by  —  February 25, 2008

I didn’t recognise her voice, nor did I recognise the number on my caller ID, but she said my name with such enthusiastic familiarity that I felt compelled to match her tone. Some of my friends have proven easily insulted by my occasional failures of immediate voice recognition, and who but a friend would be calling me so late on a Sunday night?

“Hey!” I said. “Where are you at?” I was fishing for clues. This confused her.

“I’m really sorry to be calling so late…” she apologised. She explained that she works for a production company1 that I had contacted by email several weeks earlier in regards to an upcoming film. The film, “Expelled” – a documentary that claims to “[blow] the horn on suppression” and give voice to “the silenced majority” of American creationists – promises to be controversial, and I had designed to write an advance feature article for a major daily exploring the issues it will present.

According to the film’s website, “Big Science has expelled smart new ideas from the classroom. What they forgot is that every generation has its Rebel…” Of course, the “smart new ideas” are merely archaic, counter-reality creationist concepts re-labeled as “Intelligent Design”, and this generation’s “Rebel” – it turns out – is the aged, crusty, monotoned Ben Stein, a former speech writer for Richard Nixon, mostly unknown for his bit roles in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and the television show The Wonder Years.

This call represented a break-through. After having been treated with high suspicion by the media company for weeks, the girl on the phone was prepared to set a specific time and date whereupon I could finally interview the producers responsible for the film. Happily, I made arrangements for the following week. Ultimately, the interviews would never take place. After several cancellations, re-schedulings, and further erratically timed phone calls (all on the producers’ ends), Expelled’s people finally stopped responding to my inquiries altogether, for reasons not entirely clear.2

This wasn’t the first call I’d received from Expelled, though it was the least formal up to that point. Since I had sent my initial query, the apparently suspicious production company had called and emailed me numerous times with dozens of mostly redundant questions contrived to measure my “angle”, and, I presume, my level of sympathy toward Intelligent Design.

The first call had come during regular business hours from a chatty clone who initially sounded professionally scripted, with the air of a salon-tanned prick perfectly willing to take business calls on his Blue-Tooth while out to dinner with his wife. He was “excited” about the film. He spoke rapidly, and at length, regarding the film and its predicted impact, with little or no prompting from me. “It’s the best documentary I’ve ever seen,” he declared confidently. Abruptly, his tone changed, reflecting sudden insecurity. He admitted that it was the only documentary he had seen. I said as little as possible. I didn’t want his making a fool of himself to leave him with a negative impression regarding my intentions. Fumbling for a recovery, he added, “It’s just a great film. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or not, it has nothing to do with that. This is for anybody; anybody concerned with Free Speech and science.”

Of course, I’d not mentioned religion at all.

Had I known that this inane conversation would be the closest I’d come to an actual interview with a representative for the film, I may have taken better notes. He babbled on in what seemed complete confidence that I was “all right”. He promised me an advanced screening and a meeting with a traveling Expelled propaganda crew. At the time, I merely waited for an opportune break in his wild oratory to ask if and when I could schedule an interview with the producers. “I’m not sure,” he told me, leaving me utterly confused as to why he had called me at all, “I’ll check and get back to you.”

He called back later that day sounding far more sober and subdued. He began a subtle interrogation cheaply disguised as passing small talk. What are you in school for…? Oh, good for you… Who do you write for…? Oh, that’s great… What kind of research do you do…? Interesting…! So, who do you write for…? Ah! That’s right… What’s your area of study…? Eventually, he promised to send me an email scheduling an interview. Later that day, I received an email that reminded me that I would get an email scheduling an interview, but in the meantime, could I send an email reminding him who it was that I was writing for? Also, could I assure them, in writing, that it was actually me who was writing the article and conducting the interview? Strictly a formality, you understand.

I found this level of screening ironic, being that the filmmakers themselves have been accused – by those who participated in it as interviewees – of misrepresenting their motives in order to gain the confidence of some of the top minds in academia; it’s a charge that the film’s spokespeople seem to dismiss as sour grapes from the “Big Science establishment.”

In a New York Times article about the film, physical anthropologist and head the National Center for Science Education, Eugenie C. Scott – who was interviewed for Expelled – is quoted as saying, “I have certainly been taped by people and appeared in productions where people’s views are different than mine, and that’s fine. I just expect people to be honest with me, and they weren’t.”

I, on the other hand, was quite honest with the people representing Expelled about the type if article I intended to write – though I certainly never revealed my personal opinions on the topic to them. Mine was to be an “objective” treatment of the subject, which may seem laughable given my anything-but-neutral position in the evolution-creation debate. Of course I “believe” in evolution. Evolution is an established fact. My feelings toward the creationists oscillate between indignant disgust, and detached sociological interest… but not equally. More often than not, I feel indignant disgust at their willful ignorance, and strive to reclaim the detached sociological interest. I would argue that this doesn’t preclude me from writing objectively on the topic, as I see no reason for which “objectivity” requires me to suspend disbelief in the patently absurd. “Objectivity” need not imply a willingness on my part to indulge in the crude fantasies of the defiantly ignorant – rather, “objectivity” in this case would require that I suspend judgment, making no assumptions regarding the motives, intelligence, or sanity of the fabulists in question… At least in writing.

