The Contradiction of Expelled

Larry Arnhart states it well:

The folks at the Discovery Institute have made a big mistake in their production of this movie. The political rhetoric of the Discovery Institute's “wedge strategy” depends upon hiding a fundamental contradiction. But this movie makes the contradiction so evident that any viewer can see it. On the one hand, the rhetorical strategy of the Discovery Institute is to say that “intelligent design” is not a creationist religious belief but pure science, and therefore teaching “intelligent design” in public high school biology classes does not violate the First Amendment's prohibition on establishing religion. On the other hand, the popular success of the Discovery Institute's rhetoric depends on appealing to Biblical creationists who assume that “intelligent designer” is just another name for God the Biblical Creator.
This contradiction–both affirming and denying that “intelligent design theory” is the same as Biblical creationism–became evident in the 2005 case in Dover, Pennsylvania. Leaders of the Dover Area Public School board wanted to teach Biblical creationism. They were warned that this would violate U.S. Supreme Court decisions declaring that teaching creationism as science violated the First Amendment separation of church and state. They then decided to teach “intelligent design theory” as a disguised form of Biblical creationism. The trial made clear their deception, and this also exposed the contradiction in the Discovery Institute's rhetoric.
Rather than covering up this contradiction, this movie makes it hard for any viewer to ignore the contradiction. When Bruce Chapman–President of the Discovery Institute–is interviewed by Stein, Chapman says that journalists distort the true position of intelligent design by saying that it's a creationist religious belief, because the “intelligent designer” is clearly God. Chapman vehemently denies this. But then for the rest of the movie, it's asserted that anyone who denies “intelligent design” is therefore an atheist who denies the existence of God!

Read the whole thing. You can hear me ranting about intelligent design in this now-vintage America's Future Foundation roundtable.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center