Perloff: Another who doesn’t seem to have a clue

Posted: May 11, 2008 in Atheism, Evolution, News, Religion, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

The intellectual dishonesty of many (if not most) Intelligent Design Proponents seems to be massive indeed.  Thanks to this blog entry, it seems I have come across yet another one; James Perloff.  So who is James Perloff? Good question since I’ve never run into his writings before.  It seems that he is most famous for writing Tornado In a Junkyard: The Relentless Myth of Darwinism, the title of which should set alarm bells off in anyone’s head.  But if his book is anything like the following article, I do not think any scientist has much to worry about.

For the sake of space and such, I’ll be going through the following article by James Perloff piece by piece to show how utterly silly it is.  I may remove any text that is simply a waste of time, but the original article can be found here.

Traditionally minded Americans don’t often cheer Hollywood products. We gladly report an exception: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (rated PG).

By ‘traditionally minded’, I’ll assume Perloff means ‘right wing’ in this particular case.  Anyhow, so if you don’t agree with a movies point of view then you can’t cheer or applaud it?  I find that interesting.  I do not like the movie Titanic (I found the plot advancement dull, acting subpar and characters about as likable as a kick to the family jewels) but I can still cheer for it based on the artistic merits of the movie.  The special effects were remarkable for when it was made while the filmography was excellent.

As many NEW AMERICAN readers know, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution transformed Western culture.

I would not go that far by any means.  The Industrial Revolution transformed Western Culture while the work of biologists (such as Darwin and many, many others) has merely transformed our understanding of how living organisms work, adapt and so on.  Providing, of course, a massive boost to the fields of medicine and even engineering … but all of Western culture? No, that is far too big a claim to say without backing it up.

The Bible taught that life forms are creations of God, with man the centerpiece, made in God’s image. Darwin introduced a new doctrine: random interactions of chemicals had created life,

I do not recall Darwin ever introducing anything that can be honestly labelled ‘doctrine’, all his did was bring forth a scientific theory which he backed up with evidence.  He also did not theorise that life had started in such a way and the Theory of Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of first life on Earth (that’s called the Theory of Abiogenesis).  Perloff seems to be already demonstrated a fundamental ignorance of the Theory of Evolution.

and man was just an animal, evolved from lower life forms through survival of the fittest. Sold to the public as scientific fact, “Social Darwinism,” with its view of man as beast, helped spawn unprecedented cruelties under communism and Naziism.

Play spot the mistake in that paragraph.  Let’s see if you list matches mine.  Survival of the fittest?  That is but one component in the Theory of Evolution and certainly not represented correctly in the above claim;  the main mechanism could be much better described as ‘evironmental adaptation’ be that in regards to habitat or predators.

Then we get onto the always silly ‘Social Darwinism’ and Hitler arguments.  Social Darwinism (and eugenics) existed long before Charles Darwin was even born.  The Spartans (and a few other ancient civilisations), for example, actively practiced keep the weak and deformed (the ‘inferior’) from their society/gene pool.  Zooming back to more modern times, one of the biggest proponents of the concept was a man called Thomas Malthus.  So I guess the Theory of Evolution had nothing to do with either Communism or Naziism afterall.

Now, however, science has evolution on the retreat. For example:
A single cell, which Darwin thought “simple,” is encoded with information that would fill thousands of books, and is far too complex to have formed by chance.

Says who, exactly? This is a rather silly argument which is not backed up by any sort of research or evidence.  It is also one which has also been refuted plenty of times before and really is nothing more than an argument from incredulity.

In his book Darwin’s Black Box, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe demonstrates that certain biochemical systems, such as blood clotting and the immune system, are “irreducibly complex” — that is, they consist of interdependent parts that cannot function in lesser stages, and thus cannot have evolved step-by-step.