My model for this type of objectivity is Pulitzer Prize winning author Professor Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia, whose social history of evolutionary theory and acclaimed account of the original Scope’s “Monkey Trial”3 have established him as the authoritative historian of the evolution-creation debate. In an email exchange, he agreed to speak with me about Expelled: “Sure, I’d be happy to help… I’ve been following this movie. Interesting stuff. For once, a new twist in the creationism wars…

In a phone conversation, I had Professor Larson delineate the difference between Evolution by natural selection, and the political theory of Social Darwinism. Expelled intentionally treats the two interchangeably, viewing genocidal holocausts as a natural result of society’s general acceptance of Evolution. According to The New York Times: “If it were up to him, [Stein] said, the film would be called ‘From Darwin to Hitler.'”

Interestingly, Professor Larson had been approached by Expelled, and he was asked to be interviewed for the film. “They were very unclear as to what the film was actually about, and I couldn’t see any reason why I’d want to be involved,” Larson told me. This surprised me, as I see the good professor as a neutral historian. Presumably, the creationists do not.

Another main argument that Expelled promises to present is the idea that the banishment of the Intelligent Design hypothesis from public schools is a violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees Free Speech4 . For the counter-point here I spoke with Daniel Mach, the Director of Litigation in the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief for the ACLU, who described the invocation of the First Amendment as a tactic “related to the Teach-the-Controversy spin.”

“I don’t see this as a Free Speech issue at all,” he explained, “teachers shouldn’t be given a carte blanche to ignore curricular requirements or to convey educationally unsound information to public school students…” Further, to call upon the First Amendment “…misinterprets Free Speech while ignoring the Establishment Clause.”

Indeed, where would it end if teachers were allowed to teach whatever they wished in the name of Free Speech?

Playing the role of Jehovah’s Advocate while speaking with Mr. Mach and Professor Larson was difficult. Expelled’s arguments are easily flayed by the learned and rational. Unfortunately, a good number of the film’s viewers are sure to be neither, nor will rational arguments distract them from their cause. This dogged devotion to supernaturalism can be seen in the propagation of all of the so-called scientific criticisms against Evolution. These erroneous criticisms are debunked again and again, only to be presented by creationists to credulous Christians again and again, with no acknowledgment of their refutation.

Just as my feelings toward the creationists oscillate between disgust and sociological interest, so too do my feelings regarding their uprisings oscillate between fear and scornful amusement. It’s easy to feel that there is nothing to fear from the creationists, because their arguments are so clearly flawed and religiously motivated that one finds it difficult to imagine that they should ever win a significant court battle in their struggle to strangle science from public schools one school district at a time. On the other hand, there is reason to fear for the future, as supernaturalism seems to spread ever more malignantly, threatening a new Dark Age of unreason.

The impact of the film remains to be seen…

  1. The same production company responsible for the Narnia fiasco, as well as Mel Gibson’s disturbing sado-masochistic blood-porn The Passion of The Christ. Motive Marketing, they are called. I think that the motive here is quite obvious. []
  2. Lest one adjudge me a fool, and see fit to point out that a mere Google search will probably reveal “Doug Mesner” as an enemy of Intelligent Design, allow me to confess that I don’t hold strictly to this name, and indeed I did not in this case. []
  3. Both books are highly, highly recommended to anybody at all interested in the topic []
  4. Even this argument – though it may seem somewhat original in the modern creationism war – is as old as the Scopes trial. Though William Jennings Bryan may not have invoked First Amendment privileges for religious concepts in schools (probably having a better grasp of the Establishment Clause than that), he did espouse a “majoritarianism” that maintained that in a democratic society, the majority rules, right or wrong: mobocracy. []
21 Comments so far
  1. Fitz February 27, 2008 11:04 am

    A little something I wrote a while back when I first heard about “Expelled” and was trying to explain a bit of its origins on a discussion forum.


  2. christina February 27, 2008 11:12 am

    Very Interesting. I’ve always held a belief in “Intelligent Design”, if that’s what the “entity” upstairs is now called.I have a close friend who has all kinds of books and videos on this topic. I find most people simply or in great length regurgitate what they are told. Can’t say there is always a difference between opposing sides…Most people can’t accept that “everyone” doesn’t see the world the way they do, and grow Churlish. shame that. Seems you were being sized up a bit there…I’d rather attempt to lead people to the spirtual than to try and sell it to them!

  3. jones February 27, 2008 9:07 pm

    Although it does slightly bruise my vanity, I must admit that I do not fully understand the comment posted by Christina. It seems to me to be some sort of vaguely assumed inspirational criticism, and I would certainly be interested in any elaboration or clarification. I have been consistently fascinated by the sociology of religion and religious themes, and can quite confidently type that I have no problem accepting the fact that not ‘everyone’ may agree with my thoughts on the various topics involved therein. That said, I do find the idea of Intelligent Design rather unsettling intellectually and would tend to agree with the thoughts of the author rather than Christina. In reading the article, it does not appear that Mr. Mesner was being ‘sized up’, but rather given the runaround by parties reluctant to participate in the defense and promotion of their production. While making no secret of his personal beliefs, Mr. Mesner does state that his intention was to write an objective piece. The lack of professionalism that he was put up against would, I assume, leave anyone who takes themselves even remotely seriously, feeling understandably Churlish.

  4. doug February 28, 2008 9:34 am

    Fitz – Great article. You seem to pick up on something it took me a while to understand; I used to feel that the distortions of the creationists arose merely from simple minds unable to assimilate science with their biblical convictions, certain that the bible is the ultimate truth. I think that what we are really seeing is that the facts of nature don’t really matter to the creationists. They may not, when it comes down to it, truly believe that Evolution is scientifically unsound, rather that its teaching has terrible ramifications for society. It’s similar to the religious person who asks the atheist, “If God does not exist, what’s to keep us from raping, stealing, and killing?” It’s not an argument in defense of the truth of their position, but an argument in defense of the propagation of an idea.

