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Review: Baylor officials among those attacked in 'Expelled'

Saturday, April 19, 2008

By Carl Hoover

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed ostensibly looks at academic freedom, or the alleged lack thereof, at schools and universities, including Baylor University, on the issue of intelligent design.

The conflict between Baylor and engineering professor Robert Marks over his Web site and its ID-friendly research — the reason he said the university ordered the site off its server — qualified to add Marks to the list of some seven to eight scientists and researchers Expelled says are victims of an entrenched academic hostility toward intelligent design.

Intelligent design, by proponents’ definition, is the study of patterns in nature that indicate an intent or purpose that’s not mere randomness.

Expelled, however, shows its true hand midway through the film when it zeros in on militant atheist evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Meyers who actively and publicly attack any belief in God.

That’s the real issue of Expelled — atheist scientists versus God — even though it wholly undercuts statements by intelligent design researchers early in the film that ID has nothing to do with religion.

Stein, a conservative spokesman and actor best known for his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off role as a droning teacher and as the smart host of the game show “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” frames Expelled as an exploration of academic freedom.

Though Stein presents himself as a man of rational logic, his film’s arguments are a rhetorical mishmash of straw men, red herrings, guilt by association, quote harvesting, gotcha interviews and post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) associations that may cause your head to pop. It’s a propaganda form highly polished by director/activist Michael Moore on the other end of the political spectrum.

Given that debate and free exploration of ideas is a linchpin of American identity, Stein goes to the cases of such scientists and researchers as Richard Sternberg, Guillermo Gonzalez, Caroline Crocker and Marks, who claimed their institutions and professional colleagues punished them or ruined their careers once they dared to suggest ID’s validity.

It’s telling, however, that any opposing explanations of the circumstances come toward the film’s end and either are dismissed or used as a “gotcha” moment, as in the case of Baylor engineering dean Ben Kelley. Kelley denies that Marks’ work in ID-friendly studies led to Baylor’s demand that he move his Web page off the university server, only to have an image of a memo sent to Marks that cites “intelligent design” as a concern pop up on screen.

Although William Demski, a former Baylor professor, and Baylor engineering professor Walter Bradley are among the ID advocates interviewed in Expelled, there’s no mention of their Baylor connections — or controversies — in the film.

Stein interviews more than a score of scientists, administrators and journalists on the evolution-ID debate. Unfortunately, most are reduced to a series of pullout quotes.

Those coming to Expelled hoping to learn something about any research behind ID, a fair appraisal of weaknesses in evolutionary theories or — perhaps the film’s most glaring and telling omission — how Christian evolutionists reconcile faith and science will leave sorely disappointed. The latter is quickly dismissed by a chain of quotes that brand them as liberal Christians and duped by militant atheists in their efforts to get religion out of the classroom.

Even though interviewees on opposite sides of the discussion qualify their statements with “it depends on how you define evolution,” Expelled conveniently blurs the definitions of evolution, biological evolution, Darwinism, neo-Darwinism and origin of life.

Stein also frames and underlines certain comments with visual clips from such movies as Inherit the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Planet of the Apes, black-and-white 1950s educational movies and Cold War propaganda films with marching Communist armies.

Viewers also are treated to Stein’s argument that evolution leads to disbelief in God, the loss of ethical and moral standards, eugenics, Nazism and the Holocaust, Planned Parenthood and abortion, before returning to the issue of academic freedom and equating science’s resistance to ID as a Berlin Wall that needs tearing down.

I kid you not. Then again, I’m part of the Academy-Organizations-Media-Courts cabal that works to enforce evolution as accepted belief. Stein says that, too.

It’s clear Expelled will reinforce strongly held opinions on extreme sides of the religion-science question rather than explore the considerable middle ground — nay, the continent — that’s there.

It’s smoke, mirrors, a lot of heat and little light — although the hand of a creator is clearly in its design.


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By Dr. Cletus

Apr 21, 2008 9:44 PM | Link to this

There is no point to living, it just is. Until you die, then it isn't. Then you're remembered as having existed for about 60 to 120 years. Then you're not. In about 5 billion years, what's left of the organic material once constituting your corpse will be incinerated by the Sun going supernova. And in the interum, the Cubs may win a World Series.

By Natalie Sterne

Apr 21, 2008 4:52 PM | Link to this

I can't believe you are giving this such a terrible review!!!! I thought the movie was wonderful. Other people I spoke to also thought it was good. I hope Baylor comes to its senses about evolution vs. ID because of this movie.

