Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Expelled: The Stupidity!!!

As you may know, a new movie is out about the "flaws" of evolution. It's called Expelled and Ben Stein is in it. It is such a good movie that BIOLA University, that paragon of truth-seeking, gave ol' Ben a prize:

In light of Stein’s contribution to the pursuit of liberty and truth, particularly as it relates to the field of Intelligent Design, he is being honored with the 2008 Johnson Award. The award ceremony will feature premiere clips from the forthcoming movie, the personal appearance of scientists who were expelled from their jobs because they are sympathetic to Intelligent Design, and will include a brief address by Stein.

Clearly there is a lot of money floating around to promote "truth." But let's forget all the dubious "science" of the Intelligent Design movement. Let's look at Ben's decision to be in this film for what is isn't (a search for the truth) and for what it is: a lucrative venture that allows him (and those like him) to further the rightwing movement by portraying the Right as a "reasonable" everyman under attack by an elitist Left.

As D. Niewert recently posted on Jonah Golberg (columnist for the LA Times), the right, as a rule, is more bigoted than the left and much less willing to consider other points of view. What must be understood, though, is that the Right, almost by definition, portrays itself as constantly under attack and as the defender of "truth" and "values." Ironically, ideas themselves are never in combat for their actual truth or value, so we must understand that the battle is not about truth per se, but about the righteousness of those who defend it. Take a look at what Niewert's argument:
Still, it's hard to top the claptrap that Goldberg propagated in his most recent L.A. Times column:
I find Darwin fish offensive. First, there's the smugness. The undeniable message: Those Jesus fish people are less evolved, less sophisticated than we Darwin fishers.

The hypocrisy is even more glaring. Darwin fish are often stuck next to bumper stickers promoting tolerance or admonishing random motorists that "hate is not a family value." But the whole point of the Darwin fish is intolerance; similar mockery of a cherished symbol would rightly be condemned as bigoted if aimed at blacks or women or, yes, Muslims.

It might be helpful to come to grips with the concept in question here: Bigotry is usually defined as "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own," and a bigot as "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices." Bigotry, as we have known it historically, is not based on rationality or reason -- as the scientific belief in evolution is -- but founded instead on prejudice, inbred beliefs, and supernatural reactionarism.

And what we also know about bigotry historically is that it has largely been a characteristic of the right, particularly the cultural conservatives who enforced the segregation and oppression of nonwhites for much of the 20th century.
You can see in Golberg's and Steins' argumentation two clear elements: the Left are the "elite," they are "smug" and "intolerant" of "our community." They portray this as a battle between people, not ideas. Moreover, they paint themselves as under attack: look we're being eaten up by that giant fish!

Somehow I just can't feel sorry for two relatively rich people who get important space in major newspapers. How are they in the minority? Remember: they are not, they just like to say they are.

So next time a member of some group (Republicans, Christians, Environmentalists, whatever) tells you that they deserve a hearing just because they consider themselves an oppressed minority, ask yourself a few questions: is group x truly oppressed? is group x really seeking dialogue, or are they looking for a platform? is group x interested in the truth and open, or are they more interested in being a victim? Of course, there are many shades of grey here, which is why the NYT regularly and stupidly inserts references to ID movement ideas into its articles out of a false idea of journalistic fairness. Just remember this: you can respectfully decline to listen to unscientific insanity. It's not bias, it's logic.