    Christina – To believe in God doesn’t necessarily mean that you can not accept Evolution. I too was wondering what you really mean by asserting a belief in Intelligent Design as an ultimate power?

  5. Charles February 28, 2008 7:18 pm

    Let’s see how few posts it will take me to alienate myself from everyone on this board.

    Evolution is not a fact. It’s a theory, albeit a theory supported by overwhelming evidence.

    The scientific method cannot yield absolute truth. It is, as you are well aware, a process. There are assumptions, and as you work backwards, questioning each assumption, many are rooted in metaphysical questions. In our post-Enlightenment world we put those metaphysical issues in a box and remove them from discourse, we marginalize them and declare those who grapple with them to be irrational. Personally, I think there’s a certain amount of smallmindedness in that. Which is why, as an agnostic with paganistic tendencies, I find the Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v. Aguilard to be asinine. ID may be a silly conceit to masquerade a philosophical viewpoint as a scientific theory, but I don’t buy the notion that we can meaningfully discuss the origins of life without consideration of metaphysical issues. By excluding metaphysics there is an implied endorsement of nihilism, which can be a lot of fun but is maybe not the ideal lesson in a public school setting. I don’t see how it would violate the Establishment Clause to allow a discussion of the idea that life might have inherent purpose and meaning, even if we cannot empirically “prove” it so.

    What Stein and company are trying to do is not that different from what the current pope has been trying to do in German universities for the past several years. Intellectually rigorous discourse grounded in a philosophy that assumes a moral purpose to existence.

  6. doug February 28, 2008 11:55 pm

    Charles – Theory, it turns out, is an unfortunate word that is usually understood as an antonym of “fact”. Where scientific theories are concerned, this is not the case. The common usage of “theory” is defined by the OED Online as follows:

    6. In loose or general sense: A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion.

    In science, on the other hand, the appropriate definition (again from the OED) lends “theory” considerably more credibility, promoting it well beyond a hypothesis; “hypothesis” being a synonym of the more colloquial definition above:

    4. a. A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.

    It is in this sense that Evolution is a “theory”, in the same way that we have Plate Tectonic Theory, Atomic Theory, even Gravitational Theory.

    I might agree that “The scientific method cannot yield absolute truth”, but only insofar as I might agree that we can never really know “absolute truth”. Just the same, I would assert that the scientific method is the best tool we have, giving us the closest approximation to “truth”.

    I don’t believe that the idea of “inherent purpose” is necessary, or even necessarily conducive to, ethical behaviour. I don’t understand how “purpose” assigned in advance is a morality-inducing ray of white light cutting through the darkness of a world that believes that each individual determines his or her own ultimate purpose.

    Please don’t worry about alienation. I think we all appreciate contrary opinions presented in good faith.

  7. seekue February 29, 2008 10:12 am

    The Scientific Method can lead to an Absolute Truth, insomuch as the Truth exists in the confines of this reality. We may never reach every Absolute Truth (e.g., philosophical abstracts such as “what is murder?”), but the SciMeth helps in excising much of the Bullshit and can provide us with indisputable Laws.

    In the end however, neither ID nor the metaphysics of commentator Charles belong in the *science* classroom. If you have a high school philosophy or religions class, talk about it there, but it does not belong in the science classroom.

  8. Charles February 29, 2008 3:23 pm

    This is where it gets interesting.

    Are you familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions? Science has a significant record of “proving” scientists’ assumptions/interpretations and declaring them to be absolute truths, until the next “truth” comes along.

    I’m not disputing the value of science or the massive accumulation of facts that support evolution. My concerns lie in the assertions of objectivity and the quasi-ideological effort to give science hegemonic authority over truth. Science is inherently relativistic, as is all human experience. We are not objects that record observations with perfect objectivity. We imbue them with meaning.

    Some issues in biology and physics are heavily laden with contested meaning because they address fundamental questions about the nature of existence. The absence of conscious will from scientists’ interpretations reflects a priori assumptions and frequently promotes, both covertly and overtly, secular humanist and atheist worldviews.

    I would argue, Doug, that “inherent purpose” IS necessary for consistent ethical behavior and the rejection of nihilism. The issue is whether that “inherent purpose” is created solely by humans (through logic or some other intellectual exercise) or involves the participation of an external will. If it’s all individually determined and contingent, that’s nihilism. I’m not saying that nihilism is necessarily a bad way to go. “Whatever the fuck I want by whatever means I can get it” worked well for Anton Lavey and plenty of other people. I’m not sure that consistently applied it leads to a desirable society, so it might be just as well that individuals generally face socially-defined constraints. Those constraints can be entirely utilitarian, but unless the society accepts utilitarianism as an “inherent purpose”, it’s still nihilism. Sorry, I know that’s an annoyingly circular argument. All I’m really trying to establish is that the issues of meaning and morality are inextricably linked to certain scientific questions.

    What I’m really arguing is that responsible science education MUST deal openly with the philosophical implications of the Enlightenment. This is the set of assumptions that scientists make, and these assumptions play a powerful role in the types of interpretations that scientists make. There are other ways of interpreting observations, and some of them may have value. Spend a day discussing this at the beginning of the school year, then bring it up occasionally when discussing The Big Bang or the origins of life or any of these other big scientific theories that have a bearing on the nature of existence. Stop claiming that science has a monopoly on truth and reason.

