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Flunk This Movie!

From: user 6.
Sent on: Thursday, June 12, 2008 8:31 AM

Flunk This Movie!

Ben Stein's Expelled is all worldview and no evidence.

��This is not a religious argument,�� Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman asserts in the new anti-evolution propaganda movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Yet the film is free of scientific content: It gives no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for ��intelligent design.�� Instead, host Ben Stein spends most of the movie asking various proponents of evolutionary theory for their religious views.

The film begins with moody shots of Stein backstage before he addresses an unidentified audience on the alleged suppression of scientific research in the name of Darwinian orthodoxy. Stein stalks onstage and suggests that we are losing our scientific freedom.

As evidence, Stein trots out a small parade of martyrs. In 2004, Richard Sternberg, then editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, published an article by Stephen Meyer arguing that the ��Cambrian explosion�� 570 to 530 million years ago in which most of the body types of animals developed was evidence for intelligent design.

Many of Sternberg��s colleagues reacted with dismay, and the journal retracted the article. In the film, Sternberg says he lost his office at the Smithsonian��s Museum of Natural History, was pressured to resign, and had his religious and political beliefs questioned. Yet he still has office space in the museum and has been reappointed for three more years. True, some of his colleagues might not want to hang out with him anymore. But that is a far cry from the grim black-and-white shots of Soviet armies and concentration camps featured in the film.

In 2005, George Mason University did not renew a teaching contract with Caroline Crocker, an adjunct biology lecturer who believes in intelligent design. She tells Stein that she only wanted to teach students to question scientific orthodoxies: ��I was only trying to teach what the university stands for��academic freedom.�� Since George Mason let her go, she says, she can no longer find work.

Interestingly, Crocker delivered the same offending lecture at a local community college later. It didn��t turn out to be a ��balanced�� presentation of evidence for and against biological evolution. Why not? ��There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution,�� she says.

An assistant professor of astronomy, Guillermo Gonzalez, was denied tenure at Iowa State University in 2007. In 2004 Gonz alez co-wrote The Privileged Planet, which argues the Earth was precisely positioned to enable researchers like him to make scientific measurements. An Iowa State colleague, Hector Avalos, neatly skewers this conceit: ��This rationale is analogous to a plumber arguing that if our planet had not been positioned precisely where it is, then he might not be able to do his work as a plumber. Lead pipes might melt if the Sun were much closer. And, if our planet were any farther from the Sun, it might be so frozen that plumbers might not exist at all. Therefore, plumbing must have been the reason that our planet was located where it is.��

Did Gonzalez fail to get tenure because of his views? The university denies it, but my guess is he did. On the evidence of The Privileged Planet, Guillermo��s colleagues could reasonably worry that his views weren��t likely to lead to fruitful research results.

The most egregious part of the movie is the attempt to link evolut ion with Communism and Nazism. The claim that Communism was motivated by Darwin is just silly. Official Soviet biological doctrine was Lysenkoism, and Russian Darwinists were denounced as ��Trotskyite agents of international fascism�� and thrown into the Gulag for their scientific sins.

And Nazism? In the film, the mathematician David Berlinski says, ��Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism, but I think it was a necessary one.�� Berlinski is suggesting that scientific materialism undermines the notion that human beings occupy a special place in the universe. If humans aren��t special, goes this line of thinking, then morals don��t apply.

But people through the millennia have found all sorts of justifications for murdering each other, including plunder, nationalism, and, yes, religion. Meanwhile, insights from evolutionary psychology are helping us understand how our in-group/out-group dynamics contribute to our disturbing capacity for racism, x enophobia, genocide, and warfare. The field also offers new ideas about how human morality developed, including our capacities for cooperation, love, and tolerance.

At one point in the film, the science studies gadfly Steve Fuller archly poses the question: Which comes first, worldview or evidence? Fuller aims his question at the proponents of evolutionary biology. As this dreary film itself makes it painfully clear, the question is far more relevant to the supporters of intelligent design.

Ronald Bailey is reason��s science correspondent.

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-------------- Original message --------------
From: Brian <[address removed]>



From: Danielle Lucid [mailto:[address removed]]
Sent: Wednesday, June 11,[masked]:07 PM
Subject: Thursday - Cafe Scientifique at 49 West Coffee House in Annapolis - Please join us!


