Pharyngula

In the creation wars, we never really win one — we just shuffle the battlegrounds around. That’s the case in Florida, where the committee to write the state science standards recently approved the inclusion of evolution in their standards. We cheered. This is what’s supposed to happen when you get a team of competent people to put together the standards — you get results that reflect, to some approximation, the current understanding of science in our public schools.

But of course that could not stand. A group of conservative politicians are poised to meddle — they asked experts to give them the best answer, they didn’t like the answer, so now they’re going to pull some political strings to work out a way to ignore the answer.

After the vote, John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council, said social conservatives would push for an “academic freedom” measure when the Legislature convenes this month. Such a proposal would protect teachers who teach alternatives to evolution. House Speaker Marco Rubio — who wanted evolution taught as a theory — told the Florida Baptist Witness such a plan might gain traction in the house.

And Friday, State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, filed just such a bill that would create an “Academic Freedom Act” and protect the right of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

The bill is much like the sample one posted on the website of the Discovery Institute, which advocates for Intelligent Design. And it is controversial because many scientists (and their backers) say there are no other “scientific views” about evolution, only religion-in-disguise beliefs.

Those labels. You just know that the “Florida Family Policy Council” is a far right wing group with a mission to promote ignorance — the word “Family” gives them away every time (and it is such a nice word, ruined by people who translate it to mean “social shackles”). “Academic freedom” is also being misused here. The teachers have a job to do, to present a certain minimal body of scientific information to their students; they have freedom to think and act and speak, but they also have obligations, and those obligations include not misleading their charges. Academic freedom does not equate to irresponsibility. One would think conservatives would be pushing bills to enforce academic competence and academic responsibility, not this dishonest nonsense of calling attempts to ramrod intellectual gobbledygook into our schools “freedom”.

And the wording of the bill doesn’t even make sense. The standards were commissioned to outline the range of scientific views and scientific information, so that’s already there — this bill wouldn’t be an escape clause, it would further reinforce the requirement that the material on the standards be taught. Creationism and it’s inbred cousin with airs, Intelligent Design, are not scientific views.

Oh, and do note the similarity between this act and the Discovery Institute’s recommendation, and further, look here:

On the day the state board voted, Stemberger called adding the phrase “scientific theory” a “meaningless and impotent change.”

A post on the Discovery Institute’s “evolution news and views” blog that same day used the same phrase to criticize the vote, saying it did nothing “to actually inform students about the scientific problems with evolution.”

The Discovery Institute’s grubby little paw prints are all over this one. That’s the mission of the DI: undermining scientific expertise with propaganda and political machinations.

Comments

  1. #1 LisaJ
    March 5, 2008

    Wow. This is incredibly disturbing. Sometimes (most days) I can’t believe I live in a world that spends so much time and effort protecting their lies. The poor kids.

  2. #2 Schmeer
    March 5, 2008

    Have fun getting sued, Florida!

  3. #3 Lilly de Lure
    March 5, 2008

    And Friday, State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, filed just such a bill that would create an “Academic Freedom Act” and protect the right of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”(emphasis mine)

    You don’t suppose there’s a chance of pulling the same trick we did last time with the theory thing and ensuring that they include the phrase I’ve emboldened in the wording of their bill? Because if so it is effectively hopeless as a tool to help creationists teach gibberish. If they’ve got to teach scientific views using scientific evidence then teaching creationism and ID is by definition still illegal and Dover still holds (it did make clear creationism and ID are not science).

  4. #4 Michael Spear
    March 5, 2008

    We have so many damned flaws as a species. How on earth could anyone attempt to make the argument of design…. It just kills me.

  5. #5 Arnaud
    March 5, 2008

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

  6. #6 ancientTechie
    March 5, 2008

    “Florida Baptist Witness:” shouldn’t that be “Witless?”

  7. #7 Chris
    March 5, 2008

    Marco Rubio apparently isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, is he?

  8. #8 Jason Failes
    March 5, 2008

    “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

    “Objectively” is going to bite them in the butts if/when a court case results from cdesign proponentist teachers using their “academic freedom” to spout what is, objectively, nonsense.

  9. #9 True Bob
    March 5, 2008

    I saw something on Disciovery or Animal Planet the other night. They were showcasing insects, and showed the infamous cockroach. Way faster than human, and can regenerate severed limbs. Why didn’t god spend as much effort on humans as on cockroaches?

