24 April 2008


I saw the film Expelled on Sunday (Apr. 20) afternoon. When I walked into the theater, only one other person was in the audience. She left partway through the film. Another man arrived more than halfway through, but I was the only person in the theater for the whole movie.

The film is thoroughly critiqued elsewhere, so I will only make two observations.

First, the film does not address the most important scientific question regarding Intelligent Design: If ID is a scientific hypothesis, what testable predictions does it make?

Second, as part of a cliche attempt to connect biological evolution to the Holocaust, Ben Stein quotes a passage from Darwin's Descent of Man (1871).

With savages, the weak in body and mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of everyone to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (Part I, Ch.5).
As I have written before, this views that Darwin expressed in this passage do not affect the true history of life on Earth or the rigorous testing and verification that evolutionary biology has undergone in the past 150 years. This entire section of the film is irrelevant to any discussion of the veracity of evolution.

However, I think we should be fair to Darwin and continue reading the passage.
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reasons, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.
Darwin watched his daughter Annie die in childhood, possibly of tuberculosis. That should influence our reading of Darwin's medical examples in this passage.

As we can read, Darwin did not support the practice of eugenics. Even if we take the first section of this passage out of context to support eugenics, we encounter a problem. Who determines which members of society are "weak" or "worst?" Any number of measures could be suggested, but how the do we decide which one to use? Answering these questions takes us beyond the realm of science and, as history teaches us, into a "great present evil."

21 April 2008

The next time you feel like GOD can't use you...

I make a personal policy of not passing on chain e-mail, but I occasionally post a good one on my blog. I like this list primarily because it is true. I only have two comments. First, regarding Samson, long hair does not make me think God can't use me. Second, the last line makes the theological claim that in the Old Testament, God interacting with people is equivalent to Jesus interacting with them.

The next time

You feel like GOD can't use you, just remember,

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Rahab was a harlot
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer, and
Lazarus was dead
And don't you forget,
Jesus Helped All Of Them!

10 April 2008