Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ben Stein and Creationism

Although I am not one who generally throws a party each and every time I hear Hollywood stars taking a stand on Christian principles and ideas, I was happy when I watched the trailer to Ben Stein's new movie, "Expelled: No Tollerance Allowed." In this movie Stein deals with the creation-evolution debate as a committed creationist. I am not sure what the rest of the movie is going to be like, but the trailer looks promising. You can access the trailer by clicking here. This could be a good evangelistic opportunity for Christians--we need to begin brainstorming now how it can be used for the advancement of the Gospel when in it comes out this May.

I have just a thought or two about creationism before I end this post:

(1) No matter what anyone tells you, the creation-evolution debate does not center on science, it centers on philosophy (or, if you want to be picky--for Christians it centers on revelation). Any scientist, no matter his credentials, who tells you that this is a scientific debate has no clue what science is. The fact is that science, first and foremost, is based upon experimentation. Guess what? It is impossible to do tests (run experiments) on something which cannot be repeated. The beginning of life as we know it cannot be repeated, and thus it cannot be tested. Not only that, but all scientific experimentation and observation is guided and shaped by the philosophical pre-conceived ideas possessed by the scientist.

(2) In evangelism it is best to not get too caught up in the creation-evolution debate. Many people who believe that we were created by a loving God will go to hell. Evangelism ought to center on the cross as a person's only hope for salvation. This does not mean, however, that Christians should never engage in such debate. Rather, just be careful that it does not distract from what is most important.

(3) Although Ben Stein's movie looks promising, we must all remember that believing in creationism does not make one a Christian. Be careful as you watch this movie--it may be full of false doctrine. Who cares if Ben Stein believes that the world was created by a loving God if he does not believe that Jesus is that loving God. I am not sure if Ben Stein is a Christian, however just because he seems to have this one thing right does not mean that his movie should not be watched with discernment.

(4) By far, the best book I have read on the creation-evolution debate is "Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds" by Phillip Johnson. I sincerely suggest everyone reading this blog to buy and read this book. If you want to buy it, click here. The book is short, easy to read, and it gets at the heart of the issues in the debate. The nice thing about this book is that Johnson doesn't get into a whole bunch of detailed scientific arguments.


Anonymous said...

This films’ main thesis, that anyone in the science community who believes in God, or is a Darwin dissenter is being “expelled” is false at its core.

In a New York Times interview, Walter Ruloff (producer of Expelled) said that researchers, who had studied cellular mechanisms, made findings suggestive of an intelligent designer. “But they are afraid to report them”.
Mr. Ruloff also cited Dr. Francis S. Collins, a geneticist who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute and whose book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”, explains how he came to embrace his Christian faith. Mr. Ruloff said that Dr. Collins separates his religious beliefs from his scientific work only because “he is toeing the party line”.

That’s “just ludicrous,”
Dr. Collins said in a telephone interview. While many of his scientific colleagues are not religious and some are “a bit puzzled” by his faith, he said, “they are generally very respectful.” He said that if the problem Mr. Ruloff describes existed, he is certain he would know about it.

Similarly, Dr. Ken Miller is a professed Christian who wrote “Finding Darwin’s God” (which I suggest you read). Dr. Miller has not been “expelled” in any fashion for his belief in God.

The movie tries to make the case that “Big Science” is nothing but a huge atheist conspiracy out to silence believers, but only presents a very one-sided look at some Discovery Institute “martyrs”.

Carolyn Crocker “expelled”? - No.
Her annual teaching contract was not renewed. Was she “fired” for daring to bring God into research? - No. She was hired to teach Biology, and she decided to ignore the schools’ curriculum and substitute her own curriculum.

Guillermo Gonzalez “expelled”? - No.
He was not granted tenure. The film doesn’t bring up the fact that in all his years at ISU he had only brought in only a miniscule amount of grant money. Nor does it bring up the fact that in all his years at ISU he failed to mentor a single student through to their PhD. Nor does it mention that in his career at ISU, his previous excellent record of publication had dropped precipitously.

Richard von Sternberg “expelled”? - No.
Sternberg continued to work for NIH in the same capacity. Of course the movie doesn’t bring up his underhanded tactics in getting Meyers work published.

This movie attempts to influence it’s viewers with dishonesty, half-truths, and by a completely one-sided presentation of the facts.

