Ben Stein’s new documentary, Expelled, is a much better film than I expected. After reading various comments on the Internet, especially those made prior to the movie’s actual release, I was prepared to not like this film as a propaganda piece with a lot of sensational claims about faith and the Bible. I also read the multiple negative reviews of the movie at rotten tomatoes (which is a collection of various reviewers) and deduced it was probably not worth seeing. I also feared, based upon reviewers comments, that it might well prove to be a careless mis-representation of Darwinism, which it is not. (I know, of course, that Ben Stein is Jewish and thus I figured he was not going to promote Christianity!)

After seeing this 90 minute documentary for myself I would describe the central thesis as “freedom, especially freedom of expression and real academic freedom." While it is clear that Stein believes there must be a Creator nowhere in the film does he tell us who he is or where we come to know him personally. He makes no claims about divine revelation whatsoever. His simple premise is that academic freedom is being compromised and by it the very freedom that makes America a great nation where any idea is allowed to stand on its own is compromised. To reject Darwinism and natural selection is be expelled by the academic establishment. This means that we have progressively surrendered our most basic freedoms to think and speak openly in America.

I am not convinced of Intelligent Design, at least as it is argued for by its true adherents. Further, I am not a rigid Creationist, at least in the widely popular sense that sees it as a simplistic framework that defines arguments about origins and can be used to explain scientific observations and ancient earth history. Thus I was glad that SteinStein
included representatives of both real science and honest religion who embraced neither side of this divide among Christians and non-Christians; e.g. intelligent people like John Polkinghorne. And Alister McGrath’s appearances in the film were also a positive touch since he has a Ph.D. in both science and theology, a very rare fact in the modern academic world.

Stein links Darwinism to Nazism, a connection that will likely offend the most deeply liberal academic elites. I think he does make this connection fairly without ever saying, or even suggesting, that all evolutionists are Nazis. What he does say is that Nazism openly used evolution to advance its pursuit of a pure race. But we must remember, if we face the real facts, that a considerable number of American scientists have also promoted eugenics and abortion in the name of science, to give but just two major examples

Stein is a very clever interviewer
. (Mainstream reviewers have mocked him on this point.) He is at his best toward the end of the movie when he ends with an interview of the famous Richard Dawkins, author of the popular book, The God Delusion. He gets Dawkins to actually admit that he “could” be wrong about there being no God. He even has him saying that some kind of higher being may have stirred the evolutionary soup and then passed off the scene at some distant point in the past. Dawkins is so totally committed to his own presuppositions that he refuses, steadfastly, to admit it. Stein unnerved him with simple questions. It was actually fun to watch. All I could think of when I watched this interview was: “ET, phone home!”

It takes faith to commit to any explanation of the origin of life of this planet. The question is really where do you go to get your faith and why? Darwinists believe in natural selection, without any explanation as to the actual means for how this all happened. Christians believe in a Creator and if they are wise they will withhold certitude on a great deal of the how questions (e.g. St. Augustine). A real discussion could actually ensue if more people simply admitted this much. Zealotry surely exists among religious fundamentalists about the way creation occurred but many (maybe “most”) biologists are equally zealous in an almost parallel way but simply will not see it or admit it. Stein catches the emperor with no clothes in this fine movie.

By the way, biologists are always the most likely to embrace evolution while mathematicians are the least likely. I will give you one guess as to why. If you know the answer you will then understand the serious point that Stein makes in this excellent documentary. See it if you can guess. A decent support base for the movie would help to get the message out to more people and “tearing down the wall” against freedom that Stein believes divides us. See it if you can. It will not harm you and it will make you think about how freedom can be lost.

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  1. ColtsFan April 28, 2008 at 11:38 am

    JA writes the following:
    “By the way, biologists are always the most likely to embrace evolution while mathematicians are the least likely. I will give you one guess as to why. If you know the answer you will then understand the serious point that Stein makes in this excellent documentary.”
    One possible answer could be that mathematicians see the world in **a priori categories** and biologists tend to conceive of the world differently, in **a posteriori categories**.
    One relevant question then becomes:
    is ultimate reality reflective of a priori characterizations? Or does reality reflect the basic assumptions of Empricism?
    This book below tackles that key question:
    “The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem”
    by Mark Steiner.
    Atheist Richard Carrier had a rebuttal posted at Internet Infidels awhile back.

  2. Chris Criminger April 28, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Hi John,
    I am so glad you saw the movie (so many are doing what you were tempted to do, read the negative reviews and pass on this one).
    The person who impressed me the most in “Expelled” was David Berlinski who has just come out with a new book called “The Devil’s Delusion.”
    I was hoping this was some Christian scholar that I have not heard of and what I simply found out was that he is a Jewish agnostic scientist who has some tough things and funny things to say concerning “the new atheism.”

  3. Bad April 30, 2008 at 7:41 am

    “The person who impressed me the most in “Expelled” was David Berlinski”
    What did he say that you were particularly impressed with?

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