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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a pseudo-documentary that was released in in 2008, the purpose of which is to portray creationists as being objects of persecution in the intellectual community. The fundamental problem with the movie is that its premise is misleading, if not downright false, and Ben Stein's characterization of evolution and Darwinism as "random" and "by chance" is profoundly dishonest.

Here's the New York Times review:

One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

Positing the theory of intelligent design as a valid scientific hypothesis, the film frames the refusal of “big science” to agree as nothing less than an assault on free speech. Interviewees, including the scientist Richard Sternberg, claim that questioning Darwinism led to their expulsion from the scientific fold (the film relies extensively on the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy — after this, therefore because of this), while our genial audience surrogate, the actor and multihyphenate Ben Stein, nods sympathetically. (Mr. Stein is also a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times.)

Prominent evolutionary biologists, like the author and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins — accurately identified on screen as an “atheist” — are provided solely to construct, in cleverly edited slices, an inevitable connection between Darwinism and godlessness. Blithely ignoring the vital distinction between social and scientific Darwinism, the film links evolution theory to fascism (as well as abortion, euthanasia and eugenics), shamelessly invoking the Holocaust with black-and-white film of Nazi gas chambers and mass graves.

Every few minutes familiar — and ideologically unrelated — images interrupt the talking heads: a fist-shaking Nikita S. Khrushchev; Charlton Heston being subdued by a water hose in “Planet of the Apes.” This is not argument, it’s circus, a distraction from the film’s contempt for precision and intellectual rigor. This goes further than a willful misunderstanding of the scientific method. The film suggests, for example, that Dr. Sternberg lost his job at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History because of intellectual discrimination but neglects to inform us that he was actually not an employee but rather an unpaid research associate who had completed his three-year term.

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.


Here's a review of the movie by Dan Whipple of Colorado Confidential[1]

According to Of Pandas and People, a textbook outlining the essentials of "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolutionary biology:

"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales; birds with feathers, beaks and wings; etc. Some scientists have arrived at this view since fossil forms first appeared in the record with their distinctive features intact and apparently fully functional rather than gradual development."
Ben stein.jpg

But you'll stay awake through the one-hour-and-forty-five-minute film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" - if you can manage it -- without ever hearing this or any other definition of intelligent design. This seems a curious omission in a movie seeking to poke holes in evolutionary theory and by doing so establish some scientific credentials for ID.

"Expelled" stars Ben Stein. It was produced by Premise Media. The film will be released to general audiences in April. ColoradoConfidential was invited to a preliminary screening of "Expelled" - probably by mistake - that was held last week in a meeting room at the Archdiocese of Denver.

Ben Stein is one of those people whom I recognize, but I'm not sure why. He seems to be mostly famous for being famous. His online bio says that he was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon. The bio adds, "He did NOT write the line, `I am not a crook.'" This is a shame because as far as I can tell that's the only memorable thing Richard Nixon ever said. Stein played the boring teacher in the film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." His style is the definition of "deadpan." Stein is apparently aiming for a religious right niche similar to the one held by Michael Moore on the left. Judging from this effort, he has a ways to go.

You won't hear a coherent definition of evolution in the "Expelled," either, even though it bashes this scientific theory incessantly. So we'll offer this one as a public service:

Evolution is descent with modification. Random changes in the genetic makeup of an organism result in changes in the phenotype. The organism interacts with its environment. If the changes to the phenotype give it an advantage over others - the vast majority of genetic changes are deleterious -- it leaves more offspring, who are also endowed with this advantageous genetic makeup for dealing with their environment. This latter is known as "natural selection." This simple but powerful process leads to new species through separation of organisms in time and place.

The above is the ten cent course in evolution, but it's more than you'll get from "Expelled." In fact I've even already told you more about both intelligent design and evolutionary theory than you'll get from "Expelled."

I can hear you saying, "Okay, so what is it about?" A fair question. But the film is so intellectually garbled it's hard to summarize. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is Summa Theologica compared to "Expelled."

The film starts off as a stirring defense of academic inquiry, charging that Darwinists are squashing debate by depriving researchers in intelligent design of positions in academia. I suppose I should mention that Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is the founding intellectual giant behind evolutionary theory. Were he alive today, however, I can't guarantee that he would ascribe to my ten cent version of evolutionary theory above. Genes, for instance, had not been discovered as agents of heredity when Darwin did his work.

"Expelled" trots out several martyrs to the Darwinist inquisition. The poster boy is Richard Sternberg, whom the movie says was ousted from his position at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and from his editorship of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington when he published in that publication a peer-reviewed article of scientific evidence that supports intelligent design. There is some dramatic if unfocused footage of Ben Stein being denied admission to the upper floors of the Smithsonian by a security guard when he tries to grill muckety-mucks at the museum about these injustices.

This repression of scientific thought, we can all agree, is horrible if true. But it isn't true.

This is a dispute among academics. Faults on both sides, I'm sure. Perhaps because there is so little at stake in these fights, they are among the most vicious known to political man. A lot of cyber-ink was spilled over the Steinberg tussle long before Ben Stein got around to it. You can read Sternberg's version of his persecution here and a non-ID rebuttal here. It's even made Wikipedia, which has got to be the high water mark for a bureaucratic pissing match.

The allegations made in "Expelled" are wrong. Sternberg never worked for the Smithsonian, so the Smithsonian couldn't threaten his job there. He was a visiting scholar with research privileges, assigned an office. He still has both the office and the research privileges. He wasn't deprived of his editorship. His term as editor had expired so he was stepping down anyway in favor of another editor when the controversial ID article was published.

In short, contrary to the assertions in "Expelled," Sternberg suffered no harm whatever from the dustup. Which is not to say that he wasn't criticized. He was. Harshly, rudely and sometimes childishly by fellow scientists. But rough and tumble argument is part of the world of science, whether you're studying intelligent design, string theory or evolutionary biology.

There are three or four other cases explored in "Expelled," all of which are presented in black-and-white terms as anti-ID intellectual repression by a Darwinist cabal. Closer examination of the specifics of each reveals pretty ordinary academic backbiting. There isn't space enough on the internet to go into them here. I'll leave it as an independent exercise for the morbidly curious.

