Shermer, Lockitch Flunk ‘Expelled’

Recently I made a few comments about the pro-creationist film Expelled, based on the preview. But I didn’t realize that the film is horrid, rather than merely stupid.

Gus Van Horn points to an article by Michael Shermer, who begins:

n 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University… It was with some irony for me, then, that I saw Ben Stein’s anti-evolution documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens with [Stein] addressing a packed audience of adoring students at Pepperdine University, apparently falling for the same trap I did.

Actually they didn’t. The biology professors at Pepperdine assure me that their mostly Christian students fully accept the theory of evolution. So who were these people embracing Stein’s screed against science? Extras. According to Lee Kats, Associate Provost for Research and Chair of Natural Science at Pepperdine, “the production company paid for the use of the facility just as all other companies do that film on our campus” but that “the company was nervous that they would not have enough people in the audience so they brought in extras. Members of the audience had to sign in and the staff member reports that no more than two to three Pepperdine students were in attendance. Mr. Stein’s lecture on that topic was not an event sponsored by the university.” And this is one of the least dishonest parts of the film.

This is of particular interest to me, because I went to Pepperdine, too.

Shermer also points out the propagandistic nature of the film:

Even more disturbing than these distortions is the film’s other thesis that Darwinism inexorably leads to atheism, Communism, Fascism and the Holocaust. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of religious believers fully accept the theory of evolution, Stein claims that we are in an ideological war between a scientific natural worldview that leads to the gulag archipelago and Nazi gas chambers, and a religious supernatural worldview that leads to freedom, justice and the American way. The film’s visual motifs leave no doubt in the viewer’s emotional brain that Darwinism is leading America into an immoral quagmire. … Cleverly edited interview excerpts from scientists are interspersed with various black-and-white clips for guilt by association with: bullies beating up on a 98-pound weakling… East Germans captured trying to scale the Berlin Wall, and Nazi crematoria remains and Holocaust victims being bulldozed into mass graves.

The film, then, is intellectually dishonest, because there is no logical connection between the biological theory of evolution and the various forms of socialism. There is, however, a logical link between religion and and the Inquisition, the Taliban, the Dark Ages, etc.

In addition, today’s most enthusiastic champions of economic liberty and individual rights are those inspired by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, which also shows that legitimate moral absolutes can only be established through reason, not religious faith. (Shermer has slammed Rand, but his prejudice against her seems to flow from the Brandens’ lies about Rand — reviewed in James Valiant’s Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics — and a basic misunderstanding of the content of Rand’s philosophy.)

Speaking of Rand, Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute makes some additional comments about the film:

“The premise of Expelled is that proponents of ‘intelligent design’ have been shunned, denied tenure, and even fired because of a conspiracy to quash the scientific evidence supporting their theory,” said Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. “But the truth is: there is no evidence supporting their theory. Intelligent design is completely devoid of any positive scientific content, and consists of nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on evolution. To the extent intelligent design advocates are facing obstacles in academia it is because they are not doing real science: they haven’t been ‘expelled’ they have flunked out of the scientific community, just as a faith healer would flunk out of medical school.

“Observe that intelligent design advocates have pumped millions into publicity-seeking, rather than appealing to scientists with facts and logical arguments. They have spent more time at Christian ‘apologetics seminars’ than scientific conferences, and have attempted to use the courts to force schools to teach their ideas. Now they are hoping to dupe the movie-going public with a film that misrepresents Darwin’s theory and the array of facts that support it — just as the makers of Expelled misrepresented the nature of the film in order to bamboozle respected evolutionary scientists into participating in it.”

I had been thinking of seeing Expelled for the same reason that I saw two of Michael Moore’s films. But I’ve decided to avoid Expelled for the same reason that I refused to watch Moore’s latest: at a certain point, unless a complete viewing is required for a review, I don’t want to spend my resources to support intellectual dishonesty.