Ad Hoc Review #3

Culture, Film, In Review, Intelligent Design — By on April 23, 2008 at 12:14 am

Expelled Expelled {Documentary} – Ben Stein’s new documentary Expelled is a Rorschach test for revealing people’s true feelings about intellectual freedom. Not surprising, many people–especially academic and media elites–loathe the film. While these groups often claim to value freedom of expression and thinking that challenges the status quo, they are often rigidly doctrinaire. Most blog readers will find this point obvious, for the blogosphere is crowded with young academics that use pseudonyms for fear that they will never get tenure if they speak their minds.
But there are many Americans that are surprised by the McCarthyite tactics that are used to quell dissenting views. It is this group that Stein and company are aiming to shock in this amusing, intriguing polemic.
The film doesn’t attempt to present the scientific case for ID (though Stein promises this will be included on the DVD version) nor does it attempt to undermine the credibility of neo-Darwinism (though the Darwinists in the film do a masterful job of that, albeit unintenionally). Stein’s primary focus is on the freedom of academics to merely consider an idea that is deemed verboten in the Ivory Towers. He uses a series of interviews, interspersed with Cold War imagery, in a way that that is both entertaining and enlightening. It is only when it veers off into the historical connection between Darwinism and Nazism that the film stumbles. The conjunction between the two is indisputable, though ultimately as irrelevant as the connection between religion and ID. Scientific theories must be judged on their merit, not on unfortunate outcomes that may result.
Another caution is that Expelled isn’t a fair movie. When Stein interviews advocates of ID he selects scientists and philosophers that are thoughtful and sober while the Darwinists tend to be either a bit nutty (Bill Provine) or unable to keep from damaging their own cause (PZ Myers). Likewise, he stacks the decks in ID’s favor by interviewing intellectual heavyweights like David Berlinski while allowing neo-Darwinism to be defended by Richard Dawkins, a man who is highly educated but of only modest intellect. The result is a film that isn’t balanced and isn’t fair. But it is both funny and infuriating. At least it is, as Stein would no doubt say, if you value freedom. Rating: B+

°°°°°°

SalvoSalvo {Quarterly Journal} — Salvo has been described as “Adbusters for Church Kids” (by a detractor) and “like Richard Weaver back in the flesh with cyberpunk clothes” (by a fan). Both the praise and the criticism are apt; Salvo is both snarky and sincere, ultra-hip and uber-conservative. But it’s also one of the few journals for people who can appreciate Adbusters, cyberpunk, and Richard Weaver.
A publication of The Crux Project, Salvo is “dedicated to the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence.” Such an anachronistic mission statement seems more fitting for dusty church bulletins than for a journal filled with satiric faux ads and articles on cutting-edge topics. Yet the quarterly manages to fill a void for its target audience (which ranges from sharp young Christians to oldheads like me who miss re:generation Quarterly). Not everyone will “get it” and not everyone will like it. But for those who are looking a quirky, culturally relevant, and intellectually stimulating read, Salvo may be just what you’re looking for. Rating: A-
°°°°°°

World War ZWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War {Audiobook} — Zombies have become the monster metaphor of choice for our post-9/11 culture. Whereas vampires and werewolves once fulfilled the role as Threatening Other, zombies show us the Threatening Us. The attack from within–from our own friends, family, and neighbors–is what makes the threat of zombies so poignant. But while most zombie tales focus on the geographically local (New York City in I Am Legend, England in 28 Days Later), Max Brooks offers a global scale apocalypse in World War Z.
Brooks frames the story as an oral history, a series of post-war interviews with notable survivors of the “Zombie World War.” Each interview provides an intriguing personal perspective while revealing the larger events that transform a world plagued by the “living dead.” This structure lends itself well to the audiobook format. The abridged version, which won an the 2007 Audie Award for best Multi-Voiced Performance, is read by a host of actors, including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Rob Reiner, and John Turturro. (Here’s a sentence I never imagined I’d write: Alan Alda’s performance is absolutely riveting.)
Brooks’ has a superb eye for the intriguing how-did-he-ever-think-of-that detail. He also manages to keep the focus on humanity, even when fighting an enemy that has lost theirs. Even those who aren’t fans of the horror genre will find themselves hooked by this gripping alternative history. Rating: A+



  • http://benedictionblogson.com Bene D

    Joe, did you pay to see Expelled?

