In the first act of creation, Aten was perceived as an androgynous figure, the hand that made the world being the female aspect, while his phallus represented the equal and opposite male principle. As the eminent American scholar Professor Karl Luckert writes: 'The entire system can be visualized as a flow of creative vitality, emanating outward from the godhead, thinning out as it flows further from the source.'
However, this apparently primitive - if somewhat explicit - tale actually encompasses a highly sophisticated understanding of the cosmology...It literally describes the 'Big Bang', in which all matter explodes from a point of singularity and then expands and unfolds, becoming more complex as fundamental forces come into being and interact, finally reaching the level of elemental matter.
-From Lynn Picknett's Secret History of Lucifer.
Ben Stein has a new movie coming out. Seeing the trailer I thought that maybe the movie was a gentle castigation of his comrades on the right who persist in their victim fantasies and pout about how schools don't teach their religion. Well, flip that on its head.
Stein's movie 'Expelled' is a screed against science, though the people who work in science related industries, laboratories and classrooms are not labeled 'scientists' by Stein. They are 'Darwinists'. I guess that's probably all you need to know to ascertain that there won't be much even-handed discussion of the current debate between science (particularly any science related to evolution) versus intelligent design.
Though the movie's not out yet, its producers have invited people like Richard Dawkins and the editorial board of Scientific American to preview it. According to John Rennie at Scientific American
No one could have been more surprised than I when the producers called, unbidden, offering Scientific American's editors a private screening. Given that our magazine's positions on evolution and intelligent design (ID) creationism reflect those of the scientific mainstream (that is, evolution: good science; ID: not science), you have to wonder why they would bother. It's not as though anything in Expelled would have been likely to change our views. And they can't have been looking for a critique of the science in the movie, because there isn't much to speak of.
Rather, it seems a safe bet that the producers hope a whipping from us would be useful for publicity: further proof that any mention of ID outrages the close-minded establishment. (Picture Ben Stein as Jack Nicholson, shouting, "You can't handle the truth!") Knowing this, we could simply ignore the movie—which might also suit their purposes, come to think of it.
A quick look at the Expelled website shows Rennie has pegged their motivation. Headlines show a particular taunting of Dawkins, not even worth looking into. You can guess what's there.
Wouldn't you think that a movie that is all about how Intelligent Design isn't being given its props as a science might try to spend a little time trying to establish its own scientific underpinnings? You and I might. I don't understand why Stein doesn't. It's as if he has a stake in the dumbing down of America.
Alonzo Fyfe, who writes the blog "The Atheist Ethicist" begins his open letter of critique to Stein of the movie (which he acknowledges not to have seen) this way:
I want to begin by pointing that your legacy, as a result of your work on this particular project, will be the suffering and early death of countless people who otherwise could have been saved or benefited from advances in science.
No punches pulled there.
Fyfe offers up such a simple rebuttal to the nonsense that intelligent design has to be accepted as science in our schools and colleges:
I am going to have to say something about the nature of science to demonstrate this point. Science is involved in explaining and predicting real-world events. This includes real-world events that cause real-world death and suffering. The better we are at understanding the real world, the better we will be at avoiding the death and suffering that nature would otherwise inflict on us.
Science does this by comparing theories. Theory A predicts that under conditions C, that R will result. Theory B predicts that under conditions C, S will result. Scientists then set up or observe conditions C, and see if they detect R or S. If they detect R, they go with theory A. If they detect S, they go with Theory B. [snip]
Now, please, try for me to put the concept of intelligent design into the description that I wrote above about how to compare scientific theories. Come up with a condition C, and a result R1 or R2, that will tell us whether or not to accept Theory A or Theory B, where Theory B is intelligent design.
You will fail.
No scientist has yet been able to present a “Theory B” that includes a God variable that produces more accurate results under Conditions C than any comparable theory that lacks a God variable.
If it seems that Fyfe is over-the-top in saying that Stein's Expelled will lead to human suffering consider that one of Stein's claims in the movie is that 'Darwinism' led to the Holocaust!
The movie claims to show several Americans who have been persecuted for trying to bring about an open and honest debate between intelligent design and evolution. The problem is that in each case major parts of the victims case are left out.
Rennie describes the situation of one such victim:
Expelled then trots out some of the people whom it claims have been persecuted by the Darwinist establishment. First among them is Richard Sternberg*, former editor of the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, who published an article on ID by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute. Sternberg tells Stein that he subsequently lost his editorship, his old position at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and his original office. Looking a bit smug in his self-martyrdom, Sternberg also reports that a colleague compared him with an "intellectual terrorist."
What most viewers of Expelled may not realize—because the film doesn't even hint at it—is that Sternberg's case is not quite what it sounds. Biologists criticized Sternberg's choice to publish the paper not only because it supported ID but also because Sternberg approved it by himself rather than sending it out for independent expert review. He didn't lose his editorship; he published the paper in what was already scheduled to be his last issue as editor. He didn't lose his job at the Smithsonian; his appointment there as an unpaid research associate had a limited term, and when it was over he was given a new one. His office move was scheduled before the paper ever appeared.
Michael Schermer who is the publisher of Skeptic and who is interviewed for the movie says that the film opens with Stein giving a lecture to a group of enthusiastic Pepperdine students who adoringly approve of his anti-evolutionary jeremiad. Problem: those students presented on the film are extras. The film production company paid for the use of the auditorium and filled it with paid shills. A provost at the university estimates that there may have been three or four actual students in attendance.
Shermer's article describes what it was like to be interviewed for this movie. I don't need to go into it. You can guess that it involved being duped. I would encourage you to read it.
Back to our jack-off theory of the origin of the cosmos: If Stein is really interested in promoting the idea that God created the universe maybe we should press him to explain why, with thousands and thousands of creation theories to choose from, we can't accept the early Egyptians as true science. It melds much more closely with actual scientific theory than the story that goes 'And God said...'.
P.S. for a beautiful take on the cosmos by my favorite mathmetician head over to mattyboy's ponderance of the galaxies
UPDATE: PZ Meyers at Pharyngula has asked that bloggers post a link to the site that is devoted to debunking the movie so that it moves up in technorati and google authoritay. Here is that link . Click away like you're Atum creating the universe, my friends!