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Congressman Mark Souder says his highlight of the year was being on Ben Stein’s “Expelled.”

Posted by Andy D. on December 27, 2008

Sylvia Smith interviewed Congressman Mark Souder for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in which Souder states his “personal highlight of the year.”  The highlight is none other than being in Ben Stein’s anti-evolution propaganda movie, “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.”

You appeared on the big screen this year. What was that experience like?
The biggest single moment was (that) the movie “Expelled” came out on intelligent design. (The documentary about intelligent design – also called creationism – hosted by Ben Stein describes how some educational professionals have been blacklisted from universities and journals because they disagree with the theory of evolution.)

Rep. Souder just admitted that intelligent design is creationism.  The Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard concluded creation science is religion and not science! Intelligent design is the latest failed evolution of trying to get religion into the science classroom starting with outright religion, creation science, intelligent design; and now it is academic freedom.  Intelligent Design was shown to be religion in Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2004.  The Discovery Institute which is the Seattle based ID think-tank tries not to mention who this mysterious intelligent “agent” designer is to avoid entanglement with the First Amendment.  Ben Stein walks all over that premise that ID isn’t really religion in “Expelled.”

Rep. Souder doesn’t say anything about the movie’s deceitful logical fallacy in which the movie attempted to blame evolutionary science for the Holocaust. I watched the movie “Valkyrie” starring Tom Cruise last night in which the opening contained the written oath swearing under God one’s support of Hitler. The people committing those horrible killings were mostly religious.  There is a big difference between artificial selection which was around long before the theory of natural selection.  Note, I am not saying religion caused the Holocaust.  Religion was the original source of the division and the extension of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic zeitgeist; moreover, there was extreme hyperinflation, unemployment, WWI repercussions, shame due to false propaganda, extreme nationalism, rapid industrialization, anti-communism, secret police, and many more variables to make the times uncertain.  Religious and scientific institutions are used in these types of totalitarian movements and are manipulated.  In fact, the Anti-defamation League released a statement against Expelled’s premise.  Moreover, it is a non sequitur to say: if evolutionary theory caused the Holocaust (which it didn’t),  it disproves the authenticity of natural selection and common ancestry of all life.  Ben Stein and/or his producers blatantly quote-mined Darwin, not unlike the negative politics Joseph Goebbels used.

How did your role come about?
Ben Stein’s producer contacted our office about being in a movie off of the subcommittee report we had done on a researcher we believed had been persecuted and pushed around at the Smithsonian Institution because of his views on intelligent design.
He lost his office. He lost his keys. He lost his sponsorship. We were able, over a period of years, to get the e-mails behind this. This was a three-year fight.

First of all, Richard Sternberg was not a paid employee of the Smithsonian and he purposefully abused the scientific peer review process .  He waited until he was leaving the position of editor to release a pro-ID paper by the Discovery Institute’s own Stephen C. Meyer.  The paper was later unpublished and one may see why it wasn’t actual science here.
The lost keys and office are much to do about nothing, as it was part of a pre-planned event at the Smithsonian for bureaucratic reasons in which many people switched keys and offices including Sternberg.  For more on Souder, Sternberg, and the others involved go here and here.  Worst of all, most of this information is in the appendix of Souder’s own report!!!  Souder should know better and is most likely playing politics, as you will soon see.  See NCSE’s Expelled Exposed to see the complete story on all the manufactured “expelled-IDers.”

Was it the highlight of your year?
I personally believe that there is no issue more important to our society than intelligent design. I believe that if there wasn’t a purpose in designing you – regardless of who you view the designer as being – then, from my perspective, you can’t be fallen from that design. If you can’t be fallen from that design, there’s no point to evangelism.

Do you see Rep. Souder squirm on “who” the designer is?  Here Souder admits his religious biases.  His personal beliefs should be private and not be involved in science or politics.  It is a simple as that.  Souder needs to represent people of all faiths and those of no faith in his district.  This is extremely disturbing.  If he had his way, he would help turn America into a theocracy.

As an evangelical Christian, I believe the premise of a fall being at the core of reforming lives. I believe the concept of grace and forgiveness comes from having fallen from something.

