Ben Stein’s Expelled: A Movie Review

Yesterday, I went to the movie theater in Orlando’s Downtown Disney, about seven miles from my home, to see an advance screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Ben Stein. The film opens on 1000 screens in a limited release on April 18th. Stein’s documentary begins with a survey of university professors who were either fired, denied tenure or otherwise “expelled” for using their academic credentials as a platform for discussing Intelligent Design (I.D.) with their classes, publishing articles or just linking to I.D. websites.

This movie is a “must see” for anyone who cares about the first amendment right to free speech in the public market place of ideas. Hopefully, a successful opening will spur the documentary to run across thousands of more screens in North America and the world.

The thrust of Stein’s exposé is that academic debate on I.D. is being squelched by a scientific elite who nevertheless admit that they have no settled theory on how the original living cell could have arisen spontaneously. More dramatically, the film shows that the same evolutionary philosophy that denies intelligent design in the universe is at the heart of moral relativism, eugenics, genocide, euthanasia and abortion on demand.

One of the most powerful vignettes in the movie occurs when Stein, a conservative Jew, tours one of the Nazi prison camps where thousands of people were gassed and incinerated. The woman giving the tour refuses to make any moral judgments about Hitler or the Nazi officers in charge of the genocide campaign even when pressed by Stein to give her opinion.

Without a Creator or an Intelligent Designer there is no real basis for holding an objective opinion on morality. “Might makes right” becomes the moral force for the advancement of humanity even when “inferior” minorities and the handicapped are selected for extermination. The film proves that the Nazi eugenicists were fueled by a radical social Darwinism. Yes, Hitler really believed he was working for the good of mankind.

Another long needed yet neglected topic briefly explored in Expelled is the origin of birth control and abortion in our own country through eugenicist Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. As a pro-life activist, I am encouraged to see this brought into public consciousness in a major film. Sanger, in fact, was a vocal advocate of eugenics. The film doesn’t delve deeply into the fact that when Sanger wanted to solve the “Negro problem” through a campaign of sterilization for black men prior to World War Two, she corresponded with Nazi eugenicists. Expelled at least cracks the cover on an ugly chapter in American history that continues today in the guise of “family planning,” a code word for the slaughter of millions of unborn babies funded in part through taxpayer support of Planned Parenthood.

Expelled also documents the fact that many well-known evolutionists see religion as a hindrance to the advance of science and openly admit they are actively working to suppress and eradicate religion in public life. The film’s point of view, of course, is that there is no incompatibility. On the contrary, the hypothesis that there might be an intelligence or an ordered design to the universe actually paves the way for better science. It inspires a passion for science in people who believe in a Creator God in some form, which happens to be over 90 percent of the American population.

Video: Ben Stein’s Expelled: A Movie Review
Ben Stein’s Expelled: A Movie Review
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The film is intellectually fascinating and moves along at a good pace. It makes hilarious use of juxtaposed “b-roll” clips from classic movies and antiquated educational documentaries to illustrate its frequent salient points. An unrelenting off-beat rhythm keeps the viewer entertained.

The most enjoyable part of the documentary for me was the interview with atheist scientist and bestselling author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, who seemed nonplussed by Stein’s questions delivered with deadpan irony. The viewer of course knows that Stein is sympathetic to I.D. So it’s amusing to watch that curmudgeonly reptile Herr Dawkins squirm at Stein’s calm and deliberate interrogation. The interview results in unintentional humor that reminded me of This Is Spinal Tap or Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot Sketch.” Dawkins could not have played a better British humorist even if he had made an attempt.

“How did life begin?”

Dawkins says he doesn’t know. Of course, “no one knows” exactly how the complexity of cellular life could have arisen from non-life. But he believes it. He has to. There is no alternative.

Couldn’t it have been the Hebrew God?


What about the Holy Trinity? Allah? One of the Hindu gods?

Dawkins bristles with frustrated incredulity at the very idea.

Could a model that includes an intelligent designer be used at least hypothetically to explain the origin of life?

Finally, Dawkins admits a viable hypothesis of I.D. is possible. A race of higher intelligent life forms from outer space could have “seeded” the earth with life, but this higher intelligence must have evolved itself over billions of years. This, of course, is begging the question.

If this higher intelligence alien race evolved, then how did the original life form come into being in the first place?

Ironically, Dawkins refuses to consider that it could have been God who started it all because God himself could not have “sprung suddenly out of nothing.”

So goes the tenor of several other evolutionary scientists who likewise refuse to admit an alternative to the Neo-Darwinist theory on the origin of life. No one really knows. One scientist hypothesizes that the first DNA molecules could have “ridden on the backs of crystals” as they were being formed.

