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Expelled Exposed” Exposed: Your One-Stop Rebuttal to Attacks on the Documentary Expelled

Casey Luskin

Update: A single website, NCSEExposed.org, has now been created to host this response to “Expelled Exposed,” as well as some updates. Visit NCSE Exposed for your one-stop shop rebuttal to Expelled Exposed!

In light of the DVD release a few months ago of the terrific Ben Stein documentary Expelled, we thought it would be a good time to provide a comprehensive listing of articles that correct the various misrepresentations and falsehoods spread by Darwinists about Expelled.

Most of the falsehoods in circulation about the film can be traced to a website called “Expelled Exposed” set up by the pro-Darwin National Center for Science Education (NCSE) as part of its PR effort to smear the documentary last year. “Expelled Exposed” alleges that Expelled made “dishonest attempts to make mountains out of molehills and to create martyrs where martyrdom does not exist.” As John West observed in response, “The basic thrust of [“Expelled Exposed”] seems to be the preposterous claim that pro-ID scientists never, ever face harassment, intimidation, or persecution. Not ever! Scientists who claim otherwise–such as biologist Richard Sternberg, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, and Baylor University engineering professor Robert Marks–must be cry-babies or worse. The NCSE’s approach is otherwise known as ‘blaming the victim.'”

Although the NCSE’s website spends much energy attempting (poorly) to debunk and deny claims that ID proponents experience persecution, the attitude found at “Expelled Exposed” wouldn’t be any different even if its authors admitted that the attacks experienced by pro-ID scientists had actually occurred. In essence, “Expelled Exposed” effectively says, ‘There’s no persecution of ID-proponents in the academy. But even if there was, so what? They deserve it.’

“Expelled Exposed” occasionally pays lip-service to freedom of speech, but the site itself should be exposed for what it really is: an attempt to subtly–and sometimes not so subtly–convince readers that the pro-ID viewpoint does not deserve the full protections of academic freedom. By unashamedly encouraging would-be persecutors, “Expelled Exposed” unwittingly justifies the central thesis of the Expelled documentary, namely that ID proponents lack academic freedom and experience unjust persecution and blacklisting within the academy.

Responses Regarding Individual Scientists in Expelled

Guillermo Gonzalez:
Many of the false claims in “Expelled Exposed” regarding astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez are rebutted in a response I wrote to Michael Shermer’s error-ridden review of Expelled, “Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists.” Further documentation of the persecution experienced by Gonzalez can be found at “Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez And Academic Persecution” or FreeGonzalez.com. In particular, some of the following links are useful for rebutting false claims regarding Guillermo Gonzalez:

Richard Sternberg:
Many of the false claims at “Expelled Exposed” about Richard Sternberg also seem to parrot the arguments of Michael Shermer, and thus my response to Shermer provides rebuttals to many of the website’s claims: see “Michael Shermer’s Fact-Free Attack on Expelled Exposes Intolerance of Darwinists towards Pro-Intelligent Design Scientists.” “Expelled Exposed” makes the unbelievable assertion that “the worst that happened to Sternberg is that people said some unkind things about him in private email to one another.” My rebuttal to Shermer documents the precise e-mails and evidence which show that, contrary to the claims of “Expelled Exposed,” Sternberg did experience harassment and persecution, including pressure to resign, investigations into his outside activities regarding evolution, and inappropriate restrictions on his research.

More facts about Richard Sternberg’s unfortunate story can be found on his home page at RichardSternberg.org as well as at the following links:

Caroline Crocker:
Caroline Crocker wrote her own direct rebuttal correcting various false claims about herself in “Expelled Exposed,” “Reply to Expelled Exposed.” Crocker points out that “Expelled Exposed” fails to understand that “calling scientific arguments ‘creationist’ does not address the validity of the arguments. It is merely an ad hominem attack that does not require response.” More information about Crocker’s plight can be seen in “One Long Article: Washington Post Highlights Persecution of Caroline Crocker.” Some of the website’s false attacks upon Crocker’s scientific arguments are rebutted at “Problems with the Natural Chemical ‘Origin of Life’” and “Critics Rave Over Icons of Evolution: A Response to Published Reviews.” Further direct rebuttals to “Expelled Exposed” from Dr. Crocker will be included in her forthcoming book about her experience to be published later in 2009.

