Ben Stein should not be “Expelled”

 

This movie did not live up to the criticisms thrown at it by the media.

From other reviews I expected a “Michael Moore” type of documentary; one that had a few more shenanigans’s and staged events.  The trailers portrayed the film as such with Stein in a school boy’s outfit writing “do not question authority” on a chalkboard.  Honestly, I was a little concerned about how the movie would portray people of faith.

However, the trailers turned out to be more sensationalistic than the movie.

Expelled is a documentary where Stein interviews scholars on various planes of the human origin’s discussion crystal.  Unlike Moore’s films, where he uses hand-picked stooges  to support his point, almost everyone interviewed in this film have earned Phd’s.  It just so happens they disagree about evolutionary theory and the question of origins.

Although there were some sensationalisms using flashbacks to Nazi Germany and using a clip from the Wizard of Oz, these were not the emphasis of the film.  I did feel that the Nazi connection was a little overdone.  But, the point was made that under the Third Reich people on the wrong side of Darwinian Theory: the weak, mentally retarded, and diseased were killed. The approach to Nazism though was oversimplified.  Most people know there were many, many factors other than Ayaran domination (a Darwinian idea) that led to Hitler’s evils.

The main focus of the movie is the question of academic freedom.  By interviewing scholars who have been discriminated against because of their ID or faith views, Stein shows a form of bigotry in academia.  Critics say these people had other issues affecting their job performance and scholarship.  Of course that is the approach each institution representative took.  How could they say anything else?

Iowa State University though actually admitted that eliminating a professor for his ID views was a part of their intent.  Being an alumnus, I’m duly glad they were honest, and disappointed with their treatment of Gonzalez: a physics professor.  One reason they may have been so honest is the existence of emails documenting the concern over his ID views.  Whether or not there were other issues with his tenure, ID was certainly one of them.

Another string of interviews focused on authors and professors who are not only against ID, but antagonistic toward God and faith.  The more visible ones were Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers.  Although Dawkins and Myer’s have complained they were duped into the interviews, nothing they said was more extreme than what they’ve said in print or on the web.

Dawkins has written a book called the, “God Delusion,” and states his purpose is to show that belief in God is on par with believing in fairies and hobgoblins.  He sells T-shirts on his website with the scarlet letter “A” standing for atheist.

P.Z. Myers claims to be a mild-mannered professor and ambivalent towards those of faith.  However, his website has over 500 posts under the category “godlessness.”

Both Dawkins and Myers are at the forefront of this controversy.  I’m not sure why they would be upset giving an interview against something they’ve already been vocal about. If they were duped, then of course that is wrong.  They should have been invited to participate fully knowing what the film was about.

Ben also interviewed scientists who believe in ID and discuss the reason it challenges evolution.  This was a necessary discussion but not the point of the movie.  The point was still academic freedom and the suppressing of ideas by the biased scientific community.

At the end of the movie there was some sensationalism of walking through a museum dedicated to Charles Darwin and walking through a termination station for the invalid and mentally retarded during Hitler’s reign.

The nature this move was very “non-Michael-Moorish” regardless of the criticism.  Stein uses his patented humor and sarcasm to make a point.  Of course I’m biased, but this is still far from “Bowling for Columbine.” The critics are now claiming plagerism, using unlicensed media, trickery, and outright dishonesty.  These are all taking away from the real issue: can a scientist today hold the view that there’s design in nature and thus a designer.  Can he believe in God and science at the same time?

I hope this movie will expose any bias in the scientific world and also uphold the scientific method we so rely upon for advancement in the quality of human life.

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5 Responses

  1. […] Barr said the movie did not live up to the criticisms thrown at it by the media: The main focus of the movie is the question of academic freedom.  By interviewing scholars who have been discriminated against because of their ID or faith views, […]

  2. Whether or not there were other issues with his tenure, ID was certainly one of them.

    This is really confusing. Is ID science, or not. If it is, why is it illegitimate that people judge it to be bad science and thus a factor in denying tenure? Gonzalez submitted his ID book for review, but then it’s somehow illegitimate for reviewers to comment on it?

    But if ID is some sort of protected belief, then why is it being pushed as scientific?

    You can’t have it both ways.

    These are all taking away from the real issue: can a scientist today hold the view that there’s design in nature and thus a designer. Can he believe in God and science at the same time?

    This is probably the most dishonest omission from the film of all (the second biggest is the implication that Sternberg was fired… when he wasn’t). There are countless scientists that ARE religious and also oppose Intelligent Design. The filmmakers, when challenged on this, said that they didn’t want to “complicate” the movie by acknowledging the existence of such people. But their very existence directly contradicts the entire conspiracy theory of the film: that religious people are anathema to evolution. When challenged again on this, the producer basically implied that these people weren’t sincere in their religious beliefs, or that they weren’t Christian enough for him to matter.

    Although Dawkins and Myer’s have complained they were duped into the interviews, nothing they said was more extreme than what they’ve said in print or on the web.

    That was never the point though. Among other things, the point is that they were interviewed by being told that the film was about the conflict between science and religion, not making all these accusations about ID. The point of doing this was to portray them as the big scary atheists, showing their opinions about religion but then passing them off in the film as what all evolutionary scientists believe as scientists.

    Critics say these people had other issues affecting their job performance and scholarship. Of course that is the approach each institution representative took. How could they say anything else?

    That doesn’t mean that it isn’t the truth. Does the film tell you that Sternberg wasn’t qualified in the right field to review the paper he published, but chose to review it himself instead of sending it to the proper expert: a serious problem? That he had personal contact with the author and discussed how to publish the paper: another thing an editor is not supposed to do? That the paper wasn’t even the right subject for the journal (like publishing a chemistry paper in a physics journal) and that there’s serious question as to whether it was peer reviewed by actual critics as it is supposed to be?

    Most importantly… what did you come away thinking had happened to Sternberg as a result? What were the consequences to his publication of the article? Most people who’ve seen the film come away thinking he was fired from something. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t an employee to begin with, but what research privileges he did have at the Smithsonian he retained, and still retains to this day. The worst he got was… criticized by his peers. And yet here is a film claiming to be about free debate, trying to claim that criticism is evil and oppressive and wrong.

  3. I liked the film. Sure, it overstretched the connection between Darwinism and Nazism and jumped on Dawkins, but it still makes the case that there is not as much academic freedom as we seem to think. Faculty search committee’s do discriminate against theists; the scientific establishment does not treat ID proponents fairly.

    It’s about time someone turns the tables on them.

  4. Ben Stein’s goal in making Expelled (i gather) is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

  5. This conference poster of mine shows how profoundly the continental, Haeckelian type of evolutionism drived not only the racial World War II but also the nationalistic World War I:
    http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Haeckelian_legacy.pdf

    pauli.ojala@gmail.com
    Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)
    http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Expelled-ID.htm

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