Friday, October 31, 2008

REVIEW: Ben Stein's "Expelled"

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Just Watched:
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

My Rating:
4½ Stars

I'm just stunned.

Ben Stein has put together an excellent documentary about the eclipse of academic freedom in America, especially with regard to the issue of the origin of species. With engaging interviews & startling facts, Stein goes on a journey to show how scientists who simply acknowledge (not even *subscribe* to the theory -- just ACKNOWLEDGE) the viability of the intelligent design theory are becoming victims of a systematic effort to supress alternative perspetives to Darwinian Evolutionism. With a skillful weaving of current events & images of totalitarian regimes past, Ben Stein makes a strong case that the supression of ideas is a barrier to scientific freedom as the Berlin Wall was a barrier to personal German liberty for many years. He also takes time to show the fruits of the evolutionary theory of origins by connecting the thinking with Nazi Eugenics programs.

It's just an excellent documentary. I'm amazed at the awful reviews Stein's documentary received. They simply serve as further evidence of the existence of a kind of conspiratorial cabal for the mainstream worldview of the future. And Ben Stein just furthers my deep aversion for public figures of anti-religion such as Bill Maher & Richard Dawkins.

What "Expelled" further does for me is highlight a troubling trend in 21st century culture: unknowable truth resulting from the reign of bias. What do I mean? Personally, I am unnervingly frustrated that I have no idea what to think about the idea of global warming. If you think global warming exists, then you must be a Democrat; and if you think global warming is a farce, then you must be a Republican. Each political party has their own set of scientists & "scientific" conclusions. How can a person even form an objective opinion?

As a moderate thinker, I have a difficult time with the veneration of the subjective. I listen to right-leaning people wring their hands over ACORN & people who would manipulate our political system by saturating the vote with illegal votes. And then I listen to left-leaning people wring their hands over voter suppression or the idea that electronic voting is not trustworthy -- people in positions of high influence who would manipulate our political system by fixing the numbers. And you know what -- each side is ONLY concerned with the pety notion that the other side will gain an unfair advantage! What I want to know is this: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THE PURITY OF OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM?!? It's nowhere to be found! No one cares, because each side only cares for itself.

This development of a highly-polarized culture is intellectually dishonest. And that is at the heart of Ben Stein's documentary: the idea that people place their worldview before science, or objective investigation. Such as happened with the poor kids involved in the Duke lacrosse rape case -- "well, they fit profile, so let's book 'em & get it over with." Placing your worldview ahead of your investigative pursuit leaves you living in a fantasy world of your own construct -- it's not reality. And it's frustrating to people like me, especially if (like in the issue that this documentary explores) you're not even allowed to ask questions from an alternative perspective.

Well, I got lost in my own diatribe there. But you should see this documentary. And then you should go sign the Academic Freedom Petition as Ben Stein urges people to in the extra's on the DVD. "Liberty & justice for all" -- that would be a nice direction for America I think...


Mad Rappin EW said...

I haven't seen the movie so I'm not sure if it's the concept of God being behind everything or creationism... but I feel as though in most churches that there is only one respected point of view of interpreting the creation story in Genesis. The restricted point of view interprets this as word by word - the scientific answer for how the world was created. I personally think it's respectable to view it as God's explanation to man of how he created the world in a way he could understand. Adam and Abraham had no concept of scientific principles such as the law of nature so the only important thing they needed to know was that God created it. If God wanted to take millions of years to create the world or wanted to create the world through the big bang He could and could guide every part of it along the way. Figuring out how some parts of nature work doesn't make it any less God's doing, it simply points to the power of the creator to hold together the laws of nature (Heb 1:3). So while I agree that schools should portray both points of view I personally don't see evolution in conflict with Christianity.

Mad Rappin EW said...

I agree with your quote about not "placing your worldview ahead of your investigative pursuit". But if you tout one point of view here people from the opposing point of view will more likely respond. I read many anti-mccain online articles, youtube videos, watch Colbert and Stewart all the time, etc. I see many negatives with McCain and positives of Obama. I question many Republican values and disagree with them on their disregard for the deficit, being paid off by oil execs so as to not do anything to encourage alternative energy, their invading and medling of other countries all for the sake of Israel, their support of torture, etc.