Behe was rather badly discredited at the Dover trial, where he was shown to be rather ignorant of the very fields he claims expertise in.  At said trial, when Behe claimed that the Theory of Evolution could not explain blood clotting and the immune system … well, at that moment dozens of research papers, research findings and similar publications were produced which conclusively proved him wrong.  Not one case of Irreducible Complexity has ever been verified or stood up the even the slightest bit of critical analysis.

In Not by Chance, Dr. Lee Spetner, who taught information theory at Johns Hopkins University, documents that random mutations — evolution’s alleged building blocks — cause losses of genetic information, not gains.

Spetner was proven wrong when his book was published and he still has not been able to change that verdict.  It is also a very silly argument to make and one which is certainly not backed up by any sort of scientific research, it is certainly one which has long since been refuted.

In Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, molecular biologist Michael Denton shows that, on a cellular level, there is no evidence for the proclaimed evolutionary sequence “fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal.”

Denton is usually regarded as something of a joke when it comes to his attacks on evolution, with his ideas often relying on comparing completely unrelated concepts; such as word games and genetic information.  A full critique (which really does show Denton as not having a clue) can be found here.

Of course, such evidence does exist.  As a very quick example; the way humans hiccup? A holdover from our genetic past.

As the new data has emerged, evolutionists have fought to prevent classrooms from openly discussing the weaknesses in Darwin’s theory.

Is the Theory of Evolution without proper controversy? No.  There is not one scientist worth his salt who would say otherwise.  However, it is far from the raging battle about fundamentals that some would have you believe.  So what is being debated within the Theory of Evolution? A pretty good rundown of the all the points can be found here.  As you can see, the main mechanisms are all pretty much accepted as scientific fact (as much as anything can be) and it is only the details that scientists quibble about at all.

Freedom of speech has been suppressed in academia, and educators persecuted for daring to address intelligent design (ID). It was this trend that prompted the documentary Expelled.

There is no freedom of speech within academia, despite the attempts to confuse the two concepts by Intelligent Design proponents.  Instead, people are expected to meet academic standards before they’re allowed to go off and waste limited research time, space and money.  It has always been this way and always should be, otherwise you get whackos trying to do research into geocentric theories which is just plain silly.   The guidelines aren’t even strict by any measure and can be boiled down to ‘if you want to research science, you have to have science to research and do that research following the scientific method’.

Also not one case of discrimination against ID proponents has stood up to any sort of scrutiny.

According to the film’s website, the project “began with an observation made by [co-producer Walt] Ruloff, a successful computer software entrepreneur who comes from a high-tech world in which innovation is constant and eagerly sought. In stark contrast, he noticed, the scientific and academic communities were deeply resistant to innovation, in this case innovation that might revise Darwin’s theory that random mutation and natural selection drive all variation in life forms.”

Of course, the film has since been found to be horribly short of such silly things as evidence or intellectual honesty.  A good thing that one man’s opinion, in this case Ruloff’s, does not count as evidence of any sort.

The film’s host and narrator is Ben Stein, economist, law professor, speech writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and author of over 20 books, but probably best known as a comedy actor, with his trademark monotone voice. He is also a pro-life creationist, making him a maverick in Hollywood.

Ah, good old Ben Stein … certainly an authority on what is and is not science.  This is the same man who is somehow bewildered that the Theory of Evolution fails to explain how the orbit of planets works and that science leads directly to murder.  Yes, you read both of those claims correctly.

“Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are,” says Stein. “Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-science, it’s anti-American.” The film underscores America’s tradition of personal freedom with visits to landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument, and contrasts these with images of the Berlin Wall, symbol of tyranny. That wall is gone, but another, we learn, has been erected in American universities.

All of these have been addressed above.  Simply put, Expelled (and Stein by extension) fail to back up their claims with any sort of credible evidence.

Stein interviews double Ph.D. biologist Richard Sternberg (snip)

Evidence not only shows that he was not fired from the Smithsonian or lost any privleges there but also that to print that article, he broke quite a few editorial guidelines at the journal in question.  He was not even removed from the Journal, instead he had retired some time before.

Among others, Stein also visits:

astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez, who, despite publishing over 60 articles in peer-reviewed science journals and being credited with helping discover new planets, was refused tenure at Iowa State University after he advocated teaching intelligent design;

Again, evidence shows that Gonzalez was denied tenure because his academic record (including publication levels, grant money attracted, etc) were so dismally poor compared with expected academic levels.  In short, he was denied tenure because he was incompetent when compared to expectations.  Yes, the same expectations that are placed on every single other member of the faculty.

molecular biologist Caroline Crocker, compelled to leave George Mason University after including several slides about intelligent design in one of her lectures;

Examples of Crocker’s Work made their way onto the Internet where is soon became readily apparent why Crocker’s contract was not renewed.  That combined with complaints from students and deviation from the course she was hired to teach … well, I think everyone could agree that anyone would have been fired with that sort of performance.  Again, the evidence does not lie.

NASA-honored engineering professor Robert J. Marks II, forced by Baylor to remove an ID-friendly website from the university’s servers.

The University was concerned that the website contents could be linked to the University and thus gain credibility from association or that the contents were sponsored by the education institution.  This is standard practice for a lot of Universities, including all the ones I have encountered in my native country.    The University even tried to negotiate with Marks, offering to keep hosting the site as long as Marks placed up a disclaimer that said there was no official link between the website contents and the University.  It seems Marks could not live with that and chucked what could be coined as a hissy fit.  The fully story can be found here.

But Stein doesn’t just meet intelligent design’s defenders, he also takes on some of its most adamant critics, including Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education; Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society; Cornell professor William Provine; and atheist blogger P.Z. Myers. Ultimately he travels to England to confront Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and probably the most vocal critic of ID and creation.

Yes and most of us are aware of the intellectual dishonesty which was necessary to get approval for those interviews, aren’t we?

Logically questioned by Stein, Dawkins admits that life could have come from “a higher intelligence” that “seeded” it on this planet — i.e., he could accept aliens as our creator, but not God. But this begs for an answer to the question: how did life get started on the aliens’ planet?

Which, of course, is false.  What Dawkins was actually asked was that if Intelligent Design was true then which would be more likely; God/Supernatural Creator or Aliens.  Of course, Dawkins said aliens which is what logic and rational thought demands.

Creation-evolution is a vital issue. It is far more than a science discussion. Most Americans believe, as Thomas Jefferson said, that “men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” If, as Darwinism says, there was no Creator, then there is no basis for rights, no moral absolutes, nor any God to whom we are accountable for our actions.

Appeal to mass belief, whcih is silly and not worth a dime in regards to this argument.  Then it goes on to try to argue that all morality comes from a creator being of some kind, which is silly and disregards all the wonderful research done in fields such as psychology and social sciences.

I am going to snip a section of the article because it is simply rehashing to rather idiotic Theory of Evolution = Social Darwinism = Hitler silliness which has already been dealt with above.

Expelled strikes a blow for free speech, and is drawing much-needed attention to the creation-evolution battle.

A blow for free speech?  People are free to say what ever they like but they are still expected to meet the same academic standards as everyone else.  No one gets a free ride and everyone is expected to pull their own weight of intellectual honest when it comes to academia.

Expelled has done one thing which is beyond doubt, however.  It has served wonderfully to showcase the ignorance and intellectual dishonesty that Intelligent Design depends on.

It has been effectively marketed by Motive Entertainment, which also took on The Passion of The Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia. Motive’s appealing website for the film, http://www.expelledthemovie.com, along with grass-roots promotion from advocates of creation and intelligent design, has spurred a groundswell of demand.

A groundswell of demand? I guess that is why the film has pulled in rather disapointing ticket sales (despite giving away tickets en masse) and is being dropped by theatres faster than a nuclear heated potato?

