Is “Expelled” successful?

Science sighThe pre-launch promotion of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is over. But has the film been successful?

We can only be judge this in relation to the motivations behind the film. It is clearly just another step in the programme declared in the creationist document The Wedge Strategy. This declares the intention to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

The strategy goes further than an attack on science. It aims “to see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.” In particular it sets modern Christianity as a target – aiming to impose a “traditional doctrine of creation” on “major Christian denominations.” It also seeks to get Christian seminaries to “repudiate naturalistic presuppositions.”

Putting aside the emotional arguments has Expelled been, or will it be, successful in it aims of undermining science and the “renewal” of society? We can judge this in three areas:

Scientific Research

No! And it won’t make any inroads here if science is permitted to continue with its extremely successful methodolgy of testing ideas and theories agaisnt reality. Reality, not religious or political opinion, is the arena of validation for any scientific theory and creationist/intelligent design ideas do not do well there.

The political arena

No doubt the film gives some strength to anti-science and conservative political groups. However, modern societies and their citizens, do rely on, and benefit from, science. Realisation of this encourages opposition to the dishonest messages this film promotes – a snearing attitude towards scientific knowledge, claims of scientific intolerance and a link between evolutionary science and Nazism (see, for example, video below – Science leads to killing people – according to Ben Stein).

Within Christianity

This is where the film will have its greatest influence – and where it is targeted. The film has been promoted by conservative Christians and will continue to be used by them to promote their own messages.

In a sense conservative Christians will use the film to prosletise other Chrsitians. In fact, theistic beleifs make even liberal Christians vulnerable to the messages promoted by the film.

So the culture wars this film promotes is really taking place mainly within Christianity. The Wedge strategists see Christians as their natural constituency and they desire to eliminate what they see as the evil liberalism of pro-science views held by many Christians.

On the one hand this means that liberal Christians should recognise the danger the film (and its proponents) represent to their principles. they should actively oppose the promotion of the Expelled messages. Some Christian responses to this conservative attack can be seen at Science and Religion at NSCE Website, Science & Religion at Expelled exposed, The Clergy Letter Project and Reasons to Believe Scholars Expound on EXPELLED, the Movie.

On the other hand, we should recognise that the proselytising of Christians and mobilisation of conservative Christians is aimed at the whole of society. it is aimed at changing the ways science is done and how society is organised. It is aimed at reversing liberal political traditions.

See also:
Science and Religion at NSCE Website, Science & Religion at Expelled exposed
The Clergy Letter Project
Reasons to Believe Scholars Expound on EXPELLED, the Movie.
Expelled Exposed
Science leads to killing people – according to Ben Stein (10 min)

Similar articles:
Expelled for supporting evolutionary science
Freedom of expression and human rights
Expelled Bingo
Should Dawkins have been Expelled?
So what does Dawkins think of “Expelled”?
Expelled – the movies
Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity
Religious opposition to “intelligent design”

18 responses to “Is “Expelled” successful?

  1. Ken, I’m going to have to ask you to stop posting videos featuring Ben Stein. I’m finding that my LCD monitor is nowhere near as resilient as the old CRT ones and they cost $400 to replace.


  2. Know how you feel, Damian, although I still have the old CRT version. The more I look into these people, the more I realise just how dishonest and malicious they are and the angrier I get.

    Normally I’m not one who is attracted to conspiracy theories – but it all fits into the Wedge Strategy.


  3. -Stein’s quote (that “science leads to killing people”) = embarrasing, angering and ridiculous

    -the video = average

    -the narrator = long-winded

    -the editing = could have done 9:44 in 2:54, I think


  4. I don’t know that countering propaganda and misinformation with propaganda and misinformation solves the problem. The issues are worth talking about, but they are not worth degrading your arguments to taking clips out of context and using ad hominem arguments. The video makes this sight seem a bit Jr. Highish.


  5. on a side note. I can’t wait for Angel’s and Demons. I think it comes out later this year. 😉

    I wonder if there will be protesters outside the theater like the last movie.


  6. Never hear of Angels & Demons. What’s it about?
    It’s not something like Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed. That’s a real hoot! All about the Stork Theory of reproduction.


  7. I don’t know that countering propaganda and misinformation with propaganda and misinformation solves the problem. The issues … are not worth degrading your arguments to taking clips out of context and using ad hominem arguments.

