Friday, April 18, 2008

The F Word

Well, the movie Expelled comes out today in about 1000 theaters, and I haven't the foggiest idea how well it will do at the box office. They are doing some posturing, setting up a David vs. Goliath metaphor and saying they may do better than expected. But even if they do well, they have a significant legal battle with XVIVO and now Yoko Ono because of the unlicensed use of John Lennon's song Imagine. I wonder if Expelled Exposed will put up something on that subject in the near future; the blog Panda's Thumb has had numerous posts on the subject.

Speaking of that site, Dave Thomas recently put up a post with a scan from the of the "Leader's DVD" (whatever that means), and it has this to say:

"Whoa" indeed. The purpose of the movie is made clear by that key word: Faith.

Then again, which faith? Not Ken Miller's, or Francis Collins', and many others' faith in their respective religion. No, this is a very narrow take on what is "real" Christianity and "real" Christian faith. Obviously the issue of what is the "correct" way of reading Genesis is not black and white, and the people that have produced Expelled purposefully avoided interviewing scientists that had no problem reconciling Genesis and evolution. Claiming that such people would have "confused the film unnecessarily" as producer Mark Mathis stated himself only shows that these people are not really about debate and open discussion but in trying to sell their particular brand of their particular religion.

Now, I am a critic of religion in general, but I also know that there is a massive continuum of positions in any religion. Buddhists can be pacifists, activists, or Kamikazes; Muslims can be advocates for freedom of speech and humans rights or terrorists; Christians can be generous or tyrannical. There is no one-size-fits-all to these sorts of things. Religion does not necessarily mean you have exactly the same view as your priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, guru, etc.

So, what we really have here is just on take on one major religion and pretending that there can be no debate on what is a "real" Christian. It seems ironic to me that many people criticize the "new" atheists like Dawkins and Harris for not seeing these nuances and not realizing there are many different ways to be Christian, Muslim, etc., but then some Christians shout that they are the true believers and all others are wrong. Hmm, imagine that. Someone thinks that their dogma is unassailable.

This movie is a disservice to any sort of dialog on what it means to have any faith, even if I think all religious faiths are extraneous. There are no fine lines, no simply black-and-white stances, and I think enough people realize that. Heck, even the "fundamentalist" atheists realize this from what I can tell. (Their point is that unreason and dogma can and will cause more harm than good and this must be dealt with head-on with philosophy, science, and debate--note that no guns or swords are supposed to be used to convert, which is what fundies may do if they could like they did in the Dark Ages.)

If you are religious and wonder about the intersection of science and religion, you won't be getting any straight or good or useful answers or discussions in this movie. There are much smarter people that Ben Stein that have been and are arguing on these subjects, such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

No comments: