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Expelled movie reveals intensity of culture wars

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As reviews of Expelled pile up, ranging from the “Dishonest!” (as if) through “missed the exit lane two hours ago*” through facile, and on to thoughtful, ending with the rousingly positive, one thing has become quite obvious: There really is a culture war, and whether you love or hate this film will largely depend on which side you are on.

If you are a materialist, you will think that any level of harassment, persecution, or unjust dealings against non-materialists or Darwin doubters is justified. Or else you will simply refuse to see it when it is before your face. After all, you know that Darwin was right, there is no free will and no hereafter, and all that matters is winning now.

If you are a non-materialist, you think that the line between good and evil passes through the human heart and that there really is free will and truth, and you keep hoping that evidence will one day finally matter.

This struggle for the soul of science will  be played out  in public from now on, which is probably a good thing. But expect to groan through many TV-driven fatuities  (Big Science, meet Big Hair; New Science, meet Christian pundettes).

Prediction: The ability to communicate skillfully with the public – over against legacy media story distorters – will be critical.

*This critic apparently believes that Expelled will wreck Ben Stein’s career. Yeah really.

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Second_Ammendment I wish to sincerely apologize for my intemperate reply. Had I paid more attention to the content of your post, rather than the way it was phrased, I would have noticed that it could have not possibly have been written by a troll. We share many things in common, you and I. I did not serve in Viet Nam. I managed the maintenance for a signal company in what was then West Germany. Part of its mission was to supply mobile encrypted commo when nukes were being moved around within theatre. I was redeployed back to CONUS with the Reforger program. In August of 1968, I was training troops in riot control at Fort Hood in the hot Texas sun, with full field gear, M14s, bayonets, and gas masks, for possible deployment to Chicago - the city where I grew up - to provide security for the Democratic convention. The politicos were on the inside of the convention hall, their kids were on the outside tearing up my city. Alas, there was never a call up of regular army troops; the thin blue line of the Chicago PD never required the backup. About the same time, the guys from my old battalion were perched overlooking the Czechoslovak plain and could see the plume of the Russian tank column as it moved to crush the Prague Spring. I was then deployed back to Europe on a technical assignment. When my military obligation was up, I mustered out at Fort Dix New Jersey. There we were told that it would be best if we wore civilian clothes on our way back home to avoid being spat upon. This put a sour taste in my mouth and a knot in my gut that has stayed with me for over 35 years. When I saw something that I thought was a mockery of my service, I reacted rather badly. Again, I apologize and ask that you forgive me for my intemperance. (DaveScot – I know I am under moderation. If you choose not to post this, I would appreciate you’re forwarding it via email to Second_Ammendment, as the apology is necessary. A standing insult to a fellow soldier is intolerable to me. Thanks.) D.A.Newton
Hi Austin, That's a bad read. The snippet you quote says that Science is empirical, thus it does not restrict empiricism in any way that conflicts with my etymology. It also tells how words are combined to direct their meaning in a scientific context. It doesn't make any commentary about a scientifically established definition of "trying" it simply tells how Science uses the pre-existing concept of empiricism. It also doesn't make "trying" material. What can you see about "empiricism" that cannot be more precisely defined as another action. I'm focusing my eyes. I'm scratching my cheek. I'm picking up a pencil. Aren't motions "arrangements of matter" to some degree? But motions themselves are not distinct "arrangements". I'm not not "picking up a pencil" because my elbow is bent 5-degrees more than the standard recognized. It then takes judgment to classify motions. The "evidence" in question, I believe is the very empirical evidence (though perhaps anecdotal) presented in the film. That ID proponents are being denied "academic freedom" based on an ad-hoc assertion. It was not evidence of "non material" things she just talked about. So it was a hasty read that started it off. Your question went to the validity of being a non-materialist in the first place. My question was about your construction of how can you know anything non material. My reaction was to show you that empiricism is either anybody's guess or it means a definite class of things--but it is in no sane sense "material", unless you're just stretching the concept of material. Warning though: Russell and the Vienna Circle tried this about 50 years ago. Only to be surpassed by their sympathetic opponent Karl Popper. They wasted a lot of time, and it's probably better to *learn* from that failure than to replicate it. Critical reading is a good skill--though very often neglected by materialists, by my empirical estimation. jjcassidy
DaveScot, Thanks for your response. First a note... Do you believe that humans are moving toward complete understanding of nature? I believe science leads to more questions than answers. This should humble us. I went to Wikipedia to find more about what you mention. I read that "dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space." Also, "70 percent or more of the universe consists of dark energy, about which we know next to nothing." So even if physicists assume it exists, they don't understand it. Unifying quantum theory and relativity might make the cosmological constant (and dark energy?) go away. But the Wiki article mostly talks about it as though it's real. My philosophy prof said that pop science writers are bad about treating models like they're real. Maybe something like that is happening with dark energy. The introduction to the article on physical should be very interesting for ID people. Excuse a long quote. We might even consider the sum total of the information in a thing to be the ideal essence of the thing itself, i.e. its form in the sense of Plato's eidos (The Forms). When clarifying the subject of information, care should be taken to distinguish between the following specific cases: * The phrase instance of information refers to the specific instantiation of information (identity, form, essence) that is associated with the being of a particular example of a thing. (This allows for the reference to separate instances of information that happen to share identical patterns.) * A holder of information is a variable or mutable instance that can have different forms at different times (or in different situations). * A piece of information is a particular fact about a thing's identity or properties, i.e., a portion of its instance. * A pattern of information (or form) is the pattern or content of an instance or piece of information. Many separate pieces of information may share the same form. We can say that those pieces are perfectly correlated or say that they are copies of each other, as in copies of a book. * An embodiment of information is the thing whose essence is a given instance of information. * A representation of information is an encoding of some pattern of information within some other pattern or instance. * An interpretation of information is a decoding of a pattern of information as being a representation of another specific pattern or fact. * A subject of information is the thing that is identified or described by a given instance or piece of information. (Most generally, a thing that is a subject of information could be either abstract or concrete; either mathematical or physical.) * An amount of information is a quantification of how large a given instance, piece, or pattern of information is, or how much of a given system's information content (its instance) has a given attribute, such as being known or unknown. Amounts of information are most naturally characterized in logarithmic units. The above usages are clearly all conceptually distinct from each other. However, many people insist on overloading the word "information" (by itself) to denote (or connote) several of these concepts simultaneously. (Since this may lead to confusion, this article uses more detailed phrases, such as those shown in bold above, whenever the intended meaning is not made clear by the context.) Maybe using the detailed phrases would make the ID debate more clear. The subsection on quantifying physical information does not say that the quantity comes from physical measurement. The article on information theory seems to use mathematical "measure," not physical measurement. You say, We can’t directly observe a molten iron core of the earth but we can observe some effects, like the electro-magnetic field that drives a compass needle, and make inferences about it. But maybe demons in hell are tricking us. We have empirical observations of iron though. So iron is a better scientific explanation than demons. Iron is not hypothetical like dark matter. Philosophically we have to treat it as real, not ideal like information. austin_english
Second_Ammendment Sir, I salute you. Deepest respect and appreciation are due to a man who put his life on the line in the defense of liberty -- and is willing to do it all over again. GEM of TKI PS: I think you just might find this a useful video to link, watch and listen to -- never mind the odd points where biases show through [e.g. I did not like the way a Purple Heart is shown . . .] Sobering, what old Plato saw 2400 years ago. [If you have Real Player; I think you will be able to save off and share with your kids and grands.] kairosfocus
D.A. Newton The troll patrol is right here. You're right, I've been amiss. To correct that situation I've put you on the moderation list so that I can intercept any further insults directed at other members before they appear. DaveScot
Austin How can you observe information directly “by the senses” By looking at it. You're reading this using your senses aren't you? I suggest you read up a little on information theory if you're not sure what it is or how to measure it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory Does ID define intelligence as a source of complex specified information? ID is not monolithic so there's not going to be one definitive answer. I define intelligence as a mind capable of abstract thought. I define intelligent agency as an intelligence which can manipulate matter and energy. If information is not empirically observable, then what about intelligence? It is empirically observable so long as it is expressed in patterns of mass or energy. In the complete absence of mass and energy there is no information. Or at least no information that we know how to observe. Intelligence is a more complex question. I'm sure you'll agree that you, Austin English, can "hold a thought". How do you "hold" it? How much does it mass? I'm not sure but I suspect it's held as patterns of mass and energy in your brain which theoretically, if we could isolate those patterns and energy, could indeed be weighed and measured. Is it directly observable? Its effects on matter and energy can be directly observed. If you can observe the effect you can make inferences about the source even if you can't directly observe the source. We can't directly observe a molten iron core of the earth but we can observe some effects, like the electro-magnetic field that drives a compass needle, and make inferences about it. Or do people attribute empirically observable arrangement of material to empirically unobservable intelligence? Yes. But just because it's not observable now doesn't mean it's forever outside the realm of observability. For instance, not long ago it wasn't possible to observe a thought. Now we have instruments of various sorts that can monitor electrical and chemical activity in the brain and see how they change as different thoughts are thunk. How much farther can we observe? I don't know but in cases where I wonder how far technology can extend the senses I tend to apply Arthur C. Clarke's laws of prediction, especially the third: Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic. Mind reading today would be magic. In the future it may very well be a technology. Delving a little deeper into empiricism let's take the notion of so-called "dark energy". Our physical theories of the universe are woefully incomplete. We have no quantum theory of gravity and even the general theory of relativity is under question as it can't explain how distant objects are moving away from us at an accelerating rate i.e. the rate of expansion of the universe is accelerating. If general relativity is correct that's not possible without some unknown form of energy which, over great distances, overcomes the force of gravitational attraction. That force is called "dark energy". It first appeared as a fudge factor called "the cosmological constant" that Einstein used in general relativity equations to get a flat universe. He later dropped it calling it "the biggest blunder of my life". It's back now. He wasn't wrong after all. His mistake was the value of the constant. He became convinced the value was zero so it could be dropped. Recent astronomical observations need it back to explain what is observed. It's no small