Continuing with James Barham’s The Best Schools interview with design theorist Bill Dembski – who founded this blog,
WD: I could recount case after case of mediocre academics who have done well for themselves (tenure, named professorships, etc.) by denouncing ID. And I can recount case after case of very bright individuals whose careers have been derailed for supporting, or even showing sympathy toward, ID. The documentary Expelled demonstrates this last point.
Rubes, shouting in: Barbara Forrest! Robert Pennock! Wesley Elsberry! [Rubes told to hush their dam mouths, they dunno what they’re talking about.]
TBS: In bringing up Expelled, you beat us to the punch. You were prominently featured in a documentary favorable to intelligent design, narrated by Ben Stein and titled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. What can you tell us about that documentary? Did it help or hurt the ID movement?
WD: The documentary came out in the spring of 2008 and most of the footage was taken the year earlier. I was therefore called in as an information resource person—in the few spots I have in the movie, that’s what I do, i.e., provide background information. I could well have been one of the “expelled,” but my story with Baylor goes back to 2000 and the producers were looking for more recent narratives.
I would give the documentary a B, certainly not an A. It effectively underscores the opposition that proponents of intelligent design face in the academy. Some of the individual cases recounted pack a nice punch. And the “exit interview” of Richard Dawkins by Ben Stein is classic. Stein gets Dawkins to admit that ID might be legitimate, so long as the designer is not God but a space alien who evolved by Darwinian means. I almost always show that clip in my public presentations of ID. Indeed, Dawkins gives away the store in those two minutes.
But the documentary had some weaknesses. The seven or so minutes devoted to the Nazis and their assimilation of Darwinian theory and its basis in the Holocaust seemed misplaced. Not that there isn’t a connection, but bringing up the Nazis invariably causes the temperature to rise and the train of an argument to be lost. Far better would have been to use those seven minutes to recount the record of accomplishment of intelligent design. This, to me, was the biggest weakness of the movie. So, ID is marginalized and its proponents vilified. But what has it accomplished to show that it doesn’t deserve that treatment? This needed to be spelled out.
I also understand that the producers mismanaged their funds. Expelled was to lead to a national reaction, with an active website from which people could learn more. The weekend that the documentary opened in theaters, the website went dormant—the producers had run out of funds. I think the film could have done much better at the box office with some more careful editing and refocusing of the material. And its impact, even as it is, would have been much greater if the intended support structures, such as the website, had been fully functioning.
See also: Expelled timeline
Even so, now that the film is out on DVD, I keep hearing from people who’ve seen me in it (some from my distant past). On balance, I think it’s had a positive impact in alerting people to the controversy over intelligent design.
Next: Dembski on the future of ID
Why Bill Dembski took aim against the Darwin frauds and their enablers #1
Why Bill Dembski took aim against the Darwin frauds and their enablers Part 2
Bill Dembski: The big religious conspiracy revealed #3
Bill Dembski: Evolution “played no role whatever” in his conversion to Christianity #4
So how DID Bill Dembski get interested in intelligent design? #5a
So how DID Bill Dembski get interested in intelligent design? #5b – bad influences, it seems
Bill Dembski: Trouble happens when they find out you mean business
What is Bill Dembski planning to do now?
Comment on Dembski interview here if you wish.