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Intelligent Critique: Dave Berg on Expelled

Monday, April 21, 2008 • 10:00 am

“Expelled adroitly addresses the dogmaticism of Darwinian theory in the scientific world.”

The film’s endeavor is to respond to one simple question: “Were we designed, or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?”

Big science doesn’t like that question because they can’t answer it. Underneath their antagonism toward explanations that suggest an intelligent cause, lies a fundamental egoism. Science wants to deny any evidence of a supreme being precisely because it wants to be a supreme being. Moreover, representatives of big science in the film are unsettlingly snippy, suggesting that they feel threatened by rival opinions, rather than assured of their own.

To make this point, the film introduces teachers and scientists who are shunned, denied tenure, and fired for questioning dogmatic Darwinism. The film’s producers spent two years traveling the world, talking with more than 150 educators and scientists who say they have been persecuted for questioning Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Dr. Richard Sternberg, a biologist, publishes a peer-reviewed paper, which posits evidence for intelligent design (ID) in the universe. For his efforts, Sternberg’s bosses at the Smithsonian Institution trashed him so badly that it led to a congressional investigation.

Iowa State University denied tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez, an accomplished astrobiologist. University officials admitted that Gonzalez’s work on ID is a factor.

For Richard Dawkins, by contrast, job security is not a problem. To this superstar Oxford University evolutionary biologist, and devout atheist, intelligent design is nothing more than an “ideological cousin of creationism.”

The highlight of the film features Ben Stein interviewing Dawkins, who concedes that an intelligent being may have created life on earth. But that being cannot be “God.” Instead, he suggests it may be an alien, itself a product of “Darwinian evolution.”

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one critique you should expect on this film…it is my understanding that the producers of this “boratted” a few of the darwinists in it. i.e., they created a fake production company and told these scientists they were doing a film on the intersection between faith and science (much more innocuous than what the film actually is). i can’t remember exactly where i read this (i’ll try and find it), but one of the scientists basically said he still would have done the documentary, he just would have asked for more money and been harsher.

i haven’t seen the film yet…friend of a friend did, though. she said the first half was interesting and the second half was pretty awful. those are all the details i know at this point in time. not very helpful and begging the question, i know…

[1] Posted by micahtowery on 04-21-2008 at 10:12 AM • top


[2] Posted by micahtowery on 04-21-2008 at 10:18 AM • top

Don’t you mean ‘berated,’ Micah?

[3] Posted by Floridian on 04-21-2008 at 10:23 AM • top

no, borated, as in, borat.

where you get a documentary interview under false pretenses.

[4] Posted by micahtowery on 04-21-2008 at 10:26 AM • top

That’s certainly what Dawkins is claiming . . . now . . . after apparently being paid for his appearance.  ; > )

The article linked above mentions it too:

“Dawkins has since complained that the interview was set up under false pretenses, and that he didn’t even know who Stein was. It is rather astonishing that it did not occur to the world’s smartest atheist to look up Ben Stein on the Internet, where he might have readily discovered numerous examples of his writings that are critical of Darwinism.

Dawkins dismisses the Emmy-winning actor as having “no talent for comedy.” He believes during the interview Stein is an “honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist.” A lawyer, a law professor, an economist, and a speechwriter for both Nixon and Ford, Stein hardly seems to fit the description “honestly stupid.”

[5] Posted by Sarah on 04-21-2008 at 10:37 AM • top

Well, kudos to him for recognizing Ben is a larger threat to him than Alister and reacting as such wink

[6] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-21-2008 at 10:41 AM • top

I think this criticism appeared in the New York Times last autumn.  The recent review in the Times is typically dismissive of “intelligent design,” for it undercuts the foundations of that social Darwinism that is the religion of the cultural elite.  The chief producer, Logan Craft, is a priest of the Diocese of the Rio Grande and a graduate of Regent College Vancouver.  His media company,, created the film.  These are very gifted people.

[7] Posted by Hippo on 04-21-2008 at 10:48 AM • top

Sarah, somehow I’m reminded of that old Dave Gardner bit from my childhood about those “ignorant, stupid southerners selling water to those brilliant Yankees.” There’s nothing like believing you’re infinitely superior to the person you’re talking to make you sound so much like an idiot.

[8] Posted by oscewicee on 04-21-2008 at 10:48 AM • top

Dawkins dismisses the Emmy-winning actor as having “no talent for comedy.” He believes during the interview Stein is an “honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist.” A lawyer, a law professor, an economist, and a speechwriter for both Nixon and Ford, Stein hardly seems to fit the description “honestly stupid.”

