Saturday, April 19, 2008


I just came home from watching Ben Stein's new documentary "Expelled." You might remember Stein from his performance in the 80s teen movie Ferris Bueler's Day Off as the dead-pan teacher asking hopelessly, "anyone? anyone?," or his TV game show on the Comedy Central channel, Ben Stein's Money, or his commentaries on the TV show Sunday Morning. In Expelled Stein examines the ideological stranglehold that the established scientific and academic communities have in deciding orthodoxy with regard to Darwinist evolution to the absolute exclusion of the incipient Intelligent Design movement. The previous sentence implies a dry sort of clinical approach, but Stein's demeanor, and especially the director's adroit use of inter-cut clips from old black and white films--quite a few of which seem to be 50s era grade school instructionals--give the movie real, at times laugh-out-loud, humor.

Stein interviews many leading lights in the Intelligent Design movement, as well as its most ardent detractors: Dennet, Hitchens, Dawkins and Eugenie Scott, head of an organization whose whole existence is devoted to excluding Intelligent Design from the American classroom and preserving Dawinism as educational dogma, the National Center For Science Education.

Perhaps his primary focus, however, is with interviewing scientists, academics,and even journalists who have been ostracized, ridiculed, denied tenure, fired and then blacklisted for the mere passing mention of the possible validity of Intelligent Design.

There is, as well, a fascinating, if disturbing and all too short, examination of the darkest historical consequences of Dawinism: the Eugenics movement in the United States in which, after the tireless lobbying of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) many thousands of retarded Americans were forcibly sterilized, and in Nazi Germany 70,000 retarded, genetically handicapped, or people otherwise deemed by the state as "useless eaters" were gassed and cremated in the interest of strengthening humanity.

The film is capped off by an interview with Richard Dawkins that proves squirm-inducing with embarrassing humor when this most caustic and vituperative voice in opposition to all things God--author of The God Delusion in which he asserts that religious instruction of children is a form of child abuse and should be made illegal--finally admits that Intelligent Design might eventually prove to be true, but only if the intelligent designer turns out to be--(I'm not kidding)--an advanced extra-terrestrial race who must have itself derived from the non-determinate forces of natural selection (Dawinism).

I was thrilled at this movie because it's something I've never seen before: a film with nationwide release with excellent production values, humor and skill, from a conservative and monotheistic viewpoint. I want to see more films like this. Many, many more. With that in mind I'm encouraging all my friends, acquaintances, and anyone else whose ear I can get, to go see this film. Don't wait for it to come out on video. If everyone does that it will ensure that any similar future projects will only be released on video. The way to support good art, the way to encourage more good art, is to buy it.

No comments: