>Michael Shermer, the Skeptic, has seen the movie, Expelled, in advance of its release Friday, April 18th, and posted a review on his blog at Scientific American.
Shermer is a spin doctor who, while purporting to follow reason, is actually better understood by the title he often sports, “skeptic.” His near-“single-issue” is atheism vs. religion, specifically Christianity and Christians. He says in one of his books that he joined the Church of Christ (the conservative, no instruments) to impress a girl and never felt the conversion that should have gone with his baptism, but that he tried to justify his choice. He even went so far as to attend Pepperdine University, which is owned and run by the Churches of Christ. Rather than throwing out the bad and keeping or developing a faith in Jesus as he understands the Bible, he set about to prove to the world that religion is just one of the “weird things” that people believe. He loves to debate questions like “Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil?”
Shermer doesn’t tell us that the agency that investigated Richard Sternberg’s case against the Smithsonian agreed that he had been the subject of discrimination and a behind-the-scenes coordinated move to get him out of the Smithsonian. The case was dropped because he didn’t belong to a protected group and he simply had no standing to sue within that agency, since he was not an employee. He did, however lose his lab space – going from a private office to a shared space and the privileges of unlimited access and his own key that he had enjoyed up to that time.
Also, Shermer claims that Sternberg went against policy in the peer review of the article by acting as editor and choosing the reviewers himself. Sternberg tells his side of the story and answers the charges against him at his own website, here, and here.
There’s more on the web, including this review from 2006 Dispatches from The Cultural Wars , which details – and is an example of – the political nature of academia, research and the theme of Expelled.
Both sides spin to make a point. But, Sternberg’s case appears to be a classic example of academia’s – or any closed group with limited power to make change in the open – whisper campaigns and peer pressure to “expel” any doubters, gad-flies on the edge of scientific “consensus.” Ironically, I’ve read that the reason that people don’t understand the mutation that brings about changes in the gametes of individuals and eventually species, is that we don’t understand really large numbers. Ironically, Intelligent Design began with the discussion about the mathematics involved in the evolution of species.
>Shermer is a joker. I met him at a conference about intelligent design a few years ago. He measurably lowered the IQ-level and scholarly quality of the presentations. He didn't take his audience seriously, replied to arguments with patronizing jokes, and openly scoffed at following the evidence. Skeptics aren't what they used to be. At least they should argue like men. Don't look to Shermer for respectable skepticism.
>My impression is a man that's not very happy with himself. And he does seem to like to make fun of other people. However, I remember that he seemed to be searching for the truth early on. I hope he maintains or regains that openness to the truth.
>Skeptics tend to go more the other way, I think… an effect that comes from years of accumulated frustration and the futility of their self-chosen mission. It is hard to be a skeptics in a culture which values the ability to believe without evidence, considers it a violation of the social order to criticise religion, and often sides with the apparent rebel against the corrupt system. That, and of course, the simpe fact that most people are stupid outside of their specialised field.
>Yes, but…Shermer's version of skepticism is anti-evidential. It actually came as something of a surprise to me. But one of my companions at the conference told me, quite seriously, that skeptics from California are "left coast" skeptics and tend to be more postmodern-y sounding and even anti-evidential, while East coast skeptics tend to be more hard-headed. I gather Shermer is one of the former. Most odd.