How uncharitable for Dawkins to describe Stein as ‘honestly stupid.’  Me, I’m partial to “the weaker brother.” 

- Moot

[9] Posted by J Eppinga on 04-21-2008 at 11:08 AM • top

this is an interview ben stein did with bill o’reilly. i don’t really care about bill o’reilly, but i think stein makes some good comments about darwinism being part of the age of imperialism. this is exactly the kind of critique ID folk need to be making if they want to even have a chance of being heard in the academy, because this is the kind of critique the academy is sympathetic to, and their endorsement of atheistic evolution is a HUGE blindspot, i think.

read an interesting article (in slate, i think) a while back about the way that IDers are basically trying to shift the premise of what scientific debate is about. and if so, i think then that ID might be the wave of the future if it can actually topple the imperialist scientific establishment.

saletan has some interesting criticisms of ID, as well, from a few years back ( ), that i haven’t heard any IDers answer yet. i’d like to…

problem is, i’m not a scientist, and most people aren’t. so if scientists come along saying one thing, it’s easy to believe them. darwinists have been doing this for years. IDers risk doing the exact same thing.

i’m gonna reserve my opinion, however, and see where the whole debate goes. and in the meantime, i’d be cautious about which star i hitch my apple wagon to. i’m cautiously optimistic about stein’s imperialism argument, but it’s my understanding he spends a good bit of time tracing the roots of nazism to darwinian theory, which is not necessarily the kind of tree IDers need to start barking up. not only are there real intellectual problems with it, there are real problems with how this LOOKs to the outside world.

[10] Posted by micahtowery on 04-21-2008 at 11:15 AM • top

I have recently read “Adrwinon trial” by Philip Johnson.  Excellent book, very readable and for non-scientists. Not only does Jophnson tackle the scientific issues, he absolutely has his finger on the culture of Darwinism and how it became a religion.
Turns out, if Johnson is right (and he matches what I have read elsewhere) there is actually zero evidence for Darwinism.  A form of evolution, maybem but actual Materialistic Darwinism - none.  Darwin just took adpation of things like heron’s beaks and used it to plain everything even against the vast amounts of evidence - yeah, even from the fossil record, that disagreed with him.  Thing is, his theory matched the Zeitgeist of the intellectual elites and… here we are.  Sound familiar?

Excellent book.  It’ll get you up to speed on Darwin and it’s written by a non-scientists to non-scientists.

[11] Posted by jedinovice on 04-21-2008 at 11:27 AM • top

I’ve been lurking for some time, and thought I’d jump in here.

It seems that Richard Dawkins has trouble taking seriously his conversations with people who believe in God.  Rabbi Shumley Boteach recounts a debate that Mr. Dawkins now wants to dismiss.

[12] Posted by Ron Troup on 04-21-2008 at 12:13 PM • top

Gosh! What a typo! And I didn’t notice. Bizarre.

I meant the book “Darwin on trial.”


[13] Posted by jedinovice on 04-21-2008 at 12:42 PM • top

I don’t make it to the movies much anymore, but I hope I’ll be able to see “Expelled” before it disappears from the theaters. Since I’m now in the midst of Orthodox Holy Week, however, it will be at least a couple of weeks before I will get the chance.

I think evolution, as an empirical fact, is securely established. I even think that natural selection is almost certainly the primary cause. But I think there is still room to question whether natural selection has been the only factor at work in the process of evolution. To say that evolution is entirely explained by the theory of natural selection is not a scientific statement; it is closer in nature to a statement of religious dogma.

I think part of what we are seeing is that the aging generation of evolutionary biologists who are committed to the exclusive claims of natural selection is beginning to worry that its theories will be overturned - or at least restricted in scope - by the work of an emerging generation of scientists. They are trying to use their entrenched power to build a rampart around their work. In other words, it’s just traditional academic politics, as applied to one particular discipline. This discipline just happens to be one that is in the public eye, making it harder for the entrenched elders to get away with their crimes against truth. In most other discplines, unfortunately, young researchers who get shafted because they do not share the dominant ideology will not be able to turn to Ben Stein for help.

[14] Posted by Roland on 04-21-2008 at 02:05 PM • top

MicahTowery (#10)

but it’s my understanding he spends a good bit of time tracing the roots of nazism to darwinian theory, which is not necessarily the kind of tree IDers need to start barking up.