After a half hour or so, "Expelled" wanders off to blame the theory of evolution for Communism, the Berlin Wall, Fascism, the Holocaust, atheism and Planned Parenthood. One of the few funny parts of the film, though, is Stein's interview with British philosopher of science Richard Dawkins. Dawkins' best-selling book The God Delusion is a clarion call for atheism, making him a bete-noire of the religious right. Ben Stein, marshalling the intellectual resources of Ferris Bueller's boring teacher, gets the better of him. Dawkins comes out of it looking pretty silly.

There are so many topics picked up, misrepresented and abandoned unresolved by "Expelled" that it is impossible to deal with them all. But they are typical of the intellectual dishonesty of the creationist-Intelligent Design cabal that wants to have this bankrupt hypothesis taught in the public schools.

For instance, the assumption by IDers is that if neo-Darwinian evolution can be shown to be largely incorrect, ID and creationism triumph. But this isn't so. There are other hypotheses besides design or God or Darwin that could replace it, if they were supported by the evidence. The trouble is that only evolution is so supported. "Expelled" doesn't try to build up a coherent alternative theory. It simply bashes evolution.

The confusion about the definition of ID is apparent throughout the movie. "Expelled" ridicules a hypothesis proposed some years ago called "panspermia." This conjecture - for which, I hasten to add, there is zero direct evidence (just like ID) -- is that life on earth was originated elsewhere in the galaxy and was planted here, either delivered by alien visitors or remotely somehow. "Expelled," and the audience I saw it with, found this idea laugh-out-loud funny. But think about it. This is exactly ID's hypothesis: Some superintelligence planted life on earth. IDers prefer that the "intelligence" be the God of Abraham, but there's nothing in the hypothesis to rule out visitors from another galaxy.

The visually most compelling scenes in "Expelled" were graphic representations of DNA replication. This is truly a remarkable process. I've taken a couple of classes in genetics. It's one of those things that is so cool right down to the details that it is hard not to stand back in awe of whoever thought it up, whether it was God or evolution. The ID take on it is: It's so beautiful and complex, a designer must have been behind it. My take on it is: It's so beautiful and complex, why would any designer bother with it? Something like 80 percent of the genetic material in a strand of DNA is not used for anything. It's junk DNA. Surely an intelligent designer could have come up with something simpler.

But this is a matter of interpretation. Other presentations of "Expelled" display intellectual dishonesty. For instance, most evolutionary biologists do not deal with the origins of life. Evolution acts on organisms that already exist. The question of how life came about is not something that Darwinian evolution deals with. "Expelled" acknowledges this, then proceeds to ignore this acknowledgement and fault evolutionary theory for misinterpreting the origins of life. Sigh.

There are scientists who are trying to learn how life originated on earth. They have ideas, some silly sounding - you can hear about these in "Expelled" - and some profound. But nobody knows. Apparently for the creators of "Expelled," saying that you don't know something is unacceptable.

One likely reason that "Expelled" ignored the definition of ID from Of Pandas and People is that the book was thoroughly discredited in the 2005 trial of ID curriculum in Dover, Pennsylvania. They probably want to distance themselves from this devastating defeat of creationism and ID in the courts.

"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" may be the first volley in the next battle by creationists to give their movement intellectual weight. But its cartoon version of evolutionary theory, Its remarkable lack of evidence for its case, its unbalanced and hysterical portrayal of the "martyrs," its dismal and depressing musical score, and its lack of genuine humor will persuade only the already persuaded.



Amusing story about how PZ Myers was not allowed to attend the screening of the movie that he was invited to, while standing next to Richard Dawkins:


Those in the scientific or freethought community that were interviewed for this movie have already gone public expressing contempt for the way the producers misled them[2]:

Last April, I received this nice letter from Mark Mathis.

Hello Mr. Myers, My name is Mark Mathis. I am a Producer for Rampant Films. We are currently in production of the documentary film, "Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion." At your convenience I would like to discuss our project with you and to see if we might be able to schedule an interview with you for the film. The interview would take no more than 90 minutes total, including set up and break down of our equipment. We are interested in asking you a number of questions about the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement. Please let me know what time would be convenient for me to reach you at your office. Also, could you please let me know if you charge a fee for interviews and if so, what that fee would be for 90 minutes of your time. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely, Mark Mathis Rampant Films 4414 Woodman Ave. #203 Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 www.rampantfilms.com

I looked up Rampant Films. Yes, they are doing a movie called Crossroads, and it has perfectly reasonable blurb. crossroads.gif

So I said, sure, I'd be happy to talk with you, and as long as any travel expenses are covered, I'm willing to do it gratis (academic, you know…we aren't used to charging big fees to explain things to people). They came out to Morris, set up cameras and gear in my lab, and we did an interview for a few hours. I got paid (woo hoo!). They left. I figured that, as a fairly minor figure in this argument, I might well get cut out altogether — they talked about also interviewing Dawkins and Eugenie Scott and Pennock and various other people — and that was OK.

Now we've got this new ID creationist movie, Expelled, coming out, and there's a press release with this claim:

Unlike some other documentary films, Expelled doesn't just talk to people representing one side of the story. The film confronts scientists such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education. The creators of Expelled crossed the globe over a two-year period, interviewing scores of scientists, doctors, philosophers and public leaders. The result is a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools, universities and research institutions.

What? I didn't do any interviews for pro-creation films, and I certainly haven't said that "freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry" aren't part of the university. There must be some mistake.

But then I noticed in the credits for the movie that a certain familiar name is the associate producer, or ass-prod, as I'll henceforth consider him.

Denyse O'Leary also ties Mathis of Rampant Films to this movie, and this page from Expelled uses the same graphic that Rampant Films used for Crossroads. The case is closed: Ben Stein's propaganda film for ID is the one I was interviewed for.

Well. I guess I didn't end up on the cutting room floor after all, although I'm sure a select set of my words did. Unless, that is, the whole movie is me sitting in my lab, talking. It's real. I'm going to be featured in a big-time movie with second-tier character actor and game-show host Ben Stein. I bet my whole family is going to go out to the moving-picture theatre to see me on the big screen … and since my family lives near Seattle and the Discovery Institute is so happy about it, they'll probably have the opportunity.

I do have a few questions, though.

