Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Movie Review

Who would have thought that Ben Stein, the game show host and famously drab economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, would one day become the leading apologist for the theory of intelligent design? Not me. But that's life for you -- a surprise around every corner. Stein is the central figure in the new film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a fire-bomb documentary meant to burn down the house of "Big Science," whose members, according to the film, have silenced all dissent from the theory of evolution and are actively engaged in the persecution of anyone who doesn't toe the party line.

Expelled works in much the same way as a Michael Moore documentary -- a raft of provocation and very little persuasion. It starts out by serving up a few case histories of scientists who publicly declared their sympathy for intelligent design. In each case, five in all, reaction from the scientific establishment was swift. Tenure was denied, contracts weren't renewed, websites were taken down, etc. Expelled would have you believe that these cases represent instances of grave injustice and the contravention of academic freedom, but it's poorly argued and lacks evidence. Tenure is often denied. Contracts frequently aren't renewed. That's life, especially in academia. More evidence is required to build a compelling case, and the makers of Expelled don't want to get bogged down in chronicling academic intrigues. Can't say I blame them, but their lack of rigor doesn't help their cause.

Expelled then goes on to interview a number of proponents of intelligent design. Each of them sounds smart, obviously more knowledgeable about science and the origin of life than I am, but the film fails to define exactly what these men think and what they're proposing. I understand they reject the theory of evolution. I understand that intelligent design involves a "designer." But what else? What would intelligent design research contribute to the body of science literature? How would intelligent design researchers test their claims? Unfortunately, the film doesn't bother to provide answers to these questions.

Perhaps the worst part of Expelled comes when Stein tries to connect the theory of evolution and Nazism. While it's true that Hitler used Darwin's theories to support his ideology, it's intellectually dishonest to associate, however tenuously, today's scientific community with Nazism. Too often in today's public discourse, people feel it's not enough merely to assert that their ideological opponent is wrong -- they must also claim he's evil. This is shameless demagoguery, and it's not persuasive or constructive.

Another component of Expelled is interviews with leading scientists -- such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion -- who seem thrilled at the chance to ridicule not only intelligent design and its proponents but all people of faith. In interviews leading up to the release of Expelled, many of these scientists have said that their quotes were taken out of context and that the filmmakers misrepresented themselves in the interviews. Listening to these men throughout the course of the movie, it's hard to feel much sympathy for them. As poorly as Stein and the rest of the makers of Expelled acquit themselves in the film, Dawkins and his cohorts are every bit as vicious.

And that's the one thing that Expelled manages to expose -- the rancor and malice on both ends of this issue. It isn't an argument so much as it's a war, complete with soldiers and battles and funding and propaganda. Expelled isn't a thoughtfully rendered documentary about the freedom of inquiry; it's a shot across the bow of the scientific establishment. And it just doesn't work.

Cast & Crew

Director : Nathan Frankowski

Producer : Logan Craft, Walt Ruloff


Comments

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2008

Editors Recommendations

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

The Cannes Film festival is sneaking up fast. The Oscars felt like they were 8 minutes ago...

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

Next weekend's CounterPoint Festival will be the event's first year at a new 5000-acre site, featuring...

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Superhero movies have been striving towards the almost unobtainable goal set...

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Ricky Gervais is "Hooked" on David Brent Again - Former Paper Merchant To Return

A return for David Brent has been mooted ever since the character was wheeled...

Ricky Gervais is

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing "Made In America" To Downtown Los Angeles

Jay Z and the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti have announced that the rapper’s...

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing

Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

The editor-in-chief of US VOGUE magazine is reportedly determined for the annual...

Anna Wintour - Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

The comedy classic 'Mrs. Doubtfire' is reportedly set to return to the big-screen...

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Of Mice And Men premiered on Broadway last night, giving critics a chance to cast...

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'

Sofia Vergara has been speaking about her nerves at shooting a ménage a trois with...

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'


More recommendations