I think I understand your reluctance to even entertain the connection between Darwinism and National Socialism, but I think you are missing the point. Stein did not make the claim that National Socialism was a direct result of Darwin’s theories. Rather, he did make the point that the Nazis used a distorted understanding of Darwin’s theory to bolster their program of “creating the Master Race.” The connection I thought Stein was making was between the Nazi programs of “eugenics” with corresponding programs that exist now - Planned Parenthood leaps to mind.

There is also the fact that the censorship, suppression and bullying of people who were asking honest questions is very similar to the way totalitarian groups attempt to control debate.

Quite frankly, I am not surprised at the hysterical charges being raised by the NCSE and its fellow travelers. You are going to be seeing alot of vicious attacks against this film in the future. I will guarantee it. Big Science does not like to be questioned. After all, they know better than us poor, stupid peons who are not Scientists!!

[15] Posted by Allen Lewis on 04-21-2008 at 03:05 PM • top

The point that is being made in this film, is the right of the free persuit of the truth.  However, their are many people’s presitge and rice bowls at stake.  The position that the Darwinist hold is now under a direct assult as a myth, and they are in a panic.  They are seeing it all taken away by honest questions, and they will look like fools.  Some are too old or entrenched to do change their viewpoint.  This is a direct attack on where they live. 

They do not want their idol to become worthless.


[16] Posted by Basser on 04-21-2008 at 03:34 PM • top

Here’s another pretty intelligent review of the movie.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I hope to this week, and perhaps bring my 12 year old daughter, who is already getting the stuff in science class that evolution freed the people from lunatic religious thinkers of the time through the Scopes Monkey Trial.

[17] Posted by Charlie Peppler on 04-21-2008 at 03:41 PM • top

“The highlight of the film features Ben Stein interviewing Dawkins, who concedes that an intelligent being may have created life on earth. But that being cannot be “God.” Instead, he suggests it may be an alien, itself a product of “Darwinian evolution.”
This is a pretty revealing comment by Dawkins, and it presents an old idea. It begs the question, namely, if aliens ‘seeded’ earth, then who seeded the aliens home planet, where they then evolved enough to ‘seed’ earth? This theory just endlessly “extends the shadow”-no first cause is ever identified.

[18] Posted by Bob K. on 04-21-2008 at 04:07 PM • top

My wife and I saw the movie on opening day and we both enjoyed it and found it enlightening.  We personally know one of the professors who has been ‘expelled’.

As was stated above, Hawkins and his pals cannot explain where the original ‘stuff’ of life came from.  The notion of aliens seeding the earth is as nonsensical to me as my belief in God is nonsensical to Dawkins.  I suppose I did find it curious that Dawkins conceded that there was something ‘intelligent’ about the beginning of life on earth.

A sad part was when the utter lack of hope that I saw among the anti-ID crowd.  About life, then, it begs the question: “What is the point?”

And I ask the question: “what is so bad about considering God?”

[19] Posted by GrandpaDino on 04-21-2008 at 04:29 PM • top

Thank’s for letting me know about the film. I plan on seeing it. Many other Christians have been arguing for and defending Intelligent Design for quite some time. One organization which comes to mind is Reasons To Believe, in Pasadena, CA. You can find out more by going to their website http://WWW.REASONS.ORG It is unfortunate that as Anglicans we are often so distracted by our own struggles within and without the Communion and seem to neglect some of the other big issues in the world and which we face on a day to day basis in our society.

[20] Posted by RMBruton on 04-21-2008 at 05:44 PM • top

I understand that the movie is getting some harsh reviews in light of its suggestion of a Darwinism/Nazism/Eugenics connection.

Thing is, there is not the slightest doubt about that connection.
[video of lecture]
[online article]


Fort Worth

[21] Posted by Bill+ on 04-21-2008 at 06:36 PM • top

Hi Bill+, thanks for your post in #21.  Professor Weickart was the one who lectured to us several years ago and who drew the ire of several in the philosophy department here.  I commend his writings very highly.  I look forward also to seeing this film at my earliest opportunity.

[22] Posted by physician without health on 04-21-2008 at 07:14 PM • top

Dr. Timothy Johnson, the former medical consultant to ABC News, also an ordained Presbyterian minister, wrote a good book on this called Finding God in the Questions.

[23] Posted by loonpond on 04-21-2008 at 09:27 PM • top

My husband and I just returned from watching this movie. We thought it was thoughtfully scripted. In our opinion, Mr Stein did an excellent job of permitting the strict evolutionists, atheists, and intelligent design adherents to present their positions. The highlight of the film for me was Stein’s presentation of the “panspermia” theory (everyone in the theater laughed at that one, and not at Stein). This was echoed in his interview with Professor Dawkins, when the atheist professor posited that life on Earth may have descended from life elsewhere (I waited for the shoe to drop - and life elsewhere came from….?)

