“Expelled” almost expelled me from the theater

There’s been a lot of hype over this movie, especially among conservatives who felt like they would finally have a voice on the big screen. Normally I’m not a huge fan of ban-wagon stuff, whether it’s Narnia or even Passion of the Christ, but at the St. Louis National Youth Workers Convention last year my wife won a free screening of the movie for our church and community. Since our church didn’t feel comfortable blindly slapping its stamp of approval on the film (and rightly so), Dana and I drove two hours tonight to see Expelled at the closest movie theater playing it.

The first half of the film was dreadfully boring. Walking into the theater I already knew that Ben Stein’s quest was to expose the “behind the scenes” censorship of Intelligent Design in the academic world, but in the beginning I seriously had a difficult time trying to figure out what his point was and where he was going with it. The arguments were less than compelling, Ben Stein was not funny, and the constant little TV clips from the ’40s started to get on my nerves. If I had been watching it on DVD at home, I probably would’ve turned it off and found something more interesting to do.

It wasn’t until half-way through the film when Ben Stein started making the connection between Darwinism and German Nazis that I started paying attention to the film, mostly because some emotion was finally pricked as Ben Stein, a Jew, toured the concentration camps. From that point on the movie seemed to flow with a sense of direction and interviews that were actually intriguing. Richard Dawkins’ perspective was fascinating as he clearly tied religion and worldview to the position one takes on science, specifically human origin. Religion and science cannot be two different categories.

Dana and I decided that for the price of free, it’s worth bringing to our community for a screening since it’s not playing anywhere close. We’ll target mostly high school and college students in our community while intentionally keeping our church’s name off the event.

For your purposes in youth ministry, don’t expect the movie to convert all your students to Intelligent Design, nor to even turn them off to evolution as a science. It may help spark some discussion in your group, though, so be prepared to respond accordingly.

Posted on April 18, 2008

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  • NP

    “Religion and science cannot be two different categories”.

    It depends on who you ask. Dawkins does not speak for science; nobody does. Science is not the cabal that is portrayed in Expelled; it is comprised of individuals from all backgrounds. Indeed, there are devout Christians and biologists like Ken Miller and Francisco Ayala who see no conflict with their religion and science.

    By the way, if you’re intending on showing your youth group this film, please make sure they are also getting all the facts:

  • Robert Conn

    Wow, I too saw it tonight and was blown away. First of all I knew it would not be a movie where “Christianity” wins. I think that is too often what we hope for as believers (that something will tell the story so we don’t have to). But what amazed me was how the proponents of Darwinism were dead on when it comes to the religious people. They were comfortable with religion as long as it stayed in its shell and was something that we “did on the weekends.” For that is exactly what religion is to most. A hobby of sorts. I also find it interesting that scientists who do not necessarily believe in God are being persecuted for holding to ID when Christians across America scream intolerance when the hint of persecution arises.

    It is a brilliant film and brilliantly made. That’s my opinion but after all I was not going to be entertained nor was I expecting Stein to make me laugh either.

  • Blerag

    So do you accept intelligent design (which was found by a conservative, Bush-appointed judge to be religion) as a replacement to evolution?

  • Blerag

    Just a simple question:

    Does the movie ever mention the fact that Stalin rejected evolution because he thought it led to capitalism?

    If not, why do you think that is?

  • Glad to hear your opinion, Tim. I spoke with a pastor today at lunch who told me that he saw this movie just yesterday and that I MUST see this movie. I think I would probably have the same response to the movie as you did. It’ll for sure be thought-provoking but probably bore me to tears.

  • Tom Bilderback

    I havent seen the movie yet but Students have heard the other side long enough in public school. Evolution has been promoting itself long enough and not held to any standard of accuracy. I am not even a Bush fan but that was a pot shot to say this was dreamed up George Bush. Dont give him that much credit. This was going on before he was pushing for it.
    I teach abstinence in our public school and I talk with them about the other view- safe sex. Students will make their own choices and we should be big enough to tell them about both sides and let them make their own decisions.