  • http://bevets.com/grapevine.htm bevets

    When Stein interviews advocates of ID he selects scientists and philosophers that are thoughtful and sober while the Darwinists tend to be either a bit nutty (Bill Provine) or unable to keep from damaging their own cause (PZ Myers). Likewise, he stacks the decks in ID’s favor by interviewing intellectual heavyweights like David Berlinski while allowing neo-Darwinism to be defended by Richard Dawkins, a man who is highly educated but of only modest intellect.
    He interviewed the standard cast of characters, but the atheists were not portrayed in a favorable light.

  • http://twentytwowords.com Abraham Piper

    Propaganda is propaganda whether it’s based on something true or not. In fact, it might become more insidious the closer it is to true, because truth shouldn’t need oversimplification and dishonest presentation to stand.
    (That’s my uninformed, I’ll-wait-for-the-cheap-theater perspective, anyway.)

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Bene D Joe, did you pay to see Expelled?
    Yep, paid to see the matinée showing on the day it came out.
    bevets He interviewed the standard cast of characters, but the atheists were not portrayed in a favorable light.
    Well, I think it would be more accurate to say that the atheists didn’t portray themselves in a favorable light. Stein just put them in front of the camera and allowed them to be themselves.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    Both the praise and the criticism are apt; Salvo is both snarky and sincere, ultra-hip and uber-conservative. But it’s also one of the few journals for people who can appreciate Adbusters, cyberpunk, and Richard Weaver.
    If you can appreciate cyberpunk and Richard Weaver, then you don’t understand either. Weaver thought Beethoven’s music was degenerate.
    A publication of The Crux Project, Salvo is “dedicated to the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence.”
    If you have an “appetite” for transcendence, then you don’t understand that either. Transcendence isn’t some biological urge you satisfy by opening up a can or playing a cd.
    What exactly do you people mean by “transcendence” anyhow? To me it seems like one of those identity badges you “uber”-Christians use to make yourselves feel superior to the secular masses, just another gang color. Salvo looks to be just an avenue for commodifying these esoteric concepts of yours for mass market consumption.

  • http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/ Richard Williams

    “Another caution is that Expelled isn’t a fair movie. When Stein interviews advocates of ID he selects scientists and philosophers that are thoughtful and sober while the Darwinists tend to be either a bit nutty . . .”
    A fair criticism but as Scripture warns us: You reap what you sow. The left has been pulling that same tactic (and ones much worse) for years. Its a little difficult to sympathize with any concerns over “fairness.” Poetic justice.

  • http://iconfessmyself.blogspot.com anon

    Confess your sins online, anonymously at http://iconfessmyself.blogspot.com

  • Beth

    I had a subscription to Salvo at one time but let that subscription lapse at the end of the first year. Although I was, at times, impressed with the subject matter the publication chose to tackle I found myself less-than-impressed with the amount and caliber of research devoted to that subject matter. As well, I simply got tired of the constant sarcasm (quirky or not, it was sometimes just mean-spirited and nonsensical) mostly in the “fake” ads but also, to some extent, in the articles. I’d rather read a fair, honest, well-reasoned piece that provided me with fodder for discussion about ID, for example, than one whose primary purpose seems to be to make the “other side” look like a bunch of driveling idiots.

  • http://benedictionblogson.com Bene D

    Okay, thanks.

