The Skunk and Tiger

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge."-Horace Mann

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scientist: Ben Stein's 'Expelled' should really be 'Flunked Out'

by Muriel Kane

Comedian and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein's new documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, will not open until this Friday, but it has already been widely blasted for its alleged dishonesty and looseness with the facts.

Stein has recently emerged as a prominent spokesperson for so-called "intelligent design," a pseudo-scientific gloss over the religious philosophy of creationism. Using film-making techniques clearly borrowed from Michael Moore, Stein set out to confront scientists and educators about their alleged persecution of supporters of intelligent design, whom Stein claims have been "targeted for retaliation and harassment."

However, the National Center for Science Education has performed an extensive investigation of the "martyrs" profiled in Stein's file and has found a consistent pattern of misrepresentation.

"We reviewed public records and reports on the intelligent design promoters who were supposedly discriminated against, and we discovered that the claims that they lost their jobs over intelligent design are unsupported," biologist Josh Rosenau explained. "That said, professors who aren't making advances in their field, editors who disregard their journal's established practices, and lecturers who repeat creationist falsehoods shouldn't be surprised if they have trouble holding jobs. These people weren't expelled; they flunked out."

The controversies over Expelled began last fall, when two supporters of evolution who are interviewed in the film, Professors Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, claimed that they were tricked into appearing by being told the film would present a serious debate about the "controversy that exists in America between evolution, creationism and the intelligent design movement."

"At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front," Dawkins complained. Stein countered, "I don't remember a single person asking me what the movie was about."

Myers recently noted that the producers of Expelled appear to have stolen some of their sequences from PBS and from a small animation company, XVIVO. Those producers have now counter-sued XVIVO, alleging that its claims are "part of an ongoing campaign attempting to discredit the film and its producers."

Expelled has also come under fire for its attempt to link a belief in evolution to Nazi genocide. When its producers offered a private screening to Scientific American, hoping for some sort of positive -- or at least newsworthy -- reaction, editor-in-chief John Rennie was withering in his criticism.

"We could simply ignore the movie," Rennie wrote. "Unfortunately, Expelled is a movie not quite harmless enough to be ignored. Shrugging off most of the film's attacks — all recycled from previous pro-ID works — would be easy, but its heavy-handed linkage of modern biology to the Holocaust demands a response for the sake of simple human decency."

Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer, who also appears in the film, expanded further on the Holocaust issue: "Cleverly edited interview excerpts from scientists are interspersed with various black-and-white clips for guilt by association with: bullies beating up on a 98-pound weakling, Charlton Heston's character in Planet of the Apes being blasted by a water hose, Nikita Khrushchev pounding his fist on a United Nations desk, East Germans captured trying to scale the Berlin Wall, and Nazi crematoria remains and Holocaust victims being bulldozed into mass graves. This propaganda production would make Joseph Goebbels proud."

Shermer pointed out in contrast that Darwinian theory has often been used as the unpinning for a belief in Stein's preferred doctrine of free market capitalism, a fact of which he found Stein to be "astonishingly ignorant." In fact, Shermer notes, Enron's CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, has said that his favorite book while at Harvard Business School, "was Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene ... a form of Darwinism that Skilling badly misinterpreted."


At May 01, 2008, Blogger Jaakonpoika said...

'Kampf' was a direct translation of 'struggle' from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). Seinen Kampf. His application.

Stein is under heavy artillery for 'exaggerating' or 'going easy' on the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the 'Politics-is-applied-biology' Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I.

It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous Haeckel with his still recycled embryo drawing frauds etc. in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871.

Catch 22: Haeckel's 140 years old fake embryo drawings have been mindlessly recycled for the 'public understanding of science' (PUS) in most biology text books until this millennium, although Haeckel's crackpot raging Recapitulation/Biogenetic Law and functioning gill slits of human embryos have been at the ethical tangent race hygiene/eugenics/genocide, infanticide, and Freudian psychoanalysis (subconscious atavisms). Dawkins is the Oxford professor for PUS - and should gather the courage of Stephen Jay Gould who could feel ashamed about it.

Some edited quotes from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline/edit them a 'bit'):

The marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident (Hailer 1963, p. 52).

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (Mattila 1996; Hietala 1985 p. 133; these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US (Reilly 1991, p. 87). Typically, the operations hit blacks the most in the US, poor women in the Europe, and often the victims were never even told they had been sterilized.

Mendelism outweighed recapitulation (embryos climbing up their evolutionary tree through fish-, amphibian- and reptilian stages), but that merely smoothened the way for the brutal 1930’s biolegislation - that quickly penetrated practically all Western countries. The laws were copied from country to country. The A-B-O blood groups, haemophilia, eye colours etc. were found to be inherited in a Mendelian fashion by 1910. So also the complex traits and social (mis)behaviour such as alcoholism, schizophrenia, manic depression, criminality, rebelliousness, artistic sense, pauperism, racial differences, inherited scholarship (and its converse, feeble-mindedness) were all thought to be determined by one or two genes. Mendelism was "experimental" and quantitative, and its exaggeration outweighed the more cautious biometry operating on smaller variations, not discontinuous leaps. Its advocates boldly claimed that these problems could be done away within a few generations through selection, persisted (although most biologists must have known that defective genes could not be eliminated, even with the most intense forced sterilizations and marriage restrictions due to recessive genes and synergism. Nevertheless, these laws were held until 1970's and were typically changed only when the abortion legislation were released (1973).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938 ) (Haller 1963, pp 21-57; 135-9; Proctor 1988, p. 97; Reilly 1991, p. 109). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden (Hietala 1985, pp. 109). (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate (Proctor 1988, p. 17). Today, Swedish state church is definitely the most liberal in the face of the world.

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel (Gasman 1971, p. xxii), praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the 'Judenfrage' was assimilation and Expelled-command from their university chairs, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census.
Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965 (Hietala 1985, p. 132).

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” (1977, p. 13.) Regarding us Finns, Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group (Kemiläinen 1993, p. 1930), until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century. And she went Full Monty.

Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. In England, they are fertilizing human embryos for research purposes and pipetting chimera embryos of humans and monkeys, 'legally'. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee, that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)


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