  9. doug February 29, 2008 11:11 pm

    To begin with Kuhn: Science’s ability to self-correct and modify certainly isn’t a weakness, it is its greatest strength. These corrections or “revolutions” don’t come without further explorations that utilise the scientific method. For this reason, I don’t think that invoking Kuhn’s Structures is entirely appropriate to your argument.
    As for the rest of it, I merely have to look to my self. I don’t believe in inherent purpose, nor do I practise a “Whatever the fuck I want by whatever means I can get it” philosophy. I don’t need a fatherly supernatural power surveying my every action, threating punishment for actions morally amiss, to prevent me from behaving in a rotten manner.
    I must admit, I believe that the people who DO need a constant threat of punishment are morally inferior to those who don’t. Those who can not restrain themselves from foul deeds if not for a threat of divine discipline, nor can they behave in an altruistic manner if not for the promise of reward, have not truly developed any moral sense at all.
    Charles, if there were no inherent purpose, no God in the sky, do you honestly believe that you would feel compelled to kill, rape, steal, and cheat? Would you cease to feel bad about committing heinous and corrupt acts? Of course you wouldn’t. Altruism and empathy are in no way dependent upon supernatural belief.
    I begin to feel that we’re beating-around-the-bush with rather vague comments regarding the importance of “metaphysical questions” and ethics within the science classroom. Of course, I don’t think that anybody would recommend teaching “inherent purpose” for ethical purposes without proposing to teach what that inherent purpose is. Would not a specific moral code need to be attached to this “purpose” for it to have its desired affect? Whose moral code? How would this work in practise (without violating the Establishment Clause)?
    Also, you realise that your argument makes no case for the truth of the concept of inherent purpose. Is “inherent purpose” but a myth we must convince the “rest of them” of in order to keep them docile? or is it a concept in which you actually believe?

  10. Charles March 1, 2008 4:46 pm

    Kuhn’s work bolsters my position that science is not above trends, academic politics, and a priori assumptions that change over time. Kuhn is explicitly arguing that it’s not just a matter of accumulating observations via the scientific method. Other forces are at play.

    Regarding the second issue, I have a hard time believing that agents external to yourself have had no impact on how you acquired your beliefs on what is “rotten” and what is not. Your parents, your friends, your education, the artists who have mattered to you- have none of these shaped your particular moral compass? If you have fixed beliefs and it’s not simply “anything goes”, you didn’t just make them up. Maybe you rationally examined the issues and made conscious decisions, maybe you passively internalized models of decency and goodness observed in your environment- but you learned altruism and empathy somewhere.

    I am an agnostic with an aesthetic and emotional attachment to paganism. If there is a conscious, anthropomorphic being underlying and giving purpose to existence, I believe that form is female. Evangelicals are not my best buddies. I am not looking at this issue as a backdoor through which evangelicals can push creationism by other means. I’m not trying to beat around burning bushes (sorry, couldn’t resist). I’m not trying to get everyone to think like me. What I am doing is calling out a segment of the intelligentsia that displays a self-satisfied smugness in its intellectual superiority and, possibly in response to the obnoxious rhetoric of certain evangelical Christians, has promoted the rejection of faith as a sign of human advancement. And even that’s fine with me, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but it deeply bothers me when people cloak those opinions in a veil of scientific objectivity.

    Thank you for asking how I would actually see this working. In the first few days of introductory science classes, we have a lesson on ways of knowing. One way is faith in the fundamentalist sense, in which one has an interpretation of the nature of existence that is true irregardless of observations/empirical evidence. Anything that contradicts that interpretation is illusion. This approach may be incompatible with scientific inquiry. Another way is to hold certain a priori assumptions, such as the existence of a supernatural power or a set of universal moral principles. Then you make observations, develop and test hypotheses, etc., but always with the additional step of reconciling the a priori assumptions and the empirical evidence. This was the dominant model of scientific inquiry prior to the Enlightenment, and it still has many advocates today. A third approach is to attempt, however imperfectly, to remove all a priori assumptions and apply the scientific method rigorously without prejudices, biases, preconceived notions, etc. In the most literal sense of course this is impossible, human beings cannot be true impartial observers. However, by working within a community of committed researchers with diverse backgrounds and experiences we hope to minimize the influence of bias in our collective work.
    For the purposes of this course, we will deal predominantly with the third approach, but we will also from time to time consider the second approach when research questions arise that touch on fundamental questions of the nature of existence. We justify this approach because philosophy is not taught on a grade school level and therefore the teaching of the critical ideas of philosophy fits into curricula wherever issues of philosophical significance are considered, be it in literature, mathematics, or the sciences.

    Ok, did I violate the Establishment Clause?

  11. Fitz March 13, 2008 11:40 am

    “Are you familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions? Science has a significant record of “proving” scientists’ assumptions/interpretations and declaring them to be absolute truths, until the next “truth” comes along. ”

    If that was the conclusion that you drew from reading Kuhn, you might want to re-read his work.

    The core of Kuhn’s argument was that method of observation tends to dictate the kinds of results likely to comef rom such observations and that when methods of observation change for a given scientific field it tends to revolutionize how that field views its subject matter.

    “‘Whatever the fuck I want by whatever means I can get it’ worked well for Anton Lavey”

    That’s a pretty gross mischaracterization of Dead Tony’s viewpoint.

  12. doug March 17, 2008 8:57 pm

    Sorry I’ve been away so long.
    Charles – your proposed approach to teaching science following an introduction to the Philosophy of Science from, it appears, medieval to modern times – with medievalism still in conflict with Science’s advance – seems non-controversial, but I had thought that you were originally proposing that “inherent purpose” be taught as fact?

