It is surely the best thing ever done on this issue, in any medium. At moments it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I have written about this controversy for over 30 years and by the movie’s end I felt that those of us who have insisted that Darwinism is a sorry mess and that life surely was designed are going to prevail.
Deluded much? If he were at all aware of the science of biology, he’d know that evolution is not going anywhere but deeper into explaining life on earth. A propaganda film cannot change the science, although it could, if it were better done, change the culture in damaging ways.
And propaganda film is what it is:
In the movie there are somber moments, as when Stein visits World War II death camps and traces the Nazi philosophy back to the godless Darwinian world in which fitness must prevail and everything is permitted.
Expelled makes use of Cold War imagery, and the producers might have extended that metaphor by saying that we are now in the Samizdat period (before the fall of the Berlin Wall). That was a time when the most interesting Soviet authors used pen names to avoid being “expelled” — to the Gulag.
Once again, though, we catch them in lies.
Ben Stein pays a call on leading Darwinians, among them Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, William Provine of Cornell, and P.Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota. Dawkins and others later complained that they hadn’t been warned that the movie would be unsympathetic to their cause. In response, Ben Stein said that no one he interviewed asked what the film would be about, and the co-producer Walt Ruloff said at the preview that interviewees were paid and were even told ahead of time what the questions would be.
Everyone I’ve talked to who was interviewed for this movie has said they asked what it was about. I know I did. I also looked up Rampant Films to see if it was real. Most revealingly, Barbara Forrest was among the first to be asked to be interviewed, and she made a point to ask about their bona fides, and turned them down because they couldn’t say what their intent was — and they didn’t have a web site then, which was subsequently cobbled up and loaded with fake film properties before they called the rest of us.
I was not told ahead of time what the questions would be — it was to be an interview on the intersection of religion and science. Just before the visit, I was told that one thing they wanted to try was to show me flash cards of names from the creation-evolution wars, and to get my reaction; they specifically told me they wouldn’t tell me whose names would be on there.
Come on, Ruloff. Has lying gotten to be such a habit with you that you have to make up stories about your intent? We all know now that you went into this project with a specific pro-ID purpose, which you intentionally concealed from us. Why do you have to lie now about it? Admit that you wanted candid interviews and you didn’t want the subjects to know who was interviewing them.
Another revealing slip of Bethell’s preconceptions is laid out here:
The double irony is that Dawkins’s second encounter with Ben Stein is perhaps the high point of the film. Dawkins, speaking with refreshing frankness, comes across as not in the slightest bit confused or caught off guard. He allows that science knows nothing about the origin of life, and that, yes, the Darwinian message is antithetical to religion. He surprises us, too, by allowing that if life really was designed, the designing must have been done by intelligent beings elsewhere in the cosmos who themselves evolved by naturalistic means. Their designs were then somehow transported down to Earth.
I keep hearing this expectation that we’d be confused or evasive, or that we’d reveal secret stuff if we thought we were among friendly interviewers. Dawkins and I are entirely open about our views; I don’t say one thing about religion to my friends, another to strangers, and yet another to creationists. There is no secret conspiracy, and we’re not skulking in the shadows. They had to lie about their motives to get their interviews (we’d both be likely to tell known creationists to bugger off; I might have been inclined to just ask for more money, but then, I’m a poor professor), but if they had gotten through, they would have heard exactly the same story. Well, I might have been more confrontational, but that would have made for better footage.
As for the speculation about panspermia, la de dah. Give any scientist a premise, such as that life has elements of design, and we’ll suggest explanations and possible details — that’s just the first steps in the good ol’ hypothetico-deductive scientific method. All it tells us is that Dawkins is open-minded enough to consider speculative explanations, not that he endorses them.
Oh, and it wouldn’t be a Tom Bethell article without some gross dishonesty about science.
In Darwin’s day the cell was thought to be little more than a “simple lump of protoplasm,” or, in another ludicrous simplification, a “cavity” filled with a “homogenous transparent fluid.” Now the cell is seen to resemble a high-tech factory. How did it get that way? There’s no answer in the Darwinian scheme — other than trial and error. The DNA within the cell, once thought to be mostly (98 percent) “junk” is now believed to be functional all the way through (a dividend of the Human Genome Project). The evolutionists were obliged to believe in a fundamentally simple world because all they had was an elementary mechanism — random mutation plus natural selection — to account for it.
No, in Darwin’s day they did not believe the cell was simple. The last half of the 19th century was one where the resolution of light microscopes reached their physical limit, although the innovations in contrast enhancement wouldn’t be achieved until the 20th. This was the era of great histologists and cell biologists, people like Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who were using new techniques to examine the cell and substructures of the cell. Organelles were discovered, chromosomes were observed, the dynamic activities of cells, such as cytoplasmic streaming and growth cone migration, were all described in detail. This oft-repeated refrain of the creationists is basically ignorant slander of the cytologists of Darwin’s time; that caricature of the cell is parroting the uninformed views of creationist non-scientists, and is simply a damnable lie.
Bethell’s claim that the human genome project revealed that every scrap of DNA is functional is also an outright misrepresentation of the truth. We have now looked in impressive detail at the whole genome, and it has confirmed that the majority of it is random sequence, repetitive sequences, and selfish self-replicators like LINEs and SINEs.
I can understand why the movie brought tears to Bethell’s eyes. At long last he has found people as ignorant and dishonest as he is — he has found his tribe. It’s kind of heartwarming. You just have to picture all the isolated kooks on the fringe, with their conspiracy theories and delusions of competence, all being brought together by one movie that shows that yes, uneducated hobos and yahoos can make enough money to buy an audience. Is this a great country or what?