If a scientists’ research is not accepted by the scientific community, it isn’t because the scientist either believes or doesn’t believe in God, it is usually because they are producing bad science.

By the way, Ben Stein is not a Christian, he is Jewish.

Jimmy Snowden said...

Mr. anonymous,

Of course the movie doesn't cover every single situation covered under the sun--the movie would have to be a couple days long to do so. It appears to me that the purpose of the movie is to show that creationism is being less and less tolerated in the scientific community. This is something which cannot be denied. Surely, there are many creationists who enjoy favor in their respective schools, but this is not the point. The point is that creationism is more and more being strong handedly discarded without the truth of it being considered.


Tom 1st said...

I think we should be clear that there's a difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design. You cited Phillip Johnson below - who is an ID person, not a Creationist.

The Creationists are the 6-literal day folks. ID is less concerned with biblical literalism.

For me, the issue is, like you said, one of philosophical assumptions - I don't assume a 'closed system' world where the supernatural is not present or possible. Evolutionary science often does.

That said, I think the issue also needs to be pressed on the biblical level. I'm not at all convinced by the 6-Day creationist perspective. I think it's an overly literal hermeneutic which squelches the originally intended meaning of Genesis 1-2 (really, 1-11).

Finally, I agree that our foundation is the cross, not creation. But lets not too easily forget to include the resurrection in this. The cross could have happened and done nothing if there had been no resurrection. Jimmy, I know you don't disregard the resurrection, I just noticed that it wasn't included in your 2nd point - and as it is so close to Easter, this is an issue I've been thinking a lot about - why does our evangelism focus so much on the cross that we just throw in the resurrection as a side note?

Cheers, brother,

Jimmy Snowden said...


Creationism can be used many different ways. One of the major ways it is used is to distinguish evolution from intelligent design. Read any good dictionary--there are about a zillion definitions for the word (just as for any other word for that matter),and the way it is used here is acceptable.

In regard to the resurrection: Good point. I think that the resurrection is often times downplayed in the Gospel as well. However, it is completely standard to use shorthand in both speaking and writing. The cross, generally used, does not always just refer to a pair of wooden sticks tied together, but to everything associated with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And for this I am thankful! It saves lots of explanation and words. The connotation most people put on the word "cross" is the whole gamut. Maybe we should scratch the short hand and start over. Nonetheless, as long as people accept it as understandable shorthand I will continue to use it--it simply saves so much time.


Jimmy Snowden said...

p.s. the reason why I am cool with not doing the distinction between intelligent design and creationism is because most people don't use your categories. People deal on dictionary level. Whether good or bad--don't know, don't care. I communicate what they can follow. It ain't hurtin no body! Just kidding. Distinctions are good. maybe I should stop slouchin' and start distinguishin'. ok, i better stop.

Tom 1st said...

Hey Jimmy, I hope I didn't come off as snide on my post - I didn't intend to be. It's so hard to convey tone of voice in writing.

I agree with you about the cross as a symbol for the gospel message as a whole - it was just a thought I had.

As for distinctions - I think they're important. I hate being confused with a 6-Day creationist and a lot of 6-Dayers don't want to be confused with ID. It's a distinction important to both sides.

Furthermore, I think the distinction is important in the larger cultural debate - most people don't want 6-day creation taught in schools, but they confuse it with ID. The IDers just want to pose the possibility of a god having created the world. This is far from the literalist theology of Christian Creationism.

All that to say - I think, when we don't make the distinction clear enough, we confuse not only ourselves, but our hearers. Popular level readers/hearers all to often don't make the distinctions b/c WE confuse them and make things too simplistic for them. They need to understand the difference. It's our job to teach it to them.

Jimmy Snowden said...

Thanks for the clarification. I agree that we should help them get the distinction. Point well taken. I like distinctions. They are helpful. i am just not so sure that it is possible to force such a specified meaning on the word and make it only mean "literal 6 day, non-Intelligent design." I have seen it used as a broad category too much to feel pressure in using it in such a specific way.

Surely, distinguishing the terms would be helpful in a specified discussion, but creationism, by the larger population, is used in general to refer those who hold to some form or another of intelligent design. A great number of terms can be used any number of different ways--even in ways related to each other.

By the way, I am not sure what I think about the literal 6 days stuff in Gen 1, but I do get frustrated when Christians get all belligerent against those who with whom they disagree on the subject.

Good discussion.