Childish athiests whine about upcoming movie

This has got to be the funniest thing I’ve seen this week. You see, there’s a movie coming out in February 2008 which was co-written by and stars Ben Stein. It’s called “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed” [trailer]. It is evidently about how even the mere concept of an intelligent creator has been effectively banned, and how any current-day teacher or scientist faces career suicide by publicly admitting to holding that concept. From the movie’s website:

[...] educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.

Of course, in the bigger picture, there’s nothing new there. Educators and scientists who have ideas contrary to the generally accepted “knowledge” have been screwed over since the beginning of time. And not just by outside influences, such as religion, but by their own peers. I’m sure Georg Cantor could provide some insight to the issue if his voice were to be heard.

Now this movie hasn’t even come out yet, so whatever grains of truth that it may or may not yield is speculation. But, speaking directly to the exact point I suspect the movie is trying to make, the self-righteous folk over at Pharyngula are all in a twitter.

Let me confess that although I do indeed believe in the existence of an intelligent, willful creator, I also believe that the discussion of same has little or no place in a natural science laboratory or classroom. It quite doesn’t matter whether a cell was designed and manufactured by a supreme being of some sort or whether it is simply some random event when one is attempting to figure out how a cell works. Both sets of people, believers and nonbelievers alike, have critical need of science’s ideal of dispassionate observation. Passion may greatly motivate the scientist, but true science itself doesn’t need passion, it needs rigor.

I don’t know if the movie is actually attempting to put forth intelligent design as something that should be taught in natural science classrooms, but I do know from what I’ve seen so far is that it seems to be more about the ridicule, harassment, and career threats that are heaped upon anyone who dares go against the generally accepted notions of an elite few. It’s not about science professors who want to teach about a creator, it’s about science professors who are fired, refused tenure, or face other harm simply for stating their belief in a creator. And that is undeniably immoral. Nothing new, though, as I said, just ask the great prophet Cantor.

Of course, this little difference is apparently beyond the intellectual capacity of most of the commenters on the post linked above, but that comes as no surprise. A quick review of the comments show what is likely to be a great textbook exposition of the maturity shown by adolescent human males (”you started it” is literally one of the justifications one guy uses for acting like an ass after being called on it). They don’t know what exactly they’re talking about (obvious since the movie hasn’t been released), but it doesn’t stop them from talking. All one has to do is substitute attacks against the person for discussion of the yet unknown subject and all is well. Have a little pissing contest amongst the people trying to out-do each other in funny put downs. Yay.

It’s only the overwhelming majority of the comments which are either entirely or include ad hominem attacks against the star of the movie. One guy professes a heartfelt wish for nuclear warfare and the extinction of mankind and supplied exactly zero evidence that he was joking.

But amongst garbage one can find great treasure. One commenter, Mrs Tilton, makes a comment which contains a bright shimmering gem of certain truth. While expressing the hope that the makers of the film lose their shirts, she commends them for making the film. She rightly believes that if the point made in the film is bullshit, then it should be brought into the light and exposed.

Fair play to them. Let a hundred flowers bloom, because sunlight is the best disinfectant. Or something. As for normal people, our goal should not be to silence the trogs, but to expose them. And I think the truth will conquer.

I’ll point out that it appears that this is also the point that the movie itself is trying to put forth. Ideas need to flow freely; it is only in the light of free and full examination that ideas are properly judged. Another commenter, rrt, brings up a point I personally can’t stress enough:

In the defense of evolution (and in other areas), we atheists have been asking our Christian allies to make their voices heard, to be noticed saying “That is not my Christianity.” Perhaps this will present them a much-needed opportunity to do so, with a public that seems increasingly interested in having this conversation.

I’ll be posting on that concept more when I finally get my philosophy/religion site up and running, but the necessity of this is increasing. While I’m a believer in the teachings of the guy we called Jesus, when I look at the ravings of so-called fundamentalist Christians, I see a tremendous gulf between my beliefs and theirs. And most Christians I know agree. Yet the ravings of ignorant fundamentalists are what seem to form the basis of most ignorant atheist rants. Interestingly, there’s also a majority of Muslims in the world who likewise face being painted with the same brush as their fundamentalist brethren. When will the believers raise their voices against these lunatics; how long will we allow crazy people to construct the lens through which the world views us?

There are a handful of other good comments as well near the current end (8/22) of the postings; in particular a conversation that probably merits its own post/thread. An invective-filled argument between two supposed allies (typical of atheists, especially the worthless, childish invective part) managed to blossom into a discussion about the need/merits of effective use of mass communication by science to spread truth. [Amazingly, the most vigorous argument is that it's not necessary and wrongheaded to make science seem attractive to youth or to communicate scientific success to the general public. Methinks the frog has been licking himself too much.]

But such gems tend to be lost in the incessant mockery of Ben Stein, his acting ability, what he’s wearing for the movie promotional photos, etc. Mentions of Ben looking like a “perv”. Or wishes for the extinction of mankind. Or promulgating the idea of outright theft (one guy puts forth the notion of paying for a different movie, then sneaking in and seeing this one, so that the money won’t go to the owner of the film). Or attacking Ben’s blog on the website by flooding the comment section (so that the webmaster will have to work harder, one guy helpfully points out). Maybe it’s not a requirement, but it certainly looks like some people really do need God to maintain a sense of decency and morality, to conduct themselves with civility in the face of the overwhelming desire to not be civil.

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