    To update you all on the film in question: I received a mass email to all media, from the production company, of an article written about the film (which I share with you all below). Apparently, this is the type of “journalism” the good people of Motive are looking for:

    By Jack Cashill
    Executive Editor of Ingram’s Magazine
    A rousing SRO preview on Tuesday of the new Ben Stein documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, brought a Kansas City audience to its feet.

    And with good cause. Stein’s often funny, always engaging frontal assault on the oppressive neo-Darwinist establishment is arguably the smartest and most sophisticated documentary ever produced on the right side of the cultural divide, on any subject, ever.

    As such, Expelled represents still another blow to the progressive orthodoxy of government-issued science in its winter of discontent.

    The winter started early when in November two separate labs, one in Wisconsin, one in Japan, announced the breakthrough discovery that adult skin cells can be reprogrammed to mimic embryonic stem cells.

    Just two years earlier, the elfin journalist Chris Mooney had likened adult stem cell research to creationism and assured the readers of his best seller, The Republican War on Science, that this “dogma” had been “resoundingly rejected by researchers actually working in the field.”

    As the winter rolled on, and as all four major global temperature tracking outlets showed a precipitous drop in annual global temperature, and as snow fell in Baghdad for the first time in recorded history, only Al Gore remained in meltdown.

    Meanwhile, on a seemingly daily basis, the neo-Luddites from the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front have been putting a distinctly left wing face on the “war on science,” in this case a real war on real scientists.

    And into this breach, armed with his trademark tennies and bemused grin, marches Ben Stein, America’s only economist/ presidential speechwriter turned comic actor. The producers at Premise Media could not have recruited a better on-screen presence.

    Although the role Stein plays has been compared to the one Michael Moore plays in his film, the Stein persona is conspicuously brighter and more benign.

    Nor do Stein and his producers resort to the kind of editing that make Moore movies something other than documentaries.

    In Bowling For Columbine , for instance, Moore cobbles together five different parts of NRA honcho Charlton Heston’s Denver speech a week after Columbine.

    Moore then inserts into the mix a “cold, dead hands” remark from a speech Heston gave a year later. In the process Moore turn Heston’s conciliatory Denver address into a provocative call to arms.

    This isn’t film making. This is fraud.

    Stein resorts to no such tricks. He gives certain interview subjects all the time and all the rope they need to hang themselves, unedited.

    One highlight among many is Stein’s one-on-one interview with Richard Dawkins, the dashing Brit who has made a small fortune as the world’s most visible neo-Darwinist.

    To his credit, and to the utter discomfort of the public education establishment, Dawkins does not shy from discussing the atheistic implications of Darwinism.

    Indeed, Dawkin’s anti-deity call to arms, The God Delusion, has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Where Dawkins wanders into a black hole of his own making is in his discussion of the origins of life on earth.

    To Stein’s astonishment, Dawkins concedes that life might indeed have a designer but that designer almost assuredly was a more highly evolved being from another planet, not “God.”

    Stein does not respond. He does not need to. For the past hour of the film, the audience has met one scientist after another whose academic careers have been derailed for daring to suggest the possibility of intelligent design.

    If only they had thought to put the designer on another planet!

    The choice of Stein as narrator is inspired for another reason. That reason becomes most apparent when he and two “creationist” allies, mathematician David Berlinski and nuclear physicist Gerald Schroeder, visit a remnant of the Berlin Wall, the central metaphor of the film.

    At the wall, the three discuss the value of freedom, the central idea of the film, and the need for the same in science. The audience has already met Berlinski, an amusingly sophisticated American living in Paris.

    The audience has seen less of Schroeder, but he is wearing a yarmulke. All three are Jewish.

    Indeed, it would be hard to imagine any three individuals on the planet who less resemble the Inherit the Wind stereotype that Darwinists have been scaring soccer moms with for the last half century.

    Expelled opens nationwide on April 18th. The neo-Darwinists and their allies in the major media will do their best to kill it.

    Co-producer Mark Mathis tells me that two network news producers have already chosen not to cover the film because it was “biased,” unlike, say, the much-covered Fahrenheit 911.

    The producers have contracted with the same firm that marketed Mel Gibson’s The Passion to get the word out. They will use much the same strategy.

    Central to this strategy is the creation of a powerful buzz and a strong enough opening weekend to catch Hollywood’s attention and hold it.

    Put April 18 on your calendars. Bring the kids. You won’t be disappointed.

  13. Fitz March 19, 2008 9:16 am

    “All three are Jewish.”

    I suppose using Jewish individuals will make things more acceptable then if they brought out the Unification Church devotees.

    Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t bring in the Scientologists. For years they ran their anti-Darwin “Man is Just and Animal!” Dianetics commercial in the US, way ahead of the ID folks.

    Oh right…Moonies and Scientos won’t go over with the Choir as well as a few Jewish people would…I keep forgetting.

  14. seekue March 21, 2008 11:51 am

    PZ Myers is Expelled from Expelled
    “I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried … but I was Expelled! It was kind of weird — I was standing in line, hadn’t even gotten to the point where I had to sign in and show ID, and a policeman pulled me out of line and told me I could not go in. I asked why, of course, and he said that a producer of the film had specifically instructed him that I was not to be allowed to attend. The officer also told me that if I tried to go in, I would be arrested. I assured him that I wasn’t going to cause any trouble.”

    “They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn’t notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn’t recognize him. My guest was …

    Richard Dawkins.

    He’s in the theater right now, watching their movie.”

