Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ben Stein's new movie: Expelled

UPDATE: For the "super-trailer", click here.

Stein's film on evolution and ID will be released on April 18th in more than 1,000 theaters nationwide. To see the website and the trailer, click here.

At minimum, I'm expecting a Michael-Moore quality and type of documentary-- well-produced, amusing, poignant, at least occasionally insightful, and of course, provocative.

A number of articles here, but let's start with Marvin Olasky's in World...

The 100-minute documentary, Expelled, is perfect for adults and children of middle-school age or above: It should be rated R not for sex or violence but for being reasonable, radical, risible, and right. (It is rated PG for thematic material, some disturbing images, and brief smoking.) ...Stein is amusing as he walks, in dark suit and bright running shoes, from interview to interview with scientists and philosophers on both sides of the evolution debate.

Expelled rightly equates Darwinian stifling of free speech with the Communist attempt to enslave millions behind the Berlin Wall. One Expelled scene shows Stein, mathematician David Berlinski (a sophisticated Paris resident), and nuclear physicist Gerald Schroeder (wearing a yarmulke), all now ID advocates, discussing the importance of freedom as they visit a remnant of the Wall. All three are Jewish, and they don't look or talk like the hicks portrayed in Inherit the Wind.

Stein, giving the Darwinists he interviews plenty of time to make their case, is particularly effective in his conversation with Richard Dawkins, atheistic author of the best-selling The God Delusion. Dawkins astoundingly admits that life on earth could be the result of ID, as long as the designer was a being from outer space who was himself the product of atheistic evolution. No God allowed!

Expelled's showing of the connection between evolutionary doctrine and Nazi eugenics has already infuriated some in academia and the media...

The real question is: Did Darwinism bulwark Hitlerian hatred by providing a scientific rationale for killing those considered less fit in the struggle for survival? The answer to that question is an unambiguous yes....

April 18 will bring an interesting test of whether Expelled, or any other documentary so conceived and so dedicated, can endure in movie theaters past the first weekend. Michael Moore's fatuous documentaries have done good box office with the help of sympathetic reviewers and network news producers. Ben Stein's excellent one might rely on evangelicals and others who are tired of being ridiculed by the closed minds of the Evolution Establishment.

And then there's this from Jenn Duncan in the Southeast Outlook...

The documentary by Ben Stein exposes persecution of professors, scientists and journalists who claim they are denied the freedom to follow evidence of the universe’s origin wherever it leads....According to Stein, "Expelled exposes a loss of freedom of inquiry in the scientific world."

Ben Stein, perhaps best known as the monotone teacher from the hit movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, doesn’t simply talk to people who represent one side of the story. The film follows him on a journey to answer the age-old question: Are we the handiwork of a designer or simply the product of countless mutations? Is Intelligent Design a pseudo-science trying to undercut evolutionary biology, or is it a reasonable science being censored by an establishment that is hostile to deviation from the status quo?

Stein questions scientists such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education. Stein said he discovered an elitist scientific establishment that has swapped skepticism for dogma, calls the theory of evolution fact, and seeks to smear any who propose other ideas. Grant money, jobs, publications and the entire name of Big Science is at stake, according to Stein.

Although some interviewees are raising a ruckus about the film, Steve Schmidt, director of distributing, said "every person was told this film would be about the conflict between Intelligent Design and Evolution, each person was given the questions in advance if they desired, each person was paid, and every one of them cashed their check. Our conscience is totally clean regarding the film—we misrepresented nothing."

The struggle is not a matter of strict science, but an entire worldview issue. Stein points out that Darwinism can lead people to become Atheists, who believe in no God, no morality, no purpose and no sanctity of life. PZ Myers offered his take on religion, compared it to a hobby and said it brings the same type of comfort as knitting....

The Southeast Outlook also had an article by Ruth Schenk (but I couldn't find it on-line). She notes that Stein has been an attorney, columnist, actor, professor, presidential speech writer (for Nixon and Ford), the author of 30 books, and a game show host! (Did you ever see "Win Ben Stein's Money"? It was awesome!)

Finally, in an interview with Peter Chattaway in Christianity Today (couldn't find this on-line either!), Stein notes that he is not an expert on ID and that, in the movie, he "just moderates the discussion among the scientists".

We don't see many movies in the theater, but we'll probably make a special trip to catch this one!


At April 11, 2008 at 8:58 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

Here's a rather harsh review from one critic who has seen the movie:
Lying for Jesus, by Richard Dawkins.

At April 11, 2008 at 9:32 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

An odd title for Dawkins to choose since Stein is Jewish.

I wonder if the New York Times Book Review will have Dawkins write a film review.

It'd be interesting to know how much Dawkins was paid to be in the movie. Along with the cash, the spate of promotion and self-promotion makes this a clear win for the D-man in his quest to survive among the fittest.

At April 11, 2008 at 2:40 PM , Blogger Ojalanpoika said...

