Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed -- AAAS Response
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed -- AAAS Response is a short video produced in 2008 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as a response to the documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, although it was based on a longer movie made in 2006.
Being based on an earlier movie, the video does not directly address Expelled, but instead concentrates on Intelligent Design.
The movie is self-contradictory, misrepresents Intelligent Design, and factually incorrect in places.
The movie was accompanied by a statement decrying Expelled, which statement is not covered here—this article addresses just the video. The movie consists almost entirely of various people offering comments. It has no interviewer, no narrator, and little in the way of graphics beyond text introducing each section and describing the people featured. It offers no figures, no quotes from ID proponents, and no evidence in support of its claims.
The people featured in the video are (in order of appearance):
- Dr. Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the AAAS and the Executive Publisher of Science, the AAAS journal.
- Dr. Frances S. Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and (in 2007) founder of Biologos, a theistic evolution group.
- Jennifer Miller, Biology, anatomy, and physiology teacher of a high school in the Dover area of Pennsylvania.
- Robert Eshbach, science teacher of a high school in the Dover area of Pennsylvania.
- Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman, Director of Project 2061, AAAS.
Unindented quotes in blue are transcripts of statements made in the film.
"Are science and religion in opposition?"
Most mainstream religions—Judaism, much of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, don't have problems with concepts of evolution.
Right from the start, the video presents this as a question of "religion" vs. "science/evolution", which latter two are treated as synonymous. In fact, it is only ardent atheists who see any conflict between science and religion. Creationists and ID proponents don't. Rather, they see a conflict between a particular "scientific" view (evolution) and the evidence.
Evolution and faith are entirely compatible, in my perspective. I know of no real discordance between their perspectives. They look at different questions.
One has to wonder what "faith" Collins is talking about here. Collins does not claim to simply have "faith" in a supernatural being, but claims to be an evangelical Christian. Yet Collins rejects, on the basis of the science, the historicity of Adam and Eve as taught by Christianity. That is, Collins believes that a biblical claim can be addressed by science.
...different domains of the world. Science only has to do with the natural world. Religion of course has to do with a belief in the origins of everything that we have and the questions of the deep meaning of life.
But if evolution is supposed to explain the origin of the variety of living things, and religion explains the origins of everything, how can they be addressing different domains; how are they looking at different questions?
...but they are actually quite complementary, and for me as a believer, I find both of them incredibly important and powerful in my daily life. Surveys would tell you that forty percent of scientists today believe in a God who answers prayer. But it would probably be a good thing if scientists like myself who are believers, would explain, why from our perspective, we find no difficulty putting these two views together. And also why Intelligent Design was not the way to do it. It will make faith look foolish, and that will be a terrible tragedy.
Which two views? Science and religion? As mentioned, only ardent atheists—not the focus of this video—see a difficulty. Or Evolution and Christianity? If that is the case, he hasn't explained it, despite saying that he should.
Collins does not explain how it makes faith look foolish to argue that there is scientific evidence compatible with religion. Rather, scientific evidence that contradicts religious views—such as the existence of Adam and Eve—is what makes faith in such things look foolish. As outspoken atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins says:
Oh, but of course, the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic? So, in order to impress himself, Jesus had himself tortured and executed, in vicarious punishment for a symbolic sin committed by a non-existent individual? As I said, barking mad, as well as viciously unpleasant.
I'm the daughter of a minister
I grew up in a faith-based household. I have no trouble combining my science with my religion.
I go to church every Sunday. I'm a Sunday School teacher.
I believe in God.
I'm a Christian.
I believe that God created the world, but I think he did it through evolution. There's no... you know... He's not any less powerful to me that it happened naturally. I'm a scientist and I look for those natural causes.
These comments serve only to give the impression that one can accept both evolution and the claims of Christianity, but fail to explain the obvious contradictions, and in any case are irrelevant to the issue of whether or not Intelligent Design is a valid form of scientific enquiry.
I believe that science is the way to understand the natural world, and that faith is the way to understand questions that science can't answer, like why are we all here?, and why does it matter?, and is there a God?, and does He care about me?
What Collins ignores is that many other scientists disagree that science can't answer those questions.
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.
One of the great tragedies of the Intelligent Design furore is the impression that many people are receiving that you've got to be in one camp or the other, that if you accept evolution as the way in which living things are related to each other, you are therefore saying there is no God. That is a terribly unfortunate and unnecessary position to put people in—especially young people.
What Collins fails to note is that it is the critics of Intelligent Design that are giving this false impression. The leading Intelligent Design think-tank has this to say on this point:
It depends on what one means by the word "evolution." If one simply means "change over time," or even that living things are related by common ancestry, then there is no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. However, the dominant theory of evolution today is neo-Darwinism, which contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, an unpredictable and purposeless process that "has no discernable direction or goal, including survival of a species." (NABT Statement on Teaching Evolution).
Is Collins—the self-described evangelical Christian—arguing that evolution is a purposeless process? Miller claimed that God used evolution; by implication that evolution was the process He used to achieve his purpose. But Intelligent Design does not reject evolution, except insofar as it denies the existence of purpose. It is not the Intelligent Design proponents claiming "God or evolution"; it is the atheists. But this video is critiquing Intelligent Design, not atheism.
I've never had a problem with seeing how God's hand works in nature.
Is Eshbach here claiming that he can see scientific evidence supporting God's role in creation? Doesn't this contradict one of the most common criticism of Intelligent Design—that there is no evidence supporting it?
"What is Intelligent Design? Is it science?"
Well, almost by definition, Intelligent Design is not science.
Almost by definition? From the Discovery Institute again:
The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
There is nothing in that definition that even hints that it's unscientific. Many armchair critics will say that invoking an intelligence makes it unscientific, but forensic science, archaeology, and the SETI program all invoke intelligence without their scientific status being rejected.