  15. doug March 21, 2008 9:39 pm

    I sent Michael Shermer a link to this blog. Though I realise that I have little to say on the topic relative to those who were actually in the film, I felt I should make him aware of Expelled’s suspicious defensiveness, as its promoters have worked hard to attribute this very attitude to their “neo-Darwinist” interviewees. I offered, of course, to type up a report for Skeptic. Shermer, it turns out, is also in the film. He feels that we should refrain from comment until after we’ve seen the film. I look forward to chatting with him after we have. I assume that we’ll hear Dawkins’s take fairly soon.

  16. seekue March 25, 2008 2:57 pm
  17. doug March 29, 2008 8:53 am

    Well, I screwed the pooch on this one. Dropped the ball.
    I didn’t read the email below until it was already too late. Though I feel that this teleconference would have largely been a waste of time, and I have a sense that – with 5 or 6 people on the other end – any legitimate questions would have been overshadowed by extraneous chatting, coached rhetoric, or questions aimed back at the journalist, it would have been nice if I had participated if just to post the audio here for you all:

    Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 11:46:00 -0700
    From: Bob Dixon
    Subject: Interview Opportunity with Ben Stein

    We would like to extend an invitation for you to interview Ben Stein
    TOMORROW, Friday, March 28th. He will be available between
    2-5pm (PST). Each interview is set up for 15 minute increments.

    Please confirm a time as soon as possible as they are quickly filling up.

    If you are not able to interview Ben during this time frame, please
    feel free to join our Live press teleconference at 1:00pm (PST).
    See the enclosed attachment for details.

    Please confirm receipt of this email as soon as possible.


    Bob Dixon
    Assistant to Lesley Burbridge-Bates
    Motive Entertainment Partnership


    JOIN BEN STEIN TOMORROW, Friday, March 28 at 1:00 pm. PST for an
    exclusive, invitation-only LIVE press teleconference!

    Hear Ben Stein LIVE as he talks to you and other members of media,
    answering your questions about his upcoming, highly-controversial

    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, to release nationwide APRIL 18, 2008

    Hear why leaders like Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Don
    Wildmon (American Family Association), Chuck Colson, Luis Palau,
    Lee Strobel and many others are so enthusiastic about the release
    of this film, and why many others wish it would NEVER come out…

    Dear Media Member,

    As one of our appreciated media partners, Motive Entertainment
    cordially invites you to join a special, nationwide “conference
    call” press junket with actor/comedian/author/speaker Ben Stein
    TOMORROW, Friday, March 28th at 1 p.m. PST/3 p.m. CST/4 p.m. EST,
    regarding one of the most controversial films of 2008, EXPELLED: No
    Intelligence Allowed.

    CALL-IN TO 800-983-8147 (toll-free) 866-211-2047 (toll-free) AND
    ENTER participant code 6481720 # – YOU MUST ALSO RSVP BELOW.

    Please RSVP at
    immediately, as this call will fill up fast.

    This is a unique, exclusive opportunity for you to listen to Ben
    Stein and to ask him questions live, via e-mail. The call will also
    be recorded and available for Podcast use.

    The call will be held via phone on:

    TOMORROW, FRIDAY, March 28th

    1 p.m. PST/3 p.m. CST/4 p.m. EST

    Please RSVP immediately, as this call will fill up fast


    Talent available for interviews on the call will include:

    Ben Stein, host and star of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed

    Logan Craft, Premise Media (producer of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed)

    Walt Ruloff, Premise Media (producer of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed

    Mark Mathis, Premise Media (producer of EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed)

    Paul Lauer, president, Motive Entertainment (grass roots marketing
    company behind films like The Passion and Chronicles of Narnia)

    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is already receiving

    National News Coverage







    One blog is even asking the question Will This Be the “Passion”
    Movie of 2008?


    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed follows Ben Stein on his journey
    around the globe where he discovers that scientists, educators and
    philosophers are being persecuted in a modern day witch hunt
    because they dare to question Darwin’s theory of evolution and
    propose that life on this planet could be a part of some
    intelligent design and not random chance.

    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed exposes Darwin elitists who
    suppress all who disagree with them – even scientists whose new
    EVIDENCE erodes Darwin’s claims. 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: No Intelligence Allowed crossed the globe
    with Ben Stein, interviewing scores of scientists, doctors,
    philosophers and public leaders. The result is a startling
    revelation that freedom of thought is being expelled from high
    schools, universities and research institutions.

    For more information, go to http://www.expelledthemovie.com. Leader
    resources can be found at http://www.getexpelled.com


    Lesley Burbridge-Bates
    Motive Entertainment


    What people are saying about

    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed:

    “Ben Stein’s film, EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, makes a
    powerful case for “Intelligent Design” in explaining the origins of
    life and the creation of the universe. It also exposes an
    entrenched and aggressive Darwinist establishment in academia that
    suffocates all competing points of view. Highly qualified
    professors and scientists who dare to question evolutionary
    orthodoxy are systematically excluded or summarily dismissed. It is
    political correctness run amuck on university campuses. Stein sets
    out on a mission to find out why I.D. is most often expelled from
    the public square, and what he discovers in this riveting
    documentary is incredibly enlightening. I recommend the film

    -James C. Dobson, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board, Focus on the Family

    “Ben Stein’s EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed packs a powerful and
    entertaining punch that will shake the foundations of Darwin’s
    fortress within science and education. Those who are suppressing
    belief in God and trying to make materialism the law of the land
    should beware. Ben Stein is on a mission to stop the suppression,
    and millions of Americans are behind him.”