I'm wondering why the Discovery Institute would be so enthused about this movie. It lays it's premise on the line: science is flawed because it excludes god and the supernatural. It's one big promo for religion — which means it's going to further undercut Intelligent Design creationism's claims to be a secular idea.

Randy Olson points out that this is clearly a well-funded movie. It's slick, they're paying Ben Stein, they had to have shelled out a good chunk of money for the rights for the "Bad to the Bone" theme. Randy's probably wondering why he couldn't get that kind of money for Flock of Dodos.

So who is funding the movie? Some people with deep pockets are throwing quite a bit of cash at this thing, and I can assure you that it didn't end up in my hands. I think I was paid something like $1200. I should have asked for much more!

Isn't it a little ironic that a fairly expensive production like this is billing itself as representing the ordinary people, and is pretending to be the "rebel"? There's a bit of the no-expenses-will-be-spared (except in the case of their evilutionist dupes!) glitz about it — it really doesn't look like the work of some brave independent film-maker living hand-to-mouth while making his artistic vision manifest.

Why were they so dishonest about it? If Mathis had said outright that he wants to interview an atheist and outspoken critic of Intelligent Design for a film he was making about how ID is unfairly excluded from academe, I would have said, "bring it on!" We would have had a good, pugnacious argument on tape that directly addresses the claims of his movie, and it would have been a better (at least, more honest and more relevant) sequence. He would have also been more likely to get that good ol' wild-haired, bulgy-eyed furious John Brown of the Godless vision than the usual mild-mannered professor that he did tape. And I probably would have been more aggressive with a plainly stated disagreement between us.

I mean, seriously, not telling one of the sides in a debate about what the subject might be and then leading him around randomly to various topics, with the intent of later editing it down to the parts that just make the points you want, is the video version of quote-mining and is fundamentally dishonest.

I don't mind sharing my views with creationists, and do so all the time. By filming under false pretenses, much like the example of the case of Richard Dawkins' infamous "pause", they've undercut their own credibility … not that that will matter. I suspect their audience will not question whatever mangling of the video that they carry out, and the subterfuges used to make it will not be brought up.

Oh, well. I have two warnings for the creationists.

One, I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That's going to be fun.

Two, next time I'm asked to be recorded for a creationist propaganda film, I will demand more money, and a flight and a limousine to the premiere. They can pay for my tuxedo rental, too. And my hotel room will have a jacuzzi and a bowl of M&Ms — green ones only.

And here's a hilarious parody:

Check out the Christian News Services' review of the movie, Expelled:

Closed-Minded Science

CNS News examines the struggle of intelligent design to simply be allowed in our mock-tolerant society.

Intelligent design theory, or ID, is opening new doors of scientific research, particularly in cancer and other disease research, according to its adherents, but a new movie, "Expelled" starring Ben Stein explores how an "elitist scientific establishment" is apparently muzzling and smearing scientists who publicly discuss ID.
The First Amendment is under brutal attack in the scientific community, Ben Stein, a former presidential speechwriter-turned-actor and commentator, says in the film, which opens in theaters on Feb. 12.


I got to hear Ben Stein and see an extended clip of his Expelled movie at the Washington Briefing back on October. Both were very engaging.

Isn't it interesting that in a society that prides itself on being tolerant of things such as homosexual priests, homosexual sex in public bathrooms, children out of wedlock and radical Islam, the elites in our society somehow can't seem to tolerate a theory that goes against their religion of secular humanism.

These so-called intellectuals who believe a universe as vast and complex and ordered as ours simply could not have been created by an intelligent designer...and they certainly can't stomach the thought that it might have been the Judeo-Christian God!

It would be one thing if the average Joe were to intellectually exclude such a possibility as intelligent design; he might be forgiven for his closed-mindedness and willful ignorance. But for those who pride themselves on their open-mindedness and ability to reach for new conclusions and truths...well, it's comical.

It's a bit like a historian of American history who refuses to believe that there is such a thing as world history. When you ask him about world history, he laughs condescendingly and claims that there is no such thing, that there is no evidence of world history. When you insist that things have indeed happened outside of America over the course of existence, he mockingly tells you that silly people who believe such myths have actually looked all over America and found no signs of Roman forums or Greek temples or Chinese pagodas. Yes, of course there are people in America who appear to have come from all sorts of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, but they actually derived from different areas around America itself. There simply cannot be any history other than American history, he insists.

This is a simplistic and inadequate analogy, but hopefully you get the idea. Atheistic and materialistic scientists are utterly closed-minded to the possibility of an intelligent designer. The refuse to see the signs of design throughout this universe which is immensely complex and operates by certain fundamental laws of science. In fact, they see those very laws of science as proof that there can be no supernatural force. What they refuse to allow the possibility for is that maybe the intelligent designer, who was powerful enough to create this universe and establish these laws of science, might in fact have the power to transcend and supersede those laws himself. Just as an average PC user cannot change a computer program, but a programmer with knowledge of the program language and access to the program code can do with it whatever he wants--he can suspend the "laws" or parameters of that program at will.

Hopefully Stein's movie will help open some eyes to the tremendous truths which may be realized through considering intelligent design. Or if nothing else, maybe shame some of these highbrow elites into being a little more open-minded by displaying their stunningly willful ignorance.

Contents

More reviews

Scientific American

Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed

A shameful antievolution film tries to blame Darwin for the Holocaust

In the new science-bashing movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein and the rest of the filmmakers sincerely and seriously argue that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution paved the way for the Holocaust. By "seriously," I mean that Ben Stein acts grief-stricken and the director juxtaposes quotes from evolutionary biologists with archival newsreel clips from Hitler's Reich. Prepare for an intellectual night at the cinema.

No one could have been more surprised than I when the producers called, unbidden, offering Scientific American's editors a private screening. Given that our magazine's positions on evolution and intelligent design (ID) creationism reflect those of the scientific mainstream (that is, evolution: good science; ID: not science), you have to wonder why they would bother. It's not as though anything in Expelled would have been likely to change our views. And they can't have been looking for a critique of the science in the movie, because there isn't much to speak of.

Rather, it seems a safe bet that the producers hope a whipping from us would be useful for publicity: further proof that any mention of ID outrages the close-minded establishment. (Picture Ben Stein as Jack Nicholson, shouting, "You can't handle the truth!") Knowing this, we could simply ignore the movie—which might also suit their purposes, come to think of it.

