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April 12th, 2008

For those of you who have not been following the story in P.Z. Myer’s blog Pharyngula, there is a “documentary” out called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed which is essentially a brazenly slanted and strongly dishonest “Intelligent Design” propaganda film, hosted by one of the “theory’s” most prominent proponents, Ben Stein. From the very start, the entire project was a sham. Contacting various scientists and others who are proponents of evolution, an organization calling itself “Rampart Films” asked them if they would like to be interviewed for a film titled Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion–a very reasonable-sounding title. A search on the organization’s web site at the time would have brought forth this blurb:

Crossroads – The Intersection of Science and Religion:

It’s been the central question of humanity throughout the ages: How in the world did we get here? In 1859 Charles Darwin provided the answer in his landmark book, “The Origin of Species.” In the century and a half since, biologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers have contributed a vast amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God. This conflict between science and religion has unleashed passions in school board meetings, courtrooms, and town halls across America and beyond.

Indeed, this sounds like a very reasonable presentation of the issue in a fair, unbiased way. The scientists agreed to be interviewed. However, once the interviews were procured, the name of the production company was switched, and the title of the movie and its summary changed to:

Ben Stein, in the new film EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed; His heroic and, at times, shocking journey confronting the world’s top scientists, educators and philosophers, regarding the persecution of the many by an elite few. Ben travels the world on his quest, and learns an awe-inspiring truth…that bewilders him, then angers him…and then spurs him to action! Ben realizes that he has been “Expelled,” and that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance. To which Ben Says: “Enough!” And then gets busy. NOBODY messes with Ben.

A slight change in tone, one should admit. When Myers and others’ interviews were put into the film, they were presented not only out of context, but in a completely new one: their filmed answers (shot in a style as if they had to be filmed with a hidden camera) were intercut with footage of goose-stepping Nazi storm troopers. You can guess where things went from there.

Basically, the film does what ID’ers generally do: present no actual evidence for their own argument (not possible, because there is none), but instead attempt to expose the “fallacies” in evolutionary theory (all such claims are demonstrably false) whilst trying to cast evolution and “Darwinists” (are the filmmakers “Yahwehists”?) as responsible for every reprehensible person, organization, and event in history.

A recent development is the lengthy review by Scientific American which, predictably, rips the filmmakers a new hole in their space-time continuum. A short excerpt:

Like the decision to call evolution Darwinism, the omission of science from Expelled was a deliberate choice. In fact, it was crucial to the film’s strategy. Because they know Americans revere freedom of speech and fairness, the producers cast the conflict between evolution and ID as purely a struggle between worldviews—a difference of opinions, a battle of ideologies—in which one side is censoring the other. They know that the public will instinctively want to defend the underdog, especially when that opinion aligns with the religious beliefs many of them already share.

It is a terrific strategy, but with one caveat: that airy skirmish of opinions must never, ever touch the ground of solid evidence. Because if it does, if viewers are ever allowed to notice that evolution is supported by mountains of tangible, peer-reviewed evidence gathered by generations of scientists, whereas ID has little more than a smattering of vanity-press pamphlets from a handful of cranks… the bubble pops.

Expelled is all about how science should not reject people with ID “theories.” The filmmakers must therefore stop you from ever asking, Why?—because even children understand that in science, two ideas are not equally good if one of them is wrong. Some of the ideas fluffing up ID are demonstrably wrong; the rest are often described as “not even wrong” because they are so untestable or irreconcilable with the rest of science.

It was hard to choose just that one snippet because the entire review is excellent, going to great lengths to show how completely full of BS the film and its creators are, with Scientific American using as much evidence to prove their point as the filmmakers do not use to not prop up their own.

For more on the general subject, check out the Index to Creationist Claims, which exhaustively shoots down every creationist and ID myth and lie; the PBS documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (the entire documentary is viewable online, and it is excellent); my discussion of the reactions to that documentary; the site Expelled: Exposed, which covers reviews and other coverage of the “documentary”; and (again) P.Z. Myers’ blog, Pharyngula.

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  1. Pensive Koala
    April 13th, 2008 at 01:50 | #1

    Wouldn’t they be Paul of Tarsus-ists? After all, “Darwinists” don’t think Darwin created the world.

  2. May 5th, 2008 at 04:50 | #2

    Stein had an interview on Hannity & Colmes just prior to the release of the movie. I have analyzed that interview and posted my analysis on YouTube. Here’s the link:


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