Again, Mark Souder’s religious beliefs are off limits due to the “no religious test” in Article 6 of the constitution.  However, I am waiting to see if a non-religious person can take his place some day.  It seems there is a religious test for office.  Grace and forgiveness are not only evangelical ideals. They are ideals for everyone including secularists.  We should all appreciate honesty and full scientific inquiry free from meddling of religiously motivated politicians.  The scientific marketplace of ideas has spoken on intelligent design.  Scientific knowledge has to go through testing, hypothesis, must be falsifiable, peer reviewed, and repeatable with more testing before it gets anywhere near science school text books.  Telling students there is scientific alternative to the evolutionary theory is an outright lie.

Now, how that occurred – whether you believe in the young earth theory, gradual evolution, or whatever – is disputed. Those become religious. But whether there was a fundamental designer who developed a complex DNA molecular structure is critical. Since I view that as the most important thing in the world, yes, being in a movie that advanced that cause was the personal highlight of the year.

Rep. Souder thinks that young earth creation or old earth creationism is up to religious belief.  I somewhat agree.  One is entitled to his or her beliefs; however, one is not entitled to their own scientific facts.  The facts are the earth is close to 4.6 billions years old with roughly 4 billion years of evolution and common descent.  There are many religions that have accepted evolution and made their peace with it and one does not have to be an atheist to appreciate it.  Scientists state openly they don’t know how life was originally started and we may never know.  However,  science is much stronger here then Souder or Stein could even try to understand.  See the evolution of RNA into DNA.  Abiogenesis , the study of how the first life began, is technically not part of The Theory of Evolution by natural selection.  Mountains of evidence have been pouring in for a 150 years from many scientific disciplines.  The theory has never been stronger and a scientific theory is not a hunch, but it is the highest form of scientific knowledge.

Why didn’t you call more attention to being in a movie?
I thought this might be the hottest issue in my (re-election) race and that I would be so attacked, and it would bring out the social conservative base in ways we’d never seen.
From the time 2008 started, we could tell this was going to be a difficult political year. We went through a huge immigration debate. Then you moved to the $4 gas debate. Then the economy’s collapsing.

Mark Souder was counting on a culture war backlash to muster up support. The Republican ticket had the political winds against them;  Souder, therefore, was manufacturing a controversy to be reelected.  This is Machiavellian ugliness that Karl Rove played, and I think Americans are sick of it.   It turns out there was a very effective response to Stein’s propaganda film by NCSE and it was so effective there was no social conservative base backlash.  Souder won without it.  Most likely, the reason was he ran a better campaign against someone with little experience; and more likely this is just a Republican stronghold.  FreeThought Fort Wayne is the only group in Fort Wayne that has said anything about Souder’s involvement in Expelled and we are nobody compared to Souder’s influence.  The movie wasn’t very big either and it received horrible reviews by everyone who is not Rush Limbaugh or has a religious political agenda.  Of course, Souder was at the Sarah Palin rally in Fort Wayne that was all about anti-intellectualism and Souder sure knows his base.  “Expelled” is circulating in church basements as I write.  I am getting very sick of religion in politics.  I am pretty sure that this Jesus fellow who everyone keeps talking about would feel the same.

It is disappointing that Souder didn’t stick with helping the Veteran’s Hospital as the interview started with as his highlight of the year.  I congratulate him and want the best for our veterans, too.  Souder’s priorities are out of whack for bringing up his contribution to the tired culture war as his highlight of 2008,  the year that Republican became a dirty word.

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Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Future of FreeThought

Posted by Skeptigator on June 10, 2008

I have spent the last few days putting my thoughts to digital paper but they weren’t really my thoughts. They were thoughts that I only think are mine but really have come about from reading Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, A History of American Secularism. In my first post on the matter I mentioned how profoundly this book has changed my view. How I feel to some extent a sense of connection with the past.

I liken it very loosely* to what I can imagine perhaps a homosexual in America might feel and may I be so bold as to draw a comparison between FreeThought and Homosexual Rights. The first step in the acceptance of homosexuals was the acknowledgement that “they” exist and that there is a community of them. I suppose step 2 was try not to get killed but then came step 3 begin to discover a shared history. There hasn’t been much of history for the GLBT community to draw on, they sort of sprang out of nowhere as you might be led to believe. Of couse, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there is an extensive “gay history” however it hasn’t been very pleasant and we’ll never know the full extent to which the homosexual community has always been around.

