Mr. Movie

Mailbag: More on Intelligent Design vs. Creationism

Shaun from New York writes:

Gary, I liked your review of “Expelled…” From the heart.

Thanks for the invitation to respond. I respond.

I liked the movie a lot for being so drily humorous, so droll.

But I disliked it for being so intellectually vapid. There was little pursuit of the ideas on both sides. What are the implications of materialism for psychology? If God originated life, how far into the material realm does that miracle-working go? Is such questioning too much to expect? Would it have turned the audience off?

For me, apparently in a minority of one, the primary issue is not the origin of life, but of consciousness and free will. A survey of evolutionary scientists in American Scientist in July-August of 2007 found 1 in 7 of them saying we had no free will, almost 4 out of 5 of them believing in Physicalism, which says consciousness cannot act on the physical world--essentially the same thing as denying free will. Consciousness can’t start a war, for example. Whatever started it could only have been a pre-determined event in brain chemistry. This should pit humanists against scientific materialists, but it doesn’t, I don’t know why.

I am an unhappy man. In February, I self-published “Save Our Selves from Science Gone Wrong: Physicalism and Natural Selection.” Despite sending out a hundred complimentary copies and issuing a costly press release, expenditures amounting to around $1500, I have sold less than 10 copies. I don’t claim my book deserves attention, but what astonishes me is that scientific materialism eroding our sense of having free will excites zero interest. From my youth (in the UK) I’ve thought this a topic of universal concern. Instead I feel like a time capsule that no one cares to open.

If this of interest to you, you can learn more at There is nowhere else I can refer you to, no one else I can find publishing on this theme from a popular-science point of view—I’m a science writer. I am dazed. I feel I’ve landed in an alien world.

Cheers, Shaun Johnston

Mr. Movie writes:

Shaun, your comments are thought-provoking, and you ask good questions. Maybe some of our readers have some answers to them.

Your email proves Ben Stein's point. No one wants to look deeper at any hypothesis that doesn't fit their predetermined view of what they think things should be. I had a debate one time with a biologist from Tufts University who had just developed this whiz-bang evolution curriculum for schools K-12. He talked a lot about being open-minded, but when it came to answering legit questions, his brain turned to mush. No answers came forth to some very basic, and interesting questions such as how does a blind fish swimming in the sea know it needs to see? And even if it does know it needs to see, it can't develop a visual system. The DNA has to plan and execute the visual system.

Evolutionists get us to that visual system through a series of mutations. One small mutation after another through happy accident after happy accident and 10,000 years later you have a visual system. That may make sense for a single organism like that fish in the sea. But consider how organized life is and how complex and how integrated and how much we all have in common and the happy accident theory begins to weaken. Evolutionists don't seem to want to address that problem. How do the 20 some proteins that make up DNA come together and link in such a specific way that they create life. And just because you have a DNA molecule that doesn't mean life will spring from it. How does that happen?

And on the questions go about how we all got here. Legitimate questions.

This is Ben Stein's problem. These are legitimate questions. And there are legitimate theories to explain them. They don't agree with evolutionists in many cases, but the discussion is fascinating.

By the way, the Tufts guy didn't even offer one obvious answer that maybe a complete visual system just showed up. One fish is blind. Its babies have sight. An anti-evolution scientist I talked with once called it the hopeful monster theory.

So maybe that series of happy accidents actually happened and maybe they didn't. My news reporter training makes me intensely curious about such matters, but in the grand scheme of things I am not a biologist and I am not a scientist, and I really don't have a clue. I read and listen to others and make my decisions based on the facts presented to me. Like others interested in the topic, I have changed my mind a dozen times and will probably make a dozen more changes before all is said and done.

And really, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't affect me all that much one way or another.

What does concern me, as does concern Ben Stein, is the constant shouting down of other opinions by one part of society or another. The Polish scientist in the movie hit it right on the head and says everything that is really wrong with the United States. We are way too worried about being politically correct. Not being politically correct gets you yelled at. Not saying the politically correct things gets you ostracized.

It ought not to be this way. We should all feel free to express our opinions and to discuss differences and discuss ideas. There is the old saying that I have never learned anything from someone who agreed with me. I think that's what Ben Stein is trying to say with his movie. We all learn when differing opinions... and all differing opinions are put on the table. I have already learned much from the three or four people who have written me about this. I learned much from your email. I will learn much from others who will write agreeing and disagreeing with me. That's the beauty of this type of question. We all have the opportunity to learn from each other and to grow. And again, I think that's the point of Stein's movie. Thanks for writing.