“Expelled Exposed” tries to muddy the waters about Crocker’s plight. On the one hand, it suggests that she was let go “simply for staffing reasons,” further stating that “[w]e do not know for certain why Crocker was not re-hired for her non-tenure track job.” On the other hand, the website tries to impugn Crocker by claiming she received received “student complaints,” and “was unable or unwilling to teach accurate science.” The truth is that at the very time she was told by her Department Head that she would be disciplined for challenging evolution and mentioning ID in the classroom, Crocker received a performance review from her Provost who called her teaching “outstanding” as “evidenced by unusually high student rankings“! (emphasis added) The Provost even praised her saying, “This kind of teaching quality is essential for this vital educational program, and we’re very grateful for your successful efforts.” Such statements hardly describe a teacher who would be expected to soon lose her job, was receiving poor student reviews, or was teaching inaccurately. Yet Crocker did subsequently loser her job, and received all kinds of after-the-fact attacks on her performance. The NCSE’s litmus test for teaching “accurate science” seems to be paying homage to Darwin, and their characterization of Crocker as a poor instructor is simply false. For details and documentation on the praise given to Crocker’s teaching abilities at George Mason University, see Letters About Caroline Crocker.

Moreover, according to this letter from Crocker’s then-attorney, Mr. Edward Sisson, there is evidence that GMU breached Dr. Crocker’s contract by falsely claiming she had signed a 1-year contract that expired in 2005, when in fact she (and other witnesses) claim that she had signed a 3-year contract that was not to expire until 2007.

Robert Marks:
“Expelled Exposed” leaves off key facts about the persecution Robert Marks endured at Baylor University and tries to make it sound like his persecution was reasonable (more on this below). In the end, Marks’ website was permanently shut down, Baylor pressured Marks to cease his ID-related research, and Baylor even returned grant money given to Marks to hire research assistants his ID-related work. For the full story on Marks that “Expelled Exposed” doesn’t tell you, see:

Michael Egnor:
SUNY Professor of Neurosurgery Michael Egnor asked “How much information can actually be produced by Darwinian mechanisms?” and was then subjected to many harsh attacks on the internet. Some of Egnor’s experiences were recounted in Expelled and “Expelled Exposed” obliges the movie by quoting some of the bloggers who attacked Egnor. “Expelled Exposed” makes typical assertions that Egnor (who isn’t just a brain surgeon but is a professor of brain surgery!) doesn’t understand the science he’s talking about. As is typical, Egnor’s critics don’t answer his question, but engage in further demonization of Egnor, as the post that “Expelled Exposed” quotes is titled “Egnorance: The Egotistical Combination of Ignorance and Arrogance.” It seems that “Expelled Exposed” simply proves Egnor’s point about the incivility of his critics. In fact, Dr. Egnor–with far more grace and civility than his critics–has handled his critics quite easily, as is seen in the following links:

As a final point regarding Dr. Egnor, “Expelled Exposed” also claims that “most physicians accept evolution,” but a poll from 2005 revealed that up to 60% of doctors take a pro-ID position. For details, see “Poll: 60 Percent of Doctors Reject Darwinism.

Responses Regarding “Expelled Exposed” and Its Discussion of Hitler’s Reliance upon Darwin
“Expelled Exposed” makes various questionable arguments about how the Expelled documentary treats the issue of Hitler’s reliance upon Darwinism. This is, of course, a highly delicate issue that must be handled with great sensitivity to all involved. But misrepresentations of Expelled abound and “Expelled Exposed” is more than happy to indulge them, for Expelled was not trying to claim that modern-day Darwinists are Nazis, but was simply observing the historical connections of Hitler’s reliance upon Darwinism. A number of articles defending Expelled ‘s treatment of this issue can be found at some of the following links:

As a lawyer with some training in identifying credible witnesses, there is one final point that must be made about Expelled and its discussion of Hitler’s reliance upon Darwin. It seems to me highly compelling that the person in Expelled who makes the most forceful argument that Hitler made natural reliance upon Darwin was the curator of a government museum in Germany dedicated to remembering the horrors of the Nazis. This museum curator is a neutral third party with no personal stake in the debate over Darwin and is thus a highly credible witness. Yet she is the one arguing that Hitler made heavy reliance upon Darwin. If Hitler didn’t rely on Darwin, then it seems that curators of Holocaust remembrance-museums in Germany must also be in on the big conspiracy to make it seem that he did.