Unfortunately, Expelled is a movie not quite harmless enough to be ignored. Shrugging off most of the film's attacks—all recycled from previous pro-ID works—would be easy, but its heavy-handed linkage of modern biology to the Holocaust demands a response for the sake of simple human decency.

Expelled wears its ambitions to be a creationist Fahrenheit 911 openly, in that it apes many of Michael Moore's comic tricks: emphasizing the narrator's hapless everyman qualities by showing him meandering his way to interviews; riposting interviewees' words with ironic old footage and so on. Director Nathan Frankowski is reasonably adept at the techniques, although he is not half the filmmaker Michael Moore is (and yes, I do mean in both senses of the phrase).

The film begins with the triumphant entry of financial columnist, media figure and former Nixon White House speechwriter Ben Stein to a filled college lecture hall. (If this review were styled after the movie, I'd be intercutting clips of Nixon flashing a victory sign with Stein's scenes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and his eyedrop commercials, but you get the idea.) Stein explains that he is speaking out because he has "lately noticed a dire trend" that threatens the state of our nation: the ascendance of godless, materialist, evolutionary science and an unwillingness among academics to consider more theistic alternatives. A montage of short clips then shows Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and other scientists scorning religion or ID without context. "Freedom is the essence of America!" Stein insists, and he frets that scientists who like their empiricism with a dash of deus ex machina are oppressed. He and Expelled charge that scientists, in their rejection of religious explanations, have become as intolerant as Nazis. Or maybe Stalinists—the film clips were ambiguous on that point.

(The newsreel footage from the old Soviet days kept confusing me. Stein does know that the Stalinists rejected the theory of evolution as a biological rendition of capitalism, doesn't he? And that they replaced it with their own ideologically driven, disastrous theory of Lysenkoism? Does Stein think that moviegoers won't know this?)

I should note that Stein and Expelled rarely refer to "scientists" as I did—they call them Darwinists. Similarly, this review may have already used the word "evolution" about as often as the whole of Expelled does; in the movie, it is always Darwinism. The term is a curious throwback, because in modern biology almost no one relies solely on Darwin's original ideas—most researchers would call themselves neo-Darwinian if they bothered to make the historical connection at all because evolutionary science now encompasses concepts as diverse as symbiosis, kin selection and developmental genetics. Yet the choice of terminology isn't random: Ben Stein wants you to stop thinking of evolution as an actual science supported by verifiable facts and logical arguments and to start thinking of it as a dogmatic, atheistic ideology akin to Marxism.

Expelled then trots out some of the people whom it claims have been persecuted by the Darwinist establishment. First among them is Robert Sternberg, former editor of the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, who published an article on ID by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute. Sternberg tells Stein that he subsequently lost his editorship, his old position at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and his original office. Looking a bit smug in his self-martyrdom, Sternberg also reports that a colleague compared him with an "intellectual terrorist."

What most viewers of Expelled may not realize—because the film doesn't even hint at it—is that Sternberg's case is not quite what it sounds. Biologists criticized Sternberg's choice to publish the paper not only because it supported ID but also because Sternberg approved it by himself rather than sending it out for independent expert review. He didn't lose his editorship; he published the paper in what was already scheduled to be his last issue as editor. He didn't lose his job at the Smithsonian; his appointment there as an unpaid research associate had a limited term, and when it was over he was given a new one. His office move was scheduled before the paper ever appeared.

And so on. These confounding facts are documented in the appendix to the unofficial Congressional report from Rep. Mark Souder's office that the film cites in support of its story. At the very least, the Sternberg affair is considerably more complicated and questionable than Expelled lets on. The movie's one-sided version is either the result of shoddy investigation or deliberate propagandizing—neither of which reflects well on the other information in the film.

So it is with the rest of Expelled's parade of victims. Caroline Crocker, a biology teacher, was allegedly dismissed from her position at George Mason University after merely mentioning ID; the film somehow never reports exactly what she said or why anyone objected to it. Reporter Pamela Winnick was supposedly pilloried and fired after she wrote objectively about evolution and ID; we don't know exactly what she wrote but later we do hear her asserting with disgust that "Darwinism devalues human life." The film forgot to mention that Winnick is the author of the book A Jealous God: Science's Crusade Against Religion—a title that suggests her objectivity on the subject might be a bit tarnished.

The movie's unreliable reporting is even more obvious during the scene in which Stein interviews Bruce Chapman, the president of the Discovery Institute, the institutional heart of ID advocacy. Stein asks whether the Discovery Institute has supported the teaching of ID in science classes so avidly because it is trying to sneak religion back into public schools. Chapman says no and the film blithely takes him at his word. No mention is made of the notorious "Wedge" document, a leaked Discovery Institute manifesto that outlined a strategy of opposing evolution and turning the public against scientific materialism as the first step toward making society more politically conservative and theistic. Maybe Ben Stein didn't think it was relevant, but wouldn't an honest film have trusted its audience to judge for itself?

The most conspicuous absence from the movie, however—and you would think it was impossible in a movie about evolution and ID—is any real science. Anyone looking for scientific reasons or even detailed arguments for why scientists maintained either position would go away unsatisfied. A half hour or so passes before anyone in the film offers even simplistic definitions for evolution and ID. Nor is there any discussion of evolution's accomplishments in illuminating the history of life and problems in fields as diverse as medicine and astrophysics, and its applications to technology such as combinatorial chemistry.

Instead, various Discovery Institute fellows intone that evolution is a "slippery," hard-to-pin-down theory. No such criticism is made of ID, a notion which firmly states that at one or more unspecified times in the past, an unidentified designer who might or might not be God somehow created whole organisms, or maybe just cells, or maybe just certain parts of cells—they're still deciding and will get back to you on that.

Expelled would rather dwell on what it considers to be the failures of evolution, most notably the lack of a detailed explanation for the origin of life. Never mind that nearly all of evolutionary biology concerns other problems. Indeed, even if life somehow did have a supernatural origin, evolution still offers the most coherent scientific explanation for what is seen in nature and the fossil record about the development of life since then.

Moreover, modern biologists do have tentative ideas about how life might first have evolved. One snippet of the film shows philosopher Michael Ruse gamely trying to explain how crystals might have offered a substrate on which the components of protolife could have organized themselves into early replicating units, but that idea is met with Stein's stony-faced derision and a mocking clip of a swami with a crystal ball.