Aliens? Crystals? An ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?

Yes … Maybe … Perhaps …

God? Intelligent Design?


Controversy over Dawkins’ interview was reported in a New York Times article in which he claimed he was set up by not knowing the thrust of the documentary. However, the producers gave the interviewees the list of questions beforehand and each was paid for his interview. One of the producers who attended the preview in Orlando quipped, “They all cashed their checks and no one returned the money they were paid for participating.”

Expelled spurred controversy a full year before its release. Yet no critic will be able to fault it on its quality, appeal and pure entertainment value. Aficionados of Michael Moore’s films – those diatribes that use twisted conspiracy theories and selective editing to achieve a leftwing political purpose – are already panning the film on its content alone as “propaganda.” This is, of course, hypocritical because all that Stein and his producers are asking is for a reasoned debate on I.D. and for new evidence to be considered without the risk of the questioners losing their jobs as teachers and professors.

The controversy and attacks are ironically what the producers need to stir up interest in the film. This will in turn make I.D. a viable option whose time has come. Expelled will weather a few attacks, which will give it a respectable box office return, always a better fate than to be quietly ignored. This is the same phenomenon that propelled The Passion of The Christ, The Da Vinci Code, and Fahrenheit 911 to be the highest grossing films of their genre. Apparently, the enemies of I.D. intend on making Expelled a huge success even though their de facto support is “not by intelligent design.”


You make a point of showing that Dawkins said it could have been aliens that started life on earth not God, but the very notion thatthe film (and you)supports, Intelligent Design, argues the very same thing. Michael Behe has been quoted as saying IN allows for a universe billions of years old, and that space aliens could be the intelligent designer.
The ID community would do well to actually try to do some research before crying persection. I see no coherent hypotheses to test, let alone a defined research agenda. I suppose if you have nothing else, a movie and pr campaign will do. The rest of us can be fooled but this kind of thing will gain no traction in the scientific community. The idea that there is some sort of monolithic Darwinist cabal supressing new ideas is absurd. All sorts of novel ideas (relativity, plate techtonis, symbiogenesis, punctuated equilibrium, etc.) are brought up and shot down and/or accepted. The difference is that they are, at least in theory, testable and their promoters work within the defined parameters of modern science. ID theorists want a place at the table without doing any of the work necessary to justify it. The whole enterprise is fundamentally dishonest.

You should look into the whole Crocker/Sternberg/Gonzalez affair. There is a lot more to it than the movie implies.
El Scripto,

The idea being promoted in the movie is that there are all kinds of people in academia (myself included) who hold opinions that are based on a biblical worldview. They are afraid of speaking up for fear of losing their jobs.

That is true and it is deplorable.

I have never been afraid to speak up because (1). I don't need my job as a teacher to make a living. I already have several jobs at once. (2). As an English teacher, I teach choose to teach mainly Christian literature all year long that is already part of the curriculum.

The community I am in is thankfully open to religious conservatives. I don't raise any eyebrows with my students. I simply explain to them that this is literature and it is what the authors (being Christian) believed. You can't separate worldview from literature, and so on. Up until about 100 years ago, Christianity dominated the worldview of most scholars.

What EXPELLED brings out is that you can't separate worldview from science either, no matter how much the neo-Darwinists want to deny that. And the film has some of the more well-known scientists talking gleefully about the day when Christianity will be destroyed or marginalized in order to make way for "science." They have that largely in academia already and would like to see atheism prevail in the society in general.

It's not just a movie about I.D. or creationism vs. evolution. It's about a war of worldviews.
Your "review" is just one more nail in the coffin that intelligent design creationism's believers insist on building for it, proving once again that the only supporters of intelligent design creationism are overtly or covertly religious persons and organizations.

There is no testable science in intelligent design creationism, as Phillip Johnson himself (the recognized father of intelligent design creationism) has recently admitted.

For anybody who doubts the above, Google "cdesign proponentsists" to see who is behind intelligent design creationism and what their goals are.
Paul Burnett wrote:

"Your review is just one more nail in the coffin that intelligent design creationism's believers insist on building for it, proving once again that the only supporters of intelligent design creationism are overtly or covertly religious persons and organizations."

You make it sound as though I would want to hide the fact I am a Christian in advocating creationism under the name of Intelligent Design.

Implicit in your idea is the belief that people who believe in God cannot do good science with the presupposition that God exists. They must compartmentalize their faith and act as though God does not exist.

Why would a Christian do that?

That's exactly the issue raised by EXPELLED.

Atheists who do science are not afraid at all about being radical proponents of atheism. When Richard Dawkins attacks the idea that God exists as "unscientific" he is using an unprovable presupposition that forms an underlying worldview -- just as you hold a presupposition when you hold that "There is no testable science in intelligent design creationism."

