Sunday, October 31, 2010

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008) (Academic Freedom)

Having explained my own perspective in watching the film, it is hopefully easier to understand my reaction to it. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed does not interview fundamentalist preachers or homeschooling parents whose religious faith leads them to reject Darwinism without any scientific training to support their beliefs. That is the typical stereotype of Creationists, but the film takes a more sophisticated and more interesting approach to the subject by exploring the belief of some who have apparently studied the issue in great depth and rejected Darwinism.

The film explains that the Theory of Evolution is accepted to some degree by virtually all scientists—everyone agrees there is adaption within species. But the film describes that some scientists believe the Theory of Evolution has limits; it does not explain sufficiently how life first came into being from primordial soup. It also does not explain sufficiently how different species came into being. Per the film, this is really where the academic debate is rooted.

To develop these points, the film interviews a number of scientists who have expressed openness to the concept that there are limits to the insights we can glean from Darwin. A central theme in the film is that such scientists have had their careers ruined because of persecution for a lack of conformity to the prevailing academic consensus about Evolution. People have been denied tenure and/or lost their jobs because of voicing openness to “intelligent design” concepts.

I have no idea if this persecution really has happened or if these incidents have been contrived by the filmmakers to serve a political purpose. But I am inclined to believe that some of the scientists interviewed really were persecuted as they claim. There were a lot of them, and the testimonial evidence they offered seemed credible to me. If their claims are true, this is truly a frightening trend even if one is a devoted Darwinist. Academic freedom is so important to colleges and other institutions devoted to intellectual pursuits and the advancement of human knowledge.

As mentioned in another blog post this year, I value the marketplace of ideas concept that underpins the First Amendment. I believe that truth will make itself known eventually. Repressing the expression of a person’s ideas does not alter this fact. I believe that only those who are threatened and fearful of other ideas try to silence their opponents. As a professor, I for one value academic freedom because it helps us discern as a community the most valid ideas in our respective disciplines. It is frightening to hear from academics, like those in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, who claim to have lost their jobs and had their professional reputations ruined because of openness to or outright embrace of ideas that are not popular within their discipline.

In the so-called “culture war,” conservatives often complain that media and academic elites look down on them and try to prevent the expression of conservative beliefs. In July of this year I blogged about the film Rated R: Republican in Hollywood, which focused on the former type of elitism. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed focused on the latter type. To the extent the sort of blacklisting described in these two films does go on, it would be very tragic. In supposedly “liberal” communities, openness to new ideas and an embrace of heterogeneity are purportedly embraced. Such values are inconsistent with demands that everyone in the community share the same “liberal” beliefs.

Matthew 5: 23-24 (New Century Version)

"So when you offer your gift to God at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, and then come and offer your gift.

No comments:

Post a Comment