Movie Review: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
On March 29th I attended the second fully edited prescreening of the soon to be released movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The event was hosted by the Directors Guild of America at one of their lovely theaters on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Ben Stein, the co-writer, producer, and main actor in the film was also present to help introduce the documentary and for a Q&A session following it.
First of all I personally felt that the film was very well produced and executed. Even though much of it focused on interviews of several different persons in a documentary type style the movie was able to immediately draw in the audience and keep them really focused as the film proceeded. The musical score was very well done. There was clever use of historical black and white footage used to strengthen the points being made. Humor was also very effectively used throughout. In fact there were several times during the film where applause and laughter spontaneously came forth. The film definitely leads the audience to an ending that comes to a climax while encouraging action on the part of the audience. As Mr. Stein stated it was a low budget film, but that is not the impression that it gives.
Ben Stein in his process of interviewing many different individuals for the movie ends up traveling across this country and Europe. These interviews included well known personalities in both the Intelligent Design movement as well as advocates of evolutionism. ID proponents like Stephen Meyer and Guillermo Gonzalez (both of whom were at the prescreening event in LA) were amongst those interviewed in the film. Of course those advocating the evolutionary paradigm were an important part of it including Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, William Provine, P.Z. Myers, and several others. Mr. Stein was very effective in asking the provocative questions to this latter group making some of them appear quite uneasy. The Discovery Institute was the organization highlighted in the film where Mr. Stein actually brought in his camera crew in to interview the president of DI, Bruce Chapman. Some of the well known personalities like Jonathan Wells and Stephen Meyer were amongst those interviewed there. I should add that Dr. Walter Bradley was included in a short snippet. There was no reference to the old earth/young earth debate except for very short B&W clip where two students were challenging their professor with respect to how science doesn’t fit the Bible’s account of the record of nature. This I thought was a disappointing inclusion.
Participants like Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, and others have complained that they were misled regarding how they would be portrayed in the film. Mr. Stein made it clear that each of these hostile interviewees did sign legal documents that granted permission to use the filmed interviews for the purposes of contrasting ID with Neo-Darwinian evolution. And they signed releases after their interviews were completed. Each of them was paid for their time. Incidentally after concluding Dawkins’ filming Mr. Stein offered to take him out to dinner. Dawkins declined requesting his remuneration check immediately and insisting it be adjusted according to the latest monetary exchange rate. Not to single out Dawkins but listening to him in the film once again displays his incredible arrogance and willingness to make blasphemous statements regarding God and God’s followers. Of course this is nothing new for him, but was nevertheless deplorable to witness.
Darwinism and politics
The film does a very good job of rousing feelings of passion and some hostility on both sides. Articles in places like the New York Times and elsewhere have already branded it as an advocacy film for “creationism.” As the movie continues, the theme of social repercussions from Darwinism in the social/political realms that are what Mr. Stein considers most troubling both as Jew who had relatives in Hitler’s extermination camps and as an American who deeply appreciates the freedoms we have known in this country. Professor Jeffrey Swartz of UCLA was interviewed in the movie and shared much consternation for the negative effects that atheistic materialism has wrecked upon society. There were direct references in the film to Stalin and Hitler’s influence on the world and Margaret Sanger’s eugenics through Planned Parenthood here in the USA with respect to how they potentially represent the out workings of Darwin’s theory. This is where the film really pulls in the audience.
We can all relate to the erosion of freedom in our country and then look back on the 20th century as the bloodiest one in history, due to the influences of communism and fascism. Though Mr. Stein does not claim there is necessarily a connection between Darwinian principles and the destructive “isms” of the last century, he does say that some leaders have acted as if these was a connection, and it is likely future leaders will do so as well, if something is not done to stop it.
It is difficult to critique the film because there are portions of it that are notably compelling and true mixed in with some troubling aspects. On the other hand and probably unbeknownst to Mr. Stein there are people in it like Dr. Paul Nelson who is interviewed by Mr. Stein at Biola University here in Southern California. Dr. Nelson does make perceptive statements yet he holds to the young earth paradigm - something that is indefensible in the realm of scientific inquiry. Also there are ID proponents in the movie who almost go out of their way to disavow that the Intelligent Designer is anyone or thing in particular. This was troubling to me and others. Thus, we face the same problems that the ID approach has had from the beginning, which is the “big tent” philosophy that allows pseudoscientific YEC organizations under its banner. This has to appear as a hypocritical problem to the secular scientist and thus is ripe for exposure and criticism.
The period of Q&A after the hour and thirty minute film was conducted by Michael Levine, a noted Hollywood publicist and CEO of LCO (Levine Communications Offices). There was the reintroduction of Mr. Stein for whom the audience stood and applauded as well as four other gentlemen. Mr. Levine immediately asked the panel whether drawing the conclusion that Darwinian evolution’s consequences are too strong to directly connect to Stalin’s communism and Hitler’s fascism. The movie depicted the building of the wall separating Berlin into East and West.
One of the panel members present was Jeffrey Swartz who was literally squirming to comment. As a Jew who had personal experiences with close relatives dying in Hitler’s death camps, he was quick to note that from his perspective atheistic materialism was the genesis of such regimes. His concern as a professor at UCLA is that he is seeing the potential for it to happen again as he looks at the trends in academia. As stated earlier there is not a guarantee such things will happen, but that there is the potential.