It is not testable.
Yet Intelligent Design proponents have pointed out that it is possible to "… construct testable predictions about the type of informational properties we expect to find in nature if an intelligent agent were at work in designing a natural object".
It invokes supernatural explanations...
This is nothing more than a lie repeated ad nauseum by critics of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design invokes intelligence, not the supernatural. The lie has some superficial appearance of truth for two reasons. One is that most people will naturally presume that the intelligence is God. However, God is not the only option (an alien race is a theoretical possibility), and identifying the intelligence is not the same thing as concluding that an intelligence is supported by the evidence. The other is that many (but not all) of the supporters of Intelligent Design are Christians. However, many of the supporters of evolution are atheists, but most scientists won't reject evolution as unscientific on those grounds. The Discovery Institute says that "intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural". Critics might disagree, but in doing so they are effectively claiming that the Discovery Institute is lying. Is Roseman accusing it of lying, yet not providing any evidence in support of this accusation?
...and by definition this is not how science works.
This is a modern, atheistic, definition of science. Science was founded by creationists, and they did not define science as seeking only naturalistic explanations.
Intelligent Design is a very specific proposal, put forward about 15 years ago, originally by Phillip Johnson, in a book called Darwin on Trial. Intelligent Design proposes that certain structures are so irreducibly complex that evolution never could have produced them.
This is a half-truth that implies a God of the gaps. Intelligent Design proposes that scientists can find positive evidence of design in nature.
Evolution is such an incredibly-well-supported way of understanding everything in biology that it is not going to disappear; it is here to stay. Darwin was right.
This is a typical evolutionist tactic: assert the correctness of evolution as though that constitutes evidence in its favour. And Collins is incorrect about the place of evolution in biology. Biology existed before Darwin, and owes little to evolution. Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". But Evolutionist Massimo Pigliucci disagrees:
Dobzhansky['s]... statement is patently wrong, as an even cursory examination of the history of biology makes clear. For instance, developmental biologists had done a lot of highly fruitful research throughout the 19th and 20th centuries even as they ignored Darwin. And molecular biologists made spectacular progress from the 1950’s though the onset of the 21st century, again pretty much completing (sic) ignoring evolution.
Intelligent Design, on the other hand, proposes that the evolution theory has shortcomings, that there are gaps in it.
Is Collins suggesting that we know everything there is to know about evolution? That there are no gaps in our knowledge of it? In any case, that is not the main argument of Intelligent Design, as has been shown above.
And to attribute those gaps to tearing down that theory of evolution and from there they will attribute them—what couldn't be explained by evolution as 'God must have created it'.
As already shown, Intelligent Design is not trying to tear down evolution. It merely disagrees with the part of the hypothesis that says that it is purposeless; that there is no design to it. Is the Christian Eshbach who claims "seeing how God's hand works in nature" now claiming that it is purposeless?
Agnosticism, atheism, creationism, Intelligent Design, theistic evolutionism—all of those ought to be worthy of discussion, and I think a young person's interested in those things, and ought to have a chance to hear about them, but not in science class.
Another unsubstantiated assertion.
"Can we move forward to improve science education?"
The content of this section bears no relationship to its title. Education is not discussed. Instead, the two straw-man claims that Intelligent Design is religious and is anti-science are given yet another airing.
I think it's a gimmick to pit science against religion, a way in which to diminish the credibility of science or to imply that religion has some kind of scientific content that it actually doesn't.
If it's a gimmick to pit science against religion, what is it to pretend that Intelligent Design is doing that? Dishonesty?
It's time to put the battles to rest, abandon the battlements. Let's get back together in the middle ground that people have almost forgotten is there and celebrate science and celebrate faith.
If it's time to stop fighting, why is the AAAS continuing this fight with falsehoods, straw-men arguments, and this self-contradictory video?
Although it's true that this video was based on a longer version made before the movie Expelled, it was nevertheless put together as a response to that film, but largely fails to address the movie, concentrating more on Intelligent Design itself.
Yet it spends much of its time defending evolution, not finding fault with Intelligent Design. Although Intelligent Design accepts evolution (but proposes a modified version in which purposeful intelligence is involved), much of the argument in this video is that Intelligent Design is wrong because evolution is right. It fails to offer more than the most minimal argument as to why Intelligent Design is not science, and even then does so by gross misrepresentation of Intelligent Design.
In the movie Expelled, Richard Dawkins concedes that if there was an intelligent designer, we should be able to find evidence of that, thereby conceding that Intelligent Design is, in principle, a legitimate field of study. The people featured in this video do believe in an intelligent Designer, but nevertheless argue, without addressing Dawkins' logic, that Intelligent Design is somehow not science. By rejecting the possibility of Intelligent Design, they are essentially claiming that the world is naturalistic, which is the opposite of saying—as Miller explicitly claimed—that God is the creator.
- The AAAS video on YouTube.
- Flying Spaghetti Monster (includes a comparison table between evolution and Intelligent Design).
- Robert W. Carter, The Non-Mythical Adam and Eve!: Refuting errors by Francis Collins and BioLogos, 20 August, 2011.
- Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994.(Quoted on the Creation Ministries International web-site.)
- FAQ, IntelligentDesign.org
- Casey Luskin, Expelled Exposed" Exposed: Your One-Stop Rebuttal to Attacks on the DocumentaryExpelled
- Casey Luskin, ID Uses Scien. Method; Infers Design by Testing Positive Predictions, OpposingViews
- Massimo Pigliucci, Universal Darwinism and the alleged reduction of biology to chemistry, Rationally Speaking, 22 March, 2012.
- Responses to our 15 Questions: part 3, Creation Ministries International, 22 September 2011.