I have been waiting for weeks to hear about an Evangelical upswelling of support for the Ben Stein's new movie about Intelligent Design and Evolution, but haven't encountered too much. So I had a chance the other day to go and view Ben Stein’s new movie Expelled. This pseudo documentary examines the scientific furor between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Ben Stein (famous for being a gameshow host on Win Ben Stein’s money, being a political activist, working as a speech writer for Nixon and Ford, and of course for a timeless role for in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) spends the film investigating the increasing animosity in the scientific community for those who would question evolution as a theory and those who support or even consider intelligent design as a scientific theory.
The film is entertaining in the witty sort of way you would expect Ben Stein to make a film. Throughout the film, there are cuts and images shown from Nazi Germany, the Berlin Wall, and other highly evocative scenes. It is obvious from the beginning that Ben is trying to compare the climate in Academia and the scientific community to the stifling intellectual climates of a foregone era. He interviews scientists from universities, the Smithsonian Institute and around the globe, along with educators and journalists about their experience being oppressed, rejected, or ignored because of their beliefs.
The film was entertaining and the most important questions it raised were about the connection between faith and science, and the consequences of absolute devotion to science above all else. Stein goes to Germany and investigates the connection between evolutionary theory and the Holocaust. This was very thought provoking. The major focus of the film, however, was not on any scientific evidence, but on the seeming lack of freedom being allowed to scientists by the scientific community. The dogged arrogance of many within the scientific community has created an environment that does not allow for the very things that makes science effective: namely the ability to follow the evidence where ever it leads and to ask questions of every theory and finding. Stein does a very good job of examining the consequences of the inhibition of real inquiry in science.What the film did not do well, however, was explain the theory of Intelligent Design. While the holes in evolutionary theory are addressed, Intelligent Design is never really explained in a way as to show why it would offer a viable alternative to evolution or at least offer answers that evolution can not. It also seemed to overplay the negativity towards scientists that offer Intelligent Design as a viable scientific theory. If you read some of the background information about the people who were interviewed, some of their situations were far less onerous than the films leads us to believe. In some ways it seemed Michael Moorish in its presentation of some of the facts. That is not a compliment.
The highlight of the film, however, was Ben Stein’s one on one interview with noted atheist Richard Dawkins. Stein’s manner of questioning, logic, and overall attitude made Dawkins seem a bit cartoonish. He also got Dawkins to show the holes in his own worldview and absolute belief in evolution. This was very impressive. What really showed in this interview, and others, was the zealous devotion that many scientists have to a theory with so many questions and holes. There is no reasonable explanation for the origin of life or matter via evolution. Evolutionist give intimate details of everything they believe to have happened right after the moment of of life being created, but there is absolutely nothing before that moment. Stein did well in even getting Dawkins to agree that this would be the place where Intelligent Design would come into play, if ever.
Overall I would give the film a warm recommendation. It was thought provoking, entertaining, and a great conversation starter. It was not the whole story, unbiased or without flaws, but what is? I give Ben credit for having the courage to make a film that is going to be very unpopular with many scientists, educators, and evolution proponents, but we need more minority voices in the scientific field. Compared to Al Gore’s work with a home video camera and a powerpoint presentation this film was Cannes worthy, but know what it is going in.