Somebody has seen Expelled!

Hey! Dan Whipple got to see a preliminary screening of Ben Stein’s silly movie, Expelled!

Read the review — it makes the point that the movie doesn’t even bother to explain what ID and evolution are before taking sides, and it defends its position incompetently. The movie is “so intellectually garbled it’s hard to summarize,” which is about what we all expected.

There’s no mention of my role, but I expect it would be a tiny part anyway; no mention of Eugenie Scott, either. Dan Whipple, if you see this — there are a lot of us who’d like to know more details about how our interviews were chopped up for this movie!


  1. says

    So we can expect to be underwhelmed? Shocking. I would never have expected it.

    That’s sarcasm, BTW, for any ID nut who needs to be told.

  2. says

    Well, let’s be fair: It was only a preliminary screening. The release version will no doubt be much, much better. By then all of the special effects should be in place (it’ll take millions of dollars of CGI to make Ben Stein appear credible, you know) and the choppy edits of the rough-cut will be smoothed over. Then it should be really, really persuasive. At least to folks who don’t know any better.

    I wonder if Expelled! will make it to my town. It could be fun to see it. Perhaps on a twin bill with Accepted (all about a fake college).

  3. Sastra, OM says

    One of the few funny parts of the film, though, is Stein’s interview with British philosopher of science Richard Dawkins. Dawkins’ best-selling book The God Delusion is a clarion call for atheism, making him a bete-noire of the religious right. Ben Stein, marshalling the intellectual resources of Ferris Bueller’s boring teacher, gets the better of him. Dawkins comes out of it looking pretty silly.

    I don’t plan on seeing the movie, but this clip will probably show up on UTube. Stein gets the better of Dawkins? You mean, out argues him in science? Or trips him up with some rhetoric?

    The battlefield is in science, isn’t it? Oh, wait. This is ID.

    Never mind.

  4. _Arthur says

    I liked the remark about Panspermia, which is a reasonable scientific conjecture, which could receive support if we were to find DNA in comets or meteorites. It has some more scientific legitimacy than ID, which makes no testable predictions.

    But Ben Stein finds it laughable.

  5. says

    Wait–did Ben Stein himself really interview Dawkins? Or did they have someone else interview Dawkins, then chop up the interview and splice in shots of Stein asking questions with shots of Dawkins responding to questions? Can someone ask Dawkins?

    If it’s the latter, how can we trust that the questions Dawkins is shown answering are the ones that Stein is shown asking?

  6. foxfire says

    I don’t plan on seeing the movie, but this clip will probably show up on UTube. Stein gets the better of Dawkins? You mean, out argues him in science? Or trips him up with some rhetoric?

    From what I saw in the trailer it looks like film editing (e.g. cut off a sentence before it is completed or combine a real statement/answer with a “fake” question). Standard, boring, out of context stuff. Sigh.

  7. Gregory Kusnick says

    Unfortunately I found the review to be somewhat garbled as well.

    Whipple’s definition of evolution (at least I assume it’s his, since he credits no one else) is confusing; he uses the word “phenotype” without defining it, and drops an irrelevant remark about deleterious mutations into the middle of an explanation of beneficial mutations. I also dislike his two-step syllogism to the effect that mutations give organisms “advantages”, and those advantages lead to more offspring. The fact is that natural selection doesn’t care about “advantages”; all it cares about is reproductive efficiency. So why not cut out the middleman and just say that mutations that lead (by whatever path) to more offspring are passed on, and those that don’t aren’t.

    His discussion of panspermia is also wide of the mark. However it may be portrayed in the film, panspermia is not the proposition that aliens infected Earth with life (that’s called “directed panspermia”). As proposed by Fred Hoyle and others, it’s the idea that prebiotic chemical evolution could have occurred in interstellar molecular clouds, and that primitive life could have been carried to Earth by comets that condensed out of such clouds. Whether you find this idea plausible or not, it’s clearly a far cry from ID, and it might have been nice if Whipple had bothered to look it up before making that comparison.

  8. One Eyed Jack says

    The sad thing is that Expelled will be very popular among the ID/Creationists that make up the majority of the US population. Lies and misinformation? These don’t matter. They will just be happy it supports their position.

    Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” … Well, OK, it’s not so much a commandment as a suggestion. I mean let’s not get all technical about it. If you have to lie to serve God, then do so. Sky Papa has ordered people to murder in His name. Certainly a bit of lying in His name is OK… right? It must be. Pesky commandment. We’ll get that one edited out in the next revision.


