Friday, April 25, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Review)

Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Win Ben Stein's Money, Visine Commercials) acted as front man for this documentary about the theory of Intelligent Design and the American scientific community. At 90 minutes, this film briefly makes its point clear, although wanders off center for a few minutes.

Stein spotlights scientists with strong credibility who have been in some way shut out (fired, denied tenure, blacklisted) from the scientific community because of their desire to openly discuss the concept of Intelligent Design. Throughout the film we see scientists of all philosophical backgrounds (Christian, Jewish, Agnostic, Humanist) discussing the barrier they have experienced regarding a public dialogue over Intelligent Design. Demonstrating this trend is the film's strong point, since this entire, complex issue CANNOT be resolved in a 90 minute documentary.

Although "Expelled" spends some time validating the theory of Intelligent Design and clearly differentiating it from "Creationism", it does this only enough to demonstrate that the theory is sound enough to deserve continuing, open and reason-based discussion.

Inter-cut with vintage film clips, the film has its share of humor and Stein brings his dry, sometimes awkward charm to the table. However, some of these clips may be seen as oversimplified humorous jabs at the Neo-Darwinist establishment. (Entertaining in film, but not a good way to promote calm and reasoned discussion.) Likewise, the film wanders off-center in discussing the sociological ramifications of applied Darwinism, using the Holocaust as a weighty example. While the point made is a good one, it seemed devised to provoke an emotional reaction, which an Evolutionist will likely find illogical and even offensive.

The main point of the movie remains: The American scientific community is largely unwilling to openly and rationally discuss the concept of Intelligent Design. In most cases, the scientists and employers responsible for firing or otherwise blacklisting those interested in Intelligent Design, did not come forward to tell their side of the story. Normally, this could be seen as a weak point in the film's argument regarding the closed minds of the scientific community. However, since the movie's chief point is that scientists are refusing to speak openly about the issue, it works in direct support of the argument. True, we have to admit that there may be another side to some of these stories. But until the leaders and former employers of these blacklisted scientists come out and speak openly, as requested by the film itself, the point made by the film remains unchallenged.

Theists will no doubt want to see this film. I'd also recommend Agnostics, Evolutionists, and anyone else to see this film, if for no other reason than to understand what "Intelligent Design" does and does not claim. If your impression of the concept connects it automatically to the Bible or Christian Theology, this film will probably be eye opening.

Rated PG for thematic material, some disturbing images and brief smoking

Quality: 7.5/10

Relevance: 9.0/10

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