Sunday, February 13, 2011

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

What an astonishingly hateful and dishonest film this is. Watching Ben Stein traveling around, tossing out quips like he’s still hosting a game show and expressing constant fake astonishment each time an Intelligent Design proponent explains one of their basic talking points, nodding his head sagely as though he had never heard any of the arguments here before. The overt contempt he and his film show for science, scientists (except the ones that agree with him, of course), and simple reasoning skills would be amusing, sort of like watching some demented racist frothing at the mouth on Jerry Springer, if not for how he and his ilk comprise such a large part of the country, and have had such powerful influence over our nation’s scientific policies.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The film, for those who haven’t heard of it before, and haven’t guessed from the above, is a documentary by Stein that starts off by him pretending to champion the cause of college professors that have cruelly had their livelihoods ripped away from them for having dared to challenge the status quo and mentioning intelligent design in the classroom or in scientific papers, before gradually moving onto his real point: that evolution and Darwinism is actually just evil and vile, and in Stein’s mind is somehow directly responsible for the Holocaust. His original title for the film, that he strangely couldn’t find financial backing for, was From Darwin to Hitler, and is frankly much more honest in its hatred. That he finds no dichotomy at all in beginning the film condemning Darwinists for their supposed hatred of Intelligent Design proponents and then ending the film showing such relentless hatred of Darwinists that he outright accuses them of being responsible for the Nazi party is just one of the many games of Logic Twister on display here.

That it’s all so slick and polished is almost worse than if it had been the bottom-barrel church production it so desperately wishes to be. It’s every bit as well crafted as any documentary you can see being nominated for an Academy Award, with a good dose of humor (at one point Stein even quips that they “wouldn‘t win my money“ with their arguments), animation to explain some of the basic structure of cells (though obviously not going into any great detail, since his whole thesis is that the basic foundation of biology is a lie, and the more detail he goes into here the more the facts would turn against him), and dozens of interviews with various people on both sides of the issue (he does mention early in the film that it seems like a bad sign when he has to travel to Texas to meet many of the ID people, though he never actually follows up on such a seemingly crucial thread). I’ve seen documentaries that actually won at the Oscars for Best Documentary Feature that weren’t put together this well, and it’s all gone to waste on a completely poisoned mindset that loudly claims to champion intellectual honesty while actively campaigning against it.

Consider the following exchange. Stein is interviewing one of the ID proponents, David Berlinski* (who starts off rather ominously by rattling off about a dozen different universities he’s taught at, which I think was meant to establish his credentials instead of making us immediately wonder what’s wrong with him that he’s been forced to shuffle from place to place so much), who tries to simply ask, “Suppose we find, simply as a matter of fact, that our scientific inquiries point in one direction?” Stein: “Which is that there is an intelligent creator.” Berlinski: “Why should we eliminate that from discussion?” First, for me to point out that Berlinski uses each hand to point in completely opposite directions while posing the question about science pointing in one direction would be childish and immature, and I’m scandalized that any of you would even consider mentioning it. Second, to pose the idea that all of our scientific inquiries could wind up pointing in that direction would require for there to be a vast change in either the way we view scientific evidence, or the way we view an Intelligent Creator. If you’ll think back to your middle and high school science classes (or your college science classes, if you took any there), one of the key parts of the scientific method is that all of your hypotheses must be both testable and falsifiable. It’s simply physically impossible to test for God (Sorry, sorry, I meant an “Intelligent Designer”) in any way that can prove his/her/its existence or lack thereof. We couldn’t even try a basic series of tests to see if the various miracles in the Bible and other religious texts could have actually happened or not, simply due to how proponents of them would just argue that their respective deities transcend all natural laws of science and nature and so are impossible to test for anyway. For those wondering why ID can’t be taught in a classroom, that alone is reason enough.

