Tuesday, April 22, 2008


We went to see the movie Expelled this weekend. I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Sometimes this sort of thing is too polemical for my taste, even though I might agree with the premise. I had read several reviews from the evolutionist perspective that were complaining about several aspects of the film. For one thing, some of the evolutionists who were interviewed in the film complained that the nature of the project was misrepresented and that they were quoted out of context. Well, I don’t know whether they were lied to or not, but perhaps if they had understood that this movie was going to be strongly pro-Intelligent Design they might have declined. On the other hand, from what I have read of their positions I don’t think their views were distorted at all or taken out of context. I can see they might be mad because interviewer Ben Stein sometimes tried to make them look a bit foolish, but nowhere near as bad as what you see every week on 60 Minutes.

Another complaint I read was about interspersing the interviews with old film clips. I was prepared to cringe at this, but I discovered that mostly it was done for humorous effect and so was not as annoying as I expected. The one exception was Stein’s use of the debating H-bomb: comparing your opponent to Hitler. The reviewers complained that being an evolutionist doesn’t make you a Nazi. And while that’s true, it is also true that evolution was the inspiration for the eugenics movement, which Hitler followed to its chillingly logical conclusion. Stein’s tour of the Nazi death camps and his interview with the curator at Hadamar were sobering. While the evolutionists are right to point out that the eugenics movement does not logically constitute a disproof of evolution, it is nevertheless a testament to the evil influence a bad idea can have.

I had also read a complaint that the film never even defines the terms evolution and intelligent design, much less musters any evidence for or against them. Actually, in the course of the film a pretty good one sentence definition of each term is given, but they are correct that no evidence is offered. However, that wasn’t the point of the movie. It specifically attempts to show that anyone who speaks favorably of intelligent design in the sciences is systematically denied tenure or even employment. Now you can debate the particulars of each case, but I doubt that evolutionists really want to be defending the right of intelligent design supporters to be tenured science professors. I’m fully prepared to believe that making statements in favor of intelligent design will engender a strong prejudice from most tenure committees. How could it not? They have defined intelligent design as “non-science” - or maybe “nonsense.” Why not let them study it? Why not let them try to get papers published about it? It rings hollow to complain there’s no peer-reviewed literature on it and then fire anybody who tries.

There is one event surrounding the release of this movie which was very poorly handled. One of the scientists interviewed in the movie, PZ Meyers, was not allowed to attend a pre-release screening of the movie. I don’t think it matters whether he was invited or not, or whether it was supposed to be a private screening or not. This was a really rude and stupid thing to do. Throwing him and his family out of the theater was against the very point of the documentary, not to mention lacking in Christian hospitality. Predictably, the evolutionist blogs have been having a field day with this event. I hope that somebody connected with the film will try to contact Dr. Meyers and apologize. It won’t undo the public relations fallout, but it’s the right thing to do.

I doubt this movie will contribute much in the long run to resolving the debate over intelligent design. It probably has about as much chance of changing the minds of university faculties as a Michael Moore film has of turning Republicans into Democrats. This is not a debate between theories, but a debate between worldviews. Such issues do not get resolved by scientific evidence.