After seeing the ads for Ben Stein's movie Expelled, I was intrigued and had to check this movie out. Rather than wait until the video came out on DVD, I went to the movie theater for the first time in years. I grabbed a bucket of popcorn and a box of Junior Mints and plopped down in my seat just as the previews ended.
The basic theme of the movie is to show a divide that exists in modern science: the split created by the idea of Intelligent Design. Ben Stein meets with scientists from different colleges and different academic backgrounds who have been ostracized, lost tenure, and even lost their job for referencing Intelligent Design as a plausible alternative to the creation of life.
I really expected more out of the movie, not in the way of apologetic debate, but in presenting arguments as to why these scientists felt that Darwin's Theory of Evolution was not the "perfect answer" that all the other scientists had accepted. In my experience, knowledge is the greatest tool when discussing philosophy, science, and religion; and when an argument is presented without bias, without insult, and without redundancies, most people will listen. However Mr. Stein makes it known that he is Jewish, and while he doesn't pro port one religion over the other, he makes his case for the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.
Attention: Spoiler Alert!!!
The movie is filled with information as well as good-natured humor. The Berlin Wall is the common symbol used throughout the movie. It's a parallel with the divide that has been erected in science regarding the subject of how life began on this planet. He starts by interviewing various professors and academics at the Smithsonian, Cornell, and various other colleges in the U.S. None of the scientists make a full-blown argument for creationism, however they each state that Darwin's Theory has become outdated and it is now lacking. By taking this position, either in the classroom or in their respective published journals, action has been taken against these professors for their opinions.
I felt the movie set the stage for the ultimate in scientific hypocrisy, and had it stayed on topic, the message would have been far more forceful. They even referenced the movie "Inherit the Wind" where a Southern court is the stage for the topic of teaching evolution in the classrooms. Expelled touches on the backlash of the scientific community refusing to listen to opposing arguments when not long ago science was under fire for the same thing: attacking the status quo thinking.
Unfortunately the movie does not elaborate the particular issues that some scientists have with Darwin's Theory, nor does it go into any great detail regarding the argument for Intelligent Design. At first, I thought it even more intriguing; they were trying to be unbiased. Some arguments were brought up, such as how the possibility for 250 proteins (the minimal amount needed to sustain the simplest form of life) to "just come into being" are about 1 in a trillion trillion, or 1 in 10e36. Another argument comes from the discovery of genome, and being able to decode the information held in complex DNA strains.
However after these two arguments, which were briefly discussed, the movie takes a drastic turn for the gutter, or for the gut. "What's wrong the harm in accepting Darwin's Theory of Evolution?" Ben Stein asks rhetorically during the film. The next thirty minutes is spent on Hitler, the Nazis, and World War 2 where Ben compares the atrocities committed during the Holocaust to the application of Darwin's Theory. I find this second act both amusing and annoying. The comparison that is made completes my argument that throughout history it is not religion that causes people to kill or go to war, but ideology which is used to motivate or incite a group to rise against another. Before finishing the assault on Darwinism, they also brought up the subject of eugenics and Margaret Sanger, the founder of planned parenthood. Again, I think Hitler was evil and Ms. Sanger had some pretty screwed up ideas about why birth control should be used, but what does it have to do with intelligent design???
The final part of the movie includes a one-on-one with Ben and the "leader of darkness" Richard Dawkins. In a bit of wordplay Ben gets Dawkins to admit that some theories regarding Intelligent Design are plausible, such as the idea that life may have been planted here by another race.
The movie ends rather anti-climatically with sound bites of Reagan saying "Tear down this wall." in reference to the Berlin parallel used during the movie. Most people clapped when the movie was over, as if they'd just watched something informative or self-affirming. I left immediately, feeling I'd wasted 7 bucks in the hopes of seeing something that would actually present a plausible idea to the scientific community. I agree with most of the ideas presented by Ben Stien and the scientists he interviewed, but I didn't go see a movie to hear things I already believed in; I expected actual discourse on the topic. Perhaps I simply expected something different than a Michael Moore'ish presentation of a scientific debate. While I learned a few things from the movie, I'd be reluctant to ever watch it again.