Supposedly, science is neutral being both rigorously skeptical and open to numerous possibilities. There is no reason to think that "the possibility of intelligent design" cannot be studied. There are numerous scientists who agree with that statement.

Your refusal to admit the possibility is just as churlish and prejudiced as the supposed views of those who you are criticizing.
"There is no reason to think that "the possibility of intelligent design" cannot be studied."

Oh yes there is. Science is based on reproducible "cause and effect" according to "natural laws". "Intelligent design" cannot actually cause anything and thus it cannot produce any effect. "Intelligent design" of biological entities is in the eye of the (religious) beholder. No scientist is going to agree that there is any evidence to support such an observation.

What does "intelligent design" mean to you? You won't learn anything about it by watching this movie.
6 billion wrote:

"Science is based on reproducible cause and effect according to natural laws."


Some of the scientists in the movie state the case for I.D. well.

Science is the empirical study of what can be observed.

Evolutionists can neither observe the formation of life out of non-life nor can this process be reproduced.

Therefore, evolutionary theory on the origin of life is not a scientific theory at all -- according to that definition of science.

Evolutionism EMPIRICALLY OBSERVES evidence that indicates that life could have arisen randomly.

However, I.D. EMPIRICALLY OBSERVES mechanisms that may point to an intelligent design.

It doesn't prove that God exists or that God created. I.D. just studies whether complexity in cellular life can really arise out of non-complexity.
"What EXPELLED brings out is that you can't separate worldview from science either, no matter how much the neo-Darwinists want to deny that.

You have to. That's why the same science works for Buddhists, Hindus, atheists and Christians alike. Miller (Finding Darwins God) and Collins (The Language of God) are both theists and respected scientists. I've heard Collins speak and found him particularly compelling.

I view science as a process and for it to work the rules of the process need to be the same for everyone and it is all based on methodological naturalism. If some people want to carry it further to some sort of metaphysical naturalism it certainly doesn't change the fact that science works extremely well as it is currently practiced.
"Science is the empirical study of what can be observed."

Science must come up with natural explanations. This natural cause produces this natural effect. ID is not a natural cause and can never be science.

"I.D. just studies whether complexity in cellular life can really arise out of non-complexity."

Life has been on this Earth for billions of years and it's quite obvious that life has grown more complex in that time. So the question becomes: can evolution explain this increasing complexity? So any "claim" that it cannot is a claim against evolution and not a "positive" claim for ID. And since evolution obviously does explain increasing complexity, this claim is false.
Jay, interestingly, in your newest post ("Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers expelled from EXPELLED?") you write:
"It strikes me as odd because most reviewers who are allowed into advance screenings have the professional courtesy not to publish their reviews until the week the movie premieres. No such courtesy here. The political stakes are too high."
[emphasis added]

Yet one post before - this very one - is titled "Ben Stein’s Expelled: A Movie Review"...

FWIW, blog posting is still "publishing"; even my comment here is being "published".

When you say, "No such courtesy here", does "here" mean "this blog" or "this whole situation"?
Science H. Logic!!! Why don't people understand that there is no such thing as human dignity. Humans are nothing more than dirty animals that have learned to use tools.
Hey I was searching around google and found these movies that were referenced in Expelled regarding ID. They seem to be good resources.
Here is the link:
Also i found previews of the films on youtube:

Intresting stuff though you guys might be intrested.
just saw Expelled... Ben Stein's goal in making Expelled (i gather) is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.
Ben(jamin) Stein is under heavy artillery for 'exaggerating' or 'going easy' on the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But the monstrous Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the 'Politics-is-applied-biology' Nazi takeover in the continental Europe, but even the nationalistic collision at the World War I. It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous German Ernst Haeckel with his still recycled embryo drawing frauds etc. in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871. If Thomas Henry Huxley with his concept of 'agnostism' was Darwins bulldog in England, Haeckel was his Rotweiler in Germany.

'Kampf' was a direct translation of 'struggle' from On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). Seinen Kampf. His application.

Catch 22: Haeckel's 140 years old fake embryo drawings have been mindlessly recycled for the 'public understanding of science' (PUS) in most biology text books until this millennium. Despite factum est that Haeckel's crackpot raging Recapitulation/Biogenetic Law and functioning gill slits of human embryos have been at the ethical tangent race hygiene/eugenics/genocide, infanticide, and Freudian psychoanalysis (subconscious atavisms). Dawkins is the Oxford professor for PUS - and should gather the courage of Stephen Jay Gould who could feel ashamed about it.

Some edited quotes from my conference posters and articles defended and published in the field of bioethics and history of biology (and underline/edit them a 'bit'):

The marriage laws were once erected not only in the Nazi Germany but also in the multicultural states of America upon the speculation that the mulatto was a relatively sterile and shortlived hybrid. The absence of blood transfusion between "white" and "colored races" was self evident.

The first law on sterilization in US had been established in 1907 in Indiana, and 23 similar laws had been passed in 15 States and sterilization was practiced in 124 institutions in 1921 (these were the times of IQ-tests under Gould's scrutiny in his Mismeasure of Man in 1981). By 1931 thirty states had passed sterization laws in the US. Typically, the operations hit blacks the most in the US, poor women in the Europe, and often the victims were never even told they had been sterilized.

Mendelism outweighed recapitulation (embryos climbing up their evolutionary tree through fish-, amphibian- and reptilian stages), but that merely smoothened the way for the brutal 1930’s biolegislation - that quickly penetrated practically all Western countries. The laws were copied from country to country. The A-B-O blood groups, haemophilia, eye colours etc. were found to be inherited in a Mendelian fashion by 1910. So also the complex traits and social (mis)behaviour such as alcoholism, schizophrenia, manic depression, criminality, rebelliousness, artistic sense, pauperism, racial differences, inherited scholarship (and its converse, feeble-mindedness) were all thought to be determined by one or two genes. Mendelism was "experimental" and quantitative, and its exaggeration outweighed the more cautious biometry operating on smaller variations, not discontinuous leaps. Its advocates boldly claimed that these problems could be done away within a few generations through selection, persisted (although most biologists must have known that defective genes could not be eliminated, even with the most intense forced sterilizations and marriage restrictions due to recessive genes and synergism. Nevertheless, these laws were held until 1970's and were typically changed only when the abortion legislation were released (1973).

So the American laws were pioneering endeavours. In Europe Denmark passed the first sterilization legislation in Europe (1929). Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Germany that had felt to the hands of Hitler and Gobineu, and other Nordic countries: Norway (1934), Sweden (1935), Finland (1935), and Iceland (1938 ). Seldom is it mentioned in the popular media, that the first outright race biological institution in the world was not established in Germany but in 1921 in Uppsala, Sweden. (I am not aware of the ethymology of the 'Up' of the ancient city from Plinius' Ultima Thule, however.) In 1907 the Society for Racial Hygiene in Germany had changed its name to the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, and in 1910 Swedish Society for Eugenics (Sällskap för Rashygien) had become its first foreign affiliate. Today, Swedish state church is definitely the most liberal in the face of the world.

Hitler's formulation of the differences between the human races was affected by the brilliant sky-blue eyed Ernst Haeckel, praised and raised by Darwin. At the top of the unilinear progression were usually the "Nordics", a tall race of blue-eyed blonds. Haeckel's position on the 'Judenfrage' was assimilation and Expelled-command from their university chairs, not yet an open elimination. But was it different only in degree, rather than kind?

In 1917 the immigration of "defective" groups was forbidden even in the United States by a law. In 1921 the European immigration was diminished to 3% based on the 1910 census. Eventually, in the strategical year of 1924 the finest hour of eugenics had come and the fatal law was passed by Congress. It diminished immigration to 2% of the foreign-born from each country based on the 1890 census in order to preserve the "nordic" balance in population, and was hold through World War II until 1965.

Richard Lewontin writes:“The leading American idealogue of the innate mental inferiority of the working class was, however, H.H. Goddard, a pioneer of the mental testing movement, the discoverer of the Kallikak family,
and the administrant of IQ-tests to immigrants that found 83 % of the Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the the Russians to be feebleminded.” Regarding us Finns, Finnish emmigrants put the cross on the box reserved for the "yellow" group, until 1965.

Germany was the most scientifically and culturally advanced nation of the world upon opening the riddles at the close of the nineteenth century. And she went Full Monty.

Today, developmental biologists are anticipating legislation of laws that would define the do’s and dont’s. In England, they are fertilizing human embryos for research purposes and pipetting chimera embryos of humans and monkeys, 'legally'. The legislation should not distract individual researchers from their personal awareness of responsibility. A permissive law merely defines the ethical minimum. The lesson is that a law is no substitute for morals and that dissidents should not be intimidated.

I am suspicious over the burial of the Kampf (Struggle). The idea of competition is innate in the modern society. It is the the opposite view in a 180 degree angle to the Judaeo-Christian ideal of agapee (contra epithumia, eros, filia & storge) (ahava in Hebrew), that I personally cheriss. The latter sees free giving, altruism, benevolence and self sacrificing love as the beginning, motivation, and sustainer of the reality.
Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

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