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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

June 23, 2008     Time: 00:22:52
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


Conversation with William Lane Craig

Transcript Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


Kevin Harris: There is a new movie out called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It is a documentary on the growing discrimination against professors on campuses all over the country who openly question Darwinism or Darwinian evolutionary theory. Dr. Craig, this is a mainstream release. It is not a movie that is limited to art houses or churches or obscure theaters.

Dr. Craig: I really enjoyed the film. I think you are right, it is remarkable to think that this film is showing in theaters across the country where general movie going audiences can see it. I think the central theme of the film is not so much Darwinism versus Intelligent Design as it is the sort of academic discrimination that is going on at American universities and other research institutions against people who hold views that are sympathetic to intelligent design. So whether intelligent design is true or false is in one sense beside the point. The point rather is academic freedom and whether or not this is being sacrificed in this country.

Kevin Harris: Ah, so it looks at another aspect and that is academia.

Dr. Craig: That is the primary emphasis. Now, of course the other is also there as well because the people that they interview are for the most part proponents of intelligent design, although they interview the other side as well. So there is a good deal of discussion about the merits of intelligent design versus Darwinian evolutionary theory but the main focus I think – and it is important not to miss this lest we be misled – the main point is that academic freedom is being abridged in the United States and that many people are being intellectually discriminated against because of their views.

Kevin Harris: The university prides itself often in being a place of academic freedom. Free to flow ideas and so on.

Dr. Craig: Precisely.

Kevin Harris: It is interesting if we actually discover that this is not the case, that there is perhaps some hypocrisy going on here. What about it? Is there widespread persecution against those who would hold to theism or intelligent design?

Dr. Craig: It is really hard to say whether it is widespread or not. That's a relative term. There are certainly many, many cases that are illustrated in the film, and there have been other cases in the news that have occurred since the film that weren't included. Part of the reason it might not be more widespread is because of the intimidation factor; namely, those who haven't got tenure or who could be injured if they were to speak out boldly are prevented from doing so precisely because they know that it could be threatening to their jobs or their positions. So I am not sure how widespread it is but it certainly seems to be very consistent; that if someone raises his head so to speak he'll be shot at.

Kevin Harris: Now, for the layman who maybe is not involved in the university, what is tenure and being denied tenure?

Dr. Craig: Typically at a university a person who teaches there for seven years can be dismissed for any reason during that period. But after that period of time, he comes up for review by the faculty senate or some other body of authority which will weigh his credentials as a scholar and typically your publication record will be very important here. Have you been publishing in peer-reviewed journals, journals that are read by other professional experts in your area. It will be on that basis that this body will decide, “Yes, this person merits being at this university on a more secure basis.” So after you have tenure you are guaranteed so to speak a contract. [1]You cannot just be dismissed. You have more job security. So schools will weed out so to speak the undesirables before they get tenure because after that it would be much too difficult. Probably that is one reason Michael Behe is able to continue teaching at Lehigh University. It is because as a tenured professor there they can't just let him go. But contrast the case of someone like Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University who has a prestigious record of publications in his area of astronomy and geophysics.

Kevin Harris: In peer-review.

Dr. Craig: Yes, it is very strong. And yet was the victim of this vendetta that was spearheaded by the religious studies professor Hector Avalos and then other members of Gonzalez’s own department at Iowa State to deny him tenure so that he could not teach there on a permanent basis. If I may say, what is remarkable about the Gonzalez case that doesn't come out in the film at all – they don't go into details – is that Gonzalez in this book he published called The Privileged Planet said nothing against neo-Darwinian biological evolutionary theory. There was nothing in his work that challenged in any way the truth of neo-Darwinian evolutionary biology. It was all about astronomy. It was about our place in the galaxy and our galaxy’s place in the cosmos and how this was optimal for life and for observing the universe and so forth. But everything he said was perfectly consistent with believing in neo-Darwinian biological evolutionary theory. So it is just remarkable that someone who wrote a book like this could be torpedoed because of that.

Kevin Harris: It is almost as if they said, “OK, you didn't really attack neo-Darwinian evolution, but we see where you are going.” Because ID of any kind – intelligent design – tends to be a threat to Darwinian orthodoxy.

Dr. Craig: I think it is a threat to naturalists. This is another point that I think I would want to make. I think that the real opposition here is not so much from the scientists as scientists. It is not evolutionary biology as such. It is the naturalism that so many of them presuppose that finds intelligent design anathema. So there went on against Gonzalez a private email campaign among faculty members to torpedo his tenure application and all of this was kept secret. It was claimed in the tenure review that none of this played a role. What has happened since then is all of this email correspondence has come out and it is very vicious. It denounces intelligent design as a religious view. It really amounts to religious discrimination against Gonzalez. They were rejecting his tenure because of his religious views. I talked to a lawyer in my Defenders class about this and she said this man has grounds for a lawsuit against the university based on religious discrimination because it was clear that that was the grounds on which they were denying him tenure. It was his religious views or what were perceived as religious views.

Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, what is interesting is this is not a Christian film produced by Christians. It involves the Christian faith and it involves Christians but Ben Stein is not a believer I don't think.

Dr. Craig: No, he says in the film that he is Jewish. Now, I don't know about his religious beliefs or whether he is simply ethnically Jewish, but you are right that not everyone in the film by any means is Christian.

Kevin Harris: I think that is interesting.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, that is worth noting because it is not really a Christian issue per se. I do agree with the advocates of intelligent design that the question of intelligent design is really religiously neutral in the sense that you don’t have to be a religious person to be able to detect the products of intelligent design.

Kevin Harris: I want to go back to Iowa State University again because this will show just how political this can be, how emotional it can be, and perhaps religious discrimination elements come in and that is Hector Avalos is a very vocal atheist opponent of the Christian faith. He is very active it seems in the atheist community. You had a debate with him.

Dr. Craig: I did, I debated him several years ago at Iowa State on the resurrection of Jesus. [2]

Kevin Harris: When you got there, what did you find? Did you find a lot of intimidation of Christian students there and they were glad to see you come to town? [3]

Dr. Craig: Absolutely. That was very clear. As head of the Religious Studies there, he has it as his goal to disabuse Christian students in his classes of their Christian faith. He portrays himself as an ex-evangelical and former preacher. This is all a little bit really exaggerated frankly when you look into his personal biography but that is the way he likes to cast himself. He has it as his goal to basically destroy the orthodox faith of the Christian students in his classes through intimidation and ridicule and criticism. And the way that he behaves in these debates also can be very unprofessional. Appealing to ad hominem attacks.

Kevin Harris: Personal attacks.

Dr. Craig: Yes, personal attacks upon his debate opponent.

Kevin Harris: You did something – I can't help but talk about this; we’ll get back to the film – you did something in that debate that I don't think you've ever done before as strategy. You kind of offered a disclaimer at the beginning of the debate that “Let's keep this debate on the up and up, and Hector I have to call you on something – you have a tendency to try to embarrass a colleague and here is an example of it. So, Hector, let's not have any of that.”

Dr. Craig: Yes, I felt very uncomfortable about doing that because it was in a sense attacking him in the debate for his methods, for his modus operandi. But I felt that I had to do it since I was the first speaker and I didn't want him to pull one of these tricks on me in his opening speech the way I had seem him do with a Professor Shelley in a previous debate in a very unprofessional manner. He has actually continued since then to attack me on a personal basis, Kevin, that again is just remarkable because it isn't the way colleagues normally behave in the academy. What is forgotten in all of this is the worth of the arguments themselves. The arguments get left behind in the attacks upon the credibility of your opponent.

Kevin Harris: I bring all this up to say lo-and-behold this movie interviews Hector Avalos.

Dr. Craig: Yes, it does.

Kevin Harris: And Professor Gonzalez. It didn't surprise me in light of everything that you just said that there was an instance of this kind of possible discrimination coming out of that university and Hector Avalos seemed to be very outspoken about it.

Dr. Craig: Yes, that was the interesting thing about it in the film. Gonzalez's colleagues in the department, despite this secret email campaign, publicly said this is simply about his academic credentials, not intelligent design, when in fact secretly that was clearly the issue. But Avalos, I suppose not being part of that department, he was very overt that this was about intelligent design and said as much in the interview.

Kevin Harris: Why is intelligent design seen as a threat?

Dr. Craig: This is very interesting, Kevin, because near the very close of the film, Stein goes and interviews Richard Dawkins and says, “Couldn't it be the case that the universe is the product of intelligent design?” And Dawkins says, “Well, yes, I suppose it could be but in that case the designers would be some sort of extraterrestrial life who came to this planet and seeded the earth with organisms so that life would originate here on earth. So, yes, intelligent design is a possible theory but it would have to be life that is purely naturalistic and was itself the product of evolutionary development.” Stein says, “So intelligent design is really all right just so long as it is naturalistic?” And that is exactly the point which is why I said earlier it is not really the debate about the merits of intelligent design versus neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory; it is really a debate about naturalism versus non-natural causes in the universe. I thought Dawkins admitted as much in his final response.

