“Expelled” Movie Review

I want to start off by saying that I really like Ben Stein and his work in the entertainment industry. I’ve always seen him as smart and fair-minded, even when our political views diverge. I respect a lot of his actions and opinions on a lot of things. However, I feel that his loyalties and allegiances cloud his rational judgment, especially when issues like genocide and abortion arise. This is obviously a painful subject for him, but I feel that this movie, like some other of his opinions, are ruled by emotion and not evidence. I still like him, even if I disagree with his stance on evolution. He’s as human and imperfect as anyone. We should understand his bias and try to glean some kind of understanding from his opinions.

Before watching “Expelled” I did encounter some hype for this movie, and due to my respect for Ben Stein I wanted to give it a fair review. I was keenly interested in the existence of intolerance and persecution from the know-it alls in charge – mainstream getting it wrong. This movie has been portrayed as being something to that effect, putting Stein et al. in the same vein as Alfred Wegener and his then-ridiculed hypothesis of continental drift, later to form the core of plate tectonics. Unfortunately, “Expelled” is nothing of the sort. It is a highly biased piece of propaganda that does nothing more than (try) to plant a seed of doubt with very little science to substantiate it. Apparently the seed is all that is needed and these ideas have taken root in the minds of many who are now thoroughly convinced that evil science has it all wrong.

You\'re like part of the family, Doctor!

In short, the movie “Expelled” fits the meaning of propaganda perfectly.

propaganda – [prop-uh-gan-duh]

  • information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  • the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  • the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Propaganda can either be true or false; the intent is to spread information. In this case, the documentary wants to tell you how true believers of intelligent design have been unfairly maligned and vilified for expressing alternative views within the hallows of schools and scientific institutions. It does this. It does not, however, tell you why intelligent design is a viable theory. It proposes 1) that people are being unfairly treated (with no evidence) and 2) not believing in god makes you just like Hitler (again with no evidence).

Right away we are exposed to Godwin’s law as secularist scientists are compared to Nazi Germany and concludes with “Darwinian atheism” being the inspiration for Hitler’s cruel acts. One minute in, and Stein loses.

The entire film plays out as a David and Goliath story. Science is the giant, arrogant and cruel, who tries to exterminate the Davids within. By their telling, Big Science suppresses ID in a ruthless, systematic way and advises everyone to keep quiet about their beliefs. Branded intellectual terrorists, these “free thinkers” can martyr themselves or stay silent. These revolutionists must throw out the tainted Darwinist tea in justified, righteous protest of scientific imperialism.

By this time, I understand their point: thinking people, scientists themselves, are being pushed around because they harbor an unpopular theory. I should point out, though, that this isn’t actually the case either – much of what they claim is blatantly false. Now as I watch more of the same, halfway into the documentary, I’m expecting them to blow me away with the enormous mountain of evidence back up the theory of intelligent design. Apparently, this would have to wait as we hear how evolutionary theory is simply “a mess” because nobody has pinpointed the moment nor mechanism of the creation of life, much less the universe. Oh, foolish science. You can do nothing that religion can’t best.

But this isn’t about religion, they are quick to point out. Intelligent Design is NOT about religion. It is about rational, evidence-based science and free thought. But first, more Nazi imagery, and the movie continues to degrade into a slurry of mixed ideologies and propaganda.

What we find, shockingly, is that science is covering up for a greater conspiracy: hippies. With their free love and protests!

Panspermia? Ridiculous. Big Bang? Preposterous. But now THIS theory of a Creator that preexisted and created life on earth is science. Of course, whether or not you want to call that Creator “God” is a religious debate that clearly has no place in science. But since we are on the subject of religion, let’s look what can happen if you don’t believe in god, demonstrated with a simple equation:

Evolution = no meaning in life + no hope + no ethics = Hitler

Evolution leads to atheism, and atheism leads to depression so in the words of Barney Fife, we gotta nip it in the bud. We’ll neglect to mention anything about how religion has inspired evil acts. And let’s throw in the evils of abortion because Ben Stein hates abortion even more than atheism.

Nip it in the bud!

Again and again they maintain that the theory of evolution is falling apart. At no time do they present any evidence to the failings of evolutionary theory, except to say that it seems unlikely. Their only concern is to tell the world how unfairly these people have been treated because of their deeply-held (religious) convictions. Much like the poor UFO believers who are scorned and ridiculed.

Most of the interviews were cherry picked for the best presentation for ID (that’s why nothing is really said about ID and concentrates on the politicking) and the worst from skeptics and atheists. The interview with Richard Dawkins was really bad. I don’t know if he just cracked under presssure, or if they used “tricksy editing” or both. Either way, Dawkins needs to up his game. He’s more of a presenter than a debater, while Stein’s been at the showbiz thing for a long time and is used to being in front of a camera. Stein comes off as “Why you gotta be such a downer and ruin it for the rest of us?” – as if this is the goal of Dawkin’s work.

“Expelled” doesn’t give you any real information and it unfairly presents these non-issues as if they were real threats to education. It attacks science for being science – the quest to find answers. It’s not a failure or a weakness in science to say that you don’t know all the answers. What is wrong is to start out with a premise and to seek to find “facts” that support this foregone conclusion. Scientists don’t start the day saying “How can I dispute a divine creator today? What evidence can I distort to prove my atheist agenda?” It’s fine if they see god or a supreme being in their work – they are entitled to their beliefs. But these beliefs shouldn’t guide their hands.

The facts are, “Expelled” doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to support ID. So why should it be treated as a plausible alternative to evolutionary theory? Because Ben Stein saw an area to exploit in a documentary that pushes his personal agenda. Maybe next time he’ll push for astrology, numerology and alchemy to get their fair share in the classroom.