    ID = Idiotic Design; examples abound.

  10. #10 Carlie
    March 5, 2008

    To cross-pollinate a bit, Greg Laden has a nice post up that discusses what can be done from the teachers’ point of view, which dovetails nicely with this one.

  11. #11 BaldApe
    March 5, 2008

    And Friday, State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, filed just such a bill that would create an “Academic Freedom Act” and protect the right of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

    Actually this might be just what the doctor ordered, if we could count on science teachers being well informed and teaching properly. (A long shot, I know) I’d love to have legal protection for my analysis of cdesign proponentstists claims.

    As it is, I cover evolution from a somewhat remote (i.e. non-human) point of view. I get little argument as long as I’m not talking about humans. I teach what’s in the curriculum without sending them home thinking I’ve made fun of their religion.

    But give me explicit protection, and I’ll go down the list of creationinst talking points and show why they are all BS.

  12. #12 Armchair Dissident
    March 5, 2008

    objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.”

    Cool. So the state is finally going to mandate good objective teaching on evolution. Presumably that means that if any future school boards try to push this “intelligent design” rubbish again, they’ll fall foul of this law.

    Or perhaps I’m just being more than a little naive ;)

  13. #13 Geoffrey Alexander
    March 5, 2008

    I don’t have a link to the full text of the bill at hand, and it isn’t linked in these posts, but when I heard about this yesterday I looked it up and one thing I noticed that troubles me: in the bill, it authorizes that ALL teachers (not just science teachers) will have the right to teach creationist ‘science’. It is explicitly written to sidestep the authority of the science faculty. The implications are frightening.

  14. #14 Tulse
    March 5, 2008

    The other way to go might be to have sympathetic lawmakers offer amendments demanding the teaching of scientific alternatives to blood transfusion, the germ theory of disease, the origin of psychiatric problems, and the nature of comets. I’m sure the bill’s authors would agree that if we’re going to accommodate Christian fundamentalists in our science, we also should accommodate Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, and Heaven’s Gate believers — right?

  15. #15 CalGeorge
    March 5, 2008

    “Section 4. No K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of ___________, shall be terminated, disciplined, denied tenure, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological or chemical evolution …”

    This is GOOD news for Pastafarian Professors everywhere!

  16. #16 Tony Popple
    March 5, 2008

    Arnaud said

    “War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength”

    This is why “1984” should be required reading for every U.S. citizen. People don’t realized how easy it is to fall into a trap.

  17. #17 Lilly de Lure
    March 5, 2008

    it authorizes that ALL teachers (not just science teachers) will have the right to teach creationist ‘science’. It is explicitly written to sidestep the authority of the science faculty

    But ID doesn’t carry the same academic cachet with students if it’s taught in, say, religious studies classes, particularly if it is getting a hammering in science classes which teach how science actually works.

    At the very least this will seriously undermine ID’s contention to be science rather than religion both with outside observers and the kids.

  18. #18 hyperdeath
    March 5, 2008

    The following is an almost universal law:

    Any organisation with the word “family” in its title (excepting those providing direct services to children and their parents) is a front for right-wing fundamentalism.

    I am unaware of a single counterexample.

  19. #19 Diego
    March 5, 2008

    Oy! How the devil did Storms get to be a Senator? She was bad enough as a County Commissioner down in Hillsborough Co.

  20. #20 Ben
    March 5, 2008

    I’m moving to Florida, getting my teaching license and building the best damn pastafarianism curriculum possible.

  21. #21 Kseniya
    March 5, 2008

    They’re zealots, and therefore will – by definition – never give up.

    T_T

  22. #22 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    March 5, 2008

    And the wording of the bill doesn’t even make sense.

    Right with ya’ there, skip. It conflates evolution and abiogenesis (“chemical and biological evolution”) then expands on origins (“chemical and biological origins”, IIRC).

    I wish I could be so lackadaisical about escape clauses. It seems to me the bill will wedgeID TM open cracks in lesson plans (abiogenesis discussed beyond its importance and current content) and curricula (abiogenesis discussed in every type of class where the teacher feels it is in his interest). And I would snap my beak and spew ink over the pages.

