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April 24, 2008
by Dinesh D'Souza 

In Ben Stein's new film Expelled, there is a great scene where Richard Dawkins is going on about how evolution explains everything. This is part of Dawkins' grand claim, which echoes through several of his books, that evolution by itself has refuted the argument from design. The argument from design holds that the design of the universe and of life are most likely the product of an intelligent designer. Dawkins thinks that Darwin has disproven this argument.

So Stein puts to Dawkins a simple question, "How did life begin?" One would think that this is a question that could be easily answered. Dawkins, however, frankly admits that he has no idea. One might expect Dawkins to invoke evolution as the all-purpose explanation. Evolution, however, only explains transitions from one life form to another. Evolution has no explanation for how life got started in the first place. Darwin was very clear about this.

In order for evolution to take place, there had to be a living cell. The difficulty for atheists is that even this original cell is a work of labyrinthine complexity. Franklin Harold writes in The Way of the Cell that even the simplest cells are more ingeniously complicated than man's most elaborate inventions: the factory system or the computer. Moreover, Harold writes that the various components of the cell do not function like random widgets; rather, they work purposefully together, as if cooperating in a planned organized venture. Dawkins himself has described the cell as a kind of supercomputer, noting that it functions through an information system that resembles the software code.

Is it possible that living cells somehow assembled themselves from nonliving things by chance? The probabilities here are so infinitesimal that they approach zero. Moreover, the earth has been around for some 4.5 billion years and the first traces of life have already been found at some 3.5 billion years ago. This is just what we have discovered: it's quite possible that life existed on earth even earlier. What this means is that, within the scope of evolutionary time, life appeared on earth very quickly after the earth itself was formed. Is it reasonable to posit that a chance combination of atoms and molecules, under those conditions, somehow generated a living thing? Could the random collision of molecules somehow produce a computer?

It is ridiculously implausible to think so. And the absurdity was recognized more than a decade ago by Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix. Yet Crick is a committed atheist. Unwilling to consider the possibility of divine or supernatural creation, Crick suggested that maybe aliens brought life to earth from another planet. And this is precisely the suggestion that Richard Dawkins makes in his response to Ben Stein. Perhaps, he notes, life was delivered to our planet by highly-evolved aliens. Let's call this the "ET" explanation.

Stein brilliantly responds that he had no idea Richard Dawkins believes in intelligent design! And indeed Dawkins does seem to be saying that alien intelligence is responsible for life arriving on earth. What are we to make of this? Basically Dawkins is surrendering on the claim that evolution can account for the origins of life. It can't. The issue now is simply whether a natural intelligence (ET) or a supernatural intelligence (God) created life. Dawkins can't bear the supernatural explanation and so he opts for ET. But doesn't it take as much, or more, faith to believe in extraterrestrial biology majors depositing life on earth than it does to believe in a transcendent creator?

Seriously funny

Ben Stein takes on the debate-phobic Darwinian establishment

Expelled's showing of the connection between evolutionary doctrine and Nazi eugenics has already infuriated some in academia and the media: University of Minnesota professor P.Z. Myers blasted Expelled as "ludicrous in its dishonesty," and Orlando Sentinel reviewer Roger Moore raged about "loaded images, loaded rhetoric." But since a movie is not a dissertation, films show linkages by juxtaposing clips rather than pages of footnoted type. The real question is: Did Darwinism bulwark Hitlerian hatred by providing a scientific rationale for killing those considered less fit in the struggle for survival?

The answer to that question is an unambiguous yes. When I stalked the stacks of the Library of Congress in the early 1990s, I saw and scanned shelf upon shelf of racist and anti-Semitic journals from the first several decades of the last century, with articles frequently citing and applying Darwin. If you read an anti-Expelled review that dodges the issue of substance by concentrating merely on style, you'll be seeing another sign of closed minds.

April 18 [Expelled's debut] will bring an interesting test of whether Expelled, or any other documentary so conceived and so dedicated, can endure in movie theaters past the first weekend. Michael Moore's fatuous documentaries have done good box office with the help of sympathetic reviewers and network news producers. Ben Stein's excellent one might rely on evangelicals and others who are tired of being ridiculed by the closed minds of the Evolution Establishment.

Baptist Students: Thumbs up to Expelled preview

Some 200 students at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently got a free sneak preview of the upcoming documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and they gave it high marks.