    -Pat Robertson, Host, The 700 Club, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)

    “Embracing and endorsing chaos devalues all aspects of life.
    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed reveals that truth and scientific
    discovery has been disregarded by the guardians of atheistic
    Darwinism. Thank God for a few courageous individuals who dare to
    ask the difficult questions with no fear of the real answers.”

    -James Robison, Host of LIFE Today

    “I love Ben Stein. We worked together in politics
    many years ago.
    He’s a charming, engaging, and very bright guy. He’s on the right
    track here. What he’s doing in this film is extremely important
    because it is opening up an honest debate in the public square
    where people can hear reasoned arguments on both sides and make
    their own conclusions.”

    – Chuck Colson, Radio Commentator, Founder of Prison Fellowship

    “This is an enormously important project and I am so proud of the
    fact that Ben Stein, who is a national treasure, is part of it.
    People know that there is a dictatorial impulse at work in the land
    to shut down even the most elementary questioning of this
    unquestionable belief in random evolution and the American people
    don’t like being told by their ‘betters’ what they are supposed to

    -Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio host

    “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is earthshaking. I was
    absolutely blown away. Ben Stein boldly shines a light of honest
    inquiry revealing that evolution’s emperor has no clothes. It will
    have Darwin’s disciples scurrying for the shadows. Everyone in
    America, even skeptics of Intelligent Design, must see this film.
    They can’t possibly walk away without at least admitting that the
    debate over who we are and how we got here is far from over. The
    controversy will be intense, so get ready for a rollercoaster

    -J. Matt Barber, Director for Cultural Issues, Concerned Women for America

    “Recently, our entire North America executive leadership team had
    the opportunity to preview EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. As
    we discussed the movie following the viewing there was unanimous
    agreement that the movie is very well done and clearly addresses
    the seemingly unending attack on those who reject the notion of
    evolution as the cause of our being; that is, evolution, simply
    defined as life emerging from the ooze. The pervasive bias of many
    academics against exploring the reality or non-reality of
    transcendence is pointedly evident in the film. Ben Stein has done
    an outstanding job of pulling together a cross section of
    interviews that point out the blatant discrimination against many
    in the scientific community who would embrace “intelligent design”
    or even more specific aspects of the reality of God. At the same
    time his interviews with avowed atheists is well done as he elicits
    responses that leave grave doubt regarding their position of
    absolute disbelief in a creator and/or God. We highly recommend the
    movie to anybody. It is not only informative and challenging—it is
    fun to watch.”

    – Ken Smitherman, President, Association of Christian Schools International

    “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed offers a compelling examination
    of an important topic for everyone who values the freedom to
    explore ideas that challenge conventional wisdom. Ben Stein has
    given us a powerful documentary about the widespread repression of
    faith-friendly scientific scholarship. Along the way, he also makes
    a strong case for a return to civil discourse in a time when
    political correctness often overshadows the search for truth.
    EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is an engaging film that features
    a winning combination of humor and reason with just the right tone
    needed to bring its significant story to the worldwide audience.”

    -Ronald D. Ellis, Ph.D., President, California Baptist University

    “It’s no surprise to those of us trying to communicate the Good
    News that God is now excluded from most scientific discourse on
    campuses and in the media. We are seeing the consequences of
    locking matters of faith out of our classrooms. We applaud Ben
    Stein for casting light on today’s challenges to academic freedom.”

    -Luis Palau, President, Luis Palau Association

    “Propaganda molds minds in a very direct way and that is the logjam
    in this situation, which the Ben Stein movie, EXPELLED: No
    Intelligence Allowed, by being entertaining, seeks to break
    through. I wish it well – I hope under God it will have a great
    effect just at that point.”

    -Dr J.I. Packer, theologian

    “We had a chance to see a private, pre-screening of Ben Stein’s
    upcoming film, EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie is
    powerful…shocking….intense….humorous at times….well worth
    seeing. This message must be given to the next generation or

    -Jack Brown, CEO, Capitol Prayer

    “Something we all need to ask ourselves in life is ‘What am I here
    for?’ You know, if we are just ‘lucky mud’ then these questions
    don’t mean much at all. But there is a God and he did create us. So
    if the Ben Stein movie is asking these questions and if somebody is
    keeping us from finding out the great answers to the great
    questions – then maybe they are more than just questions. Maybe
    they are questions with eternal consequences.”

    -Peter Furler, lead singer, The Newsboys

    “It is rare to find a movie that is entertaining, educational and
    motivational, but that is exactly what you get with Ben Stein’s
    documentary, EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. Ben puts on his
    sneakers and interviews highly qualified scientists, academics and
    journalists who have had their careers ruined because they dared to
    question the modern day creation story of Darwinian evolution.
    Equally revealing are Ben’s interviews with the leading academics
    behind the Darwinian establishment such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel
    Dennett, William Provine and PZ Myers. This movie only samples the
    tip of the iceberg of academic and intellectual persecution in the
    land of “freedom” and may trigger a cultural revolution as more
    people are emboldened to tell their story and make a stand.”

    -Dennis Wagner, Executive Director Access Research Network

    “Finally, someone has exposed the head-in-the-sand reaction of
    mainstream academia when it comes to intellectual honesty and the
    theological implications of modern science. This film is a
    wonderfully crafted gift to this needy culture. My only regret is
    that I didn’t make this film!”

    -Ed Flanagan, Manitou Motion Picture Company, Ltd.