  9. andyo says

    OK, I’ve been here for a while now, and I still don’t get woot’s posts. I know he’s referring to birds or something, but he’s always off-topic and mentioning tetas. It seems to be benign enough, and I’m not really complaining, I’m just wondering why no one seems to mind.

  10. Bryson Brown says

    I was struck by the remarks re. Dawkins, too; it’s the only point in the review where ‘Expelled’ seems to have achieved any of its ends. Could the reviewer be one of the many who’ve decided Dawkins is too ‘strident’? I also suspect the magic of film-making has been used to stack the deck– it’s hard to imagine Dawkins looking silly in response to the dreck Stein is peddling…

  11. Rick T. says


    “I’m just wondering why no one seems to mind.”

    I liken Woot to a beloved pet who farts a lot, or like Steve Martin in the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”.
    Remember the scene when, at the dinner table, Steve (sporting an eye patch and a fork with a cork stuck to the tines) asks Michael Cain if he could go to the bathroom?
    With permission obtained, Steve screws up his face for a few seconds and then says, “Thank you very much”.

    Woot’s kinda like that.

  12. wÓÒ† says

    Sorry about that earlier tetas post… I was planning on a more cogent remark about how Ben Stein won my grudging respect when he interviewed Jenna Jameson, but hit “Post” when I meant to hit “Preview.”

    Embarassed, I thought I’d just slink into a corner and hope nobody noticed.

    Anyway, vivan las tetas.


  13. notthedroids says

    In other words, w00t is frickin’ hilarious, but in ten to fifteen years will be an insufferable unfunny blowhard?

  14. CalGeorge says

    What this whole thing boils down to:

    It’s so complicated, it just has to be God’s work!

    [a little white later]

    Hey, stop making fun of me!

    I do too know what I’m talking about!

    Stop it!

    Whaaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaa!

    S/he said mean thing about me!

    No fair!

    Whaaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaa!

    [Repeat ad nauseum.]

  15. Sastra, OM says

    I’d love to see Expelled! double-billed with What the (Bleep) Do We Know?

    It would be interesting to see if the audience likes both movies and think they actually reinforce each other — or if they split, and like only one and think the other one is a silly load of pseudoscientific crap.

  16. says

    In a preface he added to the Dover edition of his classic work Fads & Fallacies, Martin Gardner described the flood of mail he received in response to his book’s original publication. Most of the letters were rave reviews, but often a writer would complain about one particular chapter: Sure that stuff about dowsing and homeopathy and chiropractic was great, but why-oh-why did you include Dianetics. That stuff works! Etc., etc. People can detect nonsense when it’s not part of their own favorite delusion, but not otherwise.

    I suspect that a lot of people who love What the (Bleep) Do We Know? will susceptible to the charms of Expelled!, but it’s not a slam dunk. I’d love to see Raven’s experiment carried out. No telling what the results might be.

  17. Neil says

    I never expect anything honest from pre-recorded edited interviews. The most you can hope for is a sympathetic interviewer who will let the interviewee get their ideas out fairly. In a sensationalist movie, you can’t trust the content of the interviews no matter what point the interviewer or director is trying to make.

    I think it’s a curious choice to pick a shallow Hollywood republican and Nixon speechwriter to address the issue of integrity in any field, particularly science and education. But then again, unintentional irony has always a big thing with believers.

  18. keyote says

    Ben Stein. He actually believes that Richard Nixon was a great American.

    How he even had a soul gland to remove remains a mystery to me.

  19. Mena says

    It all depends on which definition of evolution someone is talking about, dontchaknow…
    Sometimes when I see these people ranting about Darwinism I think that they are talking about the ideas of Erasmus, not Charles. Zheesh. Why is reality so darn hard for some people that they need to make up all sorts of excuses to “prove” their fantasies? It’s very sad.

  20. Janine says

    For those who do not know, wOOt may have a warped sense of humor but he is the farthest thing from a troll. Try googling his argument with John A Davidson. He does not let JAD get away with anything.

  21. BlueIndependent says

    @ 21:

    Pat Buchanan still defends Nixon too, to say nothing of Colson et al. They really dislike losing, especially when caught beyond a shadow of a doubt..

