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Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists (Part 1)

Casey Luskin

[Note: For a more comprehensive defense of Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, please see: NCSE Exposed at]

Scientific American has a long history of opposing intelligent design (ID), so it comes as no surprise that they have tasked their columnist Michael Shermer with the job of attacking Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Michael Shermer is the founder of Skeptic Magazine, who loves to boast about how evolution liberated him from belief in God. In fact, he does just that in his article attacking Expelled, opening it by saying: “In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory,” but when he “finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked.” In his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Shermer tries to convince the reader that he believes that evolution and religion are compatible, but ultimately concedes that, “were we to take a strictly scientific approach to the God question, we would have to reject the God hypothesis.”[1] It’s tough to take Shermer’s calls for peace between religion and Darwin seriously when he has elsewhere declared his view that “[t]here is no God, intelligent designer, or anything resembling the divinity as proffered by the world’s religions.”[2]

Shermer is interviewed in the documentary Expelled, and he basically denies that there is any persecution of ID proponents. Since the film provides extensive documentation of the discrimination faced by ID proponents in the academy, Expelled disproves Shermer’s one-sided skepticism.

Shermer’s day job is literally being a professional skeptic. He makes a living telling people that they should be skeptical of religion. But Shermer virtually never applies his skepticism to modern Darwinian theory. This film shows that sometimes his skepticism against ID goes too far. Shermer certainly has a huge stake in the debate over this film–in fact, it seems that his entire worldview, livelihood, and de-conversion experience depend heavily upon the veracity of Darwinian evolution. It therefore comes as no surprise that in his review of Expelled, he paints evolutionists as the saints, and Darwinism as a pure and unadulterated religion.

Shermer’s General Approach to Handling Persecution of ID Proponents: One-Sided Skepticism, Denial, and Blaming the Victim
Having seen Expelled, Shermer now knows that his denial that ID proponents get persecuted serves as a foil for the impressive documentation of such persecution presented throughout the film. His response is not to amend his answer in light of the facts presented in the movie, but rather to issue even more forceful denials that there is any persecution of ID proponents taking place. Shermer’s method of dealing with these persecution instances is as follows:

  • (1) Ignore all the facts showing there was persecution;
  • (2) E-mail the persecutor and ask them if there was any anti-ID discrimination;
  • (3) Withhold all skepticism from the statements of the persecutors, and then trumpet their response as evidence that there is no persecution against ID proponents, blaming the victim for losing their job and then claiming those who feel there is persecution are just promoting a “conspiracy.”

Shermer’s record of consistently taking the side of the persecutors shows that he is part of the problem and is in no way an objective source to analyze this subject. For example, Shermer implies that Richard Sternberg’s credibility is diminished because he’s a fellow of the International Society for Complexity Information, and Design or because he “is a signatory of the Discovery Institute’s ‘100 Scientists who Doubt Darwinism’ statement.” (By the way, it’s over 700 scientists now, Dr. Shermer.) This shows that Shermer himself could be a potential persecutor of Darwin skeptics, for he isn’t interested in giving Darwin-skeptics equal treatment.

If only Shermer would turn some of his skepticism against the perpetrators instead of waging all of his skepticism against the victims. This is typical behavior of persecutors: Deny and blame the victim, telling them they are conspiracy theorists. This unwillingness to believe the facts fits perfectly with Shermer’s modus operandi: unyielding and eternal skepticism…unless it supports Darwinism.

In the next two installments I will provide a closer analysis of Shermer’s claims, one by one, with dose of a healthy skepticism that Shermer studiously leaves out of his analysis of the film.

References Cited:
[1]: Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, page 122 (Times Books 2006).
[2]: Michael Shermer in What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty, page 38 (John Bockman ed., Harper-Perennial 2006).


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



ExpelledMichael Shermer