RTB Scholars Expound on EXPELLED, the Movie
by Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Fazale (Fuz) Rana, Dr. Jeff Zweerink, Dr. David Rogstad, and Kenneth Samples
“A follow-up to our original statement on EXPELLED:”
Our initial posting about EXPELLED, the movie, drew a mixture of praise and criticism. We are grateful for both. Praise is always encouraging, but criticism can be helpful in revealing miscommunication.
The criticism in this case exposed an unintended expression of arrogance on our part. That’s something we definitely want to address—and correct. The offending paragraph states that RTB scientists’ interactions with academia differ from those of the scientists featured in the movie, that we do not encounter the same degree of “censorship, blackballing, and disrespect” as they, and that we are allowed to present our testable creation model. These comments in particular stirred an angry response, and we can see why.
We apologize for seeming to put ourselves on a pedestal. That was not and is not where we belong, and that certainly was not the intent of these words. Those of us working on the staff here at Reasons to Believe do not, on a daily basis, encounter the pervasive bias in favor of naturalism and the pressure to keep our belief in the supernatural from influencing our work. That’s obvious. We sympathize with those who routinely face this kind of pressure and smoldering hostility.
At the same time, we need to clarify that the individuals referred to as “RTB scientists” include not just a handful or even a few dozen but rather literally hundreds of faculty and researchers at public and private universities across America and around the world who are connected with us in one way or another. Do they feel pressure? Yes. Are they open about their Christian faith? Yes. Do they sometimes encounter ridicule? Yes. But, are they respected by their peers and able to advance in their careers? Yes, they are.
Their experience in no way negates or belittles the pain and discrimination suffered by those scientists featured in the movie, but neither does the movie accurately depict the “state of affairs” in all of American academia. To suggest that it does clearly contradicts the data familiar to us, and it’s a significant body of data.
Neither is it accurate to say, as one correspondent put it, RTB staff scholars would not “survive” in the public or private bastions of science as faculty. We acknowledge we would all have to focus more intensely on our research than on evangelistic outreach, but that’s because we would be paid on the basis of our productivity as researchers. Furthermore, our reputation and thus the reputation of the institutions that employ us would depend on our willingness to distance ourselves from provably false scientific notions—including such views as a young universe, a young Earth, and a recent, global flood event that shaped all Earth’s geology. The fact that the scientists whose stories the movie tells would not—or at least did not—do so may have had an impact on the reaction of the institutions with which they were associated. Again, that neither negates nor fully explains the bad treatment they received, but it seems a likely factor, however small or large.
In fact, our own experience and that of our associates indicates that this unwillingness, whether real or assumed, plays a major role in the reaction to Intelligent Design advocates. Because RTB constituents accept the scientific data on the age of the universe and Earth and the geologic record—which we see as completely harmonious with a high view of Scripture—that reaction does not interfere with our on-campus interactions and presentations.
Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, Jeff Zweerink, David Rogstad, and Kenneth Samples
Our Original Commentary:
The theater release of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed has generated much discussion about the interaction between scientific and Christian thought. The movie gives the impression that any deviation from naturalistic, Darwinian thought leads to censorship and removal from their occupations, especially in the academic environment. Many people have asked Reasons to Believe (RTB) to comment on the movie. Some have asked us to endorse or promote it, but we cannot.
We can, however, highlight the essential attitudes that characterize our approach to the creation/evolution debate. RTB views the scientific enterprise as a vital component of carrying out one of God’s first recorded commands to Adam and Eve. Without the understanding derived from scientific investigation, it would be impossible to take care of this home God provided for us. Because the roots of the scientific enterprise rest on principles derived from a Christian worldview, RTB believes scientific advances bring us a growing understanding of the way God made the world and filled it with life.
Nevertheless, the conclusions drawn by the scientific community sometimes appear to contradict essential Christian principles. In numerous instances, individuals and/or institutions within the scientific community have treated Christians unfairly. In these situations, RTB actively seeks to engage the scientific community in dialogue, demonstrating how the biblical and scientific pictures of the world can be integrated. We view any disagreement between the two pictures as a call for more detailed model building and testing. Thus, the battles are restricted to figuring out which model provides the most consistent and comprehensive view of the universe and most closely matches the measured data. RTB scholars believe that advancing scientific research will ultimately discredit any explanation that contradicts a sound interpretation of Scripture. Our approach to engagement is to hold a high view of Scripture, acknowledge the legitimacy of the scientific enterprise, and integrate the knowledge gained from both to build a more complete understanding of God’s creation.
This approach of seeking the right to be heard avoids denigrating the scientific enterprise, either its individuals or institutions. However, individual scientists and even institutions sometimes fail to demonstrate the impartiality and objectivity good science demands. We acknowledge that scientists are human and avoid questioning their integrity, competency and moral character. After all, we within the church appreciate the same treatment.
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.