Expelled, The Movie: "What They're Doing Is Essentially Shelving Their Findings" 

Come next winter the Intelligent Design debate is going to have a bomb ignited under it. The film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, featuring Ben Stein, is set for release in February. If the film comes anywhere near the level of the interview Rob Crowther did with producer Walt Ruloff, it's going to hit our culture hard. For all I've been involved in the issue, what Ruloff said about research being cut off still made me catch my breath. 

Crowther wanted to know what led Ruloff to do a film like this. Ruloff answered by speaking of his background in technology, where progress is made by asking questions, trying new things, being free to experiment.

"That's how we grew, and that's how everyone in the industry grows, by continually being able thinking outside the box, and to question everything always.... I was absolutely surprised to find that in this area, in research either theoretical or applied, the exact opposite is happening. You are not allowed to ask questions.

He goes on to speak how important freedom of thought is for knowledge to grow, then speaking of design-oriented thinking,

"[In] genomics and specifically in microbiology we found that the resounding standard for research and development was 'No, you can't do that.' And coming from a technology background, I was floored. I was absolutely floored.... We've got to expose this. If the design hypothesis is right or wrong, we've got to expose this."

Is Intelligent Design a science stopper? What about the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy? Ruloff definitely thinks it is, in two areas. First, he points out that over 85% of Americans reject the standard neo-Darwinist position.

"We have to be aware that our future great minds are coming from religious families, and so we cannot immediately ask them, as we are doing now, in all of our institutions, essentially to check their religious beliefs at the door if they're going to enter in.... so this is a real science-stopper."

Second, there is considerable fear among researchers to approach new ideas. Many of those interviewed for this film requested that their voices and faces be obscured so they could not be identified.

"We interviewed one of the leading genomic researchers in the country ..... Essentially what he told us on camera was 'hey, we're all big boys and girls in the [research funding] sandbox, and we know how to play the game.... We have to toe the party line and adhere to a Darwinist orthodoxy in order to get the funding.' But the really crazy thing what he said was that 'when we go into our research, what we find is that a percentage, a growing percentage of our research, specifically in RNA synthesis, is pointing in radical new directions that we can't publish. In other words, if we publish, we will be considered something else, we will not be considered toeing the orthodoxy, and essentially giving fuel to the so-called creationists. And so we can't publish those specific areas.'

"What they're doing is essentially shelving their findings, so the whole process of having a scientific collaborative process which is the heartblood of this research, specifically on the theoretical side, is being able to understand what's happening across multiple scientific research projects. So if there is a percentage that is being shelved because it doesn't meet certain practical standards and guidelines, this goes against everything practical that I know of, specifically coming from my area where we ask everything... and everything is on the table for us to research."

Crowther asked how one could quantify how much research is being put aside. Ruloff had asked a few of these researchers--whose identities, many of them, are obviously being obscured in the film--if they could quantify how much research they had to shelve.

"One of our researchers said, 'Will it's tough to say, but I would quantify it at anywhere from 20 to 30 percent."

Ruloff went on to consider, what if that number were high? What if it were just 20%, or 10%, or 5%? Isn't that still too high? How can we allow ideology to block 30% or 5% of medically-significant discoveries?! When you're not allowed to collaborate, "that becomes exponential."

How will the world react to news like this? The ID controversy is putting a lid on science--and it's not the ID people who are stopping it! When this comes out in a well-presented, well-documented popular forum like a feature film--well, I think the controversy is going to get a lot more interesting next year.

(Part 2 of the interview addresses accusations being made regarding the film. Later updates, shortly before and after the movie's release, may be found here.) 

Posted: Thu - September 20, 2007 at 09:09 PM           |

© 2004-2007 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.

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