Is Darwin’s theory of evolution unquestionable fact? Or should the possibility that an intelligent designer created our world be discussed as an alternative? Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a recent film presented by actor and political speech writer Ben Stein, suggests that it should.
Released on April 18 2008, Expelled opened in 1,052 cinemas – a record for a documentary – and created a huge storm of controversy. A company called XVIVO filed a lawsuit accusing it of plagiarizing an animation, while Yoko Ono attempted to have it pulled from theaters because she didn’t like its use of John Lennon’s song Imagine. Expelled won both cases, but continued to be swamped with a barrage of terrible reviews, accusations of unprofessionalism and duping interviewees, and far more.
Naturally, I had to pick up the recently released DVD to see for myself what all the fuss was about.
Expelled opens with its central point – that there is no academic freedom to suggest an alternative to the Darwin juggernaut. Evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, biology teacher Caroline Crocker and many more academics say that when they simply brought up intelligent design they were mocked by their peers, fired or found their careers come to a dead end. It’s chilling and reveals the scientific world as being one of incredible narrow-mindedness.
Unsurprisingly, evolution advocates have since tried to discredit all of these sources, and the institutions that employed them deny that intelligent design had anything to do with their firing; although they fail to give any concrete alternative reason. “It was procedure,” they explain vaguely. It’s a powerful beginning to an important film.
Sure, Expelled is not perfect. Ben Stein’s droning voice, so funny in his role as a boring teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, can be a bit of a drag. Some judicious editing could have spared us a few overlong atmosphere-building sequences. And Intelligent Design itself isn’t much of a theory – it doesn’t explain who the designer is, shying away from God to keep itself from being classified as religion.
But if you look at Expelled simply as a petition for an alternative, and a showcase of how deeply flawed the evolutionist’s outlook is, it’s an effective, thought-provoking film.
While my opinion comes from the layman’s point of view, it’s an educated one, backed by my research on two articles about the new wave of atheist scientists. One, “Not Such a Bright Idea,” was published in Back to Godhead magazine; the other, a rebuttal of Wired Magazine’s article “The New Atheists,” appeared on Krishna.com.
So I’ve noticed that most scientists, and particularly the radical atheists headed by Richard Dawkins, love to point out how much sense science makes and how fantastical religion is. They do it so much, and so eloquently, that I even found myself occasionally wondering if they were right. But watching Expelled evaporated those doubts – it became obvious to me that scientists’ ideas are certainly no less outlandish than those of the religious.
They claim that evolution explains everything. Yet when pressed, they all admit that they have no idea how life came about, acting as if this doesn’t create a chink in their armor. They do have ideas though. Darwinist Michael Ruse offers up the biggest gem: “One popular theory was that it might have started off when molecules piggy-backed on crystals forming, and this led to more complexity.”
Hmmm. Guys, why don’t you just admit that you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about?
It gets better. Both Ruse and Richard Dawkins agreed that if there was an intelligent designer, it certainly wasn’t God – but it could be visiting aliens who came and seeded life onto earth.
Expelled also reveals just how flimsy evolution is as the explanation for everything. Molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, one of the few underground scientists questioning evolution, says, “Darwin didn’t know how life began. His theory only begins after you have the first cell.”
Wells acknowledges that there is evidence of evolution everywhere – if you define it as change over time. “But Darwin didn’t call his book Species Developing over Time,” he says. “He called it the Origin of Species. And the evidence for that grand claim, is in my opinion, almost totally lacking.”
But for me, Expelled’s most powerful moment comes – surprisingly – from a supporter of evolution. Dr. Will Provine, professor of the history of biology at Cornell University, paints such a dark picture of an evolutionist’s worldview that he overshadows any other points made in the film. “It starts by giving up an active deity. Then you give up the hope that there’s any life after death,” he says, punctuating every word with bitter emphasis. “The rest follows fairly easily. If you believe in evolution, you give up hope of an imminent morality, of any human free will, or of any deep meaning in human life. We live, we die, and we’re gone.”
How anyone could subscribe to such a dire worldview is beyond me – it goes completely against our intrinsic nature.
But there are obviously a lot of people who defend it. Proving Expelled’s point that there is no intellectual freedom, scientists and the media viciously attacked the film upon its release.
Yet there was a curious inconsistency to these attacks. Rotten Tomatoes, a movie site that compiles reviews for an overall verdict, gave Expelled a dismal 10%. Summarizing 41 reviews, it stated: “Full of patronizing, poorly structured arguments, Expelled is a cynical political stunt in the guise of a documentary.”
Interesting. Because the same website gave Religulous, an opposing documentary that ridicules religious beliefs, 71%, saying, “Religulous is funny and offensive in equal measure, and aims less to change hearts and minds than to inspire conversation.” This claim of a balanced perspective is completely false. Presenter Bill Maher is a fundamentalist atheist who talks about religion the same way Richard Dawkins does – with complete scorn and even hate. “Religions are the most dangerous threat facing mankind,” he says, claiming that “religion must die for mankind to live.” And this is supposed to be less of a patronizing, political stunt than Expelled?
Another common accusation against Expelled is that Ben Stein has chopped and edited his interviews to suit his points and to make atheists look stupid. First of all, while the movie could have done without the odd splicing in of sensationalist clips, all the Darwinists are given plenty of airtime to dig their own holes. Secondly, Religulous did exactly the same thing. As Christianity Today comments, “Religulous is best seen as a comedy and not as a serious or measured examination of anything. It’s a movie meant to make religious people look stupid, to ‘prove’ that religious belief and intelligence are mutually exclusive.”
Critics of intelligent design who appeared in Expelled, such as Richard Dawkins, say they were misled when producers asked to interview them for a film named Crossroads on the “intersection of science and religion.” But this is a common technique for investigative documentaries – the scientists would have either refused to be interviewed or been less honest about their opinions if they knew the actual intent of the film. Bill Maher did exactly the same thing, telling religious interviewees for his film Religulous that it was called “A Spiritual Journey.” Why was he not attacked for this tactic as Ben Stein was?
There’s more. People used grass roots efforts to send internet searches for Expelled to other websites that criticize the themes in the movie. They even sent emails to boycott the documentary, such as this one which a prominent U.S. movie theater chain forwarded to Expelled’s producers: “I urge the management of this theater company to consider rejecting the highly controversial film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, as it undermines science in our nation’s schools.”
Despite all these attacks, Expelled earned over $7 million, making it the 12th highest-grossing documentary in the USA since 1982 – and it’s still selling on DVD. The film’s website also features a petition for an academic freedom bill that would allow teachers to discuss alternatives to evolution. The bill has already been passed in Louisiana.
It’s a tough climate for those who question evolution. Richard Dawkins and his New Atheists have a large following and a growing list of bestselling books dismissing religion as silly fiction. But as long as efforts like Expelled are made, there’s still hope that the door to discussion will be opened and evolution will be seen by the public for what it really is: just a theory.
And ISKCON devotees, fighting their own fight against modern atheistic science, will continue to support such efforts. Drutakarma Dasa (Michael Cremo), who experienced the scientific communities wrath firsthand when he presented scientific cover-ups in his book “Forbidden Archeology,” says, “Expelled did an excellent job in documenting the consequences suffered by scholars and scientists who dare oppose the theory of evolution.”
ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada was a bit more outspoken about confronting Darwinist theory. “Therefore we have to make very strong propaganda against this theory [Darwinism],” he told disciples in LA in March 1973. “Otherwise if you sleep only and take doctorate title, what is the use? You have to fight against these rascals. Make your soldier's party and start fighting against these rascals. No more toleration. No more silence.”