If one more Mormon tells me to see Expelled, I am going to scream.
Before you attack me for criticizing a movie I haven’t seen, let me say this: my objection isn’t to the movie per se, it is to the Intelligent Design movement. (Which is ironic, since I do in fact believe that God designed the universe.)
A good starting point for understanding Intelligent Design The Movement (hereafter IDTM) as opposed to Intelligent Design The Idea is this NOVA episode, which you can watch in its entirety online. To me, the key point is that Intelligent Design is not the result of scientific (or even theological) reasoning; it exists because creationists needed a new moniker when it became clear that the courts were not going to allow creationism to be taught in public schools. Now, this isn’t the opinion of its adversaries; it is something easily established on a factual basis when one studies documents where the word “creationism” was sloppily removed and “intelligent design” put in its place.
OK, so its origins (ha!) are suspect–what of the idea itself? What’s wrong with teaching American schoolkids what most of the American public believes? Maybe a slightly less emotionally charged example could make my point here:
CHILD: “Where do rainbows come from?”
SCIENCE TEACHER: “God created them as a sign for Noah.”
Even those of us (and it would include me) who believe that the second statement is true don’t think that it is the answer that a science teacher should give. Her answer should be about light and water and refraction. A Primary teacher’s answer should be about God. In this example, we can think about immediate causes (light and water) and ultimate causes (God). The same can go for human origins.
Perhaps another example:
COLLEGE STUDENT: “How could an eye evolve? I mean, what good would half an eye be?”
COLLEGE BIOLOGY INSTRUCTOR: “Ah! An astute point! We see that Vishnu must have designed the eye of one piece!”
I’m not OK with the answer even if you substituted “God” for “Vishnu.” The point is that science is not about ultimate causes; it is about proximate causes. (And although IDTM people just love to trot out the “half an eye” argument, it has been adequately refuted on a number of occasions. See #11 here, but you really should read the entire thing. Another resource which I highly recommend is this book, which gave me numerous warm fuzzies in appreciation of the miracle of God’s creation.)
My understanding of the Expelled movie is that it casts the issue as one of academic freedom (which, incidentally, is a very clever way to take an issue dear to the right and make it sound like one dear to the left) but in this case, it fails. It fails because biologists shouldn’t talk about God as a cause even when it is true. Not because the sciences are evil and atheistic, but for the same reason that linguists shouldn’t say that bilabial fricatives come from God or economists shouldn’t say that recessions do. Maybe bilabial fricatives and recessions come from God, I don’t know, but those are questions for theologians. I want linguists to talk about the natural, testable, historical reasons for bilabial fricatives and I want the economists to shut up and go play golf.
Just kidding. (Sort of.) But I don’t want them saying that God caused recessions. (Even when/if God does.) I want them to find out what human forces contributed to a recession.
So I don’t think this is an academic freedom issue at all because it is completely inappropriate for any academic to answer the “What caused ______?” question with “God did it.” (Except for the theologians. We get a pass. Haha.) I want academics to stick to things that can be tested and published in journals that no one reads. That’s what we pay them the big bucks for.
So, please, no more emails telling me to see Expelled.
And, please, no evolution debate here. This is a narrow post on whether IDTM should be taught in science classes. Since we are all in agreement here that God created humans, the basic truth claim of ID isn’t the issue.