Having practiced law for over 20 years and remembering the US Supreme Court’s eugenics case (“three generations of imbeciles is enough”) I must agree with Mr Stein’s tenet regarding how Darwinism was a progenitor of eugenics and how it played into the anti-semitic propaganda ofthe Nazis. Unfortunately, the scientific establishment is unwilling to recognize it’s hostility to free discussion of different theories, and not just as regards Intelligent Design. Look, for example, at the writings that would have one believe that global warming is all the fault of humankind rather than an event that has taken place during many eras of geologic history.

[24] Posted by sophy0075 on 04-21-2008 at 09:59 PM • top

Astonishing. A tenured geek calling Ben Stein stupid. Put him on “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and he wouldn’t make a copper penny. Stein is brilliant, and his comedic skills are unparalleled. Dawkins. What an ass. Being an atheist, irreverent, judgemental, inappropriate, professional doubter, acerbic and opinionated you’d have thought he was an Episcopal bishop.

Pray for this delusional soul.

[25] Posted by teddy mak on 04-22-2008 at 08:18 AM • top

#14 - I’m sorry my friend, but evolution is NOT an empirical fact.  I have yet to see even one irrefutable piece of evidence that shows evolution to be a “fact”.  If you know of any I would be interested. I am only interested in truth.

Just for fun, I spent a couple of hours going to all sorts of Web sites that claim to have “proof” of evolution - they all came up short.

Truth is none of us were there.  However, I will state right here and right now it takes WAY more faith to believe in evolution than in intellegent design.  If you do an honest search for truth I believe the evidence support intellegent design.

If evolution is standing on firm ground, why are many evolutionary believers “pushing out” those that do not share their beliefs?  This happened to a good friend of mine 15 years ago.

I challenge everyone reading this blog to spend time researching ID vs. evolution.  Find out for yourself - don’t take anyone’s word for it.

[26] Posted by B. Hunter on 04-22-2008 at 11:36 AM • top

Dear B. Hunter and all,  “evolution” merely refers to a process. I see two debates here: first, whether all species were created as is, and the second relates to the mechanism of action, ie: random natural selection vs. intelligent design.  Whatever position one takes on the first debate question, for Christians the answer to the second must be crystal clear: God controlled the entire process just as He continues to this day to be in control, and will be for eternity.

[27] Posted by physician without health on 04-22-2008 at 11:42 AM • top

#14: I think evolution, as an empirical fact, is securely established.

With respect, the flat earth theory was also securely established as an empirical fact. That didn’t make it true.

The theory of evolution is just that ... a theory.

When Darwin first proposed it, the theory was not supported by the relatively new science of paleontology. Since then, paleontology has come a long way, and it still doesn’t support the theory of evolution.

The emotional reaction that some scientists hold to evolution appears to be based not on science, but on having a theory that requires a creator greater than man. Much greater.

[28] Posted by Servant on 04-22-2008 at 12:38 PM • top

#27 - From Wikipedia - Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist,[I] eminent as a collector and geologist, who proposed and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection.

I don’t believe that evidence supports this theory. 
1.  In the fossil record, all life is fully formed.
2.  Look around - have you met any “helpful” mutations?
3.  The “fittest” are not always the ones that survive.  I believe that “Natural Selection” is a mis-application of God’s design for life.  Bigger fish eat smaller fish.  Lions eat antelope.  But they all survive…and have their place.

[29] Posted by B. Hunter on 04-23-2008 at 09:25 AM • top

B. Hunter,  I agree with you.  However He did it, God was and is fully in control.

[30] Posted by physician without health on 04-23-2008 at 09:29 AM • top

Also - God built in some measure of “adaptability” into His creation.  There have been examples used by evolutionists, such as a flock of birds that changed color from white to grey to match their environment (1800s).  When the industrial revolution ended and their environment got cleaned up the birds returned to their natural color.  In any case the birds didn’t change into a whale or a camel - they merely adapted to their environment as they were designed to do.

[31] Posted by B. Hunter on 04-23-2008 at 09:33 AM • top

In Glen Rose, Texas, the folks there claim to have found an Allosaurus (allegedly lived 65 million years ago), a Trilobite (allegedly lived 500 million years ago), a human finger and a hammer all in the same level of strata (encased in the same layer of limestone).  If this is verifiable as fact then this would be an enormous problem for evolutionists, no?

[32] Posted by B. Hunter on 04-23-2008 at 09:38 AM • top

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