For Biblical issues I always try to find both perspectives because I know I'm not always right and my opinion changes through the years as I learn more. It is frustrating to me when I see people unchanging in their beliefs because they were raised a certain way and get all up in arms or even leave churches over issues that don't have very clear answers in scripture.

III said...

Thanks for the comments, E-Dub.

This documentary is not so much an apologetic for creationism as it is "intelligent design." There is a difference. ID leaves open the possibility that aliens planted the seed of life on Earth.

And, yes, there are many views of how to interpret Genesis 1-11. I tend to take a looser view of those texts -- I suspect that Moses was doing theology there more than he was attempting to lay down a Darwin-like treatise on the origin of species.

What Ben Stein is arguing with the documentary is that ID has a place in the scientific community, and that faith & science need not necessarily be in conflict.

Mark said...

Hey III,

I bought this on DVD the other day, and was thinking of reviewing it, but you've done such a great job here, I don't see a need to take up the cyberspace.

Of course, I am a creationist, but what impressed me with the documentary is that Stein was clearly not out an a Creationism Crucade. He was simply saying, "If things have every indication that they were invented intelligently, why can't we suggest that it possibly happened that way?"

They're really, truthfully just saying, "Let's allow people to be honest and to ask real questions of the evidence."

I didn't feel that they were pushing any agenda beyond that.

My favorite part of the DVD was the special features where some of the folks interviewed showed some significant breakthroughs they had made by approaching research from an ID basis, rather than from an evolutionary basis. A neurosurgeon wasn't able to solve a problem by hunting through biology books, looking for what something could have evolved from. Only when he started studying engineering books about deliberate design work did he find the answer to his inquiry.

ID has some solid stuff to offer the science community. Too bad they keep their ears closed.

Thanks III,


III said...

I'd enjoy reading your review too, Mark. Plus, I think this documentary deserves all the pub it can get. Apparently I'd had friends who heard of it back when it was released in the theaters in the spring. But I hadn't heard of it until last week!

Dan said...

I didn't see this in the theaters, but it looked intriguing. I always enjoy calling out the intellectually dishonest, or any other type of dishonesty for that matter.

I think we all allow our worldviews to influence our perspectives on just about everything. It's hard to avoid, because, after all, that's what worldviews do. Even not having a worldview, in my opinion, is a worldview itself.

What really bothers me are not people who hold a particular worldview, but people who act like they are neutral, unbiased, not affected by their worldviews. I consider that to be incredibly dishonest. What's worse is when those people criticize those who admit to holding a worldview for holding such worldview. Just reeks of hypocrisy. Sounds like this is what Ben Stein is confronting in this movie?

III said...

Not at all. And I agree -- everyone holds a worldview. What Ben Stein is confronting is the dishonesty of those who would suppress the exploration/investigation of the intelligent design theory of origins under the guise of protecting scientific credibility.

The tension between worldview & data is one that people in all fields have to wrestle with. In my own field, it is the tension between "theology" (as an ideological construct) and the text of Scripture. Scripture informs and is the source of our theology, but then also our theology deepens our understanding of Scripture. The two must interact, and the cycle must not be broken out of some protectionistic motive.

That is what Ben Stein's movie gets at. We have an ideological construct that is in fact based on data -- evolutionism -- but that further vetting isn't allowed in the academic community even when the picture evolutionism provides is incomplete. And when there is another construct, intelligent design, that would fit other elements of data, it is dismissed out of hand.

It's fine to have a worldview. We have to be sober in understanding our worldviews (and, thus, inherent biases) & honest in disclosing our worldviews. AND we also have to be fair in challenging our own worldview as our worldview seeks to challenge others. The community of academic science has fallen short, and the arrogance of particular "scholars" in this film is pretty convicting.

Hope all that makes sense.

Jordan said...

I saw this at Blockbuster the other day. I have not rented it yet, but the best part was the endorsement on the front. It said Ben Stein gives it 4 out of 4 stars! I can tell that I am going to like it already...