Kevin Harris: In fact, Dawkins says something very interesting in the film about holding to the doctrine of scientific naturalism. The doctrine of getting truth from science. Let's listen to that clip right now:

[Start Clip]

Richard Dawkins: “As a scientist, I am pretty hostile to a rival doctrine . . .”

[End Clip]

We should not accept any other doctrine than that of the scientific method or scientism as it is often called. [4] He shows there that it is in fact a philosophical view that he is purporting.

Dr. Craig: That is very true, Kevin. I think that is right. Notice that he himself is not consistent with this methodology because using the scientific method you could never make statements about ethics for example, about what is right and wrong, good or bad. Moral values aren't found in a test tube. Yet in his book The God Delusion he makes one moral judgment after another denouncing religious intolerance, denouncing religious education of children, homophobia, discrimination, and so forth. Richard Dawkins is an unremitting moralist and yet it is incompatible with, as you say, his own scientism which says that apart from science there is no truth to be discovered.

Kevin Harris: The movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed actually gives some case studies of some professors who are under fire for departing from what is considered the orthodoxy in biology and in science and that is the Darwinian view. So these are pretty convincing case studies you think?

Dr. Craig: Yes, I think they are. These are pretty clear cases of, I think, discrimination.

If I might say, I thought one of the most poignant moments of the film is when Stein begins to explore the implications for ethics of naturalism. If naturalism is true are there any objective moral values? He goes to Germany and visits the site of some of the extermination camps of Jewish people, and he says “As a Jew this was very interesting to me personally.” These scientists and nurses in these extermination camps believed that human beings were just natural random products of biological evolution and were not designed by God or anything of that sort. This resulted in horrible medical experiments on living people, in eugenics where they thought they could build the master race by in effect breeding people.

At one of these institutes that he visited is where handicapped people were taken. Where the doctors and nurses would examine these handicapped people and determine whether or not they were fit to keep alive and to therefore continue to help breed the human race. Those that were not deemed fit were taken downstairs into what looked like shower rooms and they were gassed and exterminated. Then they were laid out on dissecting tables where they could be dissected by these doctors. As Stein stood with the woman guide taking him through this place and looking at this dissecting table, he said what is ironic is that these people lying here on the table were probably more sane than the doctors that were dissecting them. He says to the guide at that point, “Do you think these people were insane?” And she said, “No. No, I don't think they were insane.” And he said, “Why not?” And she said, “Well, they had purposes.” And Stein just looks at her and said, “They had purposes?” Of course, we know what those purposes were. Then he just follows this woman down this long corridor silently saying nothing just looking at her. You couldn't help but think of the Jews who followed these nurses down these corridors once to their death. Finally, he says to this woman, “What would you say to these doctors and nurses if you could speak to them?” And she is speechless. She says, “I don't know. Who am I to say?” It just became evident that the naturalism and the relativism that results is horrific because that is exactly what happened in Germany. People did not speak out. They let this mass genocide go on. Who am I to say? Who am I to judge? That does seem to be, I think, the logical consequence of naturalism.

Kevin Harris: That has been the biggest outcry against this film from naturalists, atheists, Darwinians. It is not fair. You are comparing Darwinian evolution with Nazism somehow. Are you saying that that is a possible outworking?

Dr. Craig: I don't think it would be fair to compare Nazism to Darwinism, but I do think it is fair to compare it to naturalism. If God exists and Darwinian evolution is true – that somehow God used Darwinian evolution to bring about human beings, there would still be objective moral values rooted in the nature and the commands of God himself. So it is not evolution per se that undermines the objectivity of moral values and duties. It is naturalism and it is the naturalism that underlay the worldview of the Nazi scientists and nurses that led to this sort of moral relativism that made the Holocaust possible. [5]

Kevin Harris: The second big objection to this film – and there are websites devoted to debunking and refuting this movie Expelled – is that this is just creationism in disguise. It is a Trojan horse.

Dr. Craig: Again, I think the quotation from Richard Dawkins himself shows that that is not the case. Remember Dawkins said a hypothesis of intelligent design will be scientifically acceptable as long as it would be an intelligence that was itself the result of naturalistic evolution, which just pushes the question back another notch. But in terms of inferring that life on earth is the product of intelligent design, he was quite willing to accommodate that sort of hypothesis as a scientific theory. What he couldn't accommodate is non-naturalism.

Kevin Harris: Bill, overall, do you give it a thumbs up?

Dr. Craig: I do. I found it to be moving. I found it to be informative. I found it to be a real call for action, I think, about the kind of academic discrimination that is going on in this country. I have noted since then Kevin that a number of states now have going through their legislatures bills guaranteeing the academic freedom of professors at state universities and colleges in those states. So this is having some sort of political fallout as well now. [6]