I suppose this is the natural evolution, if you will, of all groups as they struggle for identity.

This brings us to the main point of this article, the Future of FreeThought. What does tomorrow or even 5 years bring. Maybe we should be saying to ourselves, “Forget about the future. What does the present look like?”

Where we stand today

There are plenty of very good reasons to be pessimistic about the future of FreeThought considering the last 20 years in one sense hasn’t been that great. We’ve seen the ascendancy of the Religious Right during the 70’s through such organizations as Falwell’s Moral Majority and their ability to shape the political landscape of today (not to mention their power within the Republican party out of proportion to their numbers). The 80’s brought us the almost laughable Satanic Panic. The 90’s brought us the Republican Revolution and the rise of the Christian Coalition led by Ralph Reed. The 21st century was kicked off with a bang, specifically 4 bangs on 9/11. An event that should have led to soul-searching within religious circles on the power of faith and that without some kind of check or measure like reason and evidence all ideology particularly religious ideology can lead to some of the greatest atrocities of mankind. Instead, in America, the various Christian sects circled the wagons and drew Us vs. Them distinctions while the liberal left called Islam the Religion of Peace and tried to categorize the 19 young men as fundamentalists or extremists. No doubt they don’t represent the mainstream muslim but there are some very basic questions that are not being asked.

Today secularists and skeptics, atheists and agnostics face some of the same recurring issues that have cropped over the decades, nay, centuries. That thing called Intelligent Design (AKA warmed-over creationism) has been making inroads or at least the strategy has changed again to “academic freedom” bills. The broad support for faith-based initiatives and school vouchers is a reincarnated version of the very same kind of bill that was working it’s way through the Virginia Assembly that attempted to get the state of Virginia to fund religious education. The very thing that Madison and Jefferson worked vigorously to oppose and many evangelical groups of the day also opposed.

Susan Jacoby begins the final chapter of her book with a recent speech given by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia [full text here],

… the real underpinnings of Scalia’s support for the death penalty are to be found not in constitutional law but in the justice’s religious convictions. He believes that the state derives its power not from the consent of the governed – “We, the People,” as the [Constitution] plainly states – but from God. God has the power of life and death, and therefore lawful governments also have the right to exact the ultimate penalty. Democracy, with its pernicous idea that citizens are the ultimate arbiters of public policy, is responsible for the rise of opposition to the death penalty in the twentieth century. “Few doubted the morality of the death penalty in the age that believed in the divine right of kings,” Scalia noted in his speech. He would have been just as accurate had he pointed out that most subjects in absolute monarchies also supported the right of kings to torture and to impose the death penalty by drawing and quartering. To bolster his argument, Scalia turned to the perennial favorite of conservative politicians the evangelist Paul: [quotes Romans 13:1-4]

And this is from a Supreme Court justice. What happens when abortion makes it’s way to the SCOTUS? I wonder what a devout Catholic will make his decision based on, clearly not case law or prior precedent or any other impartial manner. I wouldn’t doubt if he quotes Psalms 139:13-16 in his opinion.

Now all of that is kind of a drag and I’m generally an optimistic person.

A Plan for the Future

If you are looking for me to start making predictions of what will happen in the future you can stop reading now. I don’t know and neither does anybody else but I do have some ideas about what we can begin to build today.

1) Identify that non-believers exist, acknowledge that you exist

  • A recent Pew Study shows that approximately 10.3% of the U.S. population identifies itself as either atheist, agnostic or secular-unaffiliated, there’s an additional 5-6% of the U.S. population that is religious-unaffiliated, maybe they just need to be told it’s OK to not believe.
  • Read that again 10% (that’s about 30 million people). We more than exist, we are significant chunk of the population.

2) Recognize that you have a history

  • I hope the last 3 posts have given you a taste of the extremely rich history that secularism and freethought have in America. If you don’t know about the last 3 posts here they are:
  1. Revolutionary FreeThought
  2. The Golden Age of FreeThought
  3. FreeThought in the 20th Century

3) Get involved

  • Join a group or start one. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, not exactly a liberal bastion by any stretch. We have a group, you can find us here, freethoughtfortwayne.org. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in starting your own.
  • Groups like CFI On Campus provide excellent resources for starting college campus groups.
  • Write letters to the editor, attend speeches and conferences promoting secular thought, scientific literacy and freethought.
  • Write your story, start a blog, write a book. We don’t live in an age anymore where you have to jump through hoops and sell your soul to get published anymore. You can self-publish. Every piece of literature out there adds to the growing number of freethought voices.