Running nearly 100 minutes, Expelled documents the stranglehold that Darwinian evolution holds on contemporary science, particularly as it exists within major research universities. The documentary's on-screen host, Ben Stein, shows how even the slightest departure from the Darwinian party line in favor of alternate theories of human origins such as Intelligent Design often brings swift academic and personal discredit upon the scientist proposing an alternative view. It opens in theaters April 18.

"Frankly, I thought I would be bored stiff watching a 100-minute documentary and I couldn't imagine anyone watching a 100-minute documentary in a theater," said James Parker, professor of worldview and culture at the seminary. "But the movie holds your attention to the very end. One of the great strengths was the candid interviews it had with many atheists. For example, [evolutionist] William Provine went down the list of implications of atheism.... His candidness was shocking and appalling in one sense, but in another sense, it was great because it gave you a feeling for the implications of atheism.... The movie also made a great appeal for academic freedom."

by John F. Haught 

During the highly publicized Dover School Board trial in 2005 I testified for the plaintiffs that teaching “intelligent design” (ID) has no place in public school biology classes.  As the only theologian present, I argued that ID is not only bad science but also a thinly disguised, not to say emaciated, version of theology.  Consequently teaching ID in American public schools is unconstitutional. My testimony may be found online here.

As it turned out, the Dover School Board’s proposal was soundly defeated, and Judge John E. Jones’s decisive ruling will make it harder than ever to sneak ID back into the public schools.  However, the court’s verdict cannot prevent propagandists from producing documentaries that still try to make ID seem like good science. Actor and commentator Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed has spared no expense in attempting to do just that.

Expelled might easily have been satisfied with making one more tiresome attempt to convince viewers that ID is a scientifically worthy alternative to evolutionary accounts of our planet’s living diversity. But it goes much further. Its main objective is to arouse sympathy for the handful of scientists whose dissent from “Darwinism” and espousal of ID has led to their being denied tenure and even “expelled”—unjustly as Stein sees it—from well earned academic positions.

Fair-minded people, Expelled argues, should find this eviction outrageous. Who will stand up for freedom, Stein imploringly asks as the film ends. Why should departments of science run by atheists get by with exiling just those whose research is powerful enough to put the human mind back in touch with a “higher power”?

In its attempt to show that evolution amounts to atheism, Expelled takes two lines of attack. First, it  places on exhibit, in one embarrassing interview after another, several of the most nakedly atheistic spokespersons for science alive today, all the while tracing their godlessness back to “Darwinism,” the film’s tendentious label for evolutionary biology. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, P. Z. Myers, William Provine, and Peter Atkins almost willingly become Stein’s stooges as he makes his case that evolutionary biology is a mask for materialist atheism. Since these authors have eagerly and openly flaunted their personal belief that Darwinian science entails atheism, they turn out to be Stein’s greatest allies in building up his caricature of academic science as the enemy of religious faith.

Second, Expelled further associates evolution with atheism by dipping into the archives of 20th century experiments in human degradation, flashing numerous black and white images of unspeakable atrocities, all allegedly inspired by Charles Darwin. Nazism, eugenics, and the Holocaust, the film proposes, can all be traced back to ideas sprung from the twisted brain of the mild-mannered naturalist from Down House.

It is impossible to list here all that is wrong with this film. Any cinematic cleverness or polemical power it may have achieved is nullified by its willful distortions. Most nauseating is the tiresome juxtaposition of benign images of Darwin with an endless cascade of grotesque depictions of human evil.  Illogically mistaking visual sequencing for causal connection, the documentary violates every canon of fairness and critical thinking.

Most glaring to this reviewer is the movie’s display of ignorance about the nature of science, theology, and the appropriate relationship between the two. Stein’s production gratuitously dismisses two centuries of empirical research, beginning with geology and culminating in genetics, that have provided convergent evidence for evolution. It also confuses the question of life’s origin with that of how life diversifies. But, most annoying of all, Expelled simply cannot accept the fact that science is not supposed to “touch a higher power” or decide the truth or falsity of our religious convictions.

Ever since the 17th century, astute minds have agreed that what we now call “science” can tell us only about the natural causes of things. Science does not talk about God, purpose, or values. It can neither affirm nor deny the reality of things divine. Of course, subsequent reflection on scientific discoveries may lead one person to God and another to atheism. But science, strictly speaking, is a self-limiting method of inquiry not equipped to answer theological questions nor permitted to introduce references to the supernatural whenever it gets bogged down in seemingly insoluble problems.

