Monday, November 10, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

I prefer action, comedy and sci-fi, movies but I occasionally watch documentaries so I won't feel so shallow. Several months ago I heard about Expelled just before it was released. I was surprised to learn that Ben Stein was behind this movie. I knew him as the lethargic teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and from Clear Eyes Commercials, but I didn't know much else about him. Due to the controversial nature of this movie I did not expect it to do well in the theaters, but I had no idea that the critics would crucify it like they did. It currently has a 3.5 Rating on IMDB and it was much lower than that when it first came out. In fact the low rating was one of the reasons I decided to rent it. I was curious to see if this movie had been black listed or if it was really as bad as reviewers and comment boards said it was.

In this film Ben Stein takes a look at many of America's institutions of higher learning and their opposition to allow the teaching of creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution. He interviews several distinguished professors who claim to have lost their jobs for even bringing up the topic in their classes or in papers they had published. He claims the faculty members and higher powers who are proponents of Darwin's theory of Evolution have gotten rid of anyone who even raises the possibility of creationism as a theory in the classroom.

There is silly slapstick footage of old black and white movies spliced in throughout the movie which is supposed to be analogous to the ongoing battle over this topic. Stein really offended his critics when he compared those who teach only Evolution to Nazis. I think it's usually a mistake to compare anyone to Nazis, but I could see the point he was making. Many of the leaders of the third Reich were stanch disciples of Darwin and Eugenics and believed it was their duty to purge the world of weaker species and inferior humans. He addressed how planned parenthood and the euthanasia movement have also been influenced by Darwin. The movie took a very somber turn as he visited holocaust sites and Darwin's museum in Europe. I thought the movie started to drag and this point and lost some momentum.

An insightful part of this movie was to watch some of the most bitter opponents of intelligent design, creationism, and God. You get a real feel for their condescending attitude and the disgust they have for anyone who is foolish enough to even entertain such ideas. Seeing some of these intellectual giants made me grateful that I am not consumed in academia. (Watching some of their interviews also made me want to send them a gift certificate for a makeover.) I find it ironic that many of the great scientific discoveries were made by men who were under a great deal of scrutiny and opposition from the scientific community of their time. I would think that some of the antagonistic scientists would acknowledge this but when it comes to this topic there is no room for debate.

The highlight of the film was an interview Ben Stein had with Richard Dawkins, a devout atheist and outspoken opponent of intelligent design. Dawkins begins the interview by outright denying the existence of God and belittles the idea of ID but after continual questioning he ends up saying he could see some higher intelligence or life form seeding the planet for life but says it could possibly have been aliens but not the God we know. It was interesting to hear him contradict himself and actually describe the concept behind intelligent design.

The critics claimed this was a shallow one sided documentary. Few documentaries are unbiased these days. I have a feeling the critics of this movie are the same ones that give Michael Moore's work rave reviews. Ben Stein obviously had an agenda and wanted to convey his concerns and he does succeed raising several legitimate questions. I think it is interesting to see how quickly industries and societies that clamor for tolerance, diversity, and open mindedness will put the clamps on a movie like this if it doesn't agree with their beliefs or agenda. The media and academia ripped this movie a new one, but I thought it deserved a much better rating than most people have given it. I give it 6.7 out of 10 rating. Now I can't wait to get back to my shallow non-controversial movies.

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