceased.

It has never been liberated

It has never been deluded

It has never existed.

It has never been non-existent

It has no limits at all

It does not fall into any kind

of category.

mountainguy | 08:27 pm on 4/20/2008

If ID is not necessarily the same as "young-earth creationism"... then why the debate is evolution vs ID? The conflicting views are evolutionism vs creationism (i.e.: "non evolution"); atheism vs theism (and even, atheism vs deism, and maybe atheism vs pantheism).

All this bunch of bulls-t I've just wrote in the former paragraph is that I don't see that evolutionsm is totally against any sort of belief in any divinity. Off course, it's an easy way to use evolutionism against creationism as "atheistic evolution vs existence of any god".

BTW, I'm a christian believer (just clarifying)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.