It speaks to their anti-intellectualism and fundamental misunderstanding of science that for the makers of Expelled (and ID advocates more generally) the answer "we don't know yet" is a badge of shame. "We don't know yet" is what defines the fruitful frontier for science; it is what directs scientists' curiosity and motivates them to spend years on research. Research starts where knowledge and certainty drop off. It's one of the many ironies of Expelled that Ben Stein says he wants this movie to free people to ask questions about science, but the ID theories he defends would close off inquiry with nonanswers.

Like the decision to call evolution Darwinism, the omission of science from Expelled was a deliberate choice. In fact, it was crucial to the film's strategy. Because they know Americans revere freedom of speech and fairness, the producers cast the conflict between evolution and ID as purely a struggle between worldviews—a difference of opinions, a battle of ideologies—in which one side is censoring the other. They know that the public will instinctively want to defend the underdog, especially when that opinion aligns with the religious beliefs many of them already share.

It is a terrific strategy, but with one caveat: that airy skirmish of opinions must never, ever touch the ground of solid evidence. Because if it does, if viewers are ever allowed to notice that evolution is supported by mountains of tangible, peer-reviewed evidence gathered by generations of scientists, whereas ID has little more than a smattering of vanity-press pamphlets from a handful of cranks... the bubble pops.[3]

Time Out New York

No intelligence allowed, indeed, as Ben Stein misguidedly crusades against what he perceives as the science community’s slavish devotion to natural selection. Stein uses the Berlin Wall as an awkward metaphor for intelligent-design proponents trying to get their ideas heard. He even tours Dachau to illustrate Darwinism run amok in the form of Hitler’s death camps. You keep waiting for Stein to smile and say, “Gotcha!” in his signature monotone; instead, you watch him debate noted atheist bad guy Richard Dawkins, using an adolescent version of the First Cause argument disposed of by Kant centuries ago. Next thing you know, the Flat Earth Society will be making a major comeback.[4]

Village Voice

Ben Stein became a minor cultural icon with Ferris Bueller's Day Off, almost making people forget that, from his early days as a Nixon speechwriter on, he's been a rigid cultural conservative. Stein capitalizes on that good will with Expelled, a propaganda "documentary" he co-wrote and hosts. His thesis: Teaching Darwinian evolution but ignoring intelligent design in America's public schools and universities is the biggest threat to American freedom today—bigger, presumably, than Al Qaeda, Iraq, and the recession combined. A series of interviews with ID true believers has him playing Michael Moore–dumb—no hard questions for the folks at the Discovery Center, whose infamous leaked 1993 "wedge memo" stated as one of its primary goals the propagation of the idea "that nature and human beings are created by God." ID'ers protest that they're simply interested in secular alternatives to Darwinian evolution; their scientific opponents, meanwhile, are potential Communists and Nazis. Bizarre and hysterical.[5]

Fox News

After seeing a new non-fiction film starring Comedy Central’s Ben Stein, you may not only be able to win his money, but also his career.

Stein is that whiny little guy with the monotone voice that makes him seem funny and an unlikely “character” for TV appearances. But that career may be over come April 18 when a movie he co-wrote, narrates and appears in, called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” is released.

Directed by one Nathan Frankowski, “Expelled” is a sloppy, all-over-the-place, poorly made (and not just a little boring) “expose” of the scientific community. It’s not very exciting. But it does show that Stein, who’s carved out a career selling eye drops in commercials and amusing us on sitcoms, is either completely nuts or so avaricious that he’s abandoned all good sense to make a buck.

To wit: Stein, Frankowski and pals say in “Expelled” that perfectly good scientists and educators are being stigmatized for wanting to teach their students creationism and “intelligent design” — in other words, junk science — in addition to or instead of conventionally accepted Darwinism. You see, Stein, like some other celebrities, finally has shown his true colors and they aren’t so pretty.

The gist of Stein’s involvement is: He’s outraged! He believes in God! God created the universe! How can we not avail our students of this theory? What do you mean we’re just molecules?

What the producers of this film would love, love, love is a controversy. That’s because it’s being marketed by the same people who brought us "The Passion of the Christ." They’re hoping someone will latch onto an anti-Semitism theme here, since there’s a visit to a concentration camp and the raised idea — apparently typical of the intelligent design community — that somehow the theory of evolution is so evil that it caused the Holocaust. Alas, this is such a warped premise that no one’s biting.

The whole idea of Stein, a Jew, jumping on the intelligent design bandwagon of the theory of evolution begetting the Nazis is so distasteful you wonder what in — sorry — God’s name — he was thinking when he got into this. Who cares, really, if "Expelled" is anti-Semitic? It will come and go without much fanfare.

But Stein is another matter. Can he really be amusing selling eye drops or acting like a nebbish on game shows if we now have this new insight into his thinking?

You know Ben Stein from his voice. He used it to intone Ferris Bueller’s name iconically at the beginning of that 20-year-old Matthew Broderick movie. His laconic delivery and deadpan presence have given him a benign celebrity — until now.

But this is what he wrote last fall on the "Expelled" movie Web site:

"Darwinism is still very much alive, utterly dominating biology. Despite the fact that no one has ever been able to prove the creation of a single distinct species by Darwinist means, Darwinism dominates the academy and the media. Darwinism also has not one meaningful word to say on the origins of organic life, a striking lacuna in a theory supposedly explaining life.

"Alas, Darwinism has had a far bloodier life span than Imperialism. Darwinism, perhaps mixed with Imperialism, gave us Social Darwinism, a form of racism so vicious that it countenanced the Holocaust against the Jews and mass murder of many other groups in the name of speeding along the evolutionary process."

In a word: Urgggh. Suddenly Stein is not so amusing anymore. I want my eye drops from someone else.

PS: Following "The Passion" release pattern, "Expelled" will open wide on the 18th, but mostly in rural and poor neighborhoods. It’s got just one theater in all of New York City, in Times Square, none in places like Beverly Hills or wealthier, better-educated urban neighborhoods where more "evolved" people might live.