  22. autumn says

    The trailer to Expelled Godwined itself about thirty seconds in. Undeterred by my screaming brain, I watched the rest. Dreck. Crapful dreck. Steamingly odiferous, crapful dreck.
    Oh, and the bit of the Dawkins interview the trailer shows bears an obvious edit between “As a scientist”, and “I am resentful of any competeing doctrine” (may have mangled the quote, but I’m not watching that crap again). It really appears that Dawkins describing ID is spliced with his “as a scientist” statement.
    Lying bunch of cloacae (not complex enough even for anuses proper).

  23. DLC says

    From reading the review, it sounds to me as if they intend to make the demand that science classes “Teach the Controversy”.
    Sorry, but Creation does not belong in any science class anywhere. If you want to waste your time teaching creation in church, feel free. I’ll bet you can even find a witch-doctor or two who can mimic an understanding of the “science” behind ID. But don’t try to put it in a science class.

  24. FishyFred says

    From the trailer:

    Richard Dawkins: “As a scientist, I am [EDIT] pretty hostile to a rival, uh, doctrine… [CUT]”

    I wonder what he had to say after that…

  25. BG says

    Re: woot. I am crushed to see that his epic foray on is now no longer to be found on the internet.

    After reading his contributions to the thread “Pharyngula – Evolution, Development and Random Biological Ejaculations” on that website I think he deserves permanent allowance to do as he wishes.

  26. J Myers says

    The review is decent, but the definition of evolution it offers is awkward at best. It was sloppy in some other ways as well, but I certainly can’t fault the sentiment. I do have to ask: isn’t publishing and discussing such a review at this time exactly what we shouldn’t be doing? Does the reviewer really think it was an accident that a blog likely to be critical of the movie was invited to see it this far before its release? Aren’t we just working up a punchlist for these fiends?

    Zeno, it was Sastra’s idea to encourage the public to see both movies… and you agree? I cannot condone what you propose (but I hope to hear all about it).

    autumn, that does seem like an obvious edit. Another commenter with a background in documentary film editing made the same comment when PZ posted the trailer for the movie a few weeks ago.

  27. wildcardjack says

    I’m a book dealer and I made the mistake of passing up an old copy of “Of Pandas and People” that was the creationist edition.

    Oh, the choices we make.

  28. Neil says

    Hey, now I’m all curious about woot, not that I need any excuse to look at boobies and tits. I googled a bit and couldn’t find anything except John A. Davidson’s books and crappy 1 post blog. Can anybody point to something more specific?

  29. says

    I hate the idea of this, but there has to be a showing of this as TAM or somthing, so that people can see it without giving money to these IDiots.

  30. Janine says

    wOOt, is there anyway you can link to that battle with with JAD? I know PZ did a while ago and I have no idea where it is at.

  31. Ex-drone says

    Dan Whipple writes:

    One likely reason that “Expelled” ignored the definition of ID from Of Pandas and People is that the book was thoroughly discredited in the 2005 trial of ID curriculum in Dover, Pennsylvania. They probably want to distance themselves from this devastating defeat of creationism and ID in the courts.

    IDiots need to turn their belief system into a mystery religion. I suggest the following approach (adapted from the scientology entry in Wikipedia):

    “[Cdesign proponentsists] who have achieved the State of [Denial] may continue onto the Upper or [CS] ([Creation Science]) Levels. These levels are available by invitation only after a review of the candidate’s character, ethics and contribution to the aims of [Intelligent Design]. Individuals who have read these materials may not disclose what they contain without jeopardizing their standing in the Church.”

  32. ShavenYak says

    The movie is “so intellectually garbled it’s hard to summarize,” which is about what we all expected.

    So, it’s not entirely unlike What the Bleep Do We Know? then.

  33. MartinM says

    Are there any fart noises?

    Don’t be daft. Ben Stein could never aspire to the dizzying intellectual heights acheived by Dembski.

