EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed

by Wayne Spencer

Expelled, with Ben Stein

In the Spring of 2008 a documentary movie will be coming to theaters that may be an eye opener to many Americans.  It is the kind of program that communicates very serious issues forcefully but also drives the points home in a very entertaining way.  I think many people will enjoy it but be surprised at some of the things brought out in it.  Many people don't have much interest in the creation versus evolution issue, often because they think of it as something only people in the sciences would care about.  But the issue has many implications far beyond science.  In this movie Ben Stein interviews various individuals on all sides of the origins issue.  The film is a documentary that highlights how many people in the sciences and sometimes even others like journalists have lost jobs, been denied tenure, or been variously mistreated just because they were willing to treat scientific evidence suggesting intelligent design as legitimately worth discussing.  Open inquiry and academic freedom are out the window as soon as you mention a creator or the possibility that there may be another way to look at science other than evolution.  There are many cases of people in science or even in the media being mistreated sometimes just for mentioning intelligent design even when they don't believe it.  This film explores this strong hatred of entertaining the idea of inquiry about God in science.  There is an unreasonable systematic restriction of freedom of speech and freedom of association in ways that often negatively impacts the careers of well qualified individuals.  

The film shows it is much more than just a science issue and that scientists are people with various personal agendas and personal motivations.  "Expelled" includes interviews with some very well known atheist evolutionists (including Richard Dawkins and William Provine) who explain their own reasons for why they are atheists.  There are also interviews with other scientists who are not atheists and who believe allowing intellectually for an intelligent creator actually opens up promising new avenues of research.   There is more than one way of looking at the evidence on origins.  The "Intelligent Design Movement" (ID) is made up of people of a variety of personal beliefs.  Some are evangelical Christians, others Catholic, but there are also Muslims, Jews, Unitarians, or even Agnostics who have argued for intelligent design in nature.  The Intelligent Design Movement (ID) deliberately avoids any commitment to the Bible and does not address specific religious doctrines or answer questions about God per se.  It only focuses on the narrow concept that there is scientific evidence for intelligence behind the way things are in nature.  This is meant to be something that can allow many people of different world views and values to have some common ground so that they can discuss ideas that question a strict naturalistic perspective on origins.  Individuals in the ID movement often do not actually reject ideas such as the Big Bang or evolution really, they just believe natural processes are not enough without an intelligence being involved in addition.  This is sometimes misunderstood by Christians.  The Intelligent Design Movement has had significant influence both with the public and in science but it is often misunderstood and not treated with respect from the scientific community.  In education, it is a common teaching technique to allow students to discuss all sides on controversial issues but the scientific community considers this inappropriate in science.  I think from my personal experience as a science teacher that allowing students to explore all sides on the origins issue is a healthy exercise that teaches students critical thinking skills.  This is commonly understood by teachers in any other subject area but this practice is wrongly condemned by the scientific community when it comes to how teachers deal with origins in science classes.    

I was able to go to a screening of the Expelled movie that took place January 31, 2008 at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.  I liked the movie.  It is done in a way that uses humor in a rather unique way that I think people will like.  There are segments of interviews with individuals who've been mistreated for their saying something about design, or interviews with well-known evolutionists.  Then occassionally, to drive a point home in an entertaining way, they will cut to a black and white clip from an old movie or a newsreel.  There's a lot of these clips comparing the mistreatment of people promoting ID to the restrictions on freedom associated with communist countries and Nazi germany in the 1930's and 40's.   Some of these black and white clips are used well to make the strict hard line on evolution look ridiculous.  One of my favorites from the movie is when they are talking about how people who believe in design or in creation are labeled with various nasty labels and are even considered dangerous.  Then they cut over to a clip from the movie Planet of the Apes showing Charleton Heston in a cage and an ape outside the cage calling him a "freak" and spraying water on him from a fire hose.

One of the most memorable things in the movie to me is an extended sequence where William Provine of Cornell is explaining how evolution was an important factor in him rejecting the concept of there being a God.  His cold hard line statements against faith in God on the basis of evolution were absolutely chilling!  I was stunned even though I have heard or read other similar things Dr. Provine has said before.  There is also a lot of time interviewing Richard Dawkins, one of the most well known evolutionists today.  Dawkins (and I think Provine as well) would say humans have no real free will.  They view animals and man as complex chemical machines as a result of the natural forces that brought us about.  Eugenie Scott, who has often been in the news as an outspoken critic of bringing intelligent design or creation ideas into science classes, was also interviewed in Expelled.  She makes the point that many Christians do not have a problem accepting the idea of evolution.  But after this Dawkins and Provine and others forcefully show the connection of evolution with atheism.  Men like Dawkins and Provine would say that people who think it is ok to believe in God and mix that with evolution really don't understand that evolution contradicts any faith in any God or any kind of purpose to existence.  I certainly don't agree with atheism or evolution but I do think that people should understand the logical connection between the two.  I think this is a good point from the film.  

There are a few points where young age creationism is mentioned briefly in the movie, though the focus is more on discrimination against people discussing ID.  There is an astronomer who specifically puts down the idea of believing all animals in the world today came out of Noah's Ark.  There is no mention in Expelled of the solid research answering scientific questions about Noah's Ark.  To people in the scientific community, no one has the right to even claim to have scientific answers to such questions.  Young age creationists who believe the Bible and believe God created in six literal days have been the brundt of criticism, hatred, and mistreatment for many years.  The ID movement only has a very limited agenda, and thus could be viewed as "safer" than young age creationism in a sense.  But the hatred of the Bible tends to overflow to other ideas that can be taken as supporting Biblical ideas, even if they are not intended to support Biblical ideas.  Since this is the case, both people in the ID movement and young age creationists are discriminated against in similar ways.  I prefer to be clear in my commitment to the Bible because without the Biblical answers, I see no way to give complete consistent answers.  There are issues that individuals in the ID movement can't totally answer because they won't give the Biblical answers, such as in addressing the significance of mankind's Fall into sin at the time of Adam and Eve and how that affected life on Earth, for example.  So, though I have reservations about the views of the ID movement I see it as generally a very positive thing that is accomplishing much good in science and education.  I hope that the Expelled movie will be watched by many on all sides of the issue and motivate people to work toward more healthy respectful dialog and more openness in science regarding origins.