4) Begin Building Bridges

  • Instead of fighting or resisting religious groups, we should be defining where we have common ground. I suppose this goes back to that old adage, “The frontiers that trade won’t cross, armies will”, or something like that. If we won’t engage with religious groups we will only ever exchange volleys and that won’t get us anywhere
  • I’ve said it before and I say it again, we really should promote advocacy for secular government within the religious community.

Let’s do what we can to change the tone and tenor of the nation. If you are unhappy about the invasion of religion into every nook and cranny of our political discourse then speak up. Write your congressman, yours can’t be any worse than mine, Mark Souder (R) – 3rd Dist. IN. He or she works for you, remember that.

I would be interested in your comments. AM I missing something? Am I too optimistic?

* Of course, I’m a heterosexual, middle-class white guy, so what do I really know about being gay or even oppressed for that matter. Like I said “very loosely” based on the recent history of homosexuals.

Posted in FreeThought, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Enlightenment Show releases 3 new episodes

Posted by Skeptigator on May 19, 2008

As many of you know some of our members, headed up by andyscathouse, produce a show for the local public access channels. To further promote their efforts we have been uploading these videos to our site and embedding them, along with show notes, on The Enlightenment Show’s page.

I have just finished uploading and embedding the next 3 videos.

I have also configured our “channel” on blip.tv’s website and their video player is much better than what WordPress allows us to do, http://freethoughtfortwayne.blip.tv/

The next 3 episodes feature special guest Reba Boyd Wooden and are as follows,

  • Episode 5, Ben Stein fails science class, part 1.
  • Episode 6, Ben Stein fails science class, part 2.
  • Episode 7, All about the Center for Inquiry – Indiana.

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Local, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Video | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ben Stein and The Descent of Man = quote mining

Posted by Andy D. on April 28, 2008

I am preparing some slides for The Enlightenment Show which we are shooting next Sunday. Mark and I saw the movie on Sat. There were about ten folks in the theater, (noon showing). I will talk on the whole movie later but first everyone should see this. (Steve Mirskey and John Rennie at Scientific American first pointed this out) I think it is easier to see in the two pics below.

In the first slide, I am showing Ben Stein’s voiceover as he was walking to Holocaust sites. Ben states the quote and then reveals the vile author as CHARLES DARWIN before going into the horror areas. (He doesn’t reveal the source as The Descent of Man perhaps in hope that we won’t look it up?) The quote is surprisingly missing a lot of information. In a way, I think Ben is practicing in his own form of Holocaust denial. He won’t look at the racism for what it was and instead he turns on science. Ben is an economist and he went to Yale so surely his scholarship would be excellent? Either he is a complete fraud or he is incompetent by blindly relying on his ideological producers and not checking their sources. The very next sentence and paragraph says the exact opposite of what they are trying to imply! Darwin thought it would be overwhelmingly evil to unprotect the weak and it would be against our most noblest nature! Stein and fellows are fraudulent and are praticising propanda not that unlike the Nazis… Shame on you Stein. (This is available on http://darwin-online.org.uk/ Search for asylums) Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I added the formatting to show what Ben cut.

BTW: None of this says anything about science or gives any credibility to intelligent design. It does show what a great thinker Charles Darwin was….

This is from Jacob Bronowski – The Ascent of Man. Science is admitting we don’t know everything and is anti-dogmatic by being grounded in evidence. I saw this on PZ Meyer’s Blog.

Posted in Religion, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Christine Comer: Expelled For Real

Posted by neuralgourmet on April 15, 2008

While I might think that the fraudulent documentary Expelled is a non-starter, it can’t be argued that Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents are waging a political war based on ideology. One such casualty of that war is Christine Comer who was the Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency for nine years before being expelled for “repeated acts of misconduct and insubordination”. But what exactly were her crimes? Well, in fact, there was only one. She forwarded an e-mail promoting a talk by Barbara Forrest with the National Center For Science Education. As it so happens, I was over at NCSE’s newly redesigned Expelled Exposed site and happened to see this short video of Christine Comer talking about her experience. There’s not a lot of factual information in there, but it puts a human face on the manufactuversy. Enjoy.

