April 22, 2008

Expelled, the MovieAcademic Freedom in Jeopardy

Most of us take academic freedom for granted. We assume that freedom of speech applies not only to the political and social arena but also to the halls of education. However, the foundations of freedom are experiencing seismic tremors in the academy. In the area of science education the freedom to pursue the truth where ever it leads is experiencing a major setback. It is the equivalent of a modern-day black-list!

What can jeopardize someone's work in the academy? Criticizing Darwinian evolution, or, worse, suggesting that life displays evidence of . . . we better whisper it . . . intelligence.

Expelled: The Movie

In case you've missed the controversy, there is a movie opening in theaters nationwide on April 18 documenting the demise of academic freedom. It's called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The docu-drama (or shall we say expose-tainment) follows Ben Stein on his quest to get at the bottom of this modern-day witch hunt. The result is a startling revelation that freedom of thought is being expelled from high schools, universities and research institutions.

Ben Stein, you may recall, is known as an author, economist, actor, game show host, presidential speechwriter, and comedian. In the film, he embarks on a globe-trotting tour, interviewing scientists, educators and philosophers who are being persecuted because they dare to question Darwin's theory of naturalistic evolution. And even more significantly, these academics and intellectuals are proposing that the latest scientific research is discovering that life requires an intelligent source.

However, for Darwinists,1 the idea of intelligence raises the specter of "God," and that idea is not just unacceptable, it is anathema to their worldview and concept of the scientific enterprise. Therefore, they seek to squelch the discussion. Expelled exposes Darwinian elitists who suppress all who disagree with them. The film confronts scientists such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers, and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education, also a committed philosophical naturalist (nature is the only reality, God is a myth).

Early screenings of the film have uncovered supporters of its message such as Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and radio personality Rush Limbaugh. Marvin Olasky, Editor of World Magazine, wrote in a recent article, "'Expelled,' is perfect for adults and children of middle-school age or above: It should be rated R not for sex or violence but for being reasonable, radical, risible, and right."2

Even before its release, the film is causing quite a stir. It has received national news coverage in papers such as the New York Times as well as heating up numerous blogs. It was the #1 blogged about conversation on the internet the last week of March according to Nielsen's blog monitoring service.

Of course, the film also has it detractors. As you might imagine, there is the usual name-calling and guilt-by-association, claiming that proponents of an intelligent cause for life are in reality a Trojan horse for "creationists." ("Creationists" are considered by Darwinists to be the lunatic fringe of the religious right who want to impose their dogmatically literal interpretation of Genesis on unsuspecting biology students.) On top of that, Dawkins and Myers claim they were misinformed about the intent of the film before being interviewed, a challenge that the producers deny.

Darwinist and Atheist groups have gotten into the fry as well, emailing petitions to movie theaters asking them NOT to show the film on the grounds of polluting the minds of young people. But all these darts hurled at the film miss the point of the documentary, which is: scientists are being discriminated against based on their research findings and personal views.

Expelled: The Reality

The suppression of descent from Darwinian dogma is real. The following incidents provide a glimpse behind the scenes to reveal the seriousness of the situation:

  • In October, 2000, Baylor University terminated scientist William Dembski as head of the "Michael Polanyi Center for Complexity, Information, and Design" because his work provides a framework for determining intelligence in nature. This, in spite of Dembski having PhD's in Mathematics and Philosophy and an impressive publishing record, including the book, The Design Inference, published by the respected peer-reviewed publishing house, Cambridge University Press.3
  • In 2004, Richard Sternberg, a biologist with two PhD's, was managing editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Although not an advocate of intelligent design, he allowed the publishing of a peer-reviewed research paper proposing the need for an intelligent source to account for various forms of complex life found at the beginning of the Cambrian geological period. Not long after its publication, officials from the National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution where Sternberg was a research fellow began a coordinated smear and intimidation campaign to get him expelled from his position.4
  • Caroline Crocker, a biologist with a specialty in immunopharmacology, discussed the scientific critique of Darwinism with the students in her cell biology course at George Mason University during the 2005 semester. When colleagues got wind of it, she was first forbidden from teaching either evolution or intelligent design. Then her contract was allowed to expire. "I was absolutely shocked," said Crocker, "I was careful to let no one know what side [of the evolution controversy] I was on." Her story was written up in the Washington Post and the science weekly Nature. When she later sought a research job at the National Institutes of Health, her reputation preceded her: "A friend, someone with connections at the NIH, told me, ëDon't bother applying. You're blacklisted now.'"5
  • In 2006, astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure at Iowa State University in spite of exceeding his department's tenure standards by more than 350 percent in terms of publications in refereed science journals in addition to co-authoring a college astronomy textbook with Cambridge University Press. The reason? Gonzalez had made the mistake of co-authoring the 2004 book, The Privileged Planet, which makes a scientific case for the intelligent origin of the universe. Emails from professors on his tenure committee reveal their anti-intelligence bias.6
  • Dr. Robert Marks teaches engineering and computational intelligence at Baylor University and researches simulating evolution on computers. Marks has discovered that without additional information (aka, design) being included in the simulation, the evolutionary process doesn't produce results as Darwin promised. In 2006, Baylor canceled a $30,000 grant Dr. Marks had received and in 2007, the university disconnected a website Marks had put together about "evolutionary informatics" because it featured Intelligent Design-related work. Dr. Marks said he has suffered "viewpoint discrimination, violation of academic freedom, [and] persecution."7