    But I’m not a professional educator in US, so instead I will shut up now. :-)

  23. #23 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    March 5, 2008

    And the wording of the bill doesn’t even make sense.

    Right with ya’ there, skip. It conflates evolution and abiogenesis (“chemical and biological evolution”) then expands on origins (“chemical and biological origins”, IIRC).

    I wish I could be so lackadaisical about escape clauses. It seems to me the bill will wedgeID TM open cracks in lesson plans (abiogenesis discussed beyond its importance and current content) and curricula (abiogenesis discussed in every type of class where the teacher feels it is in his interest). And I would snap my beak and spew ink over the pages.

    But I’m not a professional educator in US, so instead I will shut up now. :-)

  24. #24 laserboy
    March 5, 2008

    #18:
    I have one counter example… “The Family Planning Association of New Zealand”
    http://www.fpanz.org.nz

  25. #25 Cuttlefish, OM
    March 5, 2008

    I’m looking for a linguist who can help me with translation–
    For it seems two different languages are used within this nation;
    Much more tricky than Bulgarian, more difficult than Greek
    Is the twisted form of English that Creationists now speak.
    The only rule, thus far, that I have managed to detect
    In the reams of legal documents I’ve gathered to inspect,
    Is that any word among them that’s significant, has changed
    To a wholly different meaning, through some process that’s deranged.
    When they say, for instance, “family”, they often mean their church,
    And “society” is meaningless without the phrase “John Birch”
    This wholesale transformation of the language is quite ruthless;
    When they claim that “it’s the truth”, you can be certain that it’s truthless.
    When “academic freedom” means that teachers have to lie
    And “scientific evidence” comes straight from God on high,
    “Intelligent”, “complexity” and most egregious, “theory”
    Are transmogrified to such degree it makes my brain grow weary,
    I know there must be something I can do to ease my pain
    So I’m looking for a linguist, so that I can start to train.
    I’ll start out easy: Black is White, and Up is often Down;
    And Behe is a scientist of nationwide renown.
    Now stretch a bit, with claims that are a little bit more bold:
    The fossils say the earth is just a thousand decades old!
    And DNA quite clearly shows the fingerprint of God
    Evolution is religion, once you see through the fašade.
    This is getting really easy; now I think I have the knack:
    Any doctor saying prayer is ineffective is a quack!
    If we show sufficient faith we can turn hurricanes away–
    If a city still gets flooded, it’s cos someone there was gay!
    Now I’m really having fun; if you think you’d like to try,
    There’s a simple, simple shortcut: all you have to do is lie!

    (I will take this opportunity, to try it out again,
    Wishing happiness, longevity, a sweet life free of pain,
    To the Noble, Good Creationists, who fill me with delight!
    Now, I need to find that linguist, but I think I said it right!)

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/03/translating-from-creationist-to-english.html

  26. #26 Rey Fox
    March 5, 2008

    I’m beginning to think that evolution is just the War on Terror Light, a good way to get Repub politicians in local political bodies to shift people’s attention away from the failing economy. Working two jobs just to make ends meet? Savings going nowhere? Never mind all that, the eeevil secularists are after your childrens’ miiiinds!

    I’m finally starting to come around to the notion that I might have to pack up and leave this country when I have the means.

  27. #27 Glen Davidson
    March 5, 2008

    What really pisses me off is how they corrupt the language and thereby deliberately make it impossible to keep matters straight in the heads of many persons. “Academic freedom,” as if the purpose of academic freedom was ever to grant carte blanche to ignorant believers to spout nonsense in the classrooms. That’s neither academic, nor is it “freedom” in any sense except that theocrats get to take over government services for their own benefit.

    That seems to the the ID/DI main goal now, however, to simply repeat their lies and distortions so much that the sheer idiots will be encouraged by such disregard for anything but brute force, and the less attentive and more naive will be as confused as possible by the endless charges. You know how so many think, that if there’s so much smoke (from overheated rhetoric of the pious liars), there must be a fire. They might even doubt the size of the fire, but surely there must be at least some truth to the charges of suppression if all of these “sincere” people believe it?

