HolyCoast: Expelled - A Review

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Expelled - A Review

The Mrs. and I just went to see Ben Stein's new movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It's a very good film and I highly recommend it. It will make you think.

I'm sure many people, hearing that the movie is about evolution vs. intelligent design, would assume this is a film with a religious theme, or even a Christian theme. Not at all. Ben Stein is Jewish and many of the intelligent design proponents he talks to are not Christian and in many cases are not particularly religious at all. The movie is not about religion, but about academic freedom. Proponents of the theory of Darwinian evolution hold the most powerful positions in both academic and government science and, as evidence by the film, will not tolerate any theory that has intelligent design as a component.

I've noted in some other commentary I've read that the movie has been described as "anti-evolution". Not true. The movie acknowledges changes over time within species, which is part of Darwinian evolution. It just doesn't buy the theory that evolution is responsible for everything.

When many people hear the words "intelligent design" (ID) they immediately leap to creationism or the most fundamentalist form of Biblical creation, and that's not accurate at all. ID does not promote a 6,000 year old Earth, a 6 literal 24-hour day creation, or dinosaurs coexisting with man. It simply says that you can't create that first self-replicating molecule and get to the diversity we see today simply through Darwinian evolution. There must have been some sort of intelligence involved.

There's a recurring theme throughout the movie involving the Berlin Wall. That wall was erected to try and prevent a failing philosophy from being exposed, through freedom, to contrasting views. Stein argues that such a wall is now in place in the scientific community such that only ideas consistent with Darwinian evolution have the freedom of research and thought, while anything dealing with ID must be kept out. There is no academic freedom to pursue ideas that might involve intelligent creation. His analogy doesn't seem too far off the mark after you've watched the film.

In the movie Stein interviews a number of prominent scientists whose careers have been destroyed or severely damaged because they dared to suggest that ID could have played a role in the process of getting the earth from a lifeless void to the vast diversity we see today. There are organizations who sole focus in life is to stomp out the teaching of ID in any form and punish those who transgress. They're almost a modern day thought police.

Of course, the biggest threat to Darwinian evolution is God. Those who most fully embrace this theory must eventually eliminate any form of God because God is incompatible with a view that life spontaneously started and is completely random in nature. Several of the most ardent evolutionists included in the film are strident atheists.

The problem with eliminating God, of course, is that you also eliminate a purpose for existing, the concept of morality and good and evil, a promise of life after death, and even free will. If we simply show up on the scene one day and then some years later cease to exist in any form, why should it matter what we do while we're here? Things like abortion, euthanasia and eugenics become acceptable because there is no true right or wrong. I don't think fervent atheists like Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, or Christopher Hitchens would want to live in a world where their ideal of a godless society was fully implemented. After all, they might not have made the cut and could have been eliminated early on. (I doubt that they would accept that last sentence as even possible since they clearly believe they're smarter than all the rest of us.)

Speaking of Dawkins, there was a very interesting moment toward the end of the film when Ben Stein sits down for an interview. Stein asks in several different ways if Dawkins believes in any form of God at all, and of course, Dawkins replies with incredulity that such a question could even be asked of him. Stein also asks him if evolution is absolute fact, how did the whole thing get started on this planet? Dawkins doesn't have an answer (nobody does), but suggests that science knows the processes that must happen, but not how they happened. Stein then asks if Dawkins could envision any scenario under which some sort of intelligence could have played a part in the initial process that created life on Earth. To my (and Stein's) amazement Dawkins proceeds to lay out one scenario he could possibly accept in which a life form from another planet, far more advanced than ours, could have come here and "seeded" this planet, and from those seeds sprang forth what we see today. In other words, space aliens.

Isn't it interesting that Dawkins doesn't have any room in his intellect for any form of God, but can find room for space aliens.

As he was making this explanation, I leaned over to my wife and asked the obvious question - where did they come from? To follow the theory acceptable to Dawkins you'd have to believe that all creation is just like one of those Russian stacking dolls with Earth and its creatures as the tiny doll in the middle. That still doesn't answer the real question which is - who built the big doll on the outside?

Whether you believe in a 6,000-year old earth, a 6 billion-year old earth, monkey-to-man evolution, or really don't care one way or the other, you should go see this movie if for nothing else to understand the scientific Berlin Wall that has been put up to keep certain ideas out, and the various institutions that try to enforce a strict compliance to Darwin's theory. Science should be about exploration and investigation and following the facts wherever they lead without precondition. It should not start with a premise and require all facts to fit that premise.

As I was driving home it occurred to me that Stein could just as easily have made this movie about global warming, because we see many of the same treatments being given to those who stray from the politically acceptable view that humans are causing warming and humans can do something to stop it. Such noted scientists as Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi tell us that the "science is settled" and there's no room for opposing views. A meteorologist at the Weather Channel wants to strip other meteorologists of their accreditation if they refuse to embrace her form of global warming.

Even more pernicious is the notion that though we can't prove global warming is caused by man, it's too important not to start destroying our economy now in order to "save the planet". That, of course, requires a tremendous amount of arrogance on the part of the true believers like Gore who think they actually have dominion over the earth and its climate.

There are even more politics involved today in global warming than in ID, though fortunately there are still lots of dissenting voices that have avenues to be heard. Because there's not such a religious element to global warming I don't think those are seeking to stifle all dissent can ever be completely successful.

Well, let me correct something, there is a religious element to global warming, but not on the side of the deniers. For the true believers global warming has become a religion of its own, but one with the blessing of political correctness.

Getting back to the movie, I encourage you to go see it. There has been a tremendous outcry already against the film, including lawsuits to try and stop its showing and protests at earlier screenings. The crowd we saw it with obviously enjoyed it and clapped at the end (which doesn't always happen at the movies). You should see it while you can.

By the way, be sure to read Darwinism's Day is Done, a good companion piece to the movie.


Some further thoughts: After thinking about the movie overnight I couldn't help but feel sorry for Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers, two of the main characters in the film and both staunch atheists who believe that science should replace any form of faith. Both of these guys demonstrate a stubborn disbelief in a higher intelligence than their own, and that seems like a pretty dangerous way to live.

I've heard religion referred to as "fire insurance", and for some, maybe it is. But think about it for a moment. If you live your life as though there is a God, what is the downside? If you're wrong, you just disappear upon death and can't even regret your decision. The upside of that is at least you've lived your life in a way that probably reduced the number of dumb or dangerous decisions you might have made and hopefully you've been a good citizen to your fellow humans. If it turns out there is a God, well, the upside to that is pretty big.

On the other hand you have the arrogant atheists who have chosen to live their lives as if there is no God. If they're right, when their time is done they just disappear with everyone else, though you have to wonder if they've had lived in a manner that brought them any real satisfaction along the way. However, if they're wrong about God and when their lights go out the Big Guy is suddenly there to greet them, the downside is huge. Do you think God will be impressed with their intellectual arguments?

It seems to me that if logic is what they're going for, based on the potential outcomes upon their death it would make more sense to live as though there is a God rather than live as though there isn't. Wouldn't that be "intelligent"?

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