This reserve is not good enough for Ben Stein.  He demands much more from science than did Galileo, Pasteur, or Einstein. A fundamental premise of Expelled is that science, if it has any interest in truth, should lead us directly to God. Evolutionary biology must be bad science, therefore, since so many of its students are outspoken atheists.

The documentary rightly notes that Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have carelessly alloyed evolutionary biology with a soul-deadening philosophical materialism.  But then Stein & Co. commit a similar sin of methodological impurity by merging a mangled understanding of science with a thinly disguised version of natural theology known as ID. Dawkins deserves rebuke for his ridiculous declaration that science alone is qualified to settle the question of God’s existence. But Stein ends up simply mirroring Dawkins by drawing science into the service of his own vaguely theistic worldview. The only difference is that for Dawkins science should make the case for atheism whereas for Stein it should confirm God’s existence.

One may have hoped that by now scientists, theologians, and philosophers would all have moved far beyond such an embarrassing mix-up of science with belief-systems. Unfortunately, however, evolutionary materialists and ID advocates alike are luring minds back to a prescientific stage of human consciousness when empirical study of nature had not yet been emancipated from dogma and religious preoccupation. 

It should be an annoyance to every true scientist that Dawkins, who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, now wants science to go back to solving theological questions such as God’s existence.  But it should also disturb every religious believer when someone like Stein claims that scientists should now have the “freedom” to let their discipline drift off, without a break, into theological speculation. I doubt that in his impassioned call for scientists to be granted the “freedom” to invoke non-natural explanations in write-ups of their research Stein has any idea how much he has in common with his evolutionary materialist antagonists who also find it convenient to turn science into the servant of ideology.

Both sides fail to understand that a careful differentiation of science from theology is essential to the wellbeing of both. It is not the business of theology ever to provide scientific information. Nor should a believer ever favor or adopt a scientific set of ideas for theological reasons, as theologian Paul Tillich wisely cautioned.  Indeed, as Michael Buckley has shown, it was the careless fusion of theology with Newtonian physics by some early modern Christian thinkers that prepared the way for the Enlightenment distaste for deity. Once it became clear that physics can get along quite well without theological support, scientifically educated people began to wonder whether theology has any relevance at all.  They still do, thanks in great measure to the kind of confusion of theology with science that Expelled tries to revive.

Responses to A Complete 180:

Great article--wonderful premise! This would also disarm a great many intellectual attacks on Christianity as well as avoid some of the possible negative consequences of pushing for a Biblical view in our schools which would open the door to any and all religious teachings. Christianity has nothing to fear from other religions including atheism if we get the playing field leveled. At present, it is clearly anti-Christian and anti-Jewish, because we have abdicated the field to the atheists and humanists. Thank you, to Mr. D'Souza and To the Source! Kathy Gulbranson

As a liberal Christian, I have no problem with your thesis when it applies to textbooks - I agree that there does not need to be any direct reference to the validity of any religion in a textbook, however I would prefer that any supplementary reading - suggested by a teacher or in the curriculum - not be banned from the classroom, as that also would include hundreds of classics that might contain material objectionable for a variety of reasons. (Including the Bible) I would hope that a teacher would take the opportunity to caution students that anything they read might contain an authors personal viewpoint, or contain an archaic notion or inappropriate language etc. and is open to second thought. I do object to your use of the term "Darwinism". I (and my father and grandfather who were both clergymen) usually refer to "Evolution", or Darwin's Theory. "Darwinism" invokes the concept of "Social Darwinism" which is of course the name coined for very unscientific and archaic theories used by racist groups, Nazi Germany etc. to promote intolerance, racial laws and genocide. Wouldn't the opposite of a Creationist be a Darwinist, anyways? That is if you insist on labelling the science of Evolution with the name of the man who first proposed the idea. While I don't always agree with your columns, I do find them interesting and thought provoking. John D. Berry

Editor's note: Darwin’s “Bulldog” and close friend Thomas Huxley first used “Darwinism” in his Westminster review of Origin of Species. The American historian Richard Hofstadter popularized  “Social Darwinism” 85 years later in 1944.  Darwin loved the term “Darwinism”.   But it is not fair to say that just because fascists and eugenicists justify the worst evils by referring to Darwin’s theories, Darwin is to blame. Darwin did write in Descent that, “hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”  There is much more.  But he also insisted that “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy,” and we “could not check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.”  He clearly did not want the weak and inferior members of our society to “breed freely”.  It seems Darwin was willing to put breaks on social engineering which decades later social Darwinists took off.  Darwinism, though, is a good word to use.  It reflects Darwin’s intention to eliminate the discussion even of the possibility of providential mutations and selection from science.  This fight continues to this day.