Dr. Larry Poland, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Mastermedia International, a ministry to leaders of film and television in Hollywood and New York was also on the panel. He has worked from the inside out over many years to reach out to media professionals with the Christian message. He was very positive regarding the film, No doubt he is intimately familiar with the world of media and has had some success there, but I am not sure that he understands the impact Expelled will have on the scientific community both with Christians and others.
Walt Ruloff, a producer and partner in Premise Media who is behind the film, was present and enthused to see the film come together the way it has. The Q&A session ended with an appeal to those of us in the audience. We were encouraged to promote the movie to our constituencies to make as many as possible aware of it. It is to be a nationwide though limited release to around 1000 theaters. There was obviously enthusiastic support by the majority of those in attendance.
I do think that Expelled will definitely raise the awareness of the problem of the monopoly that evolutionary ideas have on the educational institutions, the media, and government agencies in our world today. The depictions of DNA and the transcription process were stunning in the movie. Some of the strongest arguments in the film came from this realm. I also agree that we do need to stand up for truth and do our best to preserve the freedoms our country has stood for, which is also is a theme of the movie.
In conclusion I am concerned that the “wall” that separates the endeavors between secular scientific investigation and that of the Christian faith may be growing even higher because of the reactions to the film. Thus I would conclude that the movie will be polarizing. Though unfair, Expelled’s detractors may claim there is a propagandist element in the film. No doubt the scientists depicted in the film who were “expelled” have experienced the prejudice from some of the established science institutions in our country and world. However there are many scientists who have been able to function and practice good science while holding onto their faith. The ability to conduct meaningful dialogue as Christians who advocate the scientific enterprise may be finding it more difficult in the days ahead.
I do encourage everyone to see Expelled that is scheduled to open April 18th. It should provide opportunities for potentially meaningful dialogue with both Christians and secularists. Like any film it has its weak and strong points. God willing we will use it as an opportunity to engage others.
Comments by Rich
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is actually better than I had anticipated. Yes, I know it has problems and some of the evolutionists were suckered into responding incoherently. Let me give some examples. One scientist was interviewed about the origin of life and talked about crystals. He had obviously been interviewed before by the press and was putting on his layman's explanation. Even so, he kept saying the same thing without supplying any explanation about how the theory worked. Realistically, the clay crystals theory doesn't really solve the significant problems associated with biogenesis theories.1 Dawkins claims he was suckered into giving a lame example of intelligent design. Ben Stein asked him how intelligent design might operate in the universe, and the only thing he could think of was the intelligent design of life on earth by some advanced alien species. It sounded really stupid. He would have done better to keep his mouth shut.
Even with the negative aspects of the movie, it was interesting to see the different styles of opposition to the intelligent design movement among scientists/science promoting organizations. Eugenie Scott came off as the compromiser who panders to the liberal faith community, while Richard Dawkins came off as the anti-religious zealot that he is. The nature of radical atheism will probably be rather shocking to most people (even moderate atheists). Yes there are atheists who have an amazing hatred of religion and religious people. Some of the ideas (such as determinism and lack of free will) are likely to be surprising to most atheists.
Probably the most controversial part of the film was what I had heard about the association of the holocaust with Darwinian evolution. From watching the film, it was clear that the emphasis was the association of Hitler's idea of producing a superior race in which inferior breeders were eliminated. There can be no doubt that Hitler intended to produce a superior race through the principles of unnatural selection. Eugenics, the idea that certain members of the human race should be eliminated, was a belief of many who thought to use evolutionary theory to support their racist ideas. Of course, eugenics was not based upon science, but just on a subset of evolutionary theory, for which no evidence was then available. We now know that genetic differences between races are much less than genetic differences within most other species. However, at the time, it was assumed that human genetic diversity was much greater than it really is. Even so, it could have been true that certain races were inferior to others. Would such evidence have validated the use of eugenics on the humanity? At present, it is being argued that abortion should be used to get rid of certain undesirables to reduce crime.
The major complaint of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is that it present only the extremes. The impression is that persecution of those who endorse intelligent design is widespread. This is probably not true. Yes, there are those who persecute ID proponents, and there are atheists whose ideas are frightening. However, these people do not represent the majority opinion. Not all scientists are radical atheists. I am a scientist, who has been promoting design for 11 years on the web. I am still publishing in the scientific literature and haven't been persecuted by my employer or been "expelled."
- Is the Chemical Origin of Life (Abiogenesis) a Realistic Scenario?
- Origin of Life Theories: Metabolism-first vs. Replicator-first Hypotheses
- Does Atheism (Determinism) Negatively Impact Morality?
- Modern Eugenics: How Abortion is Getting Rid of 'Undesirables'
- "It's a very long leap from [mineral] surface chemistry to a living cell."
Norman Pace (evolutionary biologist, University of California, Berkeley) (Vogel, G. 1998. A sulfurous start for An organic compound made of amino acids arranged in a linear chain, joined together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of the adjacent amino acid residues.protein synthesis?
"On theoretical grounds, however, it [mineral clay synthesis] seems implausible. Structural irregularities in clay that were complicated enough to set the stage for the emergence of Ribonucleic acid: a chemical that directs the manufacture of proteins and sometimes codes for the genetic material within certain organisms.RNA probably would not be amenable to accurate self-replication." (Leslie Orgel)
Last Modified April 21, 2008