Oh, and don’t forget to bookmark Expelled Exposed’s YouTube channel. I expect you’ll be able to see many more videos there in days to come.

Posted in Religion | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Expelled is a non-starter

Posted by neuralgourmet on April 14, 2008

It seems the producers of the fraudulent documentary about a manufactured controversy starring wannabe smart guy Ben Stein are going out of their way to insure that the film will be a flop. They are actually withholding screenings of Expelled from critics. This seems like a reasonable thing to do if your film is full of spurious facts and misrepresentations. After all, critics have this nasty habit of, you know, criticizing and who wants that? Especially when you’re banking on people not knowing what your flick is about lest they decide to hang onto their hard won money.

And it’s a tactic that works when your audience doesn’t read movie reviews anyway instead relying on commercials and trailers. As Sean Means, film critic for the Salt Lake Tribune puts it:

This makes sense, from the studio’s perspective, since the people who go to see horror flicks and dumb comedies – teenagers and morons, respectively – don’t read reviews, and will be lured by those shiny objects called TV commercials. The same logic applied to the “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus” concert movie, which was pre-sold to its pre-teen audience, who would have attended no matter what wooly-headed critics likeme had to say about it.”

However, documentaries are different. Documentaries aren’t usually marketable via trailers or commercials and people are reluctant to spend their money to be “educated”, especially by an unknown film. So documentaries are almost always dependent on critics for initial praise and to help build a word-of-mouth following.

Not the producers of Expelled though. But why? Probably because they know the film is terrible. Not just bad, but mind-blowing, gut-wrenching, claw-your-eyes-out-with-your-fingers awful. They don’t want critics to see it because they don’t want people to know, before they plunk their silver down, how abysmal the flick really is.

So I think we have to ask, why all the fuss? The film is getting next to no publicity outside of creationist circles, the widely reported disingenuous tactics and the general ineptitude of the producers of Expelled have already garnered the film so much negative publicity that perhaps the only reason anybody would pay to see the movie is to laugh at it, much in the way that people laugh at Ed Wood films. I think, inside of a month, Expelled will have come and gone and no one but creationists will care.

Well, to be fair, there are some reasons for rationalists to care. After all, viewing flicks like Expelled gives good exercise in deconstructing propaganda and studying denialist tactics (and believe me, denialists all use the same tactics). It’s also useful for pointing out to others the deceitful hypocrisy of creationist and ID proponents. Beyond that though, I truly think Expelled is a complete non-starter.

Posted in Religion | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Expelled Exposed by Eugenie Scott

Posted by Skeptigator on March 27, 2008

Eugenie Scott of NCSE fame has setup a website, www.expelledexposed.com. It is dedicated to exposing all of the lies, half-truths and deceptions in and surrounding the Ben Stein movie, Expelled.

For those who don’t know but would like to get a taste of some of the tactics of the creationists, oops, I mean Intelligent Design proponentists, check out PZ Myers blog and Richard Dawkins entry appropriately title, Lying for Jesus.

Found via Skepchick

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Darwin Day Celebrations

Posted by Skeptigator on March 7, 2008

I know this is posted over on the forums (here and here) but I figured I would get it posted here as well.

The Center for Inquiry – Indianapolis chapter (with which Freethought Fort Wayne is affiliated) will be hosting the Third Annual Darwin Day Conference at the IUPUI campus tomorrow starting bright and early. I know some members expressed an interest in attending/carpooling. I’m not sure who is going but I won’t be able to go to this either. I know I’m a non-participating bum but what can you do.

Check out the link to CFI Indy’s full schedule but some of the highlights will be:

9:00  am—Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans vs Armchair Christians—Richard Carrier

10:30 am—Hunters, Gatherers and Killer Apes – Another Adventure in How Science Works–Dr. John Langdon

There will even be a talk on the source of moral values and a panel discussion on Intelligent Design (aka Creationism)

Posted in FreeThought, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »