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Ben Stein's Expelled

Published April 18, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of respective holders
Expelled Expelled

I went into Expelled with an attitude that a certain ex-girlfriend of mine would have called condescending. The prospect of a pro-Intelligent Design documentary sounded so batsh*t crazy, it had to be awesome, watching intellectuals spin a story about how they're persecuted for their beliefs. Not to say I didn't give it a fair chance, but they made it really easy for me..

Review: Expelled


The film opens with shots of oppression, from the construction of the Berlin Wall, Eastern European politicians, guillotines and gangsters. That's the Triumph of the Will technique right there. They even get Planet of the Apes in there at one point. When the gunslinger speaks in a grizzled dubbed voice, "Creationists," it's outrageous.

Ben Stein's point of view is not a religious one. It's about freedom, so that's hopeful. Of course people should have the freedom to explore any belief. You can instantly feel his bias though. He plays devil's advocate with total insincerity, blatantly leading his interviews. My issue is not with a documentarian leading interviews, it is the blatant part.

First of all, I would have gone to greater lengths to verify the reasons for Richard Sternberg's firing. Someone suggests there's more to it than a single paper mentioning Intelligent Design, but they are dismissed. For another terminated professor, they do include some soundbites from her superior.

Stein tries to be Michael Moore, staging an difficult search for the Discovery Institute to demonstrate how minimized it is. Is a shot of Stein scratching his back supposed to be humor? There's even a Bowling for Columbine style animated segment, which is a total agenda piece and it just feels like an A-hole bully.



The interesting thing about Intelligent Design is that as a theory, it sounds valid. It sounds like it's not about God per se, but the idea that perhaps instead of evolving, there was SOMETHING that created life. They never talk about teaching it in school, this is just about researching the science at all.

The film goes so off the deep end though. They start talking about the moral undertones of science and religion. Come on. Scientists who want to usurp religion are not the majority either. Nazi parallels… well, Darwin didn't say to kill people genocidally. Stein even acknowledges that, but still suggests that it could be the slippery slope. He found a quote, but use some common sense. An abstract statement does not represent the entire science of evolutionary study.

The film continues to reach so that it's not even a science debate anymore. They say Planned Parenthood began as an attempt to encourage survival of the fittest, and prevent the birth of inferiors. Obviously, that's not their agenda now. So what, the film is pro-life too?

Ultimately, as the film unraveled, I found myself wondering what the point of figuring out where we came from even is. Who cares who it started? Let's work on fixing what's wrong! Maybe the beginning would be a foundation for that, but neither side is using it to affect progress. Plus, if scientists could prove God, that would be awesome! Who's got a theory?

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Fred Topel
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