Atheists have been bitterly denouncing the film. Atheist P.Z. Myers declared: “It’s going to appeal strongly to the religious, the paranoid, the conspiracy theorists, and the ignorant — which means they’re going to draw in about 90% of the American market.” Such attacks have unintentionally served as further promotion. On April 18, Expelled opened in 1,052 theaters, breaking the record for documentaries (Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 opened in 868).

It is actually quite easy to get documentaries/movies and other works of films to be shown in theatres, especially at this time of year.  The big trick, of course, is to keep those showings going through sustainable ticket sales.   In this regard, as shown, Expelled has failed rather badly.

Expelled is not your grandfather’s documentary. A fast pace, rocking soundtrack, and Stein’s deadpan humor all defy that word’s connotations. The interviews never drag — they are interspersed with clips from old films to underscore points being made.

Yes, that practice has been noted as being the mark of an amateur film maker.  What is it called again? Oh yes, Lord Privy Seal.  Of course, all of these claims by Perloff are highly subjective and also do nothing towards to support the credibility of the film.

There are two superb animation sequences, one demonstrating the cell’s complexity, the other a satirical “casino of life” in which hundreds of slot machines must simultaneously hit jackpots in order for life to commence by chance. This movie will leave you entertained and informed (we know plenty these days that do neither).

Yes, those animation sequences.  One of which, it so appears, is a rather blatant rip off of a sequence made by XVIVO (on behalf of Harvard University) on which legal action seems to be pending.  Of course, having flashy lights and CGI is not a mark of any sort of credibility.  Keeping with the Hollywood theme, Independence Day was full of great special effects … but it was still a horrible movie.

Near the film’s end, shots of the Berlin Wall coming down remind us that the walls of academic censorship must fall also. Stein’s final words exhort audience members to get involved.

And Perloff or ID proponents have any evidence of this supposed censorship? Or is it, as previously stated, a case of academia simply having some standards which everyone has to follow?

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a model of communication that all can learn something from.

Yes, there are facets and things we can learn from Expelled.  How to present falsehoods, ignore evidence, distort testimonies, be intellectually dishonest and generally not understand even the fundamentals of the Theory of Evolution.   Of course, these are things no rational person would wish to learn or take on board.

I guess that indicates the sort of person James Perloff might be.

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Comments
    • As a student of conspiracy (yes, crimes committed by multiple parties do exist. But I do see why people tend to giggle and snicker at the thought. Huh?), I found Perloff’s lecture on the CFR and geopolitics in the 20th century to be unparalleled. Literally, of the 1,000+ hours of material his didn’t miss a beat.

      Now, I refer to your specific criticisms of a film I haven’t and won’t be seeing. Note that, I despise religion yet have recently discovered evolution to be ridiculous. Oops. I mean, silly. And to think, none of those you are criticizing are seeking to kill you or are examples of psychopathy.

      Article by James Perloff = “utterly silly”
      Michael Behe = “rather ignorant of the very fields he claims expertise in”
      Dr. Lee Spetner = “a very silly argument to make”
      Michael Denton = “something of a joke”, “not having a clue”
      Academic Freedomists = “whackos trying to do research into geocentric theories which is just plain silly”
      Walt Ruloff’s Evidence = “does not count as evidence of any sort”
      Ben Stein = “Ah, good old Ben Stein”
      Richard Sternberg = “broke quite a few editorial guidelines”
      Guillermo Gonzalez = “incompetent when compared to expectations”
      Caroline Crocker = “complaints from students and deviation from the course”
      Robert J. Marks II = “chucked what could be coined as a hissy fit”
      Aliens = “what logic and rational thought demands”
      Intelligent Design = “ignorance and intellectual dishonesty”
      Expelled = “failed rather badly, falsehoods, ignore evidence, distort testimonies”

      The value of each idea is within the idea itself and not those who present it, so maybe Perloff gets some things right?

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