  • NP

    Tom B:
    “I havent seen the movie yet but Students have heard the other side long enough in public school. Evolution has been promoting itself long enough and not held to any standard of accuracy. I am not even a Bush fan but that was a pot shot to say this was dreamed up George Bush. Dont give him that much credit. This was going on before he was pushing for it.
    I teach abstinence in our public school and I talk with them about the other view- safe sex. Students will make their own choices and we should be big enough to tell them about both sides and let them make their own decisions.”

    Abstince and safe sex are not scientific issues per. Science is based on evidence, and at this point in time the evidence for evolution indicates that common descent is true beyond any reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the mechanism proposed by Darwin i.e. natural selection has been observed in populations in the wild e.g. Darwin’s finches, cichlid fish, as well as in the laboratory with bacteria and fruitflies. We also observe it’s effects in human populations, e.g. the higher incidence of sickle cell anemia in regions prone to malaria. Therefore, it is a robust theory and merits its inclusion in science curricula. Students should definitely be taught to be skeptical of all scientific theories, but more importantly they need to know that ultimately they need evidence to back up any contrarian claims. This sort of thing occurs in mainstream science all the time; for example, you might be aware of Punctuated Equilibrium which the famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould championed. The theory fostered plenty of debate with the notion of Gradualism, but the debate was not about whether evolution occurs, but how it occurs. Similarly, when Lynn Margulis posited that the organelles of cells arose from symbiosis, her hypothesis was met with a lot of criticism and ridicule. However, when evidence for this hypothesis accumulated, it gained widespread acceptance in the scientific community.

    Intelligent Design provides no real falsifiable evidence for its claims. Dembski’s ideas on the Explanatory Filter and Complex Specified Information have not been published in peer-reviewed journals of mathematics. The argument from design might make for an interesting philsophical or theological debate, but without falsifiable evidence it cannot be considered a science. There’s no good reason why Intelligent Design should be taught as a part of the science curriculum in schools. When the ID movement had an opportunity to showcase its scientific merits in the Dover trial, many of the prominent ID advocates in the Explled film failed to show up for whatever reason. Michael Behe, who did show up, admitted that if Intelligent Design were to be considered science, then astrology would also have to be considered so. And this is the real issue at stake – even many scientists who are theists recognize that Intelligent Design is not science, and therefore does not deserve a place in the science classroom. Of course, if its proponents want to argue that it is science, then they have to understand that the scientific process is not comprised of a debate forum where the best documentary (propaganda) film wins. They better start turning up some actual evidence like the real rebels did.

  • Blerag

    Terrace Crawford: Why MUST you see this movie? The movie is misleading and dishonest and pretends that evolution and religion are impossible to combine. But the fact is that even the pope accepts evolution! If you see this movie, all you will achieve is to flood yourself with lies and misinformation from religious bigots who lie about what science is.

    Tom Bilderback:

    “Evolution has been promoting itself long enough and not held to any standard of accuracy.”

    Sorry, but this is simply an outright false claim. Even the conservative christian Judge Jones ruled that evolution is science and ID is not. Judge Jones was appointed by Bush on recommendation from creationist senator Rick Santorum, by the way…

    Anyone claiming that Evolution is “not held to any standard of accuracy” is simply ignorant.

  • Ed

    I haven’t seen the movie but I know it’s about evolutionists blackballing, censoring, and even threatening the opposition, to even discuss flaws or other ideas. I’ve seen it first hand so I dont need to see the movie to know the intolerance, bigotry and hatred of the evolutionist community for even the slightest discussion. They’re downright vicious in their attacks.

    And to prove that the movie is right on point… just read the blogs in opposition to the movie. They aren’t about go see the movie and then see for yourself. They try to keep people from going to see it. No open debate there.

    And they aren’t attacking the point of the movie (censorship and all that), they attack those who go see it. They know what it says about what they do is correct. But they twist the movie to be about proving ID or make it about religeon vs science. They’re doing all they can to keep people from confronting the fact that they own the debate and refuse to let anyone else in on it.

    Dont believe me? Just read the opposition to the movie posts on this very blog.

    Blerag and NP both prove the point of the movie. Good job guys. You’ve done your share for marketing the movie for them. Refuse real debate and just attack those with a different view.

    Personally, I don’t need to see the movie now. The attacks from the evolution community against this movie, those involved, and those who actually go see it have proven the point to me. They have completely backed up everything that is claimed by the group who made the movie.