Responses Regarding General Attacks Upon Intelligent Design in “Expelled Exposed”
“Expelled Exposed” features various videos about the Kitzmiller v. Dover lawsuit, encouraging its readers to take the Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It approach to ID. In fact, many of the false claims by “Expelled Exposed” related to the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial are rebutted in the law review article “Intelligent Design Will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover” or at the website TraipsingIntoEvolution.com. Other articles that refute many of the false claims about ID in “Expelled Exposed” are found at some of the following links:

Responses Regarding the NCSE’s Attempt to Promote Darwinist Persecution Stories
While “Expelled Exposed” tries to “blame the victim” by attacking ID proponents who were persecuted, it also tries to create the impression that Darwinists are subjected to persecution and harassment. “Expelled Exposed” thus attempts to get a lot of mileage out of false and exaggerated claims of one incident, that of Chris Comer, a former staff member at the Texas Education Agency who Darwinists have claimed was fired because she didn’t support teaching creationism. According to “Expelled Exposed,” Comer was “Expelled for Real.”

“Expelled Exposed” basically took Comer’s side of the story and uncritically promoted it to the public. But Comer’s side of the story is only one side and the truth appears very different from what she is saying–she wasn’t fired and no one in Texas was advocating the teaching of creationism. As John West observes, “now it looks like Comer isn’t a martyr after all. Internal TEA documents released earlier today by Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE) show that Comer had a long history of disciplinary problems at her agency that had nothing to do with evolution.” For more details on what really happened in the case of Chris Comer, visit any of the following links:

Conclusion: “Expelled Exposed” is Intended as a Breeding Ground for Future Persecutors
Setting aside the errors and misrepresentations about Expelled and ID, the most interesting aspect of “Expelled Exposed” is the mere fact that it exists. “Expelled Exposed” is an attempt by the NCSE to on the one hand argue that ID proponents don’t get persecuted, and on the other hand argue that they deserve all the persecution they receive anyway. This isn’t merely “blaming the victim,” it’s also called inciting the mob, and it’s just one part of the NCSE’s strategy to blacklist and censor ID proponents within academia.

  • When discussing Guillermo Gonzalez, “Expelled Exposed” says that his “distracting work on an unscientific enterprise like intelligent design,” among other things, “make[s] it impossible for supporters to legitimately claim that the decision not to grant him tenure was unfounded.” The site also argues that ID proponents do not deserve the protection of academic freedom, stating, “A scientist should not expect his colleagues to ignore his advocacy of a perspective that those in his field have overwhelmingly rejected.” In other words, when ID-proponents like Gonzalez come up for tenure, the NCSE thinks that ID should count as an automatic and absolute negative. Clearly the NCSE endorses discriminating against Gonzalez simply because he supports ID.
  • When discussing Richard Sternberg, NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott seemed to contradict the claim of “Expelled Exposed” that “the worst that happened to Sternberg is that people said some unkind things about him in private email to one another.” In an article in The Washington Post, Scott admitted that there was discrimination against Sternberg due to his views on evolution, and even tried to justify it:

    [S]aid Eugenie Scott, the group’s executive director[:] “If this was a corporation, and an employee did something that really embarrassed the administration, really blew it, how long do you think that person would be employed?” … Scott, of the NCSE, insisted that Smithsonian scientists had no choice but to explore Sternberg’s religious beliefs. “They don’t care if you are religious, but they do care a lot if you are a creationist,” Scott said. “Sternberg denies it, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it argues for zealotry.”

