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Ronald Bailey Attacks Expelled, Endorses Discrimination Against Intelligent Design Proponents

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

Over at Reason.com, Ronald Bailey has taken the Michael Shermer (i.e., Fact Free) approach to attacking Expelled. Bailey charges that “the film is entirely free of scientific content–no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for ‘intelligent design’ (ID) theory is given.” But last time I saw the film, it featured well-credentialed scientists arguing that natural selection lacks information-generative power and arguing the digitally-encoded information in DNA and highly efficient micromachines and factories in the cell strongly indicate an intelligent cause. Bailey makes the simplistic (and inadequate) argument for neo-Darwinism based upon the fact that the fossil record shows that species have changed over time and younger fossils more closely resemble living species than older fossils. But this argument makes three mistakes:

Bailey Endorses Discriminating against Pro-ID Scientists
But the most incredible parts of Bailey’s review aren’t those mistakes: he tries to diminish the attacks upon the academic freedom of ID proponents by saying that “the worst thing they suffer is the loss of their jobs. That’s not fun, but it’s not the gas chamber either.” So it’s no big deal, according to Bailey, if ID proponents are being fired, as long as they aren’t being killed. Is that the society we all want to live in? Would Bailey make the same comments if we were talking about discrimination against minority ethnic groups or homosexuals? I think not.

Bailey Mimics Shermer: Deny Discrimination and Blame the Victims
Bailey also adopts the Shermer-style while discussing the persecution of Richard Sternberg: he ignores all the evidence of discrimination against Sternberg and parrots Sternberg’s persecutors as evidence that there was no persecution. Interestingly, Bailey prefaces his discussion of Sternberg by citing the alleged “creationist” connections of Sternberg and Stephen Meyer. Why would this be relevant to talk about unless Bailey felt that somehow it would legitimize attacking Sternberg? In other words, Bailey believes that being a Darwin-skeptic delegitimizes your academic stature.

Bailey similarly attacks Caroline Crocker because she believes that, “There really is not a lot of evidence for evolution.” Again, why is that relevant to point-out unless he thinks that her expressing such a viewpoint would be grounds for legitimately discriminating against her?

Finally, when discussing the denial of tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, Bailey cites an atheist religion professor, Hector Avalos (who persecuted Gonzalez at Iowa State), to attack Gonzalez’s scientific arguments for cosmic design. Again, Bailey justifies discriminating against Gonzalez because Gonzalez supports ID:

Did Gonzalez fail to get tenure because of his ID views? Although the university denies it, my guess is probably yes. Why? On the evidence of The Privileged Planet, Guillermo’s colleagues could reasonably worry that his ID views weren’t likely to lead to fruitful research results. Gonzalez was not thrown into a concentration camp for his views. He just didn’t get tenure.

According to Bailey, it’s OK to deny tenure to ID proponents, because they support ID, as long as you don’t kill them. Again I ask, is that the sort of free society we want to live in?

Bailey’s Double Standard
Bailey attacks the film because one of the producers is “a Christian evangelical software millionaire,” devoting much space to attacking ID by asserting that the “Wedge Document” expresses religious motivations behind ID. Bailey apparently never stops to consider the hypocrisy of his charges, because throughout the film, Darwinists happily express, on camera, anti-religious motivations for promoting evolution. As one review of the film discusses:

[P.Z.] Myers, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, compared religion to a hobby, saying it brings some people the type of comfort one can find in knitting.

“What we have to do is get it to a place where religion is treated at the level it should be treated,” he told Stein in the on-screen interview. “That it’s something fun that people get together to do on the weekends and really doesn’t affect their life as much as it has been so far.”

Devaluing religion, Myers said, would benefit society by providing “greater science literacy, which is going to lead to the erosion of religion and then we’ll get more and more science to replace it, and that will displace more and more religion, which will allow more and more science in, and we’ll eventually get to the point where religion has taken that appropriate place as a side dish rather than a main course.

“If you separate out the ethical message from religion, what have you got left? You’ve got a bunch of fairy tales.”

Dr. Peter Atkins, professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford, was more direct in his ‘Expelled’ assessment.

“Religion, it’s just fantasy, basically,” he said. “It’s particularly empty of any explanatory content and is evil as well.”

So it seems that the double-standard type-reasoning used at Reason.com construes any statements about religion as criticism against ID proponents but ignores anti-religious statements when they come from leading Darwinists. A more blatant double-standard would be hard to imagine. (For more rebuttals regarding the “Wedge Document,” see here, here, here, or here.)

Ronald Bailey’s review of Expelled is surprisingly candid in that he unashamedly endorses the intolerance towards ID in academic circles. Not only does he justify discriminating against ID proponents because of their views, but he suggests adopting a double-standard, where alleged religious motives count ONLY against ID but anti-religious intentions never count against Darwinism. Bailey might not realize this, but his intolerant statements justify the fundamental premise behind the Expelled film: there is discrimination against ID proponents in the academy. For this reason, I’m glad he published his review for all to see.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, 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.



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