I think an analogous documentary film should also be made out of the DINOGLYFS or dinolits:

It seems that the ancient man not only saw but also documented the last megafauna (gigafauna, I should say, really!)
Biochemist, Finland

At April 11, 2008 at 2:47 PM , Blogger Ojalanpoika said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At April 11, 2008 at 3:37 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

The New York Times let Dawkins write a review of Michael Behe's recent book. The review was predictably unpleasant.

By the way, a Fox News entertainment columnist (Roger Friedman) doesn't like the movie either:
Ben Stein: Win His Career

At April 11, 2008 at 5:10 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I blogged earlier about Dawkins reviewing Behe's book (hat tip: Richard John Neuhaus).

I'm curious to see Stein's effort-- especially after just having seen presumably similar work by Michael Moore. (Likewise, I suspect it will be as difficult to find objective reviews of Moore as Stein.)

Should be interesting!

At April 20, 2008 at 10:13 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

Okay, I've seen the movie now. I'm afraid the critics are largely right.

My biggest complaint is that they pretty much gloss over the fact that there are prominent scientists who are deeply religious and pro-evolution; they hardly mention the possibility of theistic evolution. They do everything to make it sound like the scientific establishment versus religion. Another sin of omission is their egregious treatment (non-treatment really) of the Dover ID court case.

They use an irritating Michael Moore-like editing style, using mocking imagery against evolutionists while cutting everything into little sound bites (inviting the suspicion that their editing is tendentious, but depriving the viewer of context and depth). Richard Dawkins and other interviewees claim they were mislead about the intent of the movie, and that their views were not fairly represented by the movie (e.g., Ben Stein gets Dawkins to speculate that aliens created life on Earth). After seeing the movie, I am afraid I don't have much trouble believing this.

Their attempt to make the Holocaust into a logical outcome of a world-view based on evolution was way over the top and deeply unfair.

Anyway, one thumbs-down for this movie.

At April 21, 2008 at 8:07 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...


I've just posted a review of sorts, so this reply excerpts from there:

The filmmakers don't mention theistic evolution by name-- probably to limit the connections to theism and theology. (What would the critics say about the use of that term?) In any case, Stein certainly covers that angle-- e.g., in the Scott vs. Dawkins "debate" and Dembski's favorable comments about evolution,

Moreover, the film certainly conveys a sense of science vs. religion. But the larger theme is science vs. Science and (academic) freedom vs. restriction and suppression.

They don't deal with the Dover case in particular, but they deal with court cases in general (at length).

I agree that the film's style is Moore-like-- for better and for worse.

"Ben Stein gets Dawkins to speculate that aliens created life on Earth?" Huh? Maybe Provine came in and took Dawkins' free will away? ;-)

Finally, I thought they were quite careful to make two points about Darwinism and the Holocaust: Berlinski's necessary but not sufficient condition and Weikart's historical connection between the two. Clearly, from the literature (and intuitively), there is an historical (and contemporary) connection between Darwinism, morality, eugenics, and so on.

I give the movie two opposable thumbs up (pun intended)!

At June 24, 2008 at 10:33 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I have to agree with Eric too, thumbs up. Yes, it was one of those emotional documentaries in which you're not sure how balanced a view you're being shown. But from personal experience, I know that Big Science does try to silence people the way Stein suggests.

I honestly don't care if the debate is between evolution and ID or between evolution and Leprechauns, as long as the Leprechaun proponents are using scientific means to search for Leprechauns. This is not about science vs. religion, this is about Big Science trying to silence any dissenting opinion.

I've heard a lot of people say that ID is not real science, and that ID proponents are free to experiment and write papers and follow the evidence wherever it will lead. Sorry, but Big Science really does not work that way anymore. It didn't for me, when I questioned Euclid and followed the evidence. Don't just say "That doesn't happen," when you don't know everything that happens.

I think the bottom line is that too many people believe only what they want to believe, and they distort any evidence in their heads to support their desired belief. It's true of as many atheists as theists. But then, some people try to silence anyone who presses an opposing belief, because the opposing belief makes them scared. If they believe what they believe only because they want to and because they skew evidence inside their own heads, then they can't bear to see an opposing view displayed scientifically; it ruins their comfortable world.

Sure, many scientists are sensible and don't do this at all. But the Big Science attitude does do it. Again, I've experienced it, and it's not enough for people to say, "Oh, that never happens." How do you know it never happens? It is unbelievable, but isn't that what makes it so terrible?

It is no surprise to me that the New York Times and other far-left folks don't like this movie, because they wouldn't want to, would they? There seems to be too much control and suppression of ideas happening now, what with the Global Warming debate being "closed," and one-sided political correctness and such, and so much of that control seems to come via the liberal media. So no surprise to me that they don't like this.

We need more honesty, and that starts with considering things we don't want to believe. I've considered atheism since I was four, and I still consider it now. It still just falls apart, purely logically. Anyway, yeah, thumbs up :) Woot for free exchange of ideas!

At December 25, 2008 at 8:30 AM , Blogger Fairy said...

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