    Well said, Michael…
    I’m repulsed as anyone by some of the anti-science attitudes and statements of Stein, but we’ve got to stop (reactively) going to the other extreme… Somebody aim for the balanced-middle please…


  8. I think the lack of success of this film in comparison to the wild success of movies like “What the Bleep do we Know” and “The Secret” are a strong indication that the vast majority of people are growing tired of a dogma that has largely failed them. One might expect that someone as educated as Ben Stein would recall the hundreds of millions of people who have been killed in the name of God as opposed to science over the last 2,000 years.


  9. Dale – can you give examples leading to your comment “we’ve got to stop (reactively) going to the other extreme.” I think you counter attacks on science with a defense of science – it’s black and white. Why see defending science as extreme? Surely “balanced-middle” in this case is immoral?

    Actually I think that we need more than a defense of science. (After all, these arguments are not taking place in the science arena at all). These people have an obvious agenda (declared in the Wedge strategy). It’s well financed, completely cynical and dishonest, and targeted very precisely in the political arena. It’s especially targeted at Christian groups. There is a clear motivation to change the whole basis of our ‘religious, cultural moral and political life.’

    Why see defense of our society as ‘extreme’? Surely exposure of their agenda is in all our interests. Again, it’s immoral to argue for ‘balance-middle’ in response to a black and white issue.

    Disagree with my post – but deal with it factually (you know I’m always interested in honest discussion). Give us you ‘balanced-middle’ response to the “expelled” message.


  10. I would love to begin a reasoned discussion with anyone here, but not in this forum. Going back and forth in replies to blog posts is a bit like news sound bites – it short-changes real discussion and emphasizes the wrong things.

    I was a committed Darwinian evolutionist for a good number of years. After all, it was all I learned in all my years of public schooling, right through college. (I was in a church only twice by the time I was 25, so there were no organized or overt attempts to ‘religious-ify’ my thinking.) However, I met someone who challenged me to actually think about what I thought I believed. And I did. And the more I thought about it, the more and more the whole idea of Darwinian evolution seemed far-fetched.

    I mean, have you actually considered the dearth of evidence for Darwinian (macro) evolution? I mean, just because Dawkins says it’s fact doesn’t mean it is. Have you honestly considered, or even searched out, any evidence against it? Or is it more comfortable to simply believe what you’ve been told your entire life?

    Have you read any of Behe’s arguments? Have you read that Darwin indicts himself (i.e., lack of evidence means theory no good)? It’s interesting that we keep believing in a theory that has virtually no evidence to support it. Why?

    OK, I’ll give one example that has stumped me. How the heck did sexual reproduction come about? I mean, just THINK about it. How does something go from asexual reproduction to mutating into male and female versions of itself (and which had to mutate at the same rate and time, otherwise what would these newly created male and/or female versions mate with)?

    Also, how does animal A (completely able to reproduce its own kind) evolve over time into animal B (also completely able to reproduce its own kind and that are not like animal A)? At some point, there had to be a cross-breed with some A and some B. What would it mate with? It’s not fully A and not fully B. Wouldn’t it be inferior to both A and B and have the least chance of survival? The mind reels at trying to imagine how this could succeed in the long run. And supposedly this has happened countless times. I can’t see how it could happen once.

    My best friend from high school is an ardent fan of Darwin. As a favor to me because I truly wanted to know, I challenged him to give me the top 5 evidences for Darwinian evolution. This was months ago. I’m still waiting for even one.

    Anyone here have any good evidence?


  11. 1. The fossil record
    2. Genetics
    3. The clumsy way in which we’re ‘made’
    4. Morphology
    5. Ring species

    Evolution is a fact observed in nature and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection was Darwin’s contribution that explained the observations. There is also Evolution by Artificial Selection that explains the differences we see in dogs and cows and broccoli and there is quite possibly other ways for evolution to occur. But so far the Natural Selection one has brilliantly described what we see in the natural world. You’re welcome to challenge it but you’ll need to do science if you want to come up with a better alternative.

    Saying something seems too complicated doesn’t provide an alternative; especially when these arguments from personal incredulity are repeatedly proven to be wrong (the bacterial flagellum included).

    Life is extremely complex but finding an aspect that you don’t understand doesn’t in any way point to the theory of intelligent design. Imagine if we’d all thrown up our hands (as the IDers would have had us do) when we came across the bacterial flagellum. No, we continued to investigate the complex question and eventually found that the bacterial flagellum is not in fact irreducibly complex. There are likely questions that we won’t have answers for for decades (even hundreds of years) to come but we’re still not justified to just drop any natural explanation and posit a supernatural one.

