Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled – A Movie Review

Hi everyone. I attended the opening day, matinee showing of Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed earlier today. This is the documentary with actor/economist Ben Stein showing the "war" between science and religion currently taking place in America. Ben Stein uses a method similar to a Lee Strobel book, where he asks a question, and then finds an expert to discuss the topic. He also uses hilarious clips of such famous Darwinist supporters as Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and Minnesota's own PZ Myers saying stupid things about how well Darwinism is supported by scientific evidence, and how Intelligent Design (ID) supporters would never be attacked for having views that see life on Earth as having been intelligently designed (Stein interviews many people who have lost their jobs / tenure because of holding a point of view supporting ID.


So what is the importance of this issue? Is it only a small academic disagreement taking place at universities? No, Expelled shows that truth, American freedom, people's jobs, and the protection of the lives of those who may be viewed as genetically inferior, all are at stake in this "war". I'm not kidding, the movie does a very good job of showing the importance of the issues that are involved in this fight. The movie has a number of scenes of the Berlin Wall to emphasize the magnitude of this battle. This is all done with humor, and surprising seriousness at several points in the movie. For example, Ben Stein visits a German concentration camp, where 15,000 people with disabilities were exterminated. The reason for this killing by the Nazis? Not only was this the elimination of political enemies, but also the elimination of people who were draining resources (like jobs, food, etc.) from the German nation. And all of this was done by the scientists not only in Germany but also America who were basing their eugenic beliefs in significant part upon Darwinism. This part of the movie was horrifying and most powerful at the same time.


To show the silliness of the mainstream Darwinist positions, I will use two quick examples: first, Ben Stein asks scientist Michael Russo how life started on Earth. Russo explains that a leading view is that chemicals went on top of some crystals, and were able to become living from this. Ben Stein mercilessly keeps asking the question, but how did this start life? Russo repeatedly responds, I already explained it to you. Stein then incredulously says, piggy-backing on crystals is how life started? The scenes from other movies of people praying to crystals, I think adds to the silliness of what Russo said. Another funny scene is the final interview Ben Stein has with Richard Dawkins (famous atheist/biologist, author of The God Delusion). Dawkins starts by saying that a belief in God is along the same line as believing in fairies or angels. Stein then asks Dawkins how life started on Earth, and Dawkins said that he had no idea, and that no one had any idea of how life started. Stein then pressed him, and Dawkins admitted that it appears that life is designed, and perhaps a very intelligent alien race planted 'seeds' on Earth to get life started. It seems this point shows the ridiculousness of academia in America – a scientist can hold a silly view such as thinking that life was planted on Earth by Aliens, and receive full support from their colleagues. While if anyone dares to suggest that God was responsible for planting life on Earth will result in a full out attack from the Darwinist army.


I give the movie an enthusiastic 'thumbs up'. Because it is a documentary, it is important for people to get out and see the movie, so that it has a greater impact on our culture. You will not be bored. It is an important and entertaining movie for those who love free-thinking and religious freedom. I hope you will check it out.


edward oleander said...

And what if the question of the origin of life had been turned back on Stein? His own answer of, "It was designed" or perhaps, "It was designed by God," would have provided no more info than the comical teacher. So what was the point?

Here is the text of an email I sent Tom regarding this movie... He had mentioned in his email about the film that it might offend my sensibilities by forging the Darwin/Nazi connection...

{rant} = on

Offend my sensibilities? Well, DUH... Your language implies that the idea does not offend yours. So... was a partial lobotomy part of the ticket price for this... documentary?

Trying to create a link between Evolution and Hitler is about the lamest thing I've ever heard. Anyone who advocates that idea, or spreads it, or thinks that it has any relevance whatsoever is an idiot, and has already surrendered the argument. If that's the best one can do, then there isn't even a battle to fight. It does not deserved to be discussed, and is barely worth the single breath needed to destroy it.

It should be remembered that the Nazis also adopted a symbol that was thousands of years old, and had nothing to do with their hate. The swastika was a symbol of the sun, long life, good health, good luck, and other positive concepts. It was taken by the Nazis. Does that invalidate the 3000 years of history behind the swastika? The dozens of cultures that used it... are they now seen as evil because the Nazis took their symbol?

