Ben Stein — columnist, humorist, actor, game show host, economist, lawyer, law professor and presidential speechwriter — has worn many hats during his long and varied career. For his most recent project, Stein adds another: investigative documentarian.
In the forthcoming film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," Stein investigates the controversy over intelligent design (ID), the theory that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. "Expelled" follows Stein as he travels the globe speaking with accomplished scientists and educators who acknowledge an intelligent design for life and have been criticized, ostracized, denied tenure and even fired — expelled! — for those beliefs. As Stein says, “scientists are not even allowed to think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator.”
Stein talks to Dr. Richard Sternberg, former editor of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, who was fired from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for publishing another writer’s peer-reviewed journal article that supported ID. Sternberg was disparaged as, among other things, an intellectual terrorist for giving an ounce of credibility to ID. A congressional investigation into his firing is ongoing.
Stein also interviews Caroline Crocker, who was blacklisted and disciplined for mentioning ID to her second-year cell-biology class at George Mason University. In the film’s trailer, Crocker contends, “If you stand up and question Darwinism, that’s it, your career is over.”
Stein talks with many more scientists who have received similar treatment and insists there are scores more who were unwilling to appear on camera because, as one professor put it, when “I say ID, they hear ‘theocracy.’”
The “they” refers to scientific academia, which views ID as an attempt by Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists to destroy Darwinism, which posits that the universe is the result of random chance.
The film shockingly exposes the blatant hypocrisy of the scientific establishment. As Stein says in the film, “Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it’s anti-science.”
ID’s ascendance was in part the result of the limited scope of Darwinian evolution. Darwinism has nothing to say about the origins of life and is insufficient in explaining all evolution and everything we see in biology. In a candid interview, Stein interviews noted evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, who admits that Darwin’s theory didn’t even attempt to explain anything about the beginnings of life.
"Expelled" also uncovers a clear link between Darwinism and atheism. As Stein interviews a series of Darwinists, it becomes clear that, from the Darwinists’ perspective, the debate over the origins of life has little to do with whether evolution or ID should be taught in our nation’s biology classes. It quickly becomes apparent that the Darwinists’ real target is not ID but religious belief itself. To many scientists, like Dawkins and atheist writer Sam Harris, the conflict between evolution and faith in God is a zero-sum affair. If evolution is fact, then God is fiction.
This is untrue, of course. Belief that our universe had a “designer” in no way precludes science. The founding fathers of science felt religious faith made it easier to embrace science. In his recent book "What’s So Great About Christianity," Dinesh D’Souza counters the claim that there is an “inherent antagonism” between science and faith. D’Souza reminds us, as Pope Benedict has argued, “it was due to Christianity’s emphasis on the importance of reason” that modern science developed in the West and not elsewhere. D’Souza writes: “An unbiased look at the history of science shows that modern science is an invention of medieval Christianity, and that the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians. Even atheist scientists work with Christian assumptions that, due to their ignorance of theology and history, are invisible to them.”
The great irony of the entire evolution/ID debate is that it is the atheists whose views are rooted in blind faith (in Darwinism), while those scientists who suggest the existence of an “intelligent design” to the universe have had to embrace the mantle of free inquiry to do so.
The most compelling part of "Expelled" is its investigation into the historical and intellectual link between Darwinism and the eugenics movement. Eugenics attempts to “assist” evolution in order to move the human race forward into a new and improved world. Central to social Darwinism are the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest, which eugenicists believe can be helped along by controlling birth patterns. Stein offers a striking reminder of where such utilitarian thinking can lead when he visits a death camp in Hadamar, Germany, where thousands of disabled people and other “undesirables” or “useless eaters” were exterminated during the Nazi regime.
"Expelled," currently scheduled for April release, provides a comprehensive investigation of the debate over the origins of life and is a bold and convincing refutation of the notion that modern Science has no use for the hypothesis of God.