9 thoughts on ““Expelled” Movie Review

  1. QUOTE:
    It proposes that … not believing in god makes you just like Hitler

    I think this statement of yours fits the definition of false information more so than Stein’s film … really, Kazz. The movie said no such thing.

    QUOTE:
    Oh, foolish science. You can do nothing that religion can’t best.

    I am just curious … what “religion” is David Berlinski?

    vocab

  2. They didn’t say “not believing in god makes you just like Hitler” in so many words, and to be fair I think she meant that as hyperbole, but the issue is not made up. Why do you think the whole Nazi section was in there?

    It seems to me that it was put in to show where they think that believing in evolution leads. They say it leads to atheism, and that the two together led to the holocaust, with the added implication that our acceptance of evolution (and hence atheism) could very well lead to a repeat of those kinds of atrocities.

    Of course they ignore the fact that Hitler always identified himself as a Catholic and was aided by Christians of many denominations who had already spent centuries vilifying and persecuting Jews, but I guess that would get in the way of the neat little package of evolution and atheism being the clear culprits.

    Another probable reason for including the Nazi sections, as is almost certain for the constant allusions to the Berlin Wall and the playing up of Big Bad Secular Science vs Poor Little Creation Science (AKA Intelligent Design), was that they were attempting to get viewers on their side and angry at the manufactured injustice they portray through emotional equivocation of these things.

    I understand that this is common in documentaries with agendas, but that doesn’t stop it from being annoying when you’re on the receiving end and you don’t think your attacker’s position is justified.

    As for David Berlinski, he is a secular Jew who says he’s agnostic. He is also extremely arrogant and smug, seemingly without reason. He bashes Dawkins for talking about philosophy (which Berlinski has a degree in and Dawkins doesn’t), but he doesn’t see the hypocrisy in then talking about evolution as if he’s an expert when he seems to have a very poor education on the subject.

    A post I saw about him, David Berlinski, King Of Poseurs seems to have a decent bit about his background and his lack of anything to be so smug about.

    I can only assume that with your question (what “religion” is David Berlinski?) you’re really trying to suggest that Intelligent Design is something other than Creationism in disguise, but if you actually look at the evidence from ID’s history, you’ll see that that’s exactly what it is.

    They may be trying to make it something more, and in the unlikely case that there is something to it, I hope they do manage to get good scientists working on it for some reason other than to prove the Bible’s account of creation right.

    The problem is, like Spyral said, the movie did not really present any evidence to show that ID should be taken seriously or that anything useful has come out of it. So far they have failed miserably at putting out anything but attacks on evolution which from what I’ve seen have been easily refuted or baseless.

    By the way Vocab, do you want me to correct your mistake for you and delete your second post, or just leave it alone?

  3. What Kazz said. ;)

    I’m flattered that you mistook my crappy writing for something he put together, but yeah this one’s all me.

    Of course the film didn’t come right out and say “atheists are just like Hitler” – that would be scandalous and inappropriate! They just used a lot of imagery of Nazi Germany and they did say that believing in evolution is what lead to the Holocaust (and abortions). They interviewed Richard Weikart, the author of “From Darwin to Hitler”, who shared his belief that the supposed connection between evolution and atheism lead to murder, torture and other atrocities. The point they were trying to make was that evolution is wrong because it takes god out of the picture, and once you do that suddenly everything is allowable in science. Obviously, I think this is specious reasoning.

    I had to look up who David Berlinski is because I didn’t recognize the name. He’s the “reclining guy” from the movie – every time he’s shown he’s lounging in his seat. Apparently he’s agnostic. Even though I think he seems like an ass, I don’t know enough about him to determine whether his ideas have merit. My first impression seems to be that he likes to play devil’s advocate rather than present his own ideas (regarding evolution at least). I’ll have to read up on him, thanks for bringing him up!

  4. Kazz:

    You can leave my mistake up there – I’m sure I’ll make plenty more =)

    ===========

    David Berlinski is also a mathematician.

    And yes, he is an agnostic.

    Hence, he is not trying to just “prove the Bible”.

    ==================

    SPYRAL wrote:
    Evolution = no meaning in life + no hope + no ethics …

    One other thing: Stein does not need to try too hard to make this equation obvious because Professor Will Provine totally makes it for him! Check out his very frank interviews again if you don’t know what I mean … chilling stuff.

    vM!

    PS – Yes, I took out the “Hitler” part of the “equation” because
    A) I don’t think that was Stein’s main point and
    B) Provine does not suggest it, either

  5. I hate to crash the party, but I will. Stein’s point in the movie was not to make a case for ID, but to argue for the freedom of well-established scholars to argue their theories. Granted, Stein did interview far more scholars that support ID – but that’s the whole point of the movie! His goal was to show that these scientists are not ‘idiots’ or ‘stupid’, but are hard-working, smart people.

    As far as the Nazi connections go, I did think it was rather over-the-top to make that connection in this documentary – it didn’t help his case. Nevertheless, the facts are true: Darwinism (let’s not forget the subtitle to Origin of Species – why is it never published with it anymore?) had important roots in Nazi Germany. That is indisputable. I wish that was in another documentary because I think it casts a shadow on the documentary as a whole.

    One thing I did enjoy about the documentary was the focus on worldview, which seems to be an important issue. Dawkins made it clear the actual origin of all things was unknown. Scientists in his camp answer the question of Creator in an atheistic way, which leads their theories in one direction, while scientists in the other camp answer the question of Creator in a theist way, which leads their theories in another direction. I thought Stein raised a good point – what makes one group scientists and another group ‘idiots’? It seems to be where they begin.

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