  34. AdamNelson says

    -Richard Dawkins: “As a scientist, I am [EDIT] pretty hostile to a rival, uh, doctrine… [CUT]”-

    Oboy… Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, it will be so libellous against Dawkins that he’ll have no choice but to sue. A loss of a couple o’ million bucks would put a potato in that film’s tailpipe. But by the sound of it, it doesn’t really need any help failing.


    p.s. check out early CP comments on Sicko: Andy was determined to call it a box-office bomb that was panned by critics, when their own link directly stated otherwise! LOL

  35. says

    I’ve read a lot of John A. Davison’s arguments and I think he’s frightening. I just read the PZ’s post about JAD’s letter (first link on andyo’s Google search)and realized that he’s retired faculty at my university…fascinating. I didn’t know we had anything to do with this debate so close to home…

  36. says

    What, ‘faults on both sides’? Sure, I get his point about academic and scientific fights and all that (as in, so what if little Ricky heard words that made him cry?), but surely he could bring up the initial rather glaring fault of Sternberg in rigging the process of “peer review” to ensure that Meyer’s creo tripe would get through.

    Otherwise, yes, I think it was pretty good–it’s hard to say for sure when I’ve not seen the movie, but we’ve seen enough hints to guess that it’s all whine and very little that really looks bad all on its own (hence Hitler, Stalin, blah, blah, blah–maybe that Mark character who showed up here recently worked on ‘Expelled’).

    Maybe they’re too embarrassed by ID, as well as attempting to appeal to people too inept even to understand ID caricatures of science, to include any “definition of ID”. Still, I thought the one he supplied was worth commenting on, especially as it seems to be one that Meyer was trying to push with his retreaded cretin “arguments”:

    Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales; birds with feathers, beaks and wings; etc.

    Ha ha, IDiot, archaeopteryx did not have a beak, or at least not a normal bird’s beak. It was a mouth full of teeth, just like its dinosaur ancestors. Plus, it had feathers, like its flightless dinosaur ancestors did. And yes it had wings, which are remarkably like dinosaur forelimbs, complete with claws btw (the fact that hoatzin juveniles still do only strengthens my point).

    They may have been just bright enough to realize that they’re too ignorant to choose a “definition” of ID that would be immune from a good fisking. So forget all facts, truth, scholarship, etc., and drum on with their false dilemma. Hell, what do they mind if they’re manipulating the masses with their lies, there’s power in that.

    Glen D

  37. says

    One further comment: No matter how scientifically illiterate the journalists or film critics are, this film will not be persuasive to them. For what these buffoons are dealing in, squabbles, disputes, charges, the false dilemma, and propaganda, are what journalists tend to be fairly good at recognizing as politics, as standard low-life propaganda activities.

    I think Dover scared these dolts into dropping the ersatz science, and going straight for Godwin and whingeing over their Darfur-like plight (plus Ruloff appears to be scientifically illiterate himself, and he’s bankrolling it). They might have gotten at least some good publicity from the media, had they included some BS “evidence for design,” since so many journalists were more the A-V types instead of learning any science.

    But no, they went precisely for the lies that the large majority of journalists actually understand quite well, along with well-outdated scare tactics (Hitler? Are you kidding? He’s so overused that his evil might be getting slightly occulted via rabid morons like these). Yeah, we know they’ll sell the movie to the churches and their little “youth groups” and the like, but it’s probably going to be understood in the public at large as being one of the worst propaganda films of all times.

    College kids are going to light their bongs and turn on ‘Expelled,’ just like they’ve done with Reefer Madness. And unless Stein has more sense than I can imagine he does, and actually repudiates this garbage before it comes out, this film will mark the time when he’s become a less vile and more comic version of JAD.

    Glen D

  38. says

    Ben Stein is one of those people whom I recognize, but I’m not sure why. He seems to be mostly famous for being famous. His online bio says that he was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon. The bio adds, “He did NOT write the line, `I am not a crook.'” This is a shame because as far as I can tell that’s the only memorable thing Richard Nixon ever said.

    My thoughts exactly!

  39. says

    Thanks! This review will be a great resource for debates and arguments I’m sure I’ll be involved in during the lead up to the movie’s release.

  40. says

    #34: I believe the creationist editions were all pre-publication drafts, i.e., there’s no use of “creationism” in the 1st or 2nd published editions.

  41. says

    So in other words, Marc, the reviewer found a film based on lies to be compelling. And the Nazi images were merely heavy handed, not outright lies?

    Yeah, that’s someone worth listening to.

  42. says

    Well, actually Jeff, he said the Nazi images were “a bit heavy-handed and emotionally manipulative, as in addition to Hitler’s horrors, Stein showed how Darwinism leads to athiesm, abortion and euthanasia.”

    Having not seen the film, I can’t say for sure whether it was based on lies or not, or at least any moreso than any doc that comes out these days.