According to the film’s Web site, the producers are in a whopping 45 theaters in North Carolina, and a mere seven in Massachusetts, 35 in Georgia, 11 in New Jersey, four in Connecticut and one in Vermont. And so on. There are huge numbers of screens in Florida and Texas taking the film, particularly seven in San Antonio. If I lived in the Deep South, I’d boycott the filmmakers for thinking of me as this gullible and unsophisticated.[6]

Other comments

Heard around the Internet:

  • The funny thing is that the film makers are essentially doing what they accuse academia of doing of doing; eschewing criticism. The only problem is, these individuals who are portrayed as being 'persecuted' were just plain wrong. The profession these 'persecuted' individuals chose demanded them to be scientific in their work; they clearly were not.

Expelled accused of copyright infringement

Re: Copyright infringement in "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"

Dear Mr. •••••:

This letter will constitute notice to you, as Chairman of Premise Media Corporation, of the copyright infringement by your corporation, and its subsidiary, Rampant Films, of material produced by XVIVO LLC, in which XVIVO holds a copyright.

It has come to our intention that Premise Media and Rampant Films has produced a film entitled "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," which is scheduled for commercial release and distribution on April 18, 2008. To our knowledge, this film includes a segment depicting biological cellular activity that was copied by computer-generated means from a video entitled "The Inner Life of a Cell." XVIVO holds the copyright to all the models, processes, and depictions in this video, and has not authorized Premise Media or Rampant Films to make any use of this material.

We have obtained promotional material for the "Expelled" film, presented on a DVD, that clearly shows in the "cell segment" the virtually identical depiction of material from the "Inner Life" video. We particularly refer to the segment of the "Expelled" film purporting to show the "walking" models of kinesic activities in cellular mechanisms. The segments depicting these models in your film are clearly based upon, and copied from, material in the "Inner Life" video.

We have been advised by counsel that this segment in your film constitutes an actionable infringement of XVIVO's intellectual property rights, as protected by federal statutes, including Section 106 of the Copyright Act, the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, and the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998. Each of these statutes provides for judicial enforcement of their provisions, with substantial civil penalties for their infringement.

We have also obtained legal advice that your copying, in virtually identical form, of material in the "inner Life" video clearly meets the legal test of "substantial similarity" between the copied work and our original work.

This letter will also serve as notice to you that XVIVO intends to vigorously and promptly pursue its legal remedies for your copyright infringement, unless and until Premise Media, Rampant Films, and their officers, employees, and agents comply with the following demands:

1. That Premise Media, Rampant Films, and its officers, employees, and agents remove the infringing segment from all copies of the "Expelled" film prior to its scheduled commercial release on or before April 18, 2008; 2. That all copies of the "Inner Life" video in your possession or under your control be returned to XVIVO; 3. That Premise Media notify XVIVO, on or before April 18, 2008, of its compliance with the above demands.

We have been advised, by a telephone conversation with Mellie Bracewell of Premise Media on April 8, 2008, that an e-mail transmission of this letter to her will be promptly forwarded to you. A hard copy of this letter, on XVIVO stationary, will also be sent to you today by express delivery.

We are sure that you will want to avoid legal action in this matter, and urge you to promptly notify us of your compliance with the above demands. You may do so by return e-mail, directed to david@••• or mike@•••, followed by a hard-copied letter indicating your compliance with the above demands.

Sincerely,

David Bolinsky Partner and Medical Director XVIVO LLC

Michael Astrachan Partner and Creative Director XVIVO LLC

Cc: Peter Irons, Esq. Attorney at Law 2551 North Valley Road Greenville CA 95947

Roger Ebert on Ben Stein

I've been accused of refusing to review Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled," a defense of Creationism, because of my belief in the theory of evolution. Here is my response.

Ben Stein, you hosted a TV show on which you gave away money. Imagine that I have created a special edition of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" just for you. Ben, you've answered all the earlier questions correctly, and now you're up for the $1 million prize. It involves an explanation for the evolution of life on this planet. You have already exercised your option to throw away two of the wrong answers. Now you are faced with two choices: (A) Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or (B) Intelligent Design.

Because this is a special edition of the program, you can use a Hotline to telephone every scientist on Earth who has an opinion on this question. You discover that 99.975 of them agree on the answer (A). A million bucks hangs in the balance. The clock is ticking. You could use the money. Which do you choose? You, a firm believer in the Constitution, are not intimidated and exercise your freedom of speech. You choose (B).

Squaaawk!!! The klaxon horn sounds. You have lost. Outraged, you file suit against the program, charging it is biased and has denied a hearing for your belief. Your suit argues that the "correct" answer was chosen because of a prejudice against the theory of Intelligent Design, despite the fact that .025 of all scientists support it. You call for (B) to be discussed in schools as an alternative theory to (A).

Your rights have been violated. You're at wit's end. You think perhaps the field of Indie Documentaries offers you hope. You accept a position at the Institute of Undocumented Documentaries in Dallas, Texas. This Institute teaches that the rules of the "$64,000 Question" are the only valid game show rules. All later game shows must follow them literally. The "$64,000 Question" came into existence in 1955. False evidence for earlier game shows has been refuted by scientists at the Institute.

You look for a documentary subject. You know you cannot hope to find backing from the Main Stream Media, because they all fear reprisals from the powerful Game Show Establishment. You seek a cause that parallels your own dilemma, and also illustrates an offense against the Freedom of Speech. Your attention falls on the persecution of Intelligent Design advocates like you, who have been banished from Main Stream Academia.

This looks like your ideal subject. But where can you find financing for such a documentary? You discover a small, promising production company named Premise Media. You like the sound of that word premise. It sounds like a plausible alternative to the word theory. To confirm this, you look both up in your dictionary:

premise noun. A previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion: if the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true. e.g., if God exists, then he created everything.

theory noun. A system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained. e.g., Darwin's theory of evolution.

Your point exactly! You do a web search for Premise Media. Its co-founder, Walt Ruloff, has observed, "the scientific and academic communities were deeply resistant to innovation, in this case innovation that might revise Darwin's theory that random mutation and natural selection drive all variation in life forms." You could not agree more. Darwin's theory has been around for 150 years, and is stubbornly entrenched. This is a time for innovation, for drawing on fresh theories that life and the universe were intelligently created in recent times, perhaps within the last 10,000 years. How to account for dinosaur fossils? Obviously, dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as human beings.

