Ferris Bueller Gets Expelled


This is the fifth in the series on Expelled, the video by Premise Media and featuring Ben Stein. Previously I told the case of Robert Marks, who did not exactly get expelled. He is Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, and he got to keep his job and about everything else. Baylor University just disassociated itself from his advocacy for Intelligent Design, and Professor Marks is no longer allowed to host his website on a University server or to attach his personal agenda to the name of Baylor University. Bummer!

Something interesting about that story is it pokes a hole in the story spread by creationists that the science behind biological evolution is a conspiracy to suppress religious doctrine. If atheists are working to turn people away from God, then they are getting a lot of help from Christians. Please note that Baylor is not a secular institution:

Baylor University is a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, Baylor is the oldest continuously operating university in Texas and was one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi River. The university’s 1,000-acre campus is located on the banks of the Brazos River next to freeway I-35, between the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Austin. Baylor University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Baylor is notable for its law, business, science, music and English programs.

[Some links deleted]

Let’s see who else teaches biological evolution and expels Intelligent Design from its science curriculum:

  • Southern Methodist University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Wheaton College
  • Notre Dame

Who does support creationism? Liberty University comes to mind:

Liberty University teaches young Earth creationism as an explanation for the appearance of life on earth. The university works with young Earth creationist organizations including Answers in Genesis. In biology classes students are taught both creationism and evolution and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. In October, 2006 the university published an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an attempt to recruit staff to its biology department. The advertisement stated that the university was “seeking faculty who can demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose” and specified that “compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy [is] required.”

[Some links deleted]

Now, that’s academic freedom!

Pamela Winnick

One of those featured in Expelled is Pamela Winnick. Her appearance in the video (just now watched the clip) is brief, so I rely on what the NCSE has to say:

The Claim

“I was not taking a position in favor of creationism, I was writing about intelligent design…. And having merely written on a subject was enough to put you on this blacklist. If you give any credence to it whatsoever, which means just writing about it, you’re just finished as a journalist.” (Pamela Winnick, Expelled)

The Facts

Winnick’s earliest known writing on intelligent design appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during the adoption of the Pennsylvania science education standards in late 2000. At the time, her articles regularly used phrases and characterizations about evolution that derived from intelligent design talking points. Her position did not necessarily support intelligent design in particular, but communicated the general notion that “fairness” required access to the marketplace of ideas and that students were somehow poorer for not hearing about intelligent design (and similar alternatives that falsely claimed scientific status).

However, this relatively innocuous coverage was only the beginning. In February 2001, Winnick interviewed intelligent design proponent Michael Behe with a collection of softball questions and presented his answers uncritically. Later that year she wrote a review of PBS’s Evolution series where she criticized it for not covering “the Intelligent Design movement, which began about a decade ago when serious scientists – many with doctorates from prestigious universities – began to tackle evolution on scientific grounds.” This is not “just writing about” intelligent design. This is an endorsement.

So Winnick was advocating intelligent design. Even so, this sounds like a poor basis for being blacklisted as a journalist – but there is no evidence that this ever happened. As a supposedly “blacklisted” reporter, Winnick continued to write for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette until August 2002, almost two years after she began her supposedly career-ending articles on intelligent design; she continues to write occasional guest columns for them (including an anti-evolution opinion piece in December 2005), and has written recent articles for the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal.

Winnick’s interview with Michael Behe contains an interesting bit:

Q. Has your questioning of evolution affected your academic career?

A. My questioning of Darwinian evolution has brought me notoriety in some circles, but hasn’t brought any negative repercussions. I still teach and publish as before, although my research interests have shifted toward more explicitly evolutionary questions. I’m frequently asked to lecture on college campuses. I’m having a lot of fun!

Talk about being expelled!

Winnick’s review of the PBS documentary gives the indication she is not a fan of Charles Darwin:

In yet another tedious re-enactment, we’re shown the eventual demise of Darwin’s own religious faith. Having flunked out of medical school, he had flirted briefly with joining the clergy — but eventually he loses all belief in God.