By the way, it’s more than slightly suspicious how, for all the many proponents of Intelligent Design we encounter in this film, not a single one of them mentions in the film believing in a god. Indeed, several of them are mock outraged by the very idea that Darwinists would accuse them of trying to smuggle religion into the classroom by way of Intelligent Design, because it’s clearly nowhere near the same thing as Creationism, despite being identical in every way except for being cautious not to specifically name the Judeo-Christian God as the Intelligent Designer they’re proposing. Indeed, at one point Stein laughs at the very notion of life on Earth having been potentially caused by aliens, which is curiously dismissive of someone that’s convinced that someone somewhere must have created us, but doesn’t want to narrow things down to specific names. Later, he then mocks Dawkins for suggesting that life on Earth could have conceivably have been started by alien life, but that that alien life would still have to have at its source a basic natural process and not a god, sneeringly claiming that Dawkins is admitting here that he believes Intelligent Design is possible, just not all types. It should be noted, also, that despite Intelligent Design supposedly not in any way requiring a belief in a god (in fact, in the film's entire running time, we never get a clear definition of what exactly Intelligent Design is arguing, which I suppose is not surprising when it's so hard for its adherents everywhere to define it as anything that would separate it from Creationism), one of Stein's main bits of proof of the evils of Darwinism is in how it seems to turn its adherents into atheists. The amount of sheer unbridled intellectual dishonesty on display by everyone involved on the ID side here is staggering. Also, while above I made sure to include an all-encompassing set of deities in the paragraph above, I can’t offhandedly think of a single ID proponent that’s not a Christian, so I probably shouldn’t have bothered.

The film also goes down the wonderful path of politicizing science, as one of his ID interviewees complains that “liberal Christians have been fighting with conservative Christians for so long that they’ll side with anybody against the fundamentalists”. Now, I know that in the United States right now we’re very big on pretending science is about politics and not facts, but it really isn’t. As Roger Ebert put it (not in this film), “the Theory of Evolution is neither liberal nor conservative. It is simply provable or not.” When dealing with scientific evidence, anyone that claims the available evidence is either real or not real based on their political views is not someone you want to be taking your scientific knowledge from. I wouldn’t really expect anything different from people that believe Intelligent Design is every bit as viable a scientific theory as evolution, but it’s nice for them to briefly let slip part of their real issues with evolution. After all, if those godless liberals believe it’s true, it must be false!

I suppose I shouldn’t express too much hatred for the film, though, even if I did specifically choose to watch because I expected to hate it at least a little. After all, the continued cheery presence of Richard Dawkins as the main proponent of evolution in the film (despite being selectively edited in a desperate effort to make him seem like a buffoon with no real substance behind his Darwinism) did remind me just how much I liked his book The Blind Watchmaker, and got me to order another of his books (though I didn’t order his book The God Delusion, which was prominently displayed in the film as part of the general effort to frighten religious people into hating him and, by extension, evolution). The film itself is utterly without worth outside of Dawkins. It’s overwhelmingly dishonest and hateful, pretending to be something it’s very clearly not, and shows a gross misunderstanding of the scientific method, evolutionary theory, and even mathematics. Stein frequently throws in stock footage of Nazis and Russian soldiers as a visual comparison to Darwinists because they’re all so horrid and evil. Curious that they’d accuse Darwinism of such racism, when part of his decision to publish On the Origin of Species was to prove that humans are all one and the same in an effort to help end the practice of slavery, which was still alive and well in 1859. I would expect someone as well-read as Stein to know that, though whether he did or not I’m not surprised in the least that it didn’t make the film. After all, once you’ve made the commitment to actually include footage of Jews in concentration camps as part of showing how evil Darwinists are, it would hardly work to show any facts that might indicate you’re just using a major human tragedy in a massively inappropriate way, now would it?

Rating: Zero stars

* Berlinski, and a few of the other people (I’m not calling them scientists, sorry) at the Discovery Institute, were the ones that tutored Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, if you want further proof of what the man’s like.

P.S. I’m not providing a link to his movie. If you really want to see it, go download it, don’t let him get any of your money. Instead, there’s a link to some Dawkins to feed your mind.

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