Monday, April 07, 2008

Ben Stein Wants You (to see Expelled)

Does anyone know why the creationists are not in the classroom today? "Anyone? Anyone?"

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to see a special screening of Ben Stein’s new documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. While I must confess that I’m not the kind of person who considers a documentary the best utilization of the cinema experience, you cannot really go wrong with Expelled. It is an informative film that simultaneously serves to educate, entertain, and provoke its audience to critical thinking. The thesis of the movie is that the scientific establishment of American academia has resolved to ridicule and prosecute any of their own members who might be tempted to entertain the notion that our universe is “intelligently designed” rather than the product of random chance or naturalistic evolution. Stein, himself as a long-time advocate of intelligent design, sets off on a world tour to investigate the truth behind the perception that creationism is under fire from “Big Science.” After a pilgrimage stretching from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D. C. to Oxford University, it becomes clear to both Stein and the viewer that “intelligence” is no longer tolerated as an explanation for existence.

The impetus for this documentary was the apparently forced resignation of Richard Sternberg as editor of the Smithsonian associated scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, in 2004 after he published an article citing creationist Stephen C. Meyer and suggesting that intelligent design may be a legitimate explanation for the universe. I’ll let Ben fill you in on all the details when you see the film. Suffice it to say that the scientific establishment has built a wall around our educational institutions and decides what to tell our media. This metaphorical wall has been making it loud and clear that neither creationism nor God will be tolerated in the Academy.

Stein makes a compelling argument for what it means to be a free citizen in a free society. America is a land built on the principle of freedom. Science, especially, should promote the freedom to pursue truth no matter how ridiculous one might look in holding to an unpopular idea. But American ideals have been circumcised by the oppression of high Darwinism, which will not budge an inch from its presupposition that “intelligent” people must not believe in intelligent design.

Leading scholars from both the mainstream scientific establishment and the Intelligent Design movement are interviewed at length, with revealing insights. Many of the secularists interviewed on this film have complained about being misled by the directors concerning the tone of this production, and they may have a legitimate beef on that point. Though villified in this film, these scientists are given a chance to explain the basis of their own agenda. (And, really, Richard Dawkins is the self-proclaimed atheistic nemesis of Judeo-Christendom and proud of it. What's he really got to complain about?) Stein shows that there is no vast “right-wing” conspiracy to corrupt our nation’s youth with bad science. Intelligent design proponents are simply scientists who believe the best explanation for life, the universe, and everything is the handiwork of an omnipotent, benevolent, and wise God. This simple argument is presented with flair and humor that only Ben Stein could execute with a straight face. All jokes aside, Stein reminds us that unbridled naturalism has a dark side upon society, which the world has seen before. What fate will befall America if “Big Science” discrimination has its way? No spoilers here as you’ll have to see it for yourself. But remember that you were warned, because it isn’t a pretty picture. Again, this is one of the aspects opponents of the film point to as villificaiton of Darwinian atheists, but I thought it was presented tastefully.

Allegations of misleading productions ethics aside, the film's thesis is, at least, convincing. If you care about the proper relationship of faith and learning (or if you just believe in freedom to let the truth be known), you owe it to yourself to see this film.
Like another recent documentary, Stein challenges us with "an inconvenient truth."