Sunday, April 20, 2008

Expelled Exposes Antipathy to God in the Academy

Expelled is the kind of documentary for those who like their highly technical information served up with a wry sense of humor, lots of creative use of old fashioned video clips, and an exposition of the topic using a relentless metaphor of the Berlin Wall as the intellectual backdrop. And, for good measure, process the whole thing through the sardonic Buster Keaton deadpan of economist, Yale Law valedictorian, White House speech writer, law professor, columnist, game show host, and actor famous for the words: “Bueller, Bueller.”

Expelled is the vehicle for Ben Stein to present a sustained call for freedom of thought and inquiry against the environment of academic totalitarianism. Exposed are the deans, PR flacks, and professors who are willing to deny tenure and ruin the careers of well educated science professors for the singular crime of suggesting that the Darwinian emperor has no clothes. Citing both the defenders of evolutionary ideology and those who have raised questions challenging it, we see more Cambridge, Berkeley, and University of Chicago trained PhD's than have probably appeared in any movie in history.

Stein traipses through the documentary in suit and tennis shoes, asking awkward questions, pushing fabulously educated scholars to affirm the logical conclusions of their pronouncements. Especially ill-served by the format is the narcissistic atheist Richard Dawkins. He actually says on film that Darwinism leads logically to atheism, that atheists make common cause with gullible mainstream Christians to win their support in the pro-evolution war, and that belief in God is irrational and virtually impossible but life on earth may have been “seeded” by space aliens.

Stein is no fundamentalist and he strongly denies young earth creationism. He simply argues that the complexity of life at the molecular level cannot be conceived of without some kind of intelligent design. And, his documentary parades scientists, journalists, and public intellectuals—some of whom are either agnostic or irreligious—through the film with cutouts to scenes of totalitarianism and repeated images of the Berlin Wall.

The “Wall” is Stein’s metaphor for what he sees as the storm trooper tactics of the academic establishment, the media, and the courts to stifle dissent. In his view, this kind of policy robs Americans of precious freedom of thought, speech, and religion. Indeed, for Stein, we are in danger of losing our freedoms at the hands of these intellectual fascists.

For those who rankle at the term “fascist,” the most difficult part of the movie may be Stein’s assertion that Darwinian thought motivated not only Hitler and his final solution, but the Eugenics movement behind people such as Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger. Here Stein uses interviews to make his point, one that might more convincingly have been made simply by citing chapter and verse out of Mein Kampf where Hitler drew the same causal line of association between Darwin and his own ideas.

Stein recognizes that behind the equations, talk of scientific method, and calls for progress one can often discern an implacable hatred of God. Some of those interviewed in defense of evolution seemed to harbor a visceral antipathy to God and condescending disdain for religious people. Near the end of the documentary when Stein pushes Dawkins to admit that the chances of God existing are less than 1%, he also goads him into saying that one of the more likely scenarios for the emergence of life from non-life would be aliens seeding this planet with the original organisms from which we all evolved.

Radio host and film reviewer Michael Medved reports that wherever the movie screens, there has been a tendency for audiences to cheer at the end. Indeed, Stein appears unperturbed by the height of the wall erected to keep out free inquiry. But, he has made this movie to challenge some to dare to scale it. The only question is who will do it?

Anyone? Anyone?


Bob Wilson said...


Thanks for the tip. I got to see an impressive pre-release version at the Nat'l Pastors' Convention. I too am no fundamentalist or young earther, but my bias is to agree that this makes Stein especially entertaining and effective at provoking discussion about implications of evolution for values and beliefs as well as questions of academic freedom that often seem dodged in supposedly liberal settings.

Dave Miller said...

Dennis, I am planning on seeing this movie this week. It has certainly caught my attention.

On a more pedestrian level, you've been tagged. Your q's are on my site. Enjoy.