Here’s an interesting review of the movie that gets Carroll’s perspective on it. It mostly gets it right, especially in its argument that this movie is an attempt to swiftboat science.
“If you have a losing hand, you’re going to use every amount of rhetoric you can to distract people from the fact that you don’t have any facts,” Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told me in his lab last week. “And that’s what ‘Expelled’ is all about.”
Carroll is little too generous here…
Carroll had similar advice for today’s biologists: “The biology community will tell you that understanding genetics and evolution is fundamental to being a literate biologist. … Do you want your kids to be taught by people who are living in the 18th century? I don’t think so. They have a right to think these things or believe these things, but they have an obligation to be technically competent.”
18th century? Hah! In my recent debate with Angus Menuge (I keep meaning to write it up, but every time I recall that evening I fall asleep), I pointed out that one of the goals of the ID movement was to redefine science; he agreed, but said that what they wanted to do was restore the true meaning of science, to that of … Aristotle. I had to reply that apparently, then, they wanted to roll back progress by 25 centuries.
I do have to disagree with this bit in the review, though:
The movie also prods several interviewees who happen to be outspoken atheists – such as biologists Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers as well as philosopher Daniel Dennett – to indulge in some metaphysical speculation that goes beyond the biology (thus demonizing them for the movie’s core audience). The perspective from respected scientists who happen to be religious (for example, Francis Collins and Ken Miller) is largely lacking, although physicist-turned-priest John Polkinghorne is a welcome exception to the rule.
The result is that the film casts the debate largely along the false battle lines of science vs. religion. That rhetorical approach ironically builds up the very wall Ben Stein says he wants to tear down.
We were not indulging in metaphysical speculation — we were actually addressing the stated purpose of our interviews, which we were told were specifically about the intersection of science and religion, not about the scientific validity of intelligent design. We would have given very different interviews if we’d been asked about ID; that’s a subject both of us can discuss at length without mentioning religion at all, as the primary objection to it is that it isn’t science, and good science refutes it. It’s a little annoying to be constantly told that we were straying from the central premise of this movie, when we were actually doing our best to address the subject of the nonexistent movie for which we were told we were being interviewed.
But as for that last bit, the line separating science and religion is not a false one. That is ultimately the actual, central source of the conflict: how are you going to figure out how the world works, from inquiry into natural causes, or from metaphysics, superstition, and evidence-free revelation? That is a significant piece, even the central piece, of this long-running argument in our culture.