    And so it goes. They have nothing to do except to repeat their fabrications, since they know that there’s no science to do with ID. Politicians know a good demagogic angle when they look at the Florida shenanigans. And ignorance continues to dominate the lives of people in the early 21st century, thanks to the fact that beating up on something as innocuous as science poses no danger to themselves (though they like to pretend that it does), and it stands in for Satan in the minds of the ignorant and the stupid.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  28. #28 Tulse
    March 5, 2008

    Cuttlefish, if I were religious, I’d say you have been profoundly blessed with a gift from God. As I’m not, I’ll just say I am profoundly in awe of the combination of genetics and environment that lets you generate such wonderful poetry.

  29. #29 Lilly de Lure
    March 5, 2008

    Cuttlefish:

    Applause!!!!

  30. #30 mothra
    March 5, 2008

    It is still early March and the Molly nominations for the month hare closed. Cuttlefish- this (my opinion) is your best verse yet!

  31. #31 Bureaucratus Minimus
    March 5, 2008

    PZ wrote: “In the creation wars, we never really win one…”

    Hate to disagree, but Dover was a clear victory, albeit one with limited geographical effect.

    “[T]he word “Family” gives them away every time…”

    Gay people have been dealing with this for years. Welcome to our nightmare.

  32. #32 John Pieret
    March 5, 2008

    That “objectively” is an addition by Sen. Storms and may indeed cause trouble fir the IDeologists, since it harms their “argument” for a change in the nature of science.

    One interesting aspect of the DI’s model bill, that didn’t make it into Ms. Storms’ version, but should be looked for in any other similar legislation:

    [T]he Legislature finds that school districts and school administrators should not bear the primary burden of defending the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the topics of biological or chemical evolution. It is the intent of the Legislature that this act expressly protects those rights.

    This is an attempt to blunt the most presently effective weapon to keep creationism out of public schools, namely: the threat of a Dover-like lawsuit where, if the board loses, it has to pay the parents’ often substantial legal costs. If the model bill was passed, a local board that allowed or encouraged the teaching of ID could argue that they were operating under the color of state law and, in effect, try to pass the buck, in all senses of the word, to the state.

  33. #33 BaldApe
    March 5, 2008

    ALL teachers (not just science teachers) will have the right to teach creationist ‘science’. It is explicitly written to sidestep the authority of the science faculty.

    That’s been my problem with the “teach creationism as a social movement in social studies classes” line. I have a History teacher in my room second period. When she was talking about US settlers wiping out the “buffalo” she showed pictures of hunters with Cape Buffalo in Africa. And don’t get me started about when she starts talking about “social Darwinism.”

    IOW, it’s bad enough that real scientists (biochemists, physicists, and the like) fall for creationism, but can we expect non-science teachers to do better?

  34. #34 RamblinDude
    March 5, 2008

    Imagine the frustration of the creationists. They can’t just come out and say what they really mean, that the answer to all of life’s mysteries is “Praise Jesus!” Not enough dumb people in charge of things–yet.

    Their only alternative is to start whittling away at the meanings of words until enough people get confused that a critical mass of ignorance is achieved. They usually begin the process with “God is truth”.

  35. #35 The Backpacker
    March 5, 2008

    I don’t get it. Science and in particular Biology have granted us huge advantages as a society. I mean I think it is a good thing that hundreds of thousands of children are not struck lame every year by polio and that if a high school kid has a heart attack at a basket ball game we sand a good chance of keeping them alive long enough for their body to recover (often fully recover). The people who push ID and creationism are the ones who scream the loudest about the well being of children. They don’t want any children to die, even if they are gooey microscopic children. Where do they think a solution to Autism or type one diabetes is going to come from? How can a person both revel in all the good things science has to offer and deny one of the foundation stones that science was built on? Really I want to know, I can’t get my head around this one.

  36. #36 James F
    March 5, 2008

    #34 Backpacker,

    I think it boils down to the idea that if Genesis is wrong, the whole Bible is wrong. This view ignores the fact that all Christian faiths, even fundamentalist ones, interpret the Bible. Otherwise, there would be a single religion of “King James Biblists” – although contradictions in the Bible make even this impossible.

  37. #37 Arnaud
    March 5, 2008

    #16 Tony Topple

    Was reminded of 1984 a couple of days ago by a guy explaining it to his two kids next to me in the bus. That’s a 8 and a 6 year old who have been given the best possible start in life in my opinion!

    (He even included the “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia” line!)

