Expelled reviewed

I went to the 7:10 showing of Expelled  last evening. I have to admit, I was a bit afraid to see it. You see, I am used to seeing things produced by Christians that are just embarrasing.  I was kind of afraid that the movie would go way over the top, make outrageous claims, and lose any credibility that they may have had.  The events of the last couple of weeks, with PZ’s black-listing and various claims of copyright infringement, didn’t help. So, I was prepared to write a review dealing with the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.  I am surprised, then, to not have to do that.  Expelled is a pretty decent documentary.  In fact, it’s fairly brilliant.

Now, I know I’m going to be called delusional (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) for that last statement, but I’m just being honest. I thought they did a darn good job putting the film together, and that they acheived their goal.  It was pretty fast-moving, coherant, and at times humorous. I thought the editing was quite good. The use of old b&w film clips to make points was well-done.

However, it wasn’t perfect. I thought the opening b&w sequence really didn’t fit the rest of the movie. Certainly they continued to use b&w throughout, but it was a quite dark and depressing way to start the film, and really didn’t have the same feel as the movie itself.  Two things that could have been left out, in my opinion, are the two clips where copyright claims are being raised: The CGI bit on the inner working of the cell is cool, certainly, but really didn’t add to the movie, and actually seemed a bit out of place. The same is true, in my opinion, of the short Imagine bit. It wasn’t necessary, and if anything was distracting.  

Before I say any more about Expelled, let me offer a little autobiographical information. While I have always enjoyed science, until the last year or two I have not paid much attention to the whole Darwinism/ID debate. I have seen a few TV documentaries over the years, none of which were favorable at all to any non-Darwinian position, but other than that, I paid little attention. I enjoy astronomy, physics (I especially enjoy quantum theory) and cosmology, but have little interest in biology (other than going to the zoo) and don’t like chemistry at all.

It was only after I reconnected with my friend Mike that I started catching up on the Darwinism thing. I started reading a number of blogs and articles on various sides of the issues, finding that not all evolutionists agreed on all issues, and neither did the non-Darwinists (I’m using the terms generically). Since then I have formed my own opinions on a number of issues, and am still undecided on many. I accept that some evolution happens, as evolution is loosely defined. I don’t – at the moment – believe in common descent.  I am, overall, something of a skeptic, and that goes for religious issues as well as in science or any other topic. I always question the status quo, whatever it is. So, I have read all sides with a skeptical eye, discounting many on both sides of the issues.

What I found as I watched Expelled was that the film fairly represented the positions of those interviewed; in fact, most information came from the individuals themselves rather than from Ben Stein, who served to put the information into context.  I also thought that the overall point of the film, that there is a Darwinist establishment who is more concerned with self-protection than allowing any real questioning of the issues, reflected what I have seen in my own reading. 

The film won’t change the minds of any who are already entrenched in their positions. It doesn’t give any pat answers. What it does is expose issues that deserve to be brought to light. For those who are not already entrenched in their positions, it may prompt them to do further study, and will of course let them make up their own mind.

I thought Will Provine expressed best what I would expect from a true scientist, that people should be allowed to examine all of the evidence, and decide for themselves what to make of it, whether it be some form of ID, or as in Provine’s case, a purely materialistic (and fatalistic) viewpoint.  Eugenie Scott and PZ Myers were themselves; no real surprises there. Dawkins provided some comic relief, with his rambling thoughts about ID and aliens; pretty much the whole audience broke into laughter during that segment.

One thing that surprised me what that David Berlinski was not identified as an agnostic, which I think would have given his opinions a bit more punch, seeing as he is perhaps the only one interviewed who is not committed to either deism or atheism.

I also thought the segment dealing with the Darwin – Nazi connection was fairly well done. The interview with Uta George, the director of the Hadamar Gas Chamber Memorial, was absolutely shocking; I found her complete detachment to the horrors of eugenics – and her refusal to say anything negative about it – horrifying. My son thought she was only representing the Nazi position, but to me it seemed that she really bought into it. And, by the way, she emphasized several times that those in charge of the eugenics programs were influenced by Darwinism.

I saw the film tonite with my oldest son and his girlfriend (who chose to see Expelled rather than the new Jackie Chan movie). He commented that it seemed to him that the first part of the movie focused on how ID is not tied to religion, but the 2nd part seemed to try to tie the issues to religion. My other son wants to see it, but was sick, so I’ll probably watch it again with him in a couple of days and will comment further on this and any other new thoughts.


13 thoughts on “Expelled reviewed”

  1. Wow. You’re serious? You’ve got to stop reading Dawkins. He’s either not seeing the forest for the trees, or purposefully obfuscating the issue. Based on his past behavior, I think either option is possible.

    Of course, eugenics is not “natural” selection. That’s not the issue. If you combine the concepts of “survival of the fittest” with evolutionary thinking (which was prevalent at the time), eugenics – or extermination of “lesser” races – is a logical result. Hitler also rejected Christianity because it failed to comply with the natural laws of survival of the fittest. He was a nut, certainly.

    By the way, did you know Hitler wrote a second book?

    And, here’s one more “quote-mine” from Darwin: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” To a nutjob, this probably makes sense.

    That’s all I’m probably going to say on the Hitler issue, because to be honest, I find Hitler too depressing, and not all that interesting.

  2. I think you may want to read this letter from Dawkins to a Jew who wanted to keep atheists out of the United States once he saw the movie Expelled.

