I was recently approached by Stacy Schlicht from the firm Rogers & Cowan who are the publicity agent for the film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Stacey offered me the chance to interview one of the filmmakers Ben Stein. I accepted the offer, which quickly became a “teleconference” open only to an “exclusive” group selected on the basis of submitted questions. After dutifully submitting my 5 questions I am informed that the teleconference planned for yesterday has now been postponed until the 18th – the planned launch date for the film.
The film’s promotion appears to be in disarray – maybe because it faces legal action for copyright violations. It has also faced strong criticism from reviewers who have been shown the film (see Expelled Exposed for links to a number of reviews). There has also been a lot of publicity generated by eviction of scientists from pre-screenings and the outrageous claims made in the film (Darwin is responsible for the holocaust!). While the filmmakers and the creationist colleagues have been arguing that “no publicity is bad publicity” it seems clear that the publicity will reduce the film’s effectiveness by creating a cynical attitude amongst film goers.
Questions for Ben Stein
I have no illusions – my questions will most probably rule me out of the teleconference. And I won’t be informed of this until the last minute – if at all. However, these are the questions I would have like to put to Ben Stein:
1: There is a strong message that this film presents a Christian viewpoint and is aimed at Christians. However, may Christians accept evolutionary science. For example, in New Zealand only 40% of Christians reject evolution. Does the film address this difference in any way?
2: Supporters of evolutionary science have also had problems with their jobs. For example:
- Professor Richard Colling at Olivet Nazerene University who has been barred from teaching general biology after publishing a book Random Designer which gives a pro-science, pro-evolution and pro-Christian message;
- Nancey Murphy, Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., who faced a campaign (initiated by Phillip Johnson the “godfather” of intelligent design) to sack her after she expressed the view that intelligent design was not only poor theology, but “so stupid, I don’t want to give them my time.”;
- Christine Castillo Comer who was forced to resign as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science – her crime was to forward an e-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism.
Does your film cover these people? If not, why not?
3: Several spokespeople for intelligent design (eg. Phillip Johnson and Paul Nelson) have admitted that ID does not yet have a theory or even a body of work. Isn’t it, therefore, premature for you to be promoting ID as a valid science?
4: Many of the most active supporters of capitalism have effectively been social Darwinists – monetarists like Margaret Thatcher, for example. The eugenics movement was also very strong in the US and many western democracies. It probably still has many followers in these countries. Shouldn’t you therefore be highlighting monaterists and similar supporters of capitalism as evil results of Darwinism?
5: Richard Dawkins says in A Devil’s Chaplain: “But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. … There is no inconsistency in favouring Darwinism as an academic scientist while opposing it as a human being; any more than there is inconsistency in explaining cancer as an academic doctor while fighting it as a practising one.” This would also be the position of most scientists. Does your film explicitly identify this very important position?
Stacey also informed me that no screenings of Expelled are currently planned for New Zealand, which in itself suggests that it won’t be the record-breaking success many creationists are hoping for. But a valid question is – why should we bother? Shouldn’t we in New Zealand just ignore the film and leave it to American supporters of truth and science to fight it out themselves?
I agree that the issue doesn’t have the same immediacy here. But the film is being promoted by several groups in New Zealand (see for example Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein Smart Bombs Darwinian Bunker, New Zealand Home Schooling, New ID Briefing Packet for Educators, The first “Expelled” trailers are out…). Once on DVD these groups will no doubt organise showings at their churches.
The film may never be shown in New Zealand theatres. However, the very promotion of the film means that the dishonest and libelous arguments used in the film are being promoted locally. These need to be challenged.
Expelled producers accused of copyright infringement
Will the public ever see Expelled?
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed–Scientific American’s Take
Michael Shermer’s Review: Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin
John Rennie’s Review: Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed
Science Talk Podcast: Expelled Explained
Roundtable Discussion with Mark Mathis