  38. #38 Nentuaby
    March 5, 2008

    @#23:

    I’m pretty sure Family Planning organizations (we’ve got one in the US too, which requires some damn morally and physically courageous souls) were exactly what the exception he mentioned is about.

  39. #39 ice weasel
    March 5, 2008

    I used to live in Brandon, Storms is a complete fucking whack-a-loon. And just to add the right spice of Florida flavor to it, she’s well known for bullying her opponents verbally and physically. Even though she’s clearly a nutcase, she wins election and her anti-gay, anti-intellectual measures somehow get passed. Well, it’s Florida.

    Look at it this way, Florida may, sometime in the near future, be under a lot of water. We may not have to endure this kind of craziness much longer.

  40. #40 trimtab
    March 5, 2008

    Nothing to worry at all! This is a repeat of the Florida vote, where the religious nut-jobs added “scientific theory” at the last minute, not realizing their mistake.

    Here, again, they are committing the same blunder. By requiring that teachers have the right to “objectively present scientific information”, they are precluding the teaching of anything “subjective” or “non-scientific”, i.e., ID and creationism. Otherwise they’re engaging in scientific fraud: claiming something to be scientific or objective, that otherwise is known not to be, would be in direct violation of their obligations.

  41. #41 Rey Fox
    March 5, 2008

    “How can a person both revel in all the good things science has to offer and deny one of the foundation stones that science was built on?”

    Extreme tunnel-vision, compartmentalization, and ignorance of science. They’re fine with leaving science to the guys who make their iPods, but as far as honest exploration of the world around them goes, they’re just not interested. And why should they be when they can just go to church every week and have platitudes spouted at them?

  42. #42 The Pale Scot
    March 5, 2008

    I live in St. Pete across the bay, Rhonda Storm is the acknowledged mouthpiece for the Cracker party in these parts, to remain determinedly ignorant is their creed. And Rhonda is the prime example of Florida’s evolutionary path, as those who reach a level of intelligence then say to themselves, What the F___ am I doing here? Those that remain, breed.

  43. #43 RamblinDude
    March 5, 2008

    And why should they be when they can just go to church every week and have platitudes spouted at them?

    And besides, we’re the number one power in the world. We can kick any body’s ass. It was pertinent to leave those godless scientists and their godless theories alone when we were in a heated race for world domination, but now that we’ve achieved it, we can put God back in his rightful place. And we must! Satan is leading a Muslim army against us, and we need to show the world who worships the real god!

    Is your soul right with God? Are you ready for the rapture? *cue soft organ music*

    You know, when you grow up with this stuff, and you understand the mentality quite well, it’s still just as baffling.

  44. #44 Brandon
    March 5, 2008

    I just want to throw in a plug here for Florida Citizens for Science. We’re all over this.
    http://www.flascience.org/wp/

  45. #45 So Laris
    March 5, 2008

    These people live on Animal Farm, so words like “democracy” mean “the chance for the subjects to confirm the wisdom of their betters” while “freedom” is, well, not quite “slavery” yet, but rather THEIR freedom from exposure to whatever makes them uncomfortable (like knowledge, or the happiness and joy of other human beings) or affects, or may in some undefined fashion someday in the future affect, their profits.

    After the Dudya pResidency, I will likely never do more than tolerate these evil shits or their ignorant flocks again.

  46. #46 Glen Davidson
    March 5, 2008

    The following is an apology for Expelled, but it’s just about as dumb and as “relevant” for this bill as for anything else. This is cross-posted, and slightly modified, from a PT comment I wrote:

    You want to see what is something like the dumbest apology for Expelled ever?

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Contra Derb on Ben Stein [Steve Hayward]

    I’m going to have to wait to see Expelled before making a final judgment about agendas–hidden, shifty, or otherwise–but I have to say I continue to be troubled by the fervency of anti-ID commentary. I don’t have a dog in this fight–well, maybe a small poodle regarding the misuse of Darwinian concepts in social science and politics by the so-called “Progressives” 100 years ago, as we discussed in our panel together on this subject at AEI last spring. (See also Jonah’s book on this score–plug, plug. And–full disclosure–John West of the Discovery Institute was a housemate of mine in graduate school 20 years ago in Claremont.)