    7. Hitler did attempt eugenic breeding of humans, and this is sometimes misrepresented as an attempt to apply Darwinian principles to humans. But this interpretation gets it historically backwards, as PZ Myers has pointed out. Darwin’s great achievement was to look at the familiar practice of domestic livestock breeding by artificial selection, and realise that the same principle might apply in NATURE, thereby explaining the evolution of the whole of life: “natural selection”, the “survival of the fittest”. Hitler didn’t apply NATURAL selection to humans. He was probably even more ignorant of natural selection than Ben Stein evidiently is. Hitler tried to apply ARTIFICIAL selection to humans, and there is nothing specifically Darwinian about artificial selection. It has been familiar to farmers, gardeners, horse trainers, dog breeders, pigeon fanciers and many others for centuries, even millennia. Everybody knew about artificial selection, and Hitler was no exception. What was unique about Darwin was his idea of NATURAL selection; and Hitler’s eugenic policies had nothing to do with natural selection.

  3. Quote-mining is dangerous, and without context the statement is meaningless. Just as carefully editing a video segment of Dawkins being polite to Stein when Stein asks stupid questions to make it look like Dawkins has been flummoxed.

    I can quote-mine the Bible to show how murderous God is. Wait, no need to quote-mine.

  4. “Wedge front?”

    I don’t know John West…

    However, read the main histories dealing with Hitler, and then tell me who you think is being dishonest. Many point to Darwin as a major influence of Hitler.

    Here’s another quote from Darwin:

    At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world…. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

    (granted, I haven’t seen the context for this.)

    Now, here’s another quote:

    As evolutionists, we see that no [ethical] justification of the traditional kind is possible. Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will…. In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding.
    – E. O. Wilson and Michael Ruse, “The Evolution of Ethics,” 1991

  5. The segment follows Darwin’s style of writing; in which he throws out a rhetorical question and then develop a detailed response. John West tried to use this segment against Darwin in the presentation at the U of M which I attended. So, I am, left with the question of why we even make a big deal out of it from the Wedge front?

    West made a long point of it and then did the “Darwin was opposed to eugenics” tap dance. Why do the makers of expelled make the connection if not to discredit evolution?

    It’s dishonest and you know it.

  6. Mike, I read the article you e-mailed me about. Certainly everyone knows about Luther’s pamphlet (in his defense, by 1543, Luther was quite ill, and some theorize was suffering from some aspects of dementia as well). We all agree that Hitler had many influences, but that doesn’t mean that Darwinism wasn’t also an influence. Again, the interview with Uta George was shocking in her insistence that the doctors at Hadamar were heavily influenced by Darwinism (and I suspect from her comments that she agrees with them).

    What I find interesting is that in trying to dismiss the Darwin-Hitler link, no one I’ve seen has dealt with Richard Weikart’s work, which appears to be the best analysis of the issue. They simply throw out red herrings.

    Again, no one is saying that Darwin equals Nazism, or that Darwin was Hitler’s only influence. However, have you ever read Descent of Man?

    We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

    Now, he goes on to argue that that it is our compassion which differentiates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Darwin would not have supported eugenics. However, it is quite obvious that not all men are so highly evolved…

  7. I really think you need to take a closer look at the link between evolution and nazism, and the link between eugenics and evolution.

    It’s only relevant in its missapplication. We can draw the same link between internal combustion and the invasion of Poland. The Wehrmacht had the tanks and the Poles had horses. Does that mean that that internal combustion engines are responsible for the deaths of the Poles? No, the drivers, the generals who commanded them and the gunners are responsible.

    So, Hitler, who hated the idea of natural selection took his ideas from it? Unlikely. Hitler and the Nazi’s looked more to mendelian genetics and animal husbandry. Their master race looked more towards Sparta than it did to the beaks of finches. Eugenics was as much a religious movement as it was a biological science movement. Even if the links were valid, one of the problems with this association is that it follows an is/ought fallacy. The study of natural evolution is descriptive. Eugenics is prescriptive. Nazism was born of hatred, blame and scapegoating and they used whatever justification that they could find, including the writings of Martin Luther.

    So, the only point that I can see in bringing in the connections in that film is to completely turn the audience against “darwinism.” The void can then be filled with something else, and in this case the vague notion of intelligent design creationism.

  8. That’s hilarious… when did they put the “Wittenburg” back in the name? The author obviously had some buttons pushed, or perhaps never took a class in 20th Century history. The “Nazi” segment was actually fairly subdued, I thought, and it was appropriate for Stein, a Jew, to deal with the issue. The segment with the lady from Hadamar was bone-chilling.

    You just can’t escape the fact that Darwinian thinking had a major influence in the eugenics practiced by the Nazis, as well as in the origins of Planned Parenthood. Darwinists obviously want to live in denial, but it’s foolish for them to try to say that it didn’t happen. No one is trying to make the claim that all Darwinists become Nazi’s… but, there are logical conclusions that can obviously be drawn from Darwinian concepts.

  9. Steven,

    As much as I appreciate your visit, I have to object to your merely reprinting your own review with links back to your site as a comment. It makes me wonder if you even bothered to read my post.

    You are welcome to comment whenever you like, but please, don’t just spam and run.

    Note: I have redacted Steven’s post, but left the link in place. If you want to read his entire article, you may do so at his site.

  10. Expelled: An embarrassment to the Academy

    By Steve Cornell

    The harsh criticism aimed at Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled serve only to substantiate the concerns raised by the film. Stein “…calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed scholars who have been forced out of prestigious academic positions because they proposed Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin’s 150-year-old theories about the origins of life. Instead of entertaining a debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has moved to suppress the ID movement in a “systematic and ruthless” way at odds with America’s founding principles, the film asserts” (Jill Stanek, WorldNetDaily).

    (body of comment redacted; see comment to follow)

    Steven W. Cornell
    Senior pastor
    Millersville Bible Church
    Millersville, PA. 17551

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