For those of you who don’t know, Ben Stein has been involved in the making of a horrible propaganda piece called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It is doing horribly at the Box Office. The movie’s official website is here, but a much more informative page on the movie can be found here. I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I intend to every pay money to see it. If I can ever see it for free I hope to write a detailed review. But the movie’s arguments are so tremendously weak that I need not see the movie to address them. The premise of the movie is essentially that

  • Evolution is false
  • Academics are being ‘expelled’ for expressing doubt of evolution, and many scientists secretly express such doubts
  • ‘Darwinism’ leads to ‘Social Darwinism’ and caused the Holocaust

Now the ExpelledExposed site does a great job of addressing the claims made in the movie and I urge you to check it out for yourself. However, I will try to summarize a few of them myself.

Claim: “Darwinism also has not one meaningful word to say on the origins of organic life, a striking lacuna in a theory supposedly explaining life”. (Ben Stein)

This one sentence shows on Ben Stein does not understand the first thing about evolution, the very theory he is trying to criticize. First of all, the use of the word ‘Darwinism’ is a red-flag the the person using it is an IDiot. Clearly the word ‘Darwinism’ is intended to imply some sort of dogmatic worship of Darwin. This is of course, false. The theory of evolution has changed much since Darwin’s day, due in large part to new discoveries like genetics. If biologists dogmatically worshiped Darwin, the theory would be unchanging, sort of like religion. If scientists worship anything, it is evidence. Now on to the meat of the claim: Stein says that evolutionary biology cannot explain the origin of life. No shit Sherlock! Evolution is the study of how living things evolve. Where there does it need to explain the origin of life? Precisely nowhere. Stein’s claim here is equally absurd to dismissing General Relativity because it does not explain how the human brain functions. They are completely different areas of study, just like evolution and the origin of life. Stein clearly does not even understand what the theory he is criticizing claims. Furthermore, on a recent interview, Stein makes the even more inane assertion that ‘Darwinism’ can’t explain why there are laws of gravity and thermodynamics, or where gravity comes from. Absolutely ridiculous.

Claim: In general the film claims that Intelligent Design is under attack by ‘Big Science’ (Yes he does say ‘Big Science’) which refuses to recognize its scientific validity because of commitments to atheism and materialism.

Again, another ridiculous claim. First of all, the use of the term ‘Big Science’ is clear red flag for a conspiracy nut, but let’s go on. The reason Intelligent Design is ‘under attack’ is not because of some systematic atheist conspiracy, but because it is not science at all.

  • Fact: Scientific Theories are testable. As Richard Feynman said, “The test of all knowledge is experiment’. Intelligent Design makes absolutely no testable predictions. In the Dover trial Michael Behe proposed a test for Intelligent Design, but really such tests are just trying to falsify evolution, not verify any prediction of Intelligent Deisgn. Furthermore, Behe said that he hasn’t done said tests because he “would prefer to spend time in what I would consider to be more fruitful endeavors.
  • Fact: Scientists publish in peer-reviewed journals. The peer-review process is how good science gets separated from the bad. As far as I know, no article advocating Intelligent Design in any form has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal. This is not because of some conspiracy, it is because it is bad science. You can verify that it is bad science, and not some conspiracy for yourself. The Institute For Creation Research (ICR) posts articles for research in creationism (and we all know that’s what Intelligent Design really is). Most of them are of the following format: “Look at this organism! I can’t believe that it could have evolved! Therefore Goddidit, Praise Jesus!”. It is really a huge joke.
  • Fact: Science, by definition, deals only with the natural. Intelligent Design, by definition, requires a supernatural agent. The two are in direct conflict. I suppose we could always re-define science, but we would actually need some evidence for a reason to do so, rather than just a bunch of straw man arguments and arguments from ignorance.

Claim: “‘Darwinism’ led to Nazism and the Holocaust.

This is by far, in my opinion, the worst of the claims in the movie. Not only is it grossly offensive, it is just plain wrong, and wrong on so many levels. It is important to note, first of all, that even if this claim were true it has no bearing whatsoever on the truth of evolution. Even if the claim were true, Intelligent Design gains absolutely no credibility. Now onto addressing the argument itself:

  • Hitler’s motivations appear to be religious in nature:
    “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and the reproduction of our race … so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. … Peoples that bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence.”

    Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

  • There is a long history of antisemitism in Europe, dating back to long before Darwin. Even if Hitler used elements from the theory of evolution as propaganda for his cause, the root of the cause can clearly be traced back much further.
  • The film tries to claim there evolutionary biology necessarily leads to eugenics. This is absurd. Evolution is simply a theory that describes the natural phenomenon of natural selection. If it is bastardized to support eugenics, then that is a reflection of those doing the bastardizing, not of the theory itself. Now even if one could say that evolutionary biology leads to eugenics, the step of going from eugenics to genocide is equally as absurd.

