Thursday, June 26, 2008


Goin' North

Gee, I wonder how Expelled is doing in Canada?

Matthew Hays, Montreal Mirror:

But the toughest pill to swallow is the historical context of the timing of the release of Expelled. Now, at the ebb of the Bush double term, at a time when a Republican administration did their very best to suppress information that got in the way of their various ideological goals—whether it was about global warming or the threat Saddam Hussein posed — a Republican makes a film claiming victim status. You got it — that stench in the cinemas is of rat.
Chris Knight, National Post:

Intelligent Design is not synonymous with the six-days-and-then-He-rested liturgy of creationism, but it's not far off. Proponents believe life is too complex to have arisen randomly, and the universe too unlikely for it to be a chance occurrence. (Although if life hadn't arisen, we wouldn't be making films about how unlikely it is.) DNA is a program, they contend, so where's the programmer? Unfortunately, any theory that rests on the axiom "Well, somebody must have made all this!" lacks a certain scientific rigour, never mind experimental validation.
Brian D. Johnson, Macleans:

I found this film so distasteful I hesitate to dignify it with even a thumbnail review.
Sounds like it's a hit!

And some more:

Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight:

Truth begins and ends with the title of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a semislick advertorial for "intelligent design", the sanitized public mask of creationism, itself invented by Christians who think their God is too stupid to have come up with evolution on his own.
Bill Brownstein, The Montreal Gazette:

[V]iewers are treated to gruesome shots of Nazi death camps. This is, to say the least, rather disingenuous and a really low blow.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that Darwinians are downright arrogant in promoting their views. But Nazis?

Ultimately, with this sort of trash talk, Stein does an intellectual disservice to Darwinians as well as Creationists.
Jay Stone, Vancouver Sun:

[Darwinism] leads to abortion, birth control, euthanasia and, at its extreme, Dachau, according to the film. These scenes, which include shots of Stein covering his face at the horrors of the thought, are both false and dishonest: it's as if you tried to prove the impossibility of God by showing the torture chambers of the Inquisition.

Dave S. said ...

Philip Marchand of the Toronto Star didn't like anybody in this movie much.

And Jim Slotek of Sun Media (Toronto Sun) writes:

Creationism film lacks intelligence

I should separate my feelings about teaching "Intelligent Design" in science classes from my critique of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the alarmist documentary co-written/narrated by Ben Stein.

I'll try, but irrespective of opinion, this science-lite screed against science is a bad film.

Prima facie, ID seems like a reasonable rationale for someone to both accept science and believe in God.

Who knows what/who caused the Big Bang? And if you're in that mindset, whatever science discovers about the evolution of species or the age/size of the Universe,

simply expands the glory of Creation.

The trouble is few people in ID play by those rules. Many of its loudest proponents once call themselves Creation Scientists and aren't really interested in science.

In Expelled, Ben Stein and his interviewees are like Homer Simpson trying to keep a secret. It isn't long before everyone who believes the science that supports evolution is made to take the blame for Hitler.

Oh, and also just studying evolution turns you into an atheist (several atheist scientists are interviewed saying as much -- Stein even grills world-famous atheist Richard Dawkins and Skeptics Society head Michael Shemer).

Here is where the filmmaking comes in. Imagine a documentary on Stephen Harper that flashed pictures of Hitler, and then said "not that I'm comparing Harper to Hitler."

It happens that the film has a flawed but legitimate point to make an hour in about the grotesque "eugenics" movement of the early 20th century, that misused Darwin's theories and culminated in Aryan purity myths (sort of the way people misuse other Books).

But long before this, it shows images of Nazis and of Soviet-era East German troops.

When Stein finally gets to his point, he insists he's not saying "Darwinists" are necessarily Nazis. Which evokes that old saying, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

By the time he visits Dachau to see what some (but not all) Darwinists hath wrought, the connection is made. This is far removed from what the movie purports to be.

What it ostensibly is, is a free-speech defence of a handful of academics who claim to have been denied tenure (and in one case, lost a job editing the Smithsonian Institution magazine) because of their public views supporting ID.

One suspects there's a little more to it, and one interview here takes place at an ID "research institution" that Stein notes was formerly a Bible studies college.

But he never follows up on any of that.

Are they open-minded ID types as defined by the movement itself, or do they believe the Earth is 10,000years old?

If someone believes in the Tooth Fairy, can they complain about not being taken seriously at dental school?

At the Smithsonian, Stein even steals from the book of Michael Moore cliches -- the showing-up-unannounced-with-a-camera-crew-and-getting-tossed-by-security scene. We also repeatedly see Stein addressing an appreciative young audience at Pepperdine University that finally gives him a standing ovation.

Unsaid is that the crowd is padded with paid extras, and the reaction shots were elicited onstage by the director (as confirmed to me by producer Walt Ruloff).

But Expelled's main cinematic sins are of omission.

If you really wanted to defend Intelligent Design, why not start with a rebuttal of the Pennsylvania court decision that ID is in fact not science, but religion? Instead, it gets a scant few seconds of mention.

Perhaps it's an inconvenient truth.
And the trouncing goes on and on...
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