  • http://bevets.com/grapevine.htm bevets

    He interviewed the standard cast of characters, but the atheists were not portrayed in a favorable light.
    Joe Carter
    Well, I think it would be more accurate to say that the atheists didn’t portray themselves in a favorable light. Stein just put them in front of the camera and allowed them to be themselves.
    It is a documentary and point of view is expected, but the atheists were literally portrayed in bad light. The point could be made that they should be portrayed this way, but the practice deserves some reflection. Also showing Dawkins getting his nose powdered is a page from Michael Moore’s book.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Richard Williams
    A fair criticism but as Scripture warns us: You reap what you sow. The left has been pulling that same tactic (and ones much worse) for years. Its a little difficult to sympathize with any concerns over “fairness.” Poetic justice.
    Translation: It’s ok to lie provided you can point to at least one other person who lied before.
    bevets
    It is a documentary and point of view is expected, but the atheists were literally portrayed in bad light. The point could be made that they should be portrayed this way, but the practice deserves some reflection. Also showing Dawkins getting his nose powdered is a page from Michael Moore’s book.
    I think I agree with your style of analysis here. It’s ok for a documentary to have a point of view but if the documentary interviews someone it disagrees with the viewer should be able to have a fair appreciation for that person’s view. For example, I saw portions of Frontline’s excellent piece on the origins of the Iraq War. It was pretty clear their POV was that the build up and decision to go to war was misguided. Nonetheless, in the numerous interviews they had of admin. officials I believe I could get a fair appreciation for their position.
    From what’s been written about this movie I don’t feel very confident. For example, Joe’s made a bit of an ass of himself claiming that Dawkins says life probably originated off the earth. If this is the cases then in essence the movie is making its argument by telling a lie and if that’s the foundation of your argument then your credibility is handicapped. I’m not particularly impressed with a defense of “Michael Moore lies too”. To the degree that Moore lies in his documentaries, his credibility is likewise hurt as well…or I should say the credibility of his work is hurt since I think some of his stuff is pretty good and other pieces are not.

  • JParkerfromKC

    World War Z. Howdy-Hoo!!
    I wish Brooks had included a mechanical drawing of the lobo.
    Also a decent read is the Zombie Survival Guide. Max Brooks earlier book which uses the same type of “Z” that is fought in World War Z.

  • http://reasonablekansans.blogspot.com/2008/04/expelled-no-intelligence-allowed-review.html FtK

    Actually, I believe it was a more accurate portrayal of the Darwinist side of the debate than Joe seems to believe. Dawkins, Myers, Ruse, and Provine are very prominent voices in this debate, and it stands to reason that the Expelled producers would go to those folks first. No, they didn’t interview theistic evolutionists, and maybe they should have stuck a Ken Miller in there somewhere, but his views are not much different than those who were interviewed except he throws in at the end that he’s a Christian.
    The folks involved in the internet debates quote these prominent Darwinists all the time. Dawkins and Myers and their follows deem themselves the leading voices in the fight against “Creationism”.
    I think the documentary was spot on…but, then I’ve been very active in the debate for 5 years and have taken more heat and ad hominem attacks than I can stand anymore.

  • Richard Williams

    Richard Williams
    A fair criticism but as Scripture warns us: You reap what you sow. The left has been pulling that same tactic (and ones much worse) for years. Its a little difficult to sympathize with any concerns over “fairness.” Poetic justice.
    Boonton:
    Translation: It’s ok to lie provided you can point to at least one other person who lied before.
    My dear Boonton, that’s not a translation, that’s a distortion. So typical. I said no such thing. I simply said its difficult to sympathize with any criticism from the left since that is their modus operandi, especially when it comes to Darwinism. Hypocrites. And I am a former evolutionist whose beliefs have “evolved.”

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Richard,
    The movie’s critics have been very specific on what they consider lies. If you feel evolution defenders have lied you owe it to them or us to tell us specifically what you’re complaining about.

  • http://ierley.com Jim

    Hey Joe, Thanks for your writings on Expelled. I agree that though it’s powerful in many segments on worldview, there are some flaws in presentation. There are times where I wishing the producers had been thinking in terms of the golden rule as they cut the footage.
    Also, I need to ask you why you feel empowered to label Dawkins as someone of “only modest intellect.” Why make an insult part of your argument? Let’s leave the ad hominem to the atheists.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Jim Why make an insult part of your argument? Let’s leave the ad hominem to the atheists.
    Well, I don’t think saying Dawkins is a “modest intellect” is an insult (I too have only a modest intellect). Those familiar with his work would probably consider it a restatement of the obvious.
    It would only be an insult if we consider people of average intellect to be somehow inferior. Which, for my sake, I hope is not true. ; )

