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.
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.
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.