Tom, for you to even mention this "connection" between one of Darwin's proven facts*, and Adolph Hitler, is just plain disappointing. I am hoping desperately that you repeated it only to get a rise out of us (in which case, you are batting at least .500), and not because you would believe such stupidity.

Just on that knowledge alone, i would refuse to waste time or money on this movie. A lightning rod for attacks? Those attacks should be coming from Ben Stein's FANS, because he just discredited and trivialized himself and marginalized any intellectual value the movie might have had.

Science attempts to explain things. Creationism/ID are not science. Creationism/ID are religion. Religion makes it a point NOT to explain many things. Perhaps appropriate to some class in the Philosophy department, but not a science class. Looking at a watch, and declaring it had a Watchmaker tells us nothing about how it was made. Not even Behe, [Basically true AD HOMINEM ALERT] the feces-throwing monkey of the science world, can offer any insight on how some elusive Designer might have gone about his designing (let alone the construction of the design).

I like the idea of getting together, but I will have seen this movie only if some street pirate is giving away bootleg copies for free.


*It is an unassailable fact that, for any species, all possible offspring can not survive. There MUST be a process by which some offspring survive to reproduction, and others do not. Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection proposes to define that system. It is often simplified and paraphrased as "Survival of the fittest."

tom wolff said...

Ed rants (about the new movie ‘Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed): “Trying to create a link between Evolution (i.e., Darwinism) and Hitler is about the lamest thing I've ever heard…”

Tom’s reply: Ed, no one is saying that Darwinism caused the Nazi Holocaust and the extermination of the physically handicapped / Jews. But the “lamest thing” you have ever heard is to link Darwinism and Hitler? The connection is almost too obvious for me to respond to. For you to not admit that there is a connection between Darwinism’s central tenet ‘Survival of the Fittest’ in order to create a better species, and Hitler’s desire to create the ‘Uberman’, blue-eyed, blond haired people, in order to create the superior German race, is obvious on its face. You remember the Jesse Owens’ 1936 Olympics held in Berlin where the American track star, who happened to be black, destroyed the German athletes, and won 4 gold medals right in front of Hitler? This was a direct slap to the face to Hitler’s racist claim of the superiority of the Aryan race. over I am startled that you cover your eyes to this clear connection between Hitler’s desire to engineer a superior Aryan Germany through the removal of inferior races and Darwinism’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’.

edward oleander said...

Hi Tom,

What really upsets me in seeing Stein use this "link" in his movie is his foul use of psychology to make his points.

There is NO link between Darwin's idea of Natural Selection and Hitler's belief in an Aryan master race. Just because some madmen twisted Darwin's concept around until it seemed to support their particular evil, does not mean that any such connection really exists. In order for there to be a real connection, you must be able to forge a logic string from premise to conclusion. Starting at Natural Selection and concluding at the Holocaust has so many logical gaps that a true link cannot exist.

If you look at those who write about Darwinism vs Nazism (see Bergman, 1999), you notice a lot of the use of the term, "survival of the fittest." This is because the "link" can only be forged (although still imperfectly) when using a condensed and simplified concept instead of ACTUAL Natural Selection. Darwin did not use the phrase "survival of the fittest" until years after The Origin of Species was published. He didn't invent it, and several times remarked that while it was a somewhat useful metaphor, it was woefully inadequate to the concept.

Hitler's propaganda specialists needed some sort of suit to dress their master race idea in. While the Nazis' ideas on race were much closer to the ancient art of animal husbandry than to modern evolutionary theory, Darwin's ideas sounded kind of close. Hitler's ideas on creating the master race were based on concepts far older than Darwinism. Hitler found that he could lend a sort of pseudo-scientific credibility to his claptrap by beating modified versions of Darwin's Natural Selection theory into his animal husbandry framework.

Modern writers like Stein or Jerry Bergman fail to see this distinction. They don't want to see it, because it becomes a springboard from which to criticize evolution. They want to associate Darwinian thinking with horrific events like the Holocaust for the psychological value. While they NEVER actually claim that Darwinism caused the Holocaust, they will allow the reader to build a "guilt by association" link between the two that they never quite discourage either. They HOPE that the indirect (and perhaps even sub-conscious) conclusion the readers (or viewers) will come to is that if evolution can in ANY way contribute to evil like the Final Solution, then the theory MUST be flawed...

