Over at Richard Dawkins' site, Dawkins posts a crazed, histrionic letter from a Jewish man to Michael Shermer. This fellow evidently saw Expelled over the weekend, swallowed the movie's foul calumnies about evolutionary theory being responsible for the Holocaust with complete credulity, and went berserk. Dawkins publishes his own calm and even-tempered response to the man (who wails that Shermer ought to be run out of the country, a point which Dawkins admonishes the man is shamefully just like the views the Nazis held towards the Jews), in which he makes the facts abundantly clear and assures the man he has been most callously and cold-heartedly lied to by evil, mendacious people with an agenda. It will be interesting to hear if the man replies, or tucks his tail between his legs and runs off.
This is something that has, perhaps, not been fully addressed in the runup to Expelled's mild opening weekend, but which perhaps should be addressed now: the possibility that certain individuals will take the movie's lies to heart and a wave of flat-out religious hatred towards the sciences and academia may begin. We already know that religious extremists don't need a whole lot of motivation to go completely unglued. Fundamentalists are, by definition, fearful and irrational. It hasn't taken much to inspire the God-soaked to pick up a rifle and gun down an abortion provider, or to beat gay men to death, or to dress up in white robes and lynch black people, or crash jetliners into buildings. Those, of course, are the very worst examples. Right now we have scientists getting hate mail. Is there a chance we might see a Molotov cocktail or two lobbed through the window of a university classroom somewhere?
Hopefully that's just slippery slope thinking. But then, as history teaches us, the more fanatical the belief in the divine, the more dangerous a person is apt to be. And remember, those Wehrmacht belt buckles didn't have Darwin fish on them; they read, very clearly, "Gott Mit Uns." I hope it doesn't turn out that Ben Stein ends up having far more to answer for than just stolen animations and music. Shame on you, Ben. What you've done is deeply immoral and unforgivable.