    If you want to play in this arena you’re going to have to come up with evidence. Evolution has it. Intelligent Design doesn’t.


  12. Well said, Damian.

    EL Fudge, all you are saying is that because you can’t understand it then nobody else can.

    Yes, I have read Behe’s arguments. But consider Behe’s attitude. He has actually proposed a way of evaluating his idea if “irreducible complexity” specifically for the bacterial flagellum. Good – that’s a start. A simple experiment observing bacterial starting without flagella over 2 years (a time he predicts is long enough to sea flagella appear). But will he do the experiment – No! He predicts it won’t work so there’s no use doing it!

    Now, if Behe did the experiment he would be doing science. He would get a result and publications out of it (This would be new for ID “research). But he prefers to stick with the ID approach of “inferring” a result without testing.

    The stupid think is that if he did the experiment he might find that no flagella actually evolved. From my experience with experimental work things often don’t turn out the way one might predict. I think that while flagella might not evolve he would actually pick up other changes, quite unconnected to flagella, but indicating evolution.


  13. Hi Ken,
    My comments re: ‘middle ground’ were referring to the the reactive nature of the video (esp. the narration). I agree that anti-science statements (esp. the ridiculous ‘science leads to killing’ one) need to be thoroughly and consistently denounced… (no ‘middle ground’ there!), but the general tone of the video (in it’s length and repetitive use of out-of-context quotes) was reactionary. One quick example is the way he reacted to Steins (bizarre and foolish) claim that ‘science leads to killing’; he responded with a claim of all the wonderful things that science has done for good… A more accurate (or ‘middle’) response would be a recognition that ‘science’ doesn’t “do” anything, but rather, is a powerful tool that can be used for bad (atomic bomb) or good (medicine, etc.). THAT would reveal Stein’s comment for the foolish and moronic thing that it is…


  14. …and… re: evolution v. ID (sigh…),

    I struggle to see how the 2-year-flagellum experiment would be conclusive as to the formation of the flagellum. If a flagellum did not form, wouldn’t the obvious complaint be that ‘it might just take more time’ – even 100 or more years?)

    Also, I could be wrong, but wouldn’t the experiment have to entail a simulated ‘change of environment’ for the various mutations to be advantageous?


  15. I don’t know that Behe has ever given a detailed protocol for of the proposed experiment. It was presented at the Dover trial as a way the ID could be falsified (to “show” that ID was as falsifiable as any scientific theory). I gather he specified a time based on what he considered was the number of generations required to show an evolutionary change.

    Personally I don’t think the time is much of an issue as these sort of changes have been observed over a number of years (e.g., the evolution of a nylon hydrolysing enzyme) and there is the recent discovery of evolutionary changes in lizards over 35 years. I think the real issue is specifying a particular change. I am sure evolutionary changes would occur (and a closely monitored experiment following changes in DNA as well as morphology would be fascinating) but it is in the nature of evolution that prediction of specific change beforehand would have a low probability of success.

    Even if the right sort of environmental factors were present to drive an adaptive change it’s quite possible, even likely, that the adaption would not include a flagellum.


  16. Damian, Ken and Dale,

    Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate your willingness to share them with an anonymous person who just pops in out of nowhere. Open dialogue is one of my favorite things (when done respectfully). However, I’m a little confused by some of the things I’m reading. (Of course, I’m a relatively young father, so the lack of sleep may have something to do with that.)

    As I see Darwinian evolution, it’s not really a theory at all since it’s not testable or verifiable. It’s really more of a narrative, a way of explaining the facts. You can’t simply state “evolution is fact” and be done with it. Ken argues that Behe should “do science” and do an experiment. What experiment can you do to verify Darwinian evolution? You can’t – it takes too much time. Oh, but that’s the beauty of it. If we assume billions of years, and deny any other method of getting from the start to where we are today, then of course Darwinian evolution is all you get.

    Damian, your comment re: “especially when these arguments from personal incredulity are repeatedly proven to be wrong (the bacterial flagellum included).” I’m sorry – please give me some reference that proves them wrong. Or perhaps you yourself could explain to me in precise terms how they’ve been proven wrong instead of just declaring it. I find the inherent weakness in not only the complete lack of transitional forms, but their genetic inferiority for survival (if they existed at all) to be one of the most damning obstacles to Darwinian evolution.

    None of you, honestly, can see anything wrong with the idea of Darwinian evolution from a scientific standpoint? It all makes sense front to back, no questions asked? So, hundreds of Ph.D. scientists raise doubts and what – they’re fringe lunatics?

    I’m not a big ID guy. To be honest, I think full-blown Biblical creationists are more honest than the ID folks. And there are quacks on both sides. But there are good scientists doing good science who happen to not take Darwinian evolution at face value. Many of the big names from the 16th-19th centuries were Bible-believing scientists, who believed that a rational God who created an ordered universe was the only thing that allowed good science to take place (Faraday, Newton, Kepler, Leibnitz, Dalton, Davy, Lister, and Maxwell to name a few). So, to tar people as “anti-science” simply for not believing Darwinian evolution is a bit ridiculous and more rhetoric than anything.

    We’ve all got the same “facts” – the same fossil record, the same genetic record, etc. However, it’s in how these facts are interpreted is where the differences are. It’s our presuppositions – the things we cannot prove conclusively – that lead us to our interpretations. No one can prove that God exists. Likewise, no one can prove Darwinian evolution. They both take a measure of faith. (I’m sure you’ll cringe to read that, but it’s true.)

    Damian, I’d like to respond to the 5 evidences you mentioned, but I’ll have to get back to you on those. Gotta get my sleep in while I can with these little ones! Oh, and just to give a bit more of my background – not that it matters, but it can sometimes round out opinions. My initial training was as a chemical engineer at one of the top programs in the country. I switched to math, and went on to earn a graduate degree in health services research. So, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the philosophy of science.

    But, like I said, not that it matters in the end. Everyone has fascinating stories to tell, from where they’ve come from to where they are now. But I’d love to know all your backgrounds, if you care to share. Good night, one and all.


  17. EL Fudge, discussion of these matters requires some clarity in use of terms. To me “Darwinism,” Darwinian,” and “Darwinian evolution” have specific meanings – especially when used in science. yet I feel you are not using these terms in that way. Can you define for us the meaning of “Darwinian evolution” as you use it?

    A quick response to some of your questions:

    1: Regarding the “hundreds of Ph. D. scientists” raising doubts I have discussed this in Scientific dissent from . . . science?, Dissenters from Darwinism in context and Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?.

    2: References to work showing Behe’s “irreducible complexity” is wrong. You could easily do a literature search of scientific journals but an easily accessible discussion of this is, and other related issues, is in Ken Miller’s video in my post Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity.

    3: “Complete lack of transitional form” is just wrong. Check out the literature or look at relatively recent discussions on the fossil records for Whales and tetrapods, for example.

    4:”What experiment can you do to verify Darwinian evolution?” Well – explain what you mean by Darwinian evolution. However, you are harbouring a misconception that scientific knowledge relies only on laboratory experiments (which, be the way, have been done in evolutionary science). In fact most scientific experiments are done by nature. And, yes, this may be over billions of years. Our development of a body of facts and resulting theory produces predictions which we can then check out. The discovery of intermediate forms in the case of whales and tetrapods worked that way. Our knowledge of evolutionary science and plate tectonics predicted that the fossils of interest could possible by found in specific areas (Pakistan for whales and Northen Canada for tetrapods). We therefore knew where to look and eventually found the fossils we were interested in.

    5: Bible believing scientists. Don’t know what you are asserting here. There are plenty of Christian scientists, just as there are plenty of Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, agnostic, etc. scientists. From experience working alongside scientists of different beliefs I know that these beliefs are irrelevant to their work. They just don’t come into their work. The minute a scientists starts to impose religious beliefs on their work they cease to be doing science. You seem to be suggesting a false dichotomy here – that a Christian beliefs is necessarily opposed to acceptance of evolutionary science. Not true in my experience.


  18. Unfortunately, it sounds like Expelled is successful, at least at the box office. They took in $3.2 million during the opening weekend. Of course, we don’t know how successful their propaganda is. They might not have to do a lot of work, though: According to the Science and Engineering Indicators, less than 50% of the US population agree that we “developed from earlier species of animals” (see Appendix Table 7-5). Sad. Even sadder is that almost a quarter still think that the sun goes around the earth… (see the same table).


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