This blatant psychological mismanipulation in and of itself falls between disgusting and actual evil. It is especially odious to me when one of Jewish ancestory uses the Holocaust to further an agenda that doesn't have anything to do with anti-Semitism. Stein was a master speech writer. He is one of the most intelligent men I know. His mind is also pretty much unencumbered by scruples. He KNOWS how to manipulate an audience using emotion when no logic applies. This is why Nixon liked him so much (now THERE is a real guilt-by- association link!)...


patrick said...

just saw Expelled, i appreciate Ben Stein's overall goal in making Expelled, which is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

Anonymous said...

Okay gentlemen,

After reading your postings in Tom's blog I am having a hard time coming to grips with many of the claims being made in your conversation. There is one claim in particular, however, that I especially take issue with.

As I have not seen the movie, and will likely not be able to see it in the near future, perhaps you can clear up a few things for me.

Specifically, just where is this so-called "connection" between
Darwinism and Hitler's final solution? Please explain it to me in more detail, Tom, because I just don't draw the same conclusions as Stein (and, apparently, as you). And please don't come back with a repetition
of "The connection is almost too obvious for me to respond to" as you did with Ed. That is just a cop-out and it is no better than Ed's "lamest thing I've ever heard" paragraph. I want explanations. You're a lawyer, after all. Make your case.

Also, please provide documentation to support your claim (about "this
killing") that "all of this was done by the scientists not only in
Germany but also America who were basing their eugenic beliefs in
significant part upon Darwinism." Tell me, Tom. Which AMERICAN
scientists actually participated in these atrocities? In which AMERICAN state(s) did this occur? When were these AMERICAN scientists brought to trial? How were they punished? Lastly, how did they, themselves, link
these acts to their own (alleged) beliefs in Darwinism?

Or, perhaps, these are not actually your words that I am quoting in the previous paragraph. Could this actually be one of the claims that Stein
makes in his movie? If so, did you actually swallow it hook, line, and
sinker? Again, not having seen the movie and, not being aware of that particular aspect of AMERICAN history, I am relying on you for
clarification. Please clarify.


tom wolff said...

John asks: Specifically, just where is this so-called "connection" between Darwinism and Hitler's final solution? Please explain it to me in more detail, Tom,

Tom’s response: Hi John, it’s nice to see that you’ve found my blog. Initially, let me repeat that NO ONE is saying that Darwinism caused the Holocaust. And the major point that Ben Stein made in ‘Expelled’ was the German program for murdering the physically disabled. Expelled went to an extermination facility that was designed for the purpose of murdering 1,000’s of the physically disabled. And so, the specific charge is that Darwinism assisted this extermination / murder of the physically disabled by those in Nazi Germany.

Here is what I see as the connection between Darwinism and the heinous murders by the Nazis. Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler wrote his thoughts in ‘Mein Kampf’:

“The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings would be unthinkable.” (Vol. 1, Chapter XI: Nation and Race).

And so, this quote shows Hitler’s goal of creating “higher development” of the human race. He did this through the murder of the “weaker” people in Germany. This included the physically handicapped, the Jews, the Gypsies, etc. The higher race was the Aryan race, blonde hair, blue eyed Scandinavians / Germans. And by this process, Hitler hoped to create the ‘Uberman’.

So what specifically is the connection between Darwinism and Hitler’s extermination of the physically disabled? Let’s start by looking at Darwin’s own notorious letter written in 1881:

. . . I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago, of being overwhelmed by the Turk, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.

And so, Darwin himself started the distinction based upon Darwinist theory that races could be somehow either superior or inferior to each other. So were there Darwinist scientists who supported this? Of course they did. Nazis enthusiastically adopted eugenics policies, which according to the 1921 International Eugenics Congress was the “self-direction of human evolution.” For the Nazis killing the disabled was a radical form of eugenics, i.e., the program to improve humans hereditarily. And so, this is the whole argument of the connection between Darwinism and Hitler’s Holocaust: it was his attempt at self-directed evolution for the German race – eliminate the weaker races and encourage the stronger (i.e., Aryan) race. I hope this helps. I used some information in this response that was in an Uncommon Descent recent post.)