Friday, April 18, 2008

Reasons to Believe statement on "Expelled"

Hugh Ross's old-earth creationist organization, Reasons to Believe, has issued a statement on "Expelled":

Dear RTB Chapter members,

With the impending release of "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed" (April 18), the Reasons to Believe scholar team thought it best to prepare a statement of our position, a guide for answering questions from chapters, networks, and apologists. Keep in mind that the mission of RTB centers on reaching out to science-minded people with two purposes:

1. to bring the Gospel message to those who would not otherwise hear it, and

2. to strengthen the faith of those who fear that science conflicts with the
Christian faith-equipping them for ministry in the process.

In order to accomplish these purposes, we must first earn the right to be heard.

After previewing the promotional materials provided by the movie's marketers, we were concerned that the movie took an adversarial approach to the scientific community. A number of RTB scholars and staff attended a prerelease screening in Los Angeles recently and confirmed that EXPELLED definitely does take such an approach. The movie draws an analogy between the Berlin wall and the scientific community's response to intelligent design. By doing so, EXPELLED implicitly argues that the scientific community deems certain questions off-limits, particularly any question about the legitimacy of neo-Darwinian evolution. The movie further argues that academia, the media, and the courts all conspire as "thought police" to oppress any and all dissent from the party line.

Clearly some oppression and discrimination have occurred, but the experience of RTB scholars and many of their contacts refutes the movie's premise that the scientific community systemically and unilaterally fosters these injustices. While individual scientists and institutions have behaved unfairly at times, this charge cannot in all fairness be leveled against the scientific community as a whole.

Regardless, from RTB's perspective, the central question is this: when injustices do occur, how should we respond? Consider the response of Nate Saint to his son's question, as depicted in the movie, End of the Spear. Nate, Jim Eliot, and three other missionaries were preparing to make contact with the notoriously violent Waodani tribe in Ecuador. Stevie asks if they will shoot the Waodani if attacked. Nate replies: "We can't shoot the Waodani, son. They're not ready for heaven. We are."

If science-minded skeptics indeed represent a mission field, then we should not come out shooting. EXPELLED seems to do just that. While an entertaining movie, its main thrust runs counter to RTB's mission of seeking to engage scientists in the scientific arena. Consequently, any endorsement of EXPELLED by RTB hinders our ability to spread the Gospel message to those we hope to reach.

Therefore, we ask all chapter members and volunteers to refrain from endorsing EXPELLED in any official way. This request does not extend to your personal interactions-only to any actions taken in association with or on behalf of Reasons to Believe.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

The RTB Scholar Team
(Hat tip to Blue Collar Scientist.)

UPDATE (April 22, 2008): Reasons to Believe has issued another statement about "Expelled," which says, in part:

In Reasons To Believe's interaction with professional scientists, scientific institutions, universities, and publishers of scientific journals we have encountered no significant evidence of censorship, blackballing, or disrespect. As we have persisted in publicly presenting our testable creation model in the context of the scientific method, we have witnessed an increasing openness on the part of unbelieving scientists to offer their honest and respectful critique.

Our main concern about EXPELLED is that it paints a distorted picture. It certainly doesn't match our experience. Sadly, it may do more to alienate than to engage the scientific community, and that can only harm our mission.

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