By Jonas

Apr 21, 2008 2:47 PM | Link to this

If God doesn't exist, then what is the point to living? There is no reason to even argue against religion because it doesn't matter. No creator, no reason for being here, no where to go after life. No point in existing and arguing your point.

By Polo

Apr 21, 2008 12:17 PM | Link to this

i specifically remember being taught in school, the way Earth was created, was a whole bunch of dust and matter came together, and after millions of years this planet came into existence at the time i truly believed it, but now after thinking for my self and seeing how beautiful and complex this world really is, its hard but to think that there had to of been a Creator, and not an accident!
my point is, if evolution is to be presented in the public schools then so should creationism.

By Jonas

Apr 21, 2008 11:22 AM | Link to this

If God doesn't exist, then what is the point to living? There is no reason to even argue against religion because it doesn't matter. No creator, no reason for being here, no where to go after life. No point in existing and arguing your point.

By mike

Apr 21, 2008 9:58 AM | Link to this

when did "theory" become the same as proof?
history is littered with theories "everyone" believed - but were later proven wrong.
the biggest problem with science today is that scientists no longer care to admit that they often cannot truly prove theories. they say "we know" when "we believe" would be way more accurate.

By testerer

Apr 21, 2008 5:05 AM | Link to this

Is Kram Rognug for real?

"the "theory" of evolution is just that - a theory."

I guess you are living proof that religious fundamentalists ignore all facts and reason. Evolution is not JUST a theory, it is a SCIENTIFIC theory:

"In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch. It's a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, providing an explanation that fits all the observations and can be used to make predictions. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It's as close to proven as anything in science can be."


"Both evolution and ID requires a certain amount of faith since neither can be proven."

False. See above. But this is not the point. The point is that Ben Stein is lying. They left out christian evolutionists like Ken Miller and even the Pope(!) on purpose because, by Mark Mathis' admision, "it would have confused the message of the film unnecessaril". A strangely candid admission from an otherwise fundamentally dishonest individual.

"When the evolutionists react so strongly to a film showing an opposing view it only shows the weakness of their arguments. It also supports the claim of those on the right that it is the left that fears truly free speech."

This is nonsense. No one has tried to prevent the makers of this film from voicing the opinion. They have merely pointed out that the film is dishonest at best.

"I suppose ultimately one theory or the other will be proven in the end."

This shows your lack of basic understanding of science. Just like the makers of Expelled.

By John L

Apr 21, 2008 4:34 AM | Link to this

Well, as it turns out, almost all of the biological sciences are crucially informed by the theory of evolution I believe the evolution you refer to is agreed on by everyone. The rocks to man and nothing to the cosmos is what I am referencing.

By Kevin

Apr 21, 2008 12:07 AM | Link to this

To Johnl:

You ask,"In a hypothetical situation where all theories of origins are removed from discussion, what technology would be thwarted?"

Well, as it turns out, almost all of the biological sciences are crucially informed by the theory of evolution. This includes research that leads to the development of drugs used to treat diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, AIDS, and cancer--all of which require an understanding of evolution to solve.

So, to remove the theory of evolution from the discussion would mean that we would have no way of treating these diseases.

I mean, why do you think we are having a problem with drug-resistant strains of bacteria? It is because of evolution! Easy to kill strains have died off, leaving more virulent species to develop. This is evolution!

Science, in part because of our understanding of the theory of evolution, has led to the doubling of human life expectancy over the last 100 years. When creationism reigned (up until the beginning of the 20th century), average life expectancy was between 30-40 years (look it up if you don't believe me). Now, with informed medicine and public health measures, average life expectancy is almost 70 worldwide. This is 35 more years for creationists to deny evolution! :(

By Kram Rognug

Apr 20, 2008 10:12 PM | Link to this

I have just seen the film. Your overreaction is proof of the very point Stein is making.

Canıt prove ID? Correct.

You CAN prove evolution? Wrong.

Did we evolve? Maybe. But the ıtheoryı of evolution is just that - a theory. Believe it if you will, but the fossil record is still lacking much proof.

Both evolution and ID requires a certain amount of faith since neither can be proven. When the evolutionists react so strongly to a film showing an opposing view it only shows the weakness of their arguments. It also supports the claim of those on the right that it is the left that fears truly free speech.

I suppose ultimately one theory or the other will be proven in the end. If upon your death you simpy black out for ever - then the evolutionists were right. If upon your death you come face to face with God - then I supposed ID will look pretty strong to you.

I for one truly hope for the latter. If for no other reason than to watch the stunned faces of those who donıt believe in ID. It should prove to be a rather entertaining encounterı

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