  • Rob

    “Well, I don’t think saying Dawkins is a “modest intellect” is an insult (I too have only a modest intellect). Those familiar with his work would probably consider it a restatement of the obvious.”
    I am familiar with his work, and I think he is brilliant. Nearly everyone i know who has read (and understands) his work feels the same way. You are the ONLY person I have ever seen refer to his intellect as “modest” (I have also seen you refer to him in more unflattering terms).
    Here is a partial list of his accomplishments:
    Richard Dawkins won both the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Los Angeles Times Literary Prize in 1987 for The Blind Watchmaker. The television film of the book, shown in the ‘Horizon’ series, won the Sci-Tech Prize for the Best Science Programme of 1987. He has also won the 1989 Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London and the 1990 Royal Society Michael Faraday Award for the furtherance of the public understanding of science. In 1994 he won the Nakayama Prize for Human Science and in 1995 was awarded an Honorary D.Litt. by the University of St Andrews. Humanist of the Year Award 1996. Since 1996 has been Vice President of the British Humanist Association. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997. Winner of the 1997 (Fifth) International Cosmos Prize in Commemoration of Expo’ 90.
    He was also voted “Intellectual of the Year” by the readers of Prospect magazine.
    Pretty impressive for a man of “Modest intellect”.
    The fact is, you are irrational on the subject of Richard Dawkins and perhaps on the subjects of evolution, materialism, and intelligent design as well.

  • Mike Toreno

    Rob, that was startling, wasn’t it? But you can understand it if you understand Joe’s philosophy. Joe doesn’t base his positions in principles, he bases them on group identification. Dawkins is, to Joe, “of modest intellect” not because he is really of modest intellect, but because he holds a position different than that of the group with whom Joe self-identifies – namely, those who pretend that Christianity consists of reciting a set of propositions about Christ and the Bible, rather than actually following Christ.
    But the truth does seep unbidden into Joe’s consciousness, no matter how much he tries to shut it out. This is evidenced by his repeated lies about what Dawkins said. As Dawkins has explained, and has been repeatedly pointed out to Joe, Dawkins did not say that life on earth originated from seeding by space aliens, but rather that if one postulated that life on earth was intelligently designed, seeding by aliens was a possibility.
    You have to ask Joe, if it’s necessary to lie to support your point, how sound is it?
    The movie rests on a false assumption – that every point of view is equally valid. That isn’t true. Intelligent Design creationism consists of repeatedly reciting arguments that have already been refuted many times. No one whose work consists of repeating arguments that have been refuted is going to achieve the same success as someone who does work that contributes to human knowledge. Intelligent Design creationists can expect to be discriminated against in the same way that flat earth geologists are discriminated against. Intelligent Design creationism is a mechanism for stupid people to pretend that they understand science and that they’re not stupid.
    But they don’t understand science, and they are stupid.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I agree Joe is inexplicably irrational on some subjects and evolution seems to bring out the worse in him.

  • Joe McFaul

    FTK
    “I think the documentary was spot on…but, then I’ve been very active in the debate for 5 years and have taken more heat and ad hominem attacks than I can stand anymore.”
    Yet another falsehood. What a perfect disgrace for a Christian human being. You have earned every ounce of opprobrium directed your way.
    Spare us he faux martyrdom. Real Christian martyrs told the truth and got fed to lions.
    You, on the other hand, are a wretched Ann Coulter wannabee, just more dishonest.

  • Matteo

    Joe McFaul, your post to FtK is a brilliant display of self-refutation. Was that your intention?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    So no one actually objects to the charge of dishonesty as it has been applied to the film or Joe?

  • smmtheory

    Perhaps if it were made by someone other than the usual suspects…

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Truth is all relative. Nice position for theists to be making.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Also very amusing considering the whole point of this Expelled movie is supposedly the truth is being covered up by people because they consider YOU the ‘usual suspects’!

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    On the other hand, I picked up the zombie book from the library last night and it’s a pretty good read. Good call Joe.

  • smmtheory

    How long can you go without calling somebody dishonest Boonton? A day? A week? A month?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Depends on who the somebody is.

  • Mike Toreno

    Yeah, isn’t the real question whether or not Joe’s a liar, and if he is a liar, isn’t it worse for him to be a liar than to call him out as a liar? If Joe’s a liar, isn’t calling him out for it a good thing?
    I mean, the point on which we have pretty good evidence that Joe’s a liar is a point he uses to cast Richard Dawkins as “of modest intellect”. Isn’t knowing whether Joe’s a liar important to our understanding of the truth? Doesn’t knowing whether or not Joe’s a liar inform our analysis of the various competing claims about the “Expelled” movie?

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