Review of Ben Stein’s documentary ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’
I watch few documentaries, but friends have been telling me I should watch Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
This documentary is hosted by actor/economist/college professor Ben Stein, who explores the notion that professors or scientists who espouse intelligent design are denied jobs, tenure and grant money. He interviews such scientists and professors. Stein also includes interviews with prominent evolutionist and atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins along with National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott to give a different side of the debate.
I watched this documentary more out of curiosity than out of a sense of “Oh boy! I absolutely, positively gotta see this documentary!”
Yes, in terms of what I believe about science, I’m a creationist. I believe the earth is somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 years old, created in six days by God. I believe in microevolution (variations within a species) but not macroevolution (one species turning into a completely-different species). I’m also open, though, to new ideas. We really don’t even possess a pre-school understanding of the universe, the world and the living creatures in this world. Ultimately, it could be proven that creationists are right, evolutionists are right, both are right or, somehow, neither are right. We don’t have all the answers (or even most of them, for that matter), so it’s best to use the minds God gave us to explore, observe and learn.
I might also add that I know of Christians who lean strongly towards evolution, and I also have nice friends who are agnostics who lean heavily that way.
So, I watched Expelled, a documentary whose name describes what happens to professors, scientists and others who dare to question whether Darwinian evolution really took place and whether it has holes in its theory.
The movie does dispel of one very common misunderstanding: intelligent design does not equal creationism. Whereas creationism (at least the kind I espouse) says the Hebrew God created the world, I.D. says the world, creatures, universe, etc., are so complex that some sort of intelligent being had to have been responsible for it. It could mean God, but it could also mean some godlike alien race or some other supreme being. Those who insist I.D. is code for creationism are people who, for whatever odd reason, don’t want to have a debate. To me, they’re no better than the pastors of yesteryear who condemned any type of science education and research.
Again, I’ll tell you what I liked, didn’t like, my overall thoughts and then let you, Faithful Reader, decide for yourself whether or not you want to watch this documentary.
What I liked: The documentary is told in an interesting way that gives ample time to discuss what Intelligent Design is all about, why some scientists and professors espouse it, why those who don’t are against it, and what the Discovery Institute is all about.
Folks, let’s face it: people at the Discovery Institute aren’t kooks and neither are those who are among the scientists and professors listed in www.dissentfromdarwin.org. One friend suggested I was over-flattering the institute and, as I tried to point out to him, these are not people who’ve bought their science degrees from diploma mills. These are well-educated people from Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, UCLA, University of Texas, Cambridge, Moscow State University and other highly-respected insitutes of higher learning and they all say the same: they are skeptical of Darwinian evolution.
Expelled also dives into molecular biology, the Urey-Miller Experiment and other commonly-discussed issues and makes you wonder if the debate is indeed closed.
You are almost certain to believe the debate is not closed when you consider the smug, condescending arrogance of Dawkins and Scott. In footage of one debate on evolution, Dawkins refuses to shake hands with his opponent. I’ve seen Dawkins in other interviews and had not seen Scott before: if they were trying to convince the viewer that I.D. believers are fools, they failed. Miserably.
Dawkins also acknowledges that perhaps life is indeed far too complex to have evolved by itself and suggests that perhaps life on earth was a “seed” planted by some highly-advanced alien race. But no, it most certainly was not God. Wow. I am so, like, not convinced. As I listened to Dawkins and Scott being interviewed, I wondered whom they were trying to convince in their “we’re right and they’re wrong” arguments: creationists like me or themselves.
No, condescending people do not impress me. More often than not, I believe they resort to such arrogance because deep down they are truly uncertain of what they’re saying or, deep down they know they’re wrong.
What I didn’t like: The DVD, which I rented from Netflix, has no closed captioning on it. Sometimes the dialogue seemed a bit muffled. The lighting at times made it difficult to see what was going on.
Throughout the documentary they intersperse interjections of archived footage from the 1930s-1960s. For me, it just didn’t work.
I wonder if all these are products of a documentary that was difficult to finance since few producers wanted to touch it. Ironically enough, if that’s the case, it really goes to prove that people really don’t want to have a genuine debate of intelligent design versus evolution. They say it’s beneath them to give I.D. the time of day; I say they’re very unsure of themselves.
While Stein made Dawkins and Scott seem foolish and stubborn in their interviews, the objective side of me wonders if the footage wasn’t edited that way. It’s hard to say. I know as a journalist, only about 25% of what an interview subject says (assuming they talk a lot) will end up in the final article. The trick is to make sure you’re accurately representing their views.
The movie itself also wasn’t very exciting. I watched since the subject is of acute interest to me. My wife, who also believes as I do, lost interest after half an hour or so.
I know there are many who did not like that Stein, who’s Jewish, made parallels between Darwinism and the Nazis. We remember the Nazis were determined to create a master Aryan race and murdered many people that they felt were “impure”. Was Stein really out of line or are some worried that perhaps what the Nazis did could be one logical interpretation of “survival of the fittest”?
Overall, I liked Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and hope someday to own a copy.
Richard Zowie loves watching movies, but prefers a different approach since he is very skeptical of most movie critics (including, yes, Roger Ebert). Richard believes you don’t have to be an atheist or agnostic to be a skeptic, just someone who wants answers. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.