thing either. In order to explain the observation this "dark energy" must comprise 70% of all the matter and energy in the observable universe and permeates everything. Given we can only infer "dark energy" through gravitational effects on "normal" (read "normal" as "understood by modern physics") matter, and we have no quantum theory of gravity, and this dark energy permeates everything and there's far more of it than normal matter/energy, it stands to reason that dark energy may be far more complex in organization than normal matter/energy. At the quantum scale we find that the behavior of matter/energy is uncertain. Einstein objected to quantum uncertainty famously saying "God does not play at dice with the universe". He went to his deathbed convinced of that. I think Einstein might have been right about that too and that there's simply a missing variable that makes quantum uncertainty into quantum certainty. All this leads me to pose the question: How much gravitational energy does it take to influence matter at the quantum scale? There appears to be a vast sea, or force, which we term "dark energy" which can, at the least, exert influence over matter through gravity. Is God hiding his physical self in patterns of "dark energy" and can influence the normal universe at any scale by a domino effect starting at the quantum scale? Perhaps. And perhaps technology will progress far enough that someday we can measure and weigh "dark energy". DaveScot
Second_Ammendment: can’t spell, verbs don’t agree in tense or number. Give me a break! Apparently, traditional American patriotism can only exist in the breast of one who is stupid, ignorant, or both. Where’s the troll patrol? D.A.Newton
jjcasidy, From Wikipedia's article on empiricism, A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence that is observable by the senses. It is differentiated from the philosophic usage of empiricism by the use of the adjective "empirical" or the adverb "empirically". Empirical is used in conjunction with both the natural and social sciences, and refers to the use of working hypotheses that are testable using observation or experiment. In this sense of the word, scientific statements are subject to and derived from our experiences or observations. BTW, Wikipedia thinks you don't have the etymology right. If I'm understanding ID, intelligence puts "complex specified information" into material. The only way I can imagine it doing that is by arranging material. How can you observe information directly "by the senses" or by instruments extending the senses? You may regard material as registering information. But you can't "see" the information itself, I think. Does ID define intelligence as a source of complex specified information? If information is not empirically observable, then what about intelligence? Is it directly observable? Or do people attribute empirically observable arrangement of material to empirically unobservable intelligence? I don't know much science. But I have studied a bit of the philosophy of science. I'm curious what ID philosophers have to say about this. austin_english
On Sunday but better on Monday you will be able to see how many saw Expelled in the first couple days. On www.boxofficemojo.com look for revenues by film for the weekend. jerry
Denyse, I'm curious, will you be keeping track of measures of how widely viewed Expelled is once its released in the theaters? For instance, box office revenues? My other question, was regarding previews. Have previews for the film had any airtime on national television? If so, where? Thanks mohammed.husain
Something I honestly don’t understand is empirical evidence of non-material stuff. What can be observed empirically but material? Or are you talking about some unscientific kind of evidence?
Scientific-wise, material-wise, what is "empirical"? It's root stem means "to try". Scientifically, what is "to try", what does it mean when "Science" suggests that we don't even intend our actions. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html. I think it's a more cogent question to ask how can you stop at "scientific concepts"? When you need supporting assumptions to get there. jjcassidy
*If you are a non-materialist, you think that the line between good and evil passes through the human heart and that there really is free will and truth, and you keep hoping that evidence will one day finally matter.* Be of extremely good cheer, SA. The evidence WILL matter, and already evidently is having an impact, to judge by the animosity and viciousness of the materialists' side. The truth, as the wise of another day used to say, Always Wins. Recently I picked up a copy of Dr Edwin Louis Cole's book 'The Potential Principle: Living Life to its Maximum,' which he describes as a book not about positive thinking or possibility thinking, but about "reality thinking." He then makes this statement, which, in reference to the ID/evolution battle, is IMO, significant: "Truth and reality are synonymous." Emkay
I really don't have anything smart to add here but I am confused about the commentary around the film. First of all, I plan on seeing the film with my kids and grandkids. We need to be aggressive in responding to the anti-christian sentiment that's been hounding the US ever since Viet-Nam. At first it didn't seem like too big of a deal. It was mostly city kids who was hippies. But when hippies started teaching and becomming preachers and trying to tell us that there's no more room for the bible in American values, well that's where I get mad. All this commentary, none of it talks about the idea that our universities is filled with atheists and they're running out honest Christians to the streets. Our next generation is growing up thinking that their ain't no room for God guns and guts, that it's a joke and America never did hold them as values. When they rewrite us out of the history books, it's going to be hard to convince kids we was ever there in the first place. Well, I'm here to tell you, I am America, I fought for her and I'll keep fighting for her. Second_Ammendment
P.S.--What I mean is how do we ever get beyond the heart? Pascal said the heart has its reasons the mind cannot understand. austin_english
If you are a non-materialist, you think that the line between good and evil passes through the human heart and that there really is free will and truth, and you keep hoping that evidence will one day finally matter. Something I honestly don't understand is empirical evidence of non-material stuff. What can be observed empirically but material? Or are you talking about some unscientific kind of evidence? austin_english
There really is a culture war, and whether you love or hate this film will largely depend on which side you are on. As the Religious Society of Friends says, "War is not the answer." austin_english

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