    I can understand, in the abstract, why global warming alarmists decry us so-called “skeptics”–we are, after all, a roadblock to SAVING THE PLANET, fergodsakes! But what exactly is the real world threat from ID people in the academy? (Or elsewhere?) Is there a technical issue, like stem cell research, where the ID argument is relevant? Is ID really the scientific equivalent of Naziism or Communism, which should rightly be proscribed from a faculty and curriculum? I have to agree with Ben Stein in the trailer that people who are confident in their views should not feel threatened by heterodox views.

    [The Corner, National Review website. Emphasis added]

    There you go, ID isn’t relevant to science or “the real world,” so why should we care that IDiots are trying to force it into science, and defaming scientists for keeping that rot out of science? I mean, subverting science and science education don’t matter at all, do they?

    Whereas Derbyshire (also writes for National Review), to whom Hayward is addressing his disagreement, knows very well what’s at stake–honesty, integrity, and the independence of science from governmental intrusion.

    I think that Hayward must have drunk the Kool-Aid even without seeing the film, and so believes that some harmless people are being persecuted by the big bad Science Establishment. Never mind that Sternberg and others have tried to abuse science for their own religious biases.

    Yeah, what’s the harm, ID is only so much useless nonsense. Let’s teach it to Florida’s kids (part of the message of Expelled, certainly). Why not?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  47. #47 Glen Davidson
    March 5, 2008

    Another cross-post from PT, more OT, but related to the overall topic, naturally:

    Christianity Today’s movie reviewer gives a fairly favorable review to Expelled, although he can’t help but notice the heavy-handed propaganda and the Michael Moore-like tactics (which I do not like with Moore, either, fwiw). Disco Instant, of course, tries to make it sound as though McCracken is some skeptic who was surprised at what a good movie it is (see March 5, 2008 evolutionnews.org), when in fact it is far more interesting how much he faults the movie, considering where he’s coming from:

    Yesterday I went to a press screening of the new film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. For those who are unfamiliar with this film, it’s an agit-prop documentary of the Michael Moore variety, with one main difference: it’s conservative. It’s about the evolution debate, and takes the position that Intelligent Design theory (ID) should at least be allowed a place at the table in discussions of biological origins.

    The film stars Ben Stein as the Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock/Al Gore figure–mounting an “op-ed” type argument that is less about why ID is right or evolution wrong as it is about why there is such a concerted effort by the mainstream science community to squelch any and all debate on the matter. The film begins by recounting about a half dozen cases of highly-qualified PhD professors at various universities who have been fired in recent years for daring to mention that evolution as a theory has some weaknesses. From here the film gives a general narrative of how the scientific and academic powers that be have aggressively sought to silence any dissent–either by ID proponents or anyone else with questions about Darwin’s theory.

    I came into this film very, very skeptical, worried that it would be all about trying to disprove evolution and argue for creationism (thereby reinforcing stereotypes of anti-intellectual religious fundamentalists). I was worried that it would further reinforce the (false) binary that says Christianity and science are on two sides of a battle and can never have any common ground. But I was pleasantly surprised with Expelled on a number of levels.

    First of all, it’s pretty funny and quite entertaining. Ben Stein’s hyper-dry way of interviewing people is great fun to watch, and his “everyman” persona makes him easy to sympathize with. His “anyone, anyone” Ferris Bueller character also makes him an appropriate choice for a film about the expulsion of dissenting ideas in the classroom.

    Secondly, it’s a reasonably effective, well-mounted argument (if a tad on the manipulative side). The filmmakers interviewed many prominent figures from both sides of the debate, including an extended (and deliciously uncomfortable) interview between Stein and Richard Dawkins (atheist extraordinaire and author of The God Delusion). The film is smart to keep its focus on the glaring double standards and contradictions among the evolution advocates–who have built impenetrable walls around the sacrosanct theory of evolution and (in a very un-academic spirit) refused to allow any rational dialogue on the matter.

    Indeed, the film hits a nerve in its critique of the contemporary American academy. As a graduate student immersed in academia and all its idiosyncrasies, I can attest to the pervasive and disturbingly hypocritical sense of close-mindedness that stifles the spirit of progressive discourse. It goes beyond the scientific communities in higher education and touches many disciplines. Quite simply: if you are not on the “right” side of the wall (whatever wall it may be), your voice is stifled, your work discredited, and your intelligence questioned. It’s gone beyond political correctness and is now something altogether more militant and sinister. Sadly, the academy today is less about the sharing and discovery of truth as it is about the wielding and protecting of power.