We witness this when Darwin’s daughter dies at age 10. Others in the grieving family go to church, but Darwin lingers behind and — in what is supposed to be a portentous moment — cannot bring himself to follow the others into church. What causes his atheism? Did it spring from his own theories? Or from the sheer cruelty of life?

It took 21 years for Darwin to write “Origin of Species,” suggesting that he suffered profound inner turmoil at the implications of his theory and its eventual reception by the public. A genuinely dramatic rendering of Darwin’s life would have portrayed this struggle. Instead, we’re subjected to banalities and melodrama.

Once having undertaken to show us Darwin’s life, the producers had the obligation to give us the whole truth — a very dangerous terrain into which few care to tread.

But why will no one speak of Darwin’s vicious racism, so amply set out in his book “The Descent of Man,” in which he plainly states that blacks are inferior to whites? Why not also tell us about the influence he exerted, however unintentionally, on the eugenics movement and on Marx and Hitler?

This is a story about the development of a scientific theory. In her review Winnick exhibits an obsession with the inner Darwin. There is the matter of 19th century racism and the matter of evolutionary theory driving eugenics (Marx and Hitler). A look at Darwin’s book reveals maybe half a hundred uses of the word “Negro” or Negroes.” This book is, after all, about the descent of man. A typical use is this example, talking about the impact of geography on racial differences:

Our naturalist would then perhaps turn to geographical distribution, and he would probably declare that those forms must be distinct species, which differ not only in appearance, but are fitted for hot, as well as damp or dry countries, and for the Artic regions. He might appeal to the fact that no species in the group next to man–namely, the Quadrumana, can resist a low temperature, or any considerable change of climate; and that the species which come nearest to man have never been reared to maturity, even under the temperate climate of Europe. He would be deeply impressed with the fact, first noticed by Agassiz (7. ‘Diversity of Origin of the Human Races,’ in the ‘Christian Examiner,’ July 1850.), that the different races of man are distributed over the world in the same zoological provinces, as those inhabited by undoubtedly distinct species and genera of mammals. This is manifestly the case with the Australian, Mongolian, and Negro races of man; in a less well-marked manner with the Hottentots; but plainly with the Papuans and Malays, who are separated, as Mr. Wallace has shewn, by nearly the same line which divides the great Malayan and Australian zoological provinces. The Aborigines of America range throughout the Continent; and this at first appears opposed to the above rule, for most of the productions of the Southern and Northern halves differ widely: yet some few living forms, as the opossum, range from the one into the other, as did formerly some of the gigantic Edentata. The Esquimaux, like other Arctic animals, extend round the whole polar regions. It should be observed that the amount of difference between the mammals of the several zoological provinces does not correspond with the degree of separation between the latter; so that it can hardly be considered as an anomaly that the Negro differs more, and the American much less from the other races of man, than do the mammals of the African and American continents from the mammals of the other provinces. Man, it may be added, does not appear to have aboriginally inhabited any oceanic island; and in this respect, he resembles the other members of his class.

Charles Darwin (2014-07-04). The Descent Of Man (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 3332-3347). . Kindle Edition.

In discussing race Darwin speaks the language of 19th century science and society, such language now considered less than polite. Not emphasized by present day enemies of Darwin is that he was a staunch abolitionist and an advocate of equal treatment.

Darwin’s final word on the subject would not seem to fit Winnick’s agenda:

Through the means just specified, aided perhaps by others as yet undiscovered, man has been raised to his present state. But since he attained to the rank of manhood, he has diverged into distinct races, or as they may be more fitly called, sub-species. Some of these, such as the Negro and European, are so distinct that, if specimens had been brought to a naturalist without any further information, they would undoubtedly have been considered by him as good and true species. Nevertheless all the races agree in so many unimportant details of structure and in so many mental peculiarities that these can be accounted for only by inheritance from a common progenitor; and a progenitor thus characterised would probably deserve to rank as man.