I wanted to let you know of a situation in Mount Vernon, Ohio (current - April 2008) where a teacher got in trouble for posting the Ten Commandments and having a Bible on his desk/bookshelf. He agreed to take down the Ten Commandments but has refused to remove the Bible from his desk/shelf (which I assume was for personal use, God forbid a teacher could do devotions on a lunch break). I see this as a threat to personal belief as to my knowledge, the Bible was present for his own PERSONAL use, not to teach the class. I feel that this is the school/state dictating what the teacher can believe while at the work place. HC

Friends: i have to say that i fail to see the problem here. When it comes to how schools handle evolutionary theory, there are no more prominent voices than Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller. Both have gone out their way to ensure that science teaching remains metaphysically unbiased. It is my humble opinion that the best way to remove atheists (who have little support in any event) from the stage is to place social conservatives at the forefront of the defense of evidentiary science. Ken Pidcock

Keep doing what your doing..your articles are great and I use them with non christian friends of mine. God belss you. BS

I gave this column a "fair" rating. I usually find your columns excellent. However in this case, Dinesh D'Souza lost my attention when he made the following assertions : Some Christians seek to counter this atheism by trying to expose the flaws in the Darwinian account of evolution. This explains the appeal of "creation science" and the "intelligent design" (ID) movement. These critiques, however, have not made any headway in the scientific community ... Most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether evolution can account for macroevolution or only microevolution ... Instead of trying to get unscientific ID theories included in the classroom, a better strategy would be to get the unscientific atheist propaganda out. First, it is not true that the critiques of creation scientists have not made any headway in the scientific community. If the author had said that the critiques of creation scientists have made little headway in the mainstream scientific community, or the scientific establishment, I might have agreed, but this assertion in its present wording is tantamount to implying that creation scientists are not part of the scientific community ! There is in fact a significant and growing number of PhD level scientists who are committed creationists. Second, the assertion that ID theories are unscientific is presented as a self-evident truth, unsupported by any argumentation. It seems to me that this plays into the hands of the opponents of Christianity who resist ID with all their might because it implies belief in God. Third, I have not found it to be true that "most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection ...". In actual fact, as argued by some of the atheist biologists quoted in the article, when people begin to believe that they "just happened" randomly, their faith in God usually disappears - and rightly so, for it makes no sense to believe in a Creator who needed 6 billion years of random occurrences, full of mistakes and unnecessary suffering and death, to fashion a universe. This vision is totally contary to Genesis and Romans, both of which clearly state that death came as a result of sin. The evidence for Darwinian evolution is actually very scant indeed; there is plenty of evidence for microevolution (within kinds) but little if any evidence that supports macroevolution, and a growing body of discoveries that challenge it. The fact that the scientific establishment does not yet recognize this does not mean that Christians ought to cave in and accept the atheists' argument that creation science and the ID movement are "unscientific". Peter Hartgerink

Christianity seems to be the only group that feels threatened by science/atheism.It's an idea to get people to think for themselves-outside the box.Every human being must choose for himself.christians have had 2000 yrs to make the world a better place-Christianity hasn't but science has given us the flush toilet, light bulbs, Mri machines-if you know your history you Know why the athiests are ahead KC

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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that features informed opinion on current cultural issues.
Dinesh D'Souza, the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, served as senior domestic policy analyst in the White House in 1987-1988. He is the best-selling author of Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, Ronald Reagan, The Virtue of Prosperity, What's So Great About America, and The Enemy at Home. His new book What's So Great About Christianity was released in October of 2007.
Dr. John (Jack) F. Haught is a Roman Catholic theologian and the Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University. He received his PhD in theology from The Catholic University of America in 1970. He is the author of several important books on the creation-evolution controversy, including Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, and Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution.
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