Ben Stein, you are growing more excited. You continue your research into Premise Media. Its CEO, A. Logan Craft, once observed that questions about the origin of Earth and its life forms "are answered very differently by secularists and people who hold religious beliefs." Can you believe your eyes? Craft has depended upon one of your own favorite logical practices, the principle of the excluded middle! This is too good to be true.

By his premise no secularists believe in Intelligent Design, and no people with religious beliefs subscribe to Darwin's theory. If there are people with religious beliefs who agree with Darwin (Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists, for example) they are mistaken because they do not subscribe to A. Logan Craft's religious beliefs.

He is certainly right about secularists. You think it's a shame he's right, because then the 1968 Supreme Court decision was correct, and Tennessee's anti-evolution law was "an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, taken literally." Therefore, according to the Court, ID was a religious belief and did not belong in a science classroom but in a theology classroom. This clearly would be wrong, because the new approach to teaching ID in schools omits any reference whatsoever to religion. It depends entirely on the findings of scientists who are well-respected within A. Logan Craft's religious tradition. These scientists of course are perfectly free to be secularists, although almost every single one seems to be a fundamentalist Christian. This is America.

You meet with the people at Premise Media. It is a meeting of the minds. At a pitch meeting, they are receptive to your ideas, although with the proviso that you should change the proposed title of your film, "From Darwin to Hitler," because that might limit the market to those who had heard of neither, or only one.

You and Premise Media agreed that the case for ID had not always been argued very well in the past. For example, a photograph of a human footprint overlapping a dinosaur track (proof that Man walked the Earth side by side with dinosaurs) has been questioned by secularists, who say the footprint looks more like the print of a running shoe. If you studied it carefully, it could be argued that they had a point, although skewed by their secularist bias.

What was needed was better use of photographic evidence. For example, in your film, "eXpelled: no intelligence allowed," you document the story of Guillermo Gonzales, who was denied tenure at Iowa State because of his personal premises, after 400 professors signed a petition opposing "all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor." Gonzales was forced to accept employment at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

In documenting the secularist hysteria and outrage against Gonzales, you use more convincing photographic evidence than the footprint. For example, you use footage showing a newsstand selling copies of the New York Post with this front page headline:

CRISIS: 1. Creationist on the loose 2. Support the Petition 3. Stop Gonzales

The typographical design of the New York Post logo, the cars and store signs in the background, and the clothing of the people in the street establish without question that this footage was filmed in the late 1940s. Gonzales was born in 1963. So your film would prove beyond doubt that his enemies walked the Earth with his parents.

Gonzales, trained as an astronomer, cited as proof of Intelligent Design that "Earth is in a prime location for observing the universe." Thus he refutes the theory of elitist secularist academia that the universe "does not have an edge nor center, just as the Earth's surface does not have an edge or center." Since all you have to do is look up at the sky to realize that the whole universe is right up there to be seen, the secularists fly in the face of common sense. Yet for stating such an obvious premise, Gonzales was opposed for tenure at Iowa State. That hit home, Ben Stein. He was a victim like you.

You release your film "eXpelled."As you fully expect from all your experience, it is rejected almost unanimously by the MSM. It receives an 8% rating on the TomatoMeter, earning it a place on the list of the worst-reviewed films of all time. In a review not catalogued by Tomatoes, ChristianAnwers.net writes that your film "has made Ben Stein the new hero of believers in God everywhere, and has landed a smart right cross to the protruding jaw of evolution's elite."

Again, the useful excluded middle. Those for whom Ben Stein is not a hero are not believers in God. It also follows that the phrase "believers in God everywhere" does not extend to believers in God who agree with Darwin. So ChristanAnswers has excluded two middles at one fell stroke.

Let's hope that word doesn't get back to the bosses of the critic named "Yo" at hollywoodjesus.com. Yo takes a chance by saying:

This creator could have been anything of intelligence, including aliens. Intelligent Design is a scientific movement, not a religious one, a fact stated more than once in interviews in this film. Unfortunately, those statements are constantly ignored as 'Expelled' continually brings up the question of God's existence and thereby equates the movement with a belief in God.

And right there, Ben Stein, we can clearly see Yo's error. He has included the middle.

Here is Stein's most urgent question: "How does something that is not life turn into something that is?"

Stein poses this stumper to a jolly British professor who seems direct from Monty Python. He thinks there's a "very good chance" that life might have started with molecules on crystals, which have a tendency to mutate. Cut to a shot of a turbaned crystal-ball gazer. Stein dubs them "joy riding crystals." He wonders what the odds would be of life starting that way.

"You would have to have a minimum of 250 proteins to provide minimal life functions," an ID defender explains. We see an animated cartoon of the Darwinian scientist Richard Dawkins pulling at a slot machine and lining up--three in a row! Not so fast there, "Lucky" Dawkins! The camera pulls back to show one-armed bandits stretching into infinity. To win, he'd have to hit the jackpot about a gazillion times in a row. An Intelligent Design advocate estimates a streak like that would take a trillion, trillion, trillion tries. (That number is a fair piece larger than 3 trillion.)

Quite a joy ride. ID's argument against the crystal theory seems like a new version of its classic argument, "How could an eye evolve without knowing there was anything to see?" Very easily, apparently, because various forms of eyes have evolved 26 different times that scientists know about, and they can explain how it happened. So can I. So can you if you understand Darwinian principles.

Anyway, the slot machine conundrum is based on an ignorance of both math and gambling. From math we know that the odds of winning a coin toss are exactly the same every time. The coin doesn't remember the last try. Hey, sometimes you get lucky. That's why casinos stay in business.

The odds of winning on a single number at roulette are 37 to 1. The odds of winning a second time in a row are also 37 to 1, because the table doesn't know who you are. Every single winning roll beats the odds of 37-to-1. And on and on. The more times in a row you win, the more times you face 37-1 against you. If Russian Roulette were played with a gun containing 37 bullets and one empty chamber, it would quickly lose most of its allure--by a process explained, oddly enough, by Darwin.

Still, in July 1891 at Monte Carlo, the same man broke the 100,000 franc bank at a roulette table three times. Wikipedia reports, "A man named Charles Wells won 23 times out of 30 successive spins of the wheel...Despite hiring private detectives the Casino never discovered Wells's system. Wells later admitted it was just a lucky streak. His system was the high-risk martingale, doubling the stake to make up losses."