Charles Darwin (2014-07-04). The Descent Of Man (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 11484-11489). . Kindle Edition.

Regarding eugenics, Marx and Hitler—

If Hitler found comfort in Darwin he had a different way of showing it. The University of Arizona has placed on line documents relating to books scheduled to be burned by the Nazis:

6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Haeckel).

Don’t ask me what Monism is, but Wikipedia’s item on Ernst Haeckel has this:

Haeckel founded a group called the “Monist League” to promote his religious and political beliefs.

Karl Marx thought Darwin’s studies supported his social theories, but Darwin did not return the favor.

Karl Marx (1818 — 1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820 — 1895) published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, with Marx’s work Das Kapital published in three volumes in 1867, 1885 and 1894. These works established the principles of communism, which had at its core the evolution of societies by advancement between different states. This, they argued, was caused by class struggle, and the proletariat should co-operate to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

When Karl Marx read Darwin’s work on evolution he immediately believed that it supported his worldview and theory of class struggle. Karl Marx sent Darwin an autographed copy of his Das Kapital; Darwin responded with a polite “thank you” letter, but never read the book. Marx believed that Darwin’s work both helped to explain the internal struggles of human society, and provided a material explanation for the processes of nature, something which his philosophy was heavily based on. However, he had difficulty accepting the apparent support Darwin’s book gave to the theories of Thomas Malthus.

In 1861 Karl Marx wrote to his friend Ferdinand Lassalle, “Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. … Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.”

The radical economist Herbert Spencer (1820 — 1903) coined the phrase survival of the fittest in his 1851 work Social Statics to describe his revolutionary liberal economic theory, which in 20th century terms would be considered right-wing. Spencer supported the Whig Malthusian argument that programmes to aid the poor, (i.e. the proletariat) did more harm than good, in direct contrast to Tory paternalism, and to communism which advocated “to each according to their needs, from each according to their ability”.

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Do we want to consider for a moment that Darwin’s work did give aid and comfort to Marx and Hitler? Let’s do and then see what derives.

First note that Marx caused no harm. He did not kill anybody, he did not put anybody in prison or confiscate anybody’s property. He never exercised political control over people. He only wrote papers and books and spoke in favor of his peculiar social ideas. In America that is called freedom of speech.

But suppose that Adolph Hitler and the other Nazis did get inspiration from Darwin before going off to start wars and to exterminate by murder millions of innocents. This would not invalidate Darwin’s theories. If Darwin was right, then that’s the matter. The consequences of an idea do not invalidate the truth of the idea. Tough it out.

R.G. Price has posted an item titled The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist. Among other things he has this to say:

Darwin’s View of Race

In contrast to the existing views on race, Darwin showed that:

    • People cannot be classified as different species
    • All races are related and have a common ancestry
    • All people come from “savage” origins
    • The different races have much more in common than was widely believed
    • The mental capabilities of all races are virtually the same and there is greater variation within races than between races
    • Different races of people can interbreed and there is no concern for ill effects
    • Culture, not biology, accounted for the greatest differences between the races
    • Races are not distinct, but rather they blend together

Pamela Winnick may have gotten her peculiar slant from her inner self, or she may have gotten it straight from the producers of the Expelled video, because Ben Stein eventually gets around to the Darwinian inspiration for racism, eugenics and genocide. It’s a heartwarming thing to witness.

Winnick’s problem as a serious journalist is her injection of personal views (or the views marketed by the creationists) into what should have been objective reporting. Editors tend to shy away from contributors who can’t submit a straight story. This is not so much expulsion as it is good journalism. Her book is A Jealous God, available from Amazon in hardback and Kindle editions.

Coming next, world class neurosurgeon Michael Egnor.

One thought on “Ferris Bueller Gets Expelled

  1. Pingback: Ferris Bueller Gets Expelled | Skeptical Analysis

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