    The evolution crowd in the scientific community are against any real debate about their conclusions. They are in fact more narrow minded and opposed to truth if it lay outside their strict guide lines than any group I know of.

  • NP

    I apologize if I come across as being “vicious”, but I assumed that debate was what the proponents of ID wanted and didn’t think I was being particularly menacing.
    On the one hand, they want their ideas to be taught as part of a perceived “controversy” in classrooms, yet when they are challenged they scream persecution. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say we are against debate, and then feel attacked when your views are challenged. Who exactly is against debate?

  • Tim,

    I don’t think you and I saw the same movie. I wasn’t bored at all. I found it interesting and educational. It isn’t entertaining… it isn’t meant to be entertaining. I think it did expose some of the bias present in academia.

    BTW – is nothing but a Darwinist propaganda piece meant to do a hatchet job on the movie. The fact they are going after this movie fast and hard (even before it came out) is a sign that they know there are gaps in the theory of evolution.

    The main thing that this movie promotes is free speech – shouldn’t we have freedom of thought in our colleges & universities.

    I think this is an excellent movie to show and accompany it with reading the youth edition of Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Kids need to hear that there is scientific evidence that points to design. Since they don’t hear it in the public school, they should at the very least, hear it from the Church in and Christian homes.

  • Lenny

    To be honest, I'm quite surprised and actually shocked at how many Christians rally in defence of evolutionism. You see so many so called Christian's displaying all the same bitter tactics of the world against our own brothers and sisters in the Lord. It comes across in the movie, but you don't have to see the movie even you can just look at a few christian blogs, like this one.

    I'm not a scientist, I cannot really comment with any real authority in the science area of this issue.
    But I would think this being a Christian Youth Ministry Blog, we would be looking at what the theological implications of this issue are rather than the scientific.

    On that note I feel most creationists are fighting the wrong battles. They argue science against science. “This discovery means that God created the world in six literal days” to which the evolutionists replies, “yes but this discovery proves that the earth is millions of years old.”
    There is one truth, and the scientific evidence must point one way. But either of the two sides is misinterpreting the evidence to suit their own bias. There must be another way to decide what to believe.

    As Christians our beliefs about things like: “Where we come from” come from GOD'S WORD. Lets not read our scientific presuppositions into the Bible. We need to be objective and ask, what does God's Word say, and what does it not say. Of course it wont have all the scientific details (that's what scientists are for), but it will give us the answer to: “Who we are, Where we come from, and Who God is”. Everything that we need to to know to live God honouring lives in this world is found in the Scriptures. After all, we all believe that He is the author of both the Bible and Creation.

    I see a great theological problem with trying to combine an evolutionary view of origins and biblical Christianity. Please note that I am not talking about natural selection and micro evolution, but macro evolution. In other words all living things including humans, evolving from a single organism.

    Let's assume for a moment, that God used evolution over a period of millions of years to create life. That would mean that before man existed, there had been millions of years of evolution, millions of years of creatures dying, in order for natural selection to occur and for the evolutionary process to move forward. That's all very well, but Paul says in Romans that: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” . So before the fall, there was no sin, and therefore no death.
    This is one of the reasons why God could look at his creation and say “it is Good”. Could God really say “It is good”, if He where standing on a graveyard of dead creatures, who had been ripped limb from limb by creatures more evolved than themselves. The implications of evolution is that there was death before the fall, and that means that sin is not the cause of death. Death was there before sin. Which makes The Lords words rather meaningless :“The day you eat of it, you shall surely die”, or Paul's words “the wages of sin is death”. And if death is not the result of sin, then what possible good would it have done for Christ to DIE to pay the penalty for sin. Then the cross would make no sense. And If death is not the penalty for sin, then Jesus might have conquered sin on the cross, but the last enemy of death would still remain. Then you have to ask yourself what was the point of the resurrection? It was to prove that Jesus has triumphed over sin and death! So if you hold to a view that death existed before the fall, you really open up a huge can of worms, and you will find yourself running contrary to a myriad of New Testament texts! So as you can see our view of origins has a huge impact on our understanding of the Gospel. I would even say that the Gospel stands or falls on a literal view of Genesis 1-3.

    PS, I know this a pretty dead topic, but in SA we are a year behind you with all our movies.

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