    Critics will attack this movie and claim that it is manipulative propaganda, but if Michael Moore can get an Oscar for it, why hate on Ben Stein? Certainly the film has its faults. It is less-than-subtle at times and heavy-handed at others (the sequence on Nazism and Hitler as direct descendent of Darwinist thought is perhaps unnecessary), and overall it is very derivative of other films of this type. Obviously Stein knowingly mimics Michael Moore in his leading-question, “I’m going to make you look stupid” method of interviewing. But there are also direct parallels to Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth. Like Gore in that film, Stein gives a speech in a lecture hall, incorporates “deeply personal” elements, and plays on apocalyptic fears (in this case, the fear that free speech is increasingly suppressed, East Germany style).

    But Expelled’s lack or originality and copycat style is, in a way, sort of the point. It’s a film that very deliberately presents itself as an alternative type of film–the anti-Michael Moore, perhaps. It is trying to argue that there is (or should be) room at the table for both sides, for multiple arguments on any issue. But more than likely the film will be denied wide distribution or much (if any) press coverage, just as Intelligent Design theory is either ignored or laughed out of most cultural discourse. Whatever you may think of ID or evolution (and I’m not saying either is wrong or right) it’s hard to argue against the injustice of denying the discussion. But unfortunately that’s just what is happening.

    stillsearching.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/no-discussion-allowed/#comment-789

    Will these people never get that the definitive discussion took place over a hundred years ago, and Paleyism hasn’t merited any discussion since? And despite that, it has been discussed copiously, including far more than is merited within academia?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  48. #48 Fernando Magyar
    March 5, 2008

    Re 38, Don’t worry those thunderbolts will still find ya, where ever it is that you are trying to hide nowadays.

    And 39,Jeebus,would you please stop pointing this stuff out, some of those people may be lurking around here.

    Surviving in Florida.

  49. #49 Alex
    March 5, 2008

    I hate these people. If anyone is truly a disgrace to humanity, it’s them.

  50. #50 Hap
    March 5, 2008

    Why can’t they just hold their breaths until they either get their way or turn blue like other little brats? Maybe Florida could just buy them a coloring book and tell them to sit in the corner until dinner, instead.

    On the other hand, I think most kids are more mature than these assweasels. Perhaps a spanking (or alternative form of discipline) is in order.

  51. #51 extatyzoma
    March 5, 2008

    i wonder what drives the proponents of creationism?

    similar to a previous post its a bit like this: if evo is true then genesis isnt (they just cant compromise at all can they), then the bible isnt infallible so christainity could be bullshit and that means that i might not be the centre of the universe and when i die i might not be sat next to jesus in heaven, basically creationsits are shit fucking scared of dying just like the rest of us, but some of us dont need a pacifier/dummy dipped in ‘be ignorant and feel good’ syrup to get us through it.

  52. #52 Kimpatsu
    March 5, 2008

    Creationism and it’s inbred cousin…
    Hey, PZ, do your students lose marks if they misuse the apostrophe like you do?

  53. #53 Kseniya
    March 5, 2008

    P.Z. has been kimpatsued again!

  54. #54 Dadoo
    March 5, 2008

    As another counter-example, there’s an organization in my town called “Families First”, which actually does some fairly cool stuff. One of the things they sponsor, here, is the Children’s Museum. Interestingly, many of their members have suggested they change their name, because nearly everyone’s initial assumption is that they’re a far-right religious group.

  55. #55 Kagehi
    March 5, 2008

    Why didn’t god spend as much effort on humans as on cockroaches?

    Terry Pratchett answered that one. Humans where a side project. God’s *real* interest has always been beetles, of which the cockroach was his best design. lol

    Mind you, much of the indestructibility of cockroaches have proven to be somewhat false, as proven on Mythbusters. Radiation will, for example, kill them far faster and in lower doses than some other beetles. lol

  56. #56 J
    March 6, 2008

    #53

    As another counter-example, there’s an organization in my town called “Families First”, which actually does some fairly cool stuff. One of the things they sponsor, here, is the Children’s Museum. Interestingly, many of their members have suggested they change their name, because nearly everyone’s initial assumption is that they’re a far-right religious group.

    It’s only a matter of time before the Religious Right co-opts baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.

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