Dear Annapolis Caf�� Scientifique Patrons,

A quick reminder about the Cafe Scientifique on Thursday:  this month �� a new time and place! 


On Thursday, June 12, 2008, at 6:30PM, at the 49 West Coffeehouse in Annapolis Maryland, the Annapolis Caf�� Scientifique will host author/journalist John S. Friedman.  Dr. Friedman will present a discussion of his new book "Out of the Blue:  A history of lightning, science, superstition, and amazing stories of survival."  See below for more information about the author obtained from his website and from book reviews.


The 49 West Coffeehouse is located at 49 West Street in Annapolis, Maryland.  It is the cozy venue for good food, wine, beer, art, and music.  And, as an added bonus, on June 12, following John Friedman's discussion on lightning, jazz guitarist Rob Levit will play.


The Caf�� Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology.  It is a forum for debating science issues and promoting public engagement with scientists and science topics.


We hope to see you there!



Danielle Lucid

Ted Graham

Annapolis Caf�� Scientifique


Directions to the 49 West Coffeehouse from DC:  Take Rt. 50 East.  Exit at Rowe Boulevard and go right at the end of the ramp. Cross Weems and College Creeks. From Rowe Boulevard, take a right onto Calvert Street.  Go left on West Street.  49 West will then be on your right.  Parking:  While on Calvert Street, just before West Street, a good place to park is in Gott's Garage. For more information about the 49 West Coffeehouse, please call[masked]-9796. 


From John Friedman's web site and book reviews:


John Friedman is the editor of The Secret Histories:  Hidden Truths That Challenged the Past and Changed the World and First Harvest:  The Institute for Policy Studies, 1963-1983.  He produced the Academy Award-winning film, Hotel Terminus:  The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie and co-directed and co-produced Stealing the Fire, a history of the weapons-of-mass-destruction underground form the Holocaust to the end of the 20th century, which was selected by the International Documentary Association as one of the ten best films of the year.


The odds of being hit by lightning each year are only about 1 in 750,000 in the U.S. And yet this rare phenomenon has inspired both fear and fascination for thousands of years. In this groundbreaking, brilliantly researched book, journalist John S. Friedman probes lightning's scientific, spiritual, and cultural roots. Blending vibrant history with riveting first-hand accounts of those who have clashed with lightning and lived to tell about it, Out of the Blue charts an extraordinary journey across the ages that explores our awe and dread in the face of one of nature's most fearsome spectacles.


Herman Melville called it "God's burning finger." The ancient Romans feared it as the wrath of God. Today we have a more scientific understanding, so why our eternal fascination with lightning? Out of the Blue attempts to understand this towering force of nature, exploring the changing perceptions of lightning from the earliest civilizations through Ben Franklin's revolutionary experiments to the hair-raising adventures of storm chasers like David Hoadley, who's been chronicling extreme weather for half a century. And Friedman describes one of the most treacherous rescues ever attempted in American mountain climbing.  Friedman profiles a Virginia ranger who was struck by lightning seven times��and dubbed the human lightning rod��along with scores of others who tell astonishing tales of rescue and survival. And he charts lightning's profound, life-altering effects on the emotional and spiritual lives of its victims.


Combining captivating fact with thrilling personal stories, Out of the Blue tells a remarkable true tale of fate and coincidence, discovery and divine retribution, science and superstition. As entertaining as it is informative, it is a book for outdoor adventurers, sports enthusiasts, science and weather buffs, nature lovers, and anyone who has ever been awed or frightened by the sight of lightning.


"When you see a TV meteorologist display a map of lightning strikes or see a picture of a lightning bolt, you are unwittingly being introduced to a new era in lightning research. Author John S. Friedman pans through time from ancient myths to scientists who are now delving through the mysteries which have surrounded this awesome and frightening subject. His greatest gift is painting a humanistic picture of a subject which has affected man since he began walking this earth."��Frank Field, TV weatherman


"Who would believe a book on lightning could be not only informative but fascinating reading? Friedman's Out of the Blue is both. He intersperses dozens of human-interest stories along with excellent research. Best of all, he writes as if he's sitting across the campfire and says, "Let me tell you about��"��Cecil Murphey, co-author of the New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven


"Intended for outdoor adventurers, sports enthusiasts, science and weather buffs, nature lovers and anyone who is awed or frightened by lightning��. Fascinating stories."��Deseret Morning News

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