These incidents do not count the number of other scientists and professors who feel the need to hide their convictions in order to survive in the academy. For example, David Klinghoffer, writing for Townhall Magazine on February 26, 2008, reveals the following true story:

A biologist I know recently bleached his hair and changed his appearance in other ways so as to be almost unrecognizable. I'm being deliberately vague about his looks and identity because he was going undercover. When I last saw him, he was ready for a stint of researching and lab work on intelligent design at a university that he declined to name. On returning to the lab after winter break, he said he would adopt a different disguise . . . .

The purpose is to avoid being spotted by scientists hostile to intelligent design (ID). If Darwinists realized that this stealthy biologist was working in their midst, as the guest of a professor at the same university, they could make that host professor pay a heavy career price.

Welcome to the underground world of Darwin-doubting scientists, who say they fear for their professional future. The challenges faced by these academic nonconformists have implications that go far beyond the faculty lounge.8

Asking the Right Questions

Expelled raises important questions that need to be aired. Questions such as:

  • Is there any room for dissent from the Darwinian point of view?
  • Is it appropriate for eminent scientists who depart from strict Darwinian dogma to be fired and blacklisted?
  • Should government schools and other institutions be engaged in promoting a secular, materialistic worldview to the exclusion of differing points of view?
  • Is our current level of knowledge so advanced and so certain that it should be exempt from the societal norms of open dialogue and debate?
  • Why is it inconceivable and unacceptable for some Darwinian evolutionists to consider the possibility that our world might actually require a Creator?

Get Involved!

I saw a private screening this winter and endorse it without reservations. The film brings to light the level of viewpoint discrimination that is taking place in science education. It is the responsibility of every citizen to understand what is taking place in our state-supported universities. If you are interested in taking a stand for academic and intellectual freedom, I recommend you see this film.

The movie opens April 18th in 1,000 theaters across the U.S. The most important time to see it is the first weekend, since the number of viewers on opening weekend determines the number of other theaters it will expand to in the coming weeks and how long it plays.

And if you're feeling really plucky, why not bring a group or your Sunday school class to see Expelled. Take 25 people and you get a free "Expelled" t-shirt and Ben Stein Bobble-Head! If that doesn't motivate you, you must be from the wrong planet. Sign up at http://www.getexpelled.com/fetchafriend.php and watch the fun begin!

To view trailers, excerpts and for more information on the film, go to www.expelledthemovie.com.

Footnotes
  1. I use the term "Darwinist" to refer to one who believes that Darwin's theory that natural selection operating on random genetic mutation can account for all the various species of life without the need for a Supernatural cause or agent. And further, this view holds that the entire universe can be explained through reducing everything to natural laws operating on matter.
  2. "Seriously Funny: Ben Stein Takes on the Debate-phobic Darwinian Establishment," by Marvin Olasky, accessed 04/15/2008.
  3. "Intelligent Design: Design Interference: William Dembski Fired from Baylor's Intelligent Design Center," by Tony Carnes, accessed 04/15/2008.
  4. "Peer-harassed Scientist Rocks Evolutionary Boat," by Jack Cashill, accessed 04/15/2008.
  5. "Evolution's Glass Ceiling," by David Klinghoffer, accessed 04/15/2008.
  6. "Breaking News: Iowa State Department Faculty Acknowledge ID Played Role in Gonzalez's Tenure Denial," accessed 04/10/2008.
  7. Ibid.
  8. "Evolution's Glass Ceiling," by David Klinghoffer.

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