First Amendment – Movie pits intelligent design against scientific community

The First Amendment doesn’t protect professors who still need to answer to their scientific peers.

;”Expelled,” a movie starring Ben Stein that examines the place of intelligent design in the science community, opens in theaters April 18 – with the promise of controversy in tow.

Many say intelligent design, the theory that an intelligent being created life, runs against the theory of evolution.

David Berlinski, an author and proponent of intelligent design who was interviewed in the film, said “Expelled” looks to foster debate about other ideas regarding the origin of life on Earth.

“The film, itself, is a plea for open-mindedness and tolerance,” he said.

Freedom to research

Some have made intelligent design the bane of the scientific community, “Expelled” associate producer Mark Mathis said.

“If you don’t fully buy into Darwinian theory, you keep your head down and your mouth shut,” he said.

“Expelled” tells the stories of professors who have lost their jobs over their belief in intelligent design, Mathis said.

“If you dare to question the neo-Darwinian paradigm, then you are ostracized, at the very least,” he said.

Berlinski said science has shut out alternative theories for how life came about.

“In the university community, there are very, very few honest protections for dissenting points of view,” he said.

Dale Carpenter, a University law professor, said the First Amendment only protects free speech and scientific research from government meddling.

The scientific community, however, has the right to decide the importance of researching issues such as intelligent design.

“If a group of administrators or academics at a University decide that intelligent design is not really science and choose not to fund research into what amounts to phony science, they can certainly do that,” he said.

Berlinski said he doesn’t want to see scientists force intelligent design out of the discussion.

“What conceivable good is going to be served by excluding them from the beginning?” he said.

‘The beautiful answers’

University of Minnesota-Morris biology professor PZ Myers tells his students the first day of class that he’s an atheist.

Myers, who is interviewed in “Expelled,” said he spends a week of class “shooting down” intelligent design. Otherwise, he said, the topic is strictly biology.

“The No. 1 thing is that (intelligent design) doesn’t have evidence,” Myers said. “They have no promise for future research, so it’s definitely not science.”

Myers, who was raised a Lutheran, said biology helps answer life’s questions.

“Biology gives you the beautiful answers and the Bible does not,” he said. “There’s a remarkable lack of intellectual curiosity about what’s going on in the history of life.”

For some, science and religion can peacefully coexist.

Sue Wick, a University plant biology professor and Catholic, said religion and science are different ways to look at the world.

“When I read the Bible, I don’t look for scientific facts,” she said. “When I read science, I don’t look for matters of faith or religion in those texts.”

Wick said there is an important distinction between science and religion.

“Religion is based on faith. If you knew it, it wouldn’t be religion and faith,” she said. “Science is not based on faith – it’s based on evidence.”

Biology senior Garrett McLean said evolutionary theory and his Christian faith don’t line up, but he’s accepted that.

“They contradict themselves,” he said. “I think if people are honest with themselves, it doesn’t really work that way.”

Josiah Lindstrom, a first-year political science and history student, said his biology class has helped affirm his religious faith.

Still, he said he has questions about the issue.

Even Myers said he wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of a creator, but that “for it to be science, what you have to have is evidence,” he said.

“If they want to make that argument, bring some facts to the table,” he said. “Show us something we can test.”