Stein’s blaming of the holocaust on the evolutionary biology is tantamount to blaming 9/11 on the Wright brothers.

To conclude: Fuck you Ben Stein. Stop trying to vindicate your stupid religious beliefs by promoting your intellectually dishonest propaganda by playing the sympathy card. It won’t work. Because you’re wrong about everything and intelligent people will see right through you.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7389874.stm

“A religious court in Malaysia has allowed a Muslim convert to leave the Islamic faith, in what is being hailed as a landmark ruling

This story is absolutely sickening because of the fact this ruling was even required, let alone that it’s called a landmark ruling. Nevertheless, congratulations Malaysia on coming closer to moving out of the Dark Ages.

So why do most religious arguments fail? Well most are either factually wrong (or outright lies) or else they are full of logical fallacies (usually both). Today I shall go through the most frequently used logical fallacies and show examples of them in a common religious argument. Mainly, I will summarize this video, adding in a few examples of my own. (Also thanks to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe)

Ad Hominem:

This is attacking the arguer, rather than his arguments. Christopher Hitches is an alcoholic, so his criticism of religion is invalid. Christians, in response to an argument, often quote Psalm 14:1; The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Huh? So what if I’m a fool, that does not address my argument!

Ad Ignorantiam:

This is saying that X is true, because we don’t know that X isn’t true. Scientists don’t know what caused the Big Bang (or how life could have arisen naturally on Earth) therefore goddidit.

Ad Populum:

This is saying that X is true, or has more credence, because many people agree with it. 90% of the world is religious… they can’t all be wrong, can they?

Argument From Authority:

Stating that X is true because a person or group of perceived authority say it is. Now don’t get confused… it is certainly reasonable to give more credence to those with appropriate credentials, but the truth of a claim should ultimately rest on evidence. C.S. Lewis was a Christian, therefore Christianity is true. The Bible says X is true, therefore X is true.

Confusing Association With Causation:

This is saying X is associated with Y, therefore X causes Y. Crime and atheism are both on the rise, therefore atheism causes crime.

False Dichotomy:

Saying that X is either X1 or X2 when really X is either X1 or X2 or …. Xn. In other words, saying that something has to be either this or that, when there are a number of other things it could be. Either creationism is true, or evolution is true.

Argument From Final Consequences:

A reversal of cause and effect; saying that something must be true because of the effect it causes. God must exist or else life would have no meaning.

Special Pleading (or Ad-hoc Reasoning):

Arbitrarily adding elements into your argument so that it appears valid. Dinosaurs lived with humans, but were wiped out in the global flood.

Tautology:

An argument that uses circular reasoning.

Personal Incredulity:

A creationist favorite. I don’t understand X, therefore X is false. I don’t understand how life could have arisen through chance, therefore goddidit.

False Reductio Ad Absurdium:

Now don’t get confused here. Formally “X implies Y and Y is false therefore X” is false is completely valid. The fallacy is usually made in “implies” part. You have not seen God, and are skeptical of His existence because of this. You also have not seen Julius Caesar, therefore you should be skeptical of his existence.

Moving The Goalposts:

Arbitrarily moving the criteria for proof out of range of what evidence can currently provide. Creationists tend to do this when they ask for an example of ‘macro evolution’. Since their whole ‘kinds’ premise is not well-defined, given any example they will say that’s just another ‘kind’, not macro evolution.

Slippery Slope:

Arguing that a position cannot be accepted because if it is accepted, so too must be the extreme of the position. We cannot allow gay marriage because it leads to polygamy and inter-species marriage!

Shifting The Burden Of Proof:

Leaving it to your opponent’s to disprove your case, instead of proving it yourself. You can’t prove God doesn’t exist!

Inconsistency:

Applying certain criteria to one belief, but not to another. An example is a Christian denouncing the Koran because of its violent content, while ignoring the violent content of the bible. Another example is how theists claim that God is needed to create intelligence, but that God doesn’t need a creator himself.

Tu Quoque:

An attempt to justify something wrong, because others do it too. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist!

Straw Man:

Mis characterizing a position so that it is easier to argue against. Evolution says we come from rocks! I’ve never seen a monkey turn into a human!

Non-Sequitor:

A logical connection is implied where non-exists. I can’t think of any common examples, and any example would probably be misrepresenting the common theist position. Nevertheless, you should notice when a non-sequitor comes up.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc:

A preceded B, therefore A caused B. I prayed to Jesus and took my medicine and I got better. Jesus cured me!

Appeal to Emotion/Pity/Consequences

Instead of addressing the argument, an appeal is made. I can’t imagine living my life without God watching my every move… that would be horrible! You don’t believe in God? I pity you! If I don’t believe in God, I’ll go to hell. That would be bad, therefore God exists.

Equivocation

Using the improper definition of terms. Evolution is just a theory.

To conclude, using a logical fallacy means your argument is wrong. Theists do it all the time! Learn to recognize it when they do!