Expelled crawls into Canada

Expelled Exposed

The notorious creationist movie has crawled over the border into Canada and garnered a few reviews.

The Straight:

Truth begins and ends with the title of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a semislick advertorial for “intelligent design”, the sanitized public mask of creationism, itself invented by Christians who think their God is too stupid to have come up with evolution on his own….

Various cranks, allegedly fired from academia for their outrageous anti-Darwinist queries, give the usual freedom-of-speech spiels. (The genuine questions raised here have to do more with the notion of tenure than science, but that’s too subtle for movie palaver.) And leading evolutionary thinker and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins—seen in several interviews—only gradually recognizes that he is being set up.

The National Post, “Science is not Philosophy,” by John Moore

Expelled is at its most risible when it tries to establish a direct line from Darwin to eugenics and genocide. Stein quotes from a passage in Darwin’s writing that appears to endorse the notion that for a species to thrive the infirm must be culled. He omits the part where Darwin insists this would be “evil” and that man’s care for the weak is “the noblest part of our nature.”…

The core of the religious complaint against evolution rests on a false syllogism: Darwin leads automatically to atheism which leads to a world without moral order; therefore science is the enemy of God. It’s a maddening false supposition because while scientists are free to believe in God (and an estimated 40% do) science itself remains neutral…

…just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you. It is equally true that when everyone insists you are wrong about something it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re engaged in an elaborate conspiracy. You could just be wrong.

The National Post, “Nature vs. nurture vs. Nikita Khrushchev,” by Chris Knight:

apparently lacking any decent footage of Darwinists in their natural (and naturally selected) environment, it uses old black-and-white clips of cops with billy clubs, schoolyard bullies, Berlin Wall builders, guillotine operators and (my favourite) Nikita Khrushchev banging a shoe. The message is clear: If you think life evolved from the primordial soup, you’re in some pretty bad company.

Expelled goes on to make the argument that Darwinism was a necessary though not sufficient condition for Nazi Germany — which, even if true, is like saying that having two arms is necessary though not sufficient to strangle someone; and I stand by my right to bare arms. Nonetheless, this spurious leap of logic lets the filmmakers unleash a torrent of Nazi newsreel footage. (Apparently, Darwinists can be both Communists and Fascists at the same time.)

Intelligent Design is not synonymous with the six-days-and-then-He rested liturgy of creationism, but it’s not far off. Proponents believe life is too complex to have arisen randomly, and the universe too unlikely for it to be a chance occurrence. (Although if life hadn’t arisen, we wouldn’t be making films about how unlikely it is.) DNA is a program, they contend, so where’s the programmer? Unfortunately, any theory that rests on the axiom “Well, somebody must have made all this!” lacks a certain scientific rigour, never mind experimental validation.

A few other fallacies are worth mentioning. Just because a scientist holds a belief doesn’t automatically make that belief scientific. And just because a theory is framed in scientific language doesn’t necessarily give it equal status with opposing viewpoints. The flat-vs.-round-Earth debate, for instance, doesn’t take place on a level playing field because one of the theories is wrong…..

Ultimately, however, what sinks Expelled is not bad science but bad filmmaking.

For more about the movie, visit Expelled.


Proper thanks

Techskeptic points out that we need to direct our thanks to the right place.

If I required surgery and lived though it without major impairment (or even with major impairment) I would first thank the EMTs who were trained and got me to the hospital. I would thank the incredible surgeons who fixed me in my time of great peril. I would thank the hospital staff and donors for making a facility that allows this incredible work to go on, work that has had tremendous effects on our lifespan. I would thank the medical pioneers who and the people who agreed to be test subject to advance medicine to a point where we can stop and start a heart, and replace it. We can fix problems in the brain due to millenia of trial and error. I would thank the medical institutions that teach new doctors to not only learn the tried and true methods but teaches them to be creative and improve on them and notice when something is wrong. I would thank Doctors who propose hypothesis that are not well accepted and then back up their claims with so much evidence that concensus must change. I would thank the parents and educators of these doctors and technician and administrators. I would thank the politicians who require oversight of healthcare workers. The reason those people survive dramatic surgery and disease is because thousands of people have put in millions of man hours to make surgery as good and safe as they are now.

Oswald Avery, bacteriologist, at the Rockefeller Institute

Botany photo of the day: Hottonia inflata

plant, Hottonia inflata

I wanted to highlight this plant because it looks so unusual with its puffy stems. Read about Hottonia inflata and see larger pictures.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I’ve seen this effect labelled “unskilled and unaware of it.” When someone is clueless enough about a body of knowledge, they don’t realize how little they know and are feel competent to judge others, whose expertise they are completely unaware of. The Rev. BigDumbChimp mentioned this phenomenon (Creationist smackdown):

There’s nothing stupider than a Creationist who thinks his Arrogance of Ignorance is better suited to science than actual scientists. Unfortunately for them, that is most of them. A recent finding by Dr. Richard Lenski from a 20 year study of E. coli showed, in no uncertain terms, that one strain of the bacteria he was observing had evolved to be able to utilize citrate and grow. Something that E. coli was not previously able to do. Blowhard, prime example of the Arrogance of Ignorance, son of conservative blowhard Phyllis Schafly and head of the woefully pitiful Conservapadia, Andrew Schlafly, decided it was his turn at another shot at Internet stardom as one of the biggest morons online.

In the process, the Rev. gave it a name for me: the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (as Charles Darwin put it). They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

As Dunning and Kruger noted,

Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.

I believe we’ve all met the bull in a china shop who believes he or she is a sensitive and tactful soul. And I think this accounts partly for the number of barflies who believe that they could run the country, union, or company better than its current leader.

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