    “I want to thank you for your film, EXPELLED: No Intelligence
    Allowed. I appreciate that you took a thoughtful and sometimes
    humorous look at a very serious issue. In the cultural debate,
    there are few things more important than our concept of the origin
    of life, yet this very topic is suffering from the tyranny of
    censorship and honest argumentation and has been expelled from the
    classrooms and laboratories. Honest people have no fear of the
    truth. Your movie raises the question, “Why would there be such
    opposition to the idea of Intelligent Design?” For those who
    rejoice in the truth, there is nothing to lose! If ID is wrong, a
    healthy debate will point out its errors and if there are holes in
    Darwin’s theories, then an honest critique will only bring us
    closer to the truth. EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is a great
    first step in tearing down the wall and bringing honest, vigorous
    debate back to the academies.”

    -Curtis Martin, President-Fellowship of Catholic University Students

  18. Shapka April 16, 2008 12:46 pm

    –I read most of the responses to this post, and it would seem that the one thing missing is this: there is not one single law or amendment on the books in the U.S. that prohibits teaching a child anything a parent might want to teach them at home.

    Parents don’t like Evolution? Fine– parents have the right to teach their kids otherwise, to advise them otherwise, or to simply Home School them.

    Parents have the right as well as the responsibility to imbue their children with morality. This is not the job of schools. The job of schools is to impart knowledge as it is known.

    Ultimately, it isn’t wrong in any way for parents to teach their children that Science can fit inside of Religion. However, it isn’t right for any school to try to fit Religion into Science.

  19. Charles April 18, 2008 11:13 pm

    To Doug,
    I take issue with phrasings such as “medievalism still in conflict with Science’s advance.” It’s ideology claiming the mantle of objectivity, and its implicit condescension is symptomatic of the issues I have with many in the scientific community. However, that’s a nuanced debate next to the steady line of bullshit and false analogies that Stein is pushing in this film. Richard Dawkins may be as much of an ideologue and a propagandist as Stein, but at least Dawkins is up front about it. To parade crap such as Expelled as an exercise in seeking “fairness” and “dialogue” is really nauseating.

    To Shapka,
    I would propose that the job of schools is not exclusively to “impart knowledge as it is known” and never has been. Schools have always attempted to shape the character of their students and promote responsibility, patriotism, and yes, morality. If you doubt this is so, I would urge you to read the standards that state education departments and local school boards REQUIRE to be taught in the classroom. Education is never values-neutral. This was true before the Supreme Court banned school prayer in ’63 and it’s still very much true now. And most of us, however much the concept of state indoctrination makes us squirm, would prefer for public eduation to continue to condemn racism and sexism and deplore the evil of the Holocaust and teach children that they must work hard in order to succeeed. Public schools will teach values, and inevitably those values will reflect local community standards (with occasional state and federal intervention). I am NOT suggesting that this means evolution should be disgarded simply because most parents in a particular school district don’t agree with it. However, the public school is not and never has been an ivory tower removed from society, and those parents have a right to demand input in the curriculum that their tax dollars pay for. That right may be overridden by a compelling public interest AGAINST those parents’ demands, such as the threat that universities will devalue high school diplomas from school systems that do not teach evolution. But parents have a right and an interest in staking their claims regarding what is taught in public schools.

    There are ways to acknowledge the importance of faith in cosmological questions without violating the Establishment Clause.

    Respect for a variety of views is one of the values that I deeply hope public schools will continue to teach and model America’s children.

  20. Charles April 19, 2008 12:32 am

    To Fitz,
    Regarding Kuhn, you’re right, I was conflating social scientists’ commentaries on Kuhn with the man himself, which is especially problematic because Kuhn had many objections to how others interpreted his work. That you for correcting me on that. (Of course, I still agree with those social scentists.)

    I like what you said on your blog about Stein’s sincerity and the Wedge movement. I would be very interested in getting your thoughts on the curriculum I proposed in an earlier post. You stress that you want to keep religion out of research designs. I have no problem with that. However, I don’t see why one must reject faith-based interpretations or at the least the possibility of such interpretations from discussions of the larger implications of some scientific experiments. What is the harm in discussing and respecting alternative philosophies to materialism and naturalism?

    To the extent that the scientific community considers materialism and naturalism the only legitimate philosophies through which scientific findings may be interpreted (even when science is considered outside the lab), I think defenders of religion are correct in asserting that scientists promote atheism.

  21. christina December 16, 2008 11:33 am

    oh my,

    I never meant to imply the writer was being Churlish.
    ==== just the opposite!

    He was being given the run-around.
    I think my point was I believe in an intelligent Design, a Creator of the universe.

    When I say that sort of thing, it offends people.
    Therefore, I do come off as being vague to people.
    It’s because I fear my receiving party will think I’m a “God Merchant”
    seeking out your foibles and sins.

    I try to walk the line, as it is, to avoid fighting over my beliefs.
    I do care what others believe in, a great deal.
    My whole childhood and young adult life have been spent in Christian
    schools and churches.
    It’s no question that I feel over exposed to religion in general!

    I simply feel following rules isn’t always following God.
    I try not to make people feel as if I have all the answers or that I have some
    super agenda.

    I would be a liar if I even pretended to be a follower of others.
    I just try to be respectful of the beliefs of others when in their company.
    On a regular basis I make fun of most religions and systems.
    It is one of my greatest pleasures in life!

    …but it is not to hurt people, some religious beliefs are just down right stupid!

    The fatal flaw of the internet as a device of communication is the sometimes
    absent sense of absurdity or humour inserted into a communique.

    Simply put : I don’t take myself that seriously.
    I find myself somewhere between Robert Anton Wilson and Jesus Christ.
    I can’t imagine a setting on this planet where God or his representative
    would be relaxing and socializing with any certain religion.
    The individual must find God within, his kingdom is not of this world.


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