Friday, April 18, 2008

Maybe Ferris Bueller Took A Day Off Because His Teacher Was Trying to Preach Intelligent Design

Ben Stein, known best as one of Ferris Bueller's teachers, has a new "documentary" film opening today called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

It's former Nixon speechwriters like Ben Stein who make former Nixon speechwriters like Pat Buchanan look bad. Can you believe some people thought Stein might actually be Deep Throat?

Anyway, Stein, who has had a strangely successful showbiz career that flies in the face of his neocon credentials, has hosted and co-written a movie that seeks to promote -- and paint as rebellious -- "intelligent design." The movie's "Big Science" coinage is an embarrassing attempt to assign a negative connotation to centuries of progress in the name of a few years of neoconservative "intelligent design" mumbo jumbo. Sloppy rhetoric that uses tactics learned from 60s liberals to try to gain equal time with sound science. It's the work of imbeciles with ulterior motives. One wonders if they are merely out to discredit religion in general and Christianity specifically.

In a review, Reason Magazine calls Expelled a "Silly, duplicitous film."

Reason's science and technology columnist Ronald Bailey writes:
"Instead of evaluating this evidence, Stein spends most of the movie asking various proponents of evolutionary theory, including Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, Michael Ruse, and Daniel Dennett, for their religious views. Neither the producers nor Stein understand that offering critiques of a theory with which they disagree is not the same as proving their own theory."
That's interesting. It reminds me of Terry Eagleton's review of Dawkins' God Delusion in the London Review of Books from October 2006, which said:
"Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday."
Ultimately, morons like Ben Stein are Dawkins' straw man. But for the Ben Steins of the world to try to take advantage of that is bizarre.

The atheist argument doesn't need the goofiness of religion's nut jobs to be powerful. So why do ornery atheists venture so far outside their own bailiwick? Science alone will do.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous patrick said...

just saw Expelled... Ben Stein's goal in making Expelled (i gather) is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

6:22 PM  
Blogger The Masticator said...

For proponents of "intelligent design" to say they're merely trying to promote free thought is extremely disingenuous. It's a sneaky way of trying to infect science with theology -- specifically, a very narrow, conservative, and Christian theology.

Liberals are notoriously open to new ideas and new discussion, sometimes to their detriment. Evidence the last eight years in America.

No, it's not free thought or open dialogue that these people want. It's a theocracy. And I have no idea what place the Jewish neocons like Ben Stein and Bill Kristol see for themselves in such a place.

Let's talk about motivations. Why would a science teacher want to undermine his or her curriculum with the sort of vague faith-based spiritual discussions of Sunday school?

Why would those of us who are not Christians sit still while the most zealous and least tolerant Christians make decisions for us?

And no, I'll admit it: I have not seen the movie. Surprised? Don't be. If you're interested in intelligent thought about Christianity, read G.K. Chesterton. Or Hans Kung. Find some Jesuits to talk to. But do not pay neocons and evangelicals any mind when they try to talk in your school.

1:12 PM  

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