"Ideas have consequences." With these words, Premise Media CFO Ralph Manning summarized Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at an early screening event in Fort Worth, Texas. The new film, starring stoic funnyman Ben Stein, has stirred up a lot of controversy in recent months--and that appears to be its goal.
"Ben Stein is an ardent defender of the sanctity of life and has come to see Darwinian evolution as an important issue in the culture war," Manning explained. The film, he said, attempts to bring the underlying issues surrounding the origins debate to the attention of an otherwise apathetic public.
Shot in ten countries on four continents, Expelled chronicles the economist, actor, lawyer, columnist, and former presidential speechwriter's search for answers as he conducts interviews with both proponents and dissenters of the scientific theory of Darwinian evolution. His destinations include universities, museums, and even the Nazi extermination camp of Dachau, located in southern Germany near Munich.
Expelled, set to open in approximately 1,000 theatres nationwide on April 18, challenges conventional thought and exposes the systematic suppression of academic freedom and free speech that the scientific community has conducted under the guise of "science." Stein injects his signature humor into an otherwise grave matter, at first providing comical counterpoints to evolutionary claims, but then gradually revealing the serious consequences of allowing politics and personal agendas to muzzle the free marketplace of ideas.
The film dips into the ideology behind the theories of evolution and intelligent design. Viewers are treated to a model animation and scientific explanation of DNA and cellular systems. With advances in molecular biology and nanotechnology, scientists are discovering the amazing intricacies and complexities of the human cell, most of which were unknown in Darwin's time.
But the main focus is the oppression of scientists and educators who have been fired, denied tenure, or otherwise shunned because they dared to question Darwinism. Journalist and author Larry Witham told Stein that among his years of reporting on the evolution debate, he found that people can't question the "paradigm" if they want to advance in science. After all, grant money and teaching positions are controlled by the evolutionary elitists, barring most dissenting scientists from conducting research that might oppose evolution.
Many scientists' identities had to be shielded in the film for fear of persecution and/or retribution. Guillermo Gonzalez, an eminent astronomer who was denied tenure at Iowa State University, said that scientists will use intelligent design to do their research, but will not publicly talk about or admit it. The film employs imagery of the Berlin Wall to illustrate this suppression. Academic freedom is only allowed on one side of the wall, Stein explains, and any ideas from the "other side" must be eliminated.
His sobering visits to Dachau and the Hadamar "mental hospital"-- where more than 14,000 "patients" met their demise under Nazism's racial purity policies--painted an eerie picture of what happens to humanity when a few elitists take it upon themselves to help along the evolutionary process. According to From Darwin to Hitler author Richard Weikart, Hitler saw World War II as a Darwinian struggle for existence, and he justified the practice of eugenics by saying that mankind had "transgressed the law of natural selection" by allowing inferior beings to survive and propagate (Mein Kampf, 1925).
Darwinism's proponents are given ample time to state their case. Biologist Richard Dawkins and National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott make appearances, though their comments don't so much present evidence for Darwinism as reveal their own biases. Scott proudly displays a push-pin map of the United States showing areas where the NCSE is making efforts to quell opposition to Darwinism. The film concludes with a one-on-one interview between Dawkins and Stein, a discussion that is sure to surprise audiences on either side of the "wall."
A variety of reviews, blogs, and judgments circulated the web even before the movie's release. Some compared Expelled to the works of Michael Moore, and others denied that Stein ever interviewed Dawkins at all. If the film stirred up this much controversy before hitting the big screen, then it has certainly been successful thus far in promoting its primary message: "Ideas have consequences."
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Cite this article: Dao, C. 2008. Intelligence Expelled. Acts & Facts. 37 (4): 9.