The odds against Wells doing that are pretty high. But as every gambler knows, sometimes you do actually hit a number. You don't have to do it a trillion trillion trillion times to be a winner. You only have to do it once. This is explained by Darwin. If you are playing at a table with other gamblers and you win $100 and none of them do, you are just that much better able to outlast them as competitors. When the casino closes, one person at that table must have won more than any of the others. That's why casinos never close. Of course if you gamble long enough, you will eventually lose back more than the others. Your poor spouse tells you this. You know it is true.

But tonight you feel lucky. If you leave the table still holding your pot, you could become as rich as Warren Buffet. Somebody has to. Look at Warren Buffet. Evolution involves holding onto your winnings and investing them wisely. You don't even have to know to how to hold onto your winnings. Evolution does it for you; it is the bank in which useful genetic mutations deposit themselves. There is a very slow rate of return, but it's compounded. At the end of one eon, you get your bank statement and find your pittance has grown into an orang utan. At the end of the next eon, it has grown into Charles Darwin. Scientists, at least 99.875 percent of them, believe that in the long run only useful mutations deposit in this bank. Those mutations with no use, or a negative effect, squander their savings in a long-running bunko game, and die forgotten in the gutter.

The assumption of "Expelled" is that no one could possibly explain how Prof. Monty Python's molecules and their joy-riding crystals could possibly produce life. As luck would have it, at about the same time as the film was being made, teams of scientists at the universities of Oregon and North Carolina explained it. They "determined for the first time the atomic structure of an ancient protein, revealing in unprecedented detail how genes evolved their functions."

"This is the ultimate level of detail," said the evolutionary biologist Joe Thornton. "We were able to see exactly how evolution tinkered with the ancient structure to produce a new function that is crucial to our own bodies today. Nobody's ever done that before." Unfortunately, this momentous discovery was announced almost too late to be mentioned in Ben Stein's film. It wasn't totally too late, but it would have been a great inconvenience for the editor.

What tools did the scientists use? Supercomputer programs and, I quote, "ultra-high energy X-rays from a stadium-sized Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago to chart the precise position of each of the 2,000 atoms in the ancient proteins." What did you expect? They put a molecule under a microscope and picked off bits with their tweezers?

Intelligent Design "scientists" in "Expelled" are offended by being called ignorant. When Stein points out that "Catholics and mainstream Protestant groups" have no problem with the theory of Evolution, he is informed by an ID advocate, "liberal Christians side with anybody against Creationists." Now we have the smoking gun. It is the word liberal. What is the word liberal doing here? The Theory of Evolution is neither liberal nor conservative. It is simply provable or not.

Besides, I would not describe the Vatican as liberal. Look how cautiously it approached Galileo. He only claimed the earth revolved around the sun. No big deal like the earth being ideally placed in the universe. There are millions of conservative scientists, and only a tiny handful disagree with evolution, because rejecting scientific proof is not permissive conservative behavior. In that one use of the word "liberal" the Creationist religious agenda is peeking through. I would translate it as "evolutionists side with anybody against a cherished Evangelical belief." Why are they always trying to push evolutionists over the edge, when they're the ones clinging by their fingernails?

Scientists deserving of the name would share the delight of 99.975 percent of his or her colleagues after learning of the Oregon-North Carolina findings. Then, if they found a plausible reason to doubt them, they would go right to work hoping to win fame by disproving them. A theory, like a molecule, a sea slug and a polar bear, has to fight it out in the survival of the fittest.

"Expelled" is not a bad film from the technical point of view. It is well photographed and edited, sometimes amusing, has well-chosen talking heads, gives an airing to evolutionists however truncated and interrupted with belittling images, and incorporates entertainingly unfair historical footage, as when it compares academia's rejection of Creationism to the erection of the Berlin Wall.

Hilariously, the film argues that evolutionists cannot tolerate dissent. If you were to stand up at a "Catholic and mainstream Protestant" debate and express your support of Creationism, you would in most cases be politely listened to. There are few places as liberal as Boulder, Colo., where I twice debated a Creationist at the Conference on World Affairs, and yet his views were heard politely there. If you were to stand up at an evangelical meeting to defend evolution, I doubt if you would be made to feel as welcome, or that your dissent would be quite as cheerfully tolerated.

In the film, Ben Stein asks predictable questions, and exploits an unending capacity for counterfeit astonishment. Example:

Scientist: "But Darwin did not title his book On the Origin of Life. He titled it, On the Origin of Species."

Ben Stein (nods, grateful to learn this): "I see!"

The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics. It isn't even subtle. Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins' face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.

I have done television interviews for more than 40 years. I have been on both ends of the questions. I have news for you. Everyone is made up before going on television. If they are not, they will look like death warmed over. There is not a person reading this right now who should go on camera without some kind of makeup. Even the obligatory "shocked neighbors" standing in their front yards after a murder usually have some powder brushed on by the camera person. Was Ben Stein wearing makeup? Of course he was. Did he whisper to his camera crew to roll while Dawkins was being made up? Of course he did. Otherwise, no camera operator on earth would have taped that. That incident dramatizes his approach throughout the film. If you want to study Gotcha! moments, start here.

That is simply one revealing fragment. This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion.

And there is worse, much worse. Toward the end of the film, we find that Stein actually did want to title it "From Darwin to Hitler." He finds a Creationist who informs him, "Darwinism inspired and advanced Nazism." He refers to advocates of eugenics as liberal. I would not call Hitler liberal. Arbitrary forced sterilization in our country has been promoted mostly by racists, who curiously found many times more blacks than whites suitable for such treatment.

Ben Stein is only getting warmed up. He takes a field trip to visit one "result" of Darwinism: Nazi concentration camps. "As a Jew," he says, "I wanted to see for myself." We see footage of gaunt, skeletal prisoners. Pathetic children. A mound of naked Jewish corpses. "It's difficult to describe how it felt to walk through such a haunting place," he says. Oh, go ahead, Ben Stein. Describe. It filled you with hatred for Charles Darwin and his followers, who represent the overwhelming majority of educated people in every nation on earth. It is not difficult for me to describe how you made me feel by exploiting the deaths of millions of Jews in support of your argument for a peripheral Christian belief. It fills me with contempt.

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