    (Michael Powell, “Editor Explains Reasons for ‘Intelligent Design’ Article,” Washington Post, August 19, 2005, emphases added)

    Thus, not only does Scott sanction attacks upon scientists “if you are a creationist” but she contradicts “Expelled Exposed” by acknowledging–and trying to justify–events that “Expelled Exposed” claims never happened to Sternberg.

  • When discussing Caroline Crocker, “Expelled Exposed” says that “there may have been grounds to fire her with cause” and complains in the same sentence that she was allegedly “teaching demonstrably false creationist material.” Apparently if a scientist is teaching what the NCSE deems is “false creationist material,” she can be fired. “Expelled Exposed” goes on to argue that universities should be able to censor ID from courses:

    She was instructed to not teach about intelligent design and creation science, which was not part of the curriculum of the courses she had been hired to teach. Academic freedom does not mean the freedom to teach about anything you want, regardless of the expected content of your courses.

    The site further asserts that Crocker “failed to teach the curriculum, and short-changed her students by not teaching them standard science in favor of a lot of misinformation” and therefore her employer “would have been justified in firing her outright.” Again, the site continues saying that, “if Crocker was unable or unwilling to teach accurate science, and there is evidence of this, an institution would have been entirely justified in making a negative evaluation and not renewing her contract.” In other words, if Crocker isn’t willing to fully support neo-Darwinism in the classroom, then universities have the right to fire her. (See above for discussion of Crocker’s extremely high student reviews that counter’s the NCSE’s mis-characterization of her teaching abilities.)

  • When discussing Robert Marks, “Expelled Exposed” admits that “Concerned that the material on the website misleadingly suggested a connection between the intelligent design material and Baylor, administrators temporarily shut the website down…,” thereby acknowledging precisely what Baylor University denied: that Marks faced negative treatment due to his work’s relation to ID. But since Marks still has a job at Baylor, “Expelled Exposed” asks “Where is the harm?,” as if shutting down faculty websites for no reason other than its pro-ID content is not a legitimate form of academic “harm.”
  • “Expelled Exposed” says that SUNY Professor of Neurosurgery Michael Egnor “was shocked by the ‘viciousness’ and ‘baseness’ of the response” he received when critiquing neo-Darwinism on the internet. “Expelled Exposed” apparently tacitly defends such behavior, as its only response is, “Egnor had apparently never been on the Internet before.”
  • In perhaps its most blatant statement against academic freedom for ID-proponents, “Expelled Exposed” expressly argues that ID proponents “have failed to make a convincing case for it, yet they seem to believe that they have an entitlement to a place in academia.” In other words, because the NCSE believes that ID has “failed to make a convincing case,” it wants readers to come away from its website believing that ID proponents don’t have a right “to a place in academia.”This statement not only shows that the NCSE is encouraging discrimination and intolerance towards intelligent design, but the argument turns the true meaning of academic freedom on its head.Of course critics of ID (like the folks at the NCSE) should have every right to publish their views within academic circles and should have the full protection of academic freedom. But academic freedom doesn’t just mean the freedom to agree with the predominant viewpoint. Academic freedom in science means nothing if it doesn’t include the right to hold legitimate minority scientific viewpoints. ID proponents have published serious scientific research in mainstream, credible academic venues. Many of them have sterling academic qualifications and accomplishments. They have earned the right to freely express their views without fear of intimidation or discrimination.

But free expression of pro-ID views in the academy is exactly what the NCSE doesn’t want. “Expelled Exposed” is now exposed for what it really is: it’s not just a website making the case against ID (which is perfectly fine if that’s what ID critics want to do)–it’s a website attempting to convince people that ID deserves no academic freedom. In other words, “Expelled Exposed” is an effort to encourage the further persecution of ID-proponents.

Ironically, by denying that professionally qualified ID proponents have a right to “a place in academia,” “Expelled Exposed” has justified the central thesis of the documentary Expelled, namely that qualified ID proponents do not receive academic freedom to hold, discuss, and promote their views within the academy.

Reminder: A single website, NCSEExposed.org, has now been created to host this response to “Expelled Exposed,” as well as some updates. Visit NCSE Exposed for your one-stop shop rebuttal to Expelled Exposed!


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.



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