by Leigh Lundin
Last weekend, friends Steve and Sharon invited me to the movies. Steve suggested Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, saying he’d heard good things about it.
I opened the reviews and was surprised that 91% of professional critics– 30 out of 33– gave it thumbs down, only a little less than the average ‘man on the street’. What was going on? Where were these great reviews?
I dug a bit deeper. Ah! Sean Hannity said Ben Stein‘s movie was "awesome". Rush Limbaugh touted it as "powerful", "fabulous", and "blew him away". Glenn Beck promoted it by saying that the New York Times hated it so much, the movie was a must-see. Hmm… I began to see the "no intelligence" part of the equation.
|Lord Privy Seal|
|This is a reference to a David Frost / John Cleese sketch which satirized the practice of associating images too literally and in rapid, almost subliminal, succession.|
Using a collage of ‘Lord Privy Seal‘ connotations, the movie attacks science, accusing science of everything from godlessness to Communism, Nazism, and underpinning the holocaust. In the past few years, we’ve seen politicians fulminate against the profession. Not so long ago, a number of school boards and even legislators tried to get ID (intelligent design) into schools, prompting a failed lawsuit in Pennsylvania. More recently, we’ve seen diatribes coalescing around global warming.
Once again, we’re back to the Scopes trial, attempting to ‘prove’ that the Earth is approximately 6000 years old, that it was created in exactly 144 hours, that humans trod the earth with dinosaurs, and– as proof of religious belief– that God eschewed using evolution as a tool. This is the thrust of Creationism, the impetus behind ID, the agenda behind the film.
|The word ‘theory’ in science and standard English have very different meanings. Theory in science means a predictable evidentiary formularization, whereas layman’s use of ‘theory’ is similar to a hypothesis. When scientists argue ‘theories’ of evolution, they are debating the hows, whys, and nuances of an established model.|
Science, I’ll have you know, is the most honorable of disciplines, engaged in a search for TRUTH by following the evidence, like a detective in both the physical and abstract world. Science cannot disprove the existence of God, as some claim it attempts to do. In fact, science suggests the Story of Creation in the Bible is very much on target.
Science doesn’t have a quarrel with religion, but fundamentalists– Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, possibly seeking an opponent to rail against, have taken on science as an adversary. Although English translations of the Bible’s Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek historically have been flawed and our modern understanding is often inadequate, Creationists insist that Genesis depicts the world was created in six 24-hour days.
Personally, I believe ‘day’ is allegorical, figurative as in "modern day", "day of the poodle skirt", and "day of reckoning". I also think that given a tool as powerful as evolution, why wouldn’t God use it, especially if He invented it? But, in the eyes of some religionists, that thought is blasphemous.
Why should this be? Hasn’t history often judged the results of religion denouncing science? The Church insisting Kepler’s and Galileo’s model of the Earth orbiting the Sun was sacrilegious? The Church insisting the Earth was flat? That life forms too tiny to see couldn’t possibly cause diseases within the body?
Behind the Creationist uproar is the Discovery Institute, which relates their message to ‘German Darwinism‘ (their term). DI is a Seattle lobbying group and ‘think tank’, identified with its advocacy of intelligent design to teach creationist anti-evolution beliefs in North American public school science courses. The Discovery Institute has reported much of its funding comes from such wealthy fundamentalists such as Howard Ahmanson Jr, who states his goal is "the total integration of Biblical law into our lives," and the MacLellan Foundation, which insists upon its own interpretation of "the infallibility of Scripture".
Federal courts have found the Discovery Institute, in pursuit of "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions", cooked up the Creationist controversy they want to evangelize by promoting a false perception that evolution is "a theory in crisis", falsely claiming that evolution is the focus of wide controversy and debate within the scientific community.
Revealed in federal court hearings, the group’s manifesto, the Wedge Strategy, defines their religious goal to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a ‘science’ consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
Expelled, the movie, in the guise of ridicule, is another of these Wedge missions, an attempt to supplant science with religion. The producers have gone beyond Michael Moore techniques to a new low, using deceit, prejudice, and false premises to reach a false conclusion, that of academic prejudice and a shutdown of scientific debate.
Deserved or not, Moore has a reputation of sloppy research and unfair interviewing in the service of revealing a kernel of truth. That can’t be said about Expelled: Taken to extremes, at the heart of the movie, we find a terrible lack of truth.
Appearances to the contrary, Stein didn’t personally interview all the scientists– his questions were later dubbed in. Apparently without exception, when approaching academicians, producers lied to get interviews, hiding their backing and agenda of the film.
The movie singles out a couple of scientists who happen to be atheists– notably PZ Myers and Britain’s Dr. Richard Dawkins– as if promoters would have you believe all scientists are atheists. Scientists of religious conviction dispute the essential premise of the movie. Interviewees known to be men of faith have stated producers tried repeatedly in multiple ways to manipulate answers to show there was scientific persecution and prejudice.
The same interviewees who appeared in the film were barred from the theater. PZ Myers himself was ‘expelled‘. Dawkins escaped expulsion, having been listed as a guest of Myers. Promoters kept a tight lid on who was allowed to screen the movie, forbidding professional film reviewers to attend. Reportedly, the film company was unhappy that Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore managed to slip into a screening.
|Yoko Ono is suing over the film’s use of John Lennon’s music and likeness in the film. Get over it, Yoko: You may not like the movie, but Lennon was a public figure outspoken on many topics, including religion.|
In contrast, promoters offered up to $10,000 to schools and $1000 to religious groups to fill theaters during the movie’s opening run. The film company arranged a private showing for Florida legislators at the IMAX theatre in Tallahassee, in possible violation of Florida’s Sunshine Laws since press and public were banned.
The great irony of the film is that while it attempts to argue scientific prejudice and persecution, it uses exactly those nefarious techniques in pursuit of its dubious goal. Some Christian groups have derided the film as well, prompting at least one to question the effect upon Stein’s reputation.
As fiction authors, we nevertheless are in search of a kind of truth, using our stories to illustrate real life parables. It’s inexcusable when a purported documentary cannot do at least as much.