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Full of patronizing, poorly structured arguments, Expelled is a cynical political stunt in the guise of a documentary.
Full of patronizing, poorly structured arguments, Expelled is a cynical political stunt in the guise of a documentary.
All Critics (46)
| Top Critics (19)
| Fresh (5)
| Rotten (41)
| DVD (1)
This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions, segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, etc.
Don't expect any serious debate here about God and evolution. This documentary is like watching a paranoiac making fun of a hysteric.
This film is an appallingly unscrupulous example of hack propaganda and it sucketh mightily. What's more, I didn't laugh once.
Embracing evolutionary theory will turn you into a close-minded, God-denying Nazi -- that's the upshot of this ludicrous propaganda piece.
Expelled is a classic bait-and-switch, presenting itself as a plea for freedom in the scientific marketplace of ideas, while actually delivering a grossly unfair, contradictory, and ultimately repugnant attack on Darwinists.
Regardless of your personal views, Expelled's heavy-handed bias (a visit to Darwin's home gets the same eerie music as a tour of Dachau) is exasperating.
I won't go into the details of the film's polemic. But one of its problems is that it has a double agenda.
A the point where the film starts exploiting the Holocaust to score cheap shots.. there's no laughter left, only pure, unbridled disgust.
To grant Expelled any credibility beyond the opening minutes requires nothing short of a leap of faith.
Despite some occasionally sloppy filmmaking, I think the picture is worth a look. It raises important ideas and issues, asks important questions. No one could argue against that, right? Bueller...Bueller...Bueller...
Ignorance may be bliss, but encouraging it, as Expelled does, ought to be a crime.
Like Moore, whose documentary-cum-polemical style they are clearly imitating, the makers of Expelled give their critics too much ammunition, so even if you're sympathetic to some of the ideas and the underlying argument, it is still difficult to defend.
Well made and interesting. This is about religion. Don't let that scare you off though.
While most documentary films I have seen about God are making fun of those who believe in Him this one just sets out to ask questions and lets you make your own mind up about the answers given.
While most interviewers would go the easy route and interview some of the weaker supporters of the "other side" this one goes straight to the top minds of the field of evolution and questions them openly and honestly about what they believe.
Check it out.
obviously the rub with this film is due to the emotionally charged nature of its subject matter. because of this people keep challenging the fact that this film offers no scientific data to back up any claims, when in fact the film never pretended to be about that. this is simply a look at the loss of the freedom of ideas and beliefs being presented in a public format without fear of persecution. unlike bill maher who made a documentary this year highlighting the charlatans of religion but dishonestly passing them off as the norm, stein offers an interesting look at a sad series of events in academia that should worry the religious and non religious alike. a bit tedious at points, but overall compelling.
I think he had his heart in the right place. The overarching message: That the scientific community is close minded and you have to kick against the pricks to change it. Most ground breaking scientists had to do that, in face most anybody anywhere that changed any ideas has had to do that. I think it would be a good idea if intelligent design was further studied and explored with some actual money, because it's STUPID to think that scientist's have it all figured out. I think both can be right, with parts not fully understood yet.
Anyways, the 'documentary' does what most movies made for entertainment try and do...they try to entertain. Not a good idea when you're trying to prove a serious point. Putting up funny black and white videos to insult someone after they just spoke only makes you look like a jerk. Not only that, but the video goes into a completely unnecessary tangent about Darwinism leading to Hitler. STUPID. That took it so far that it only hurts his already credible argument.
[COLOR=DarkRed][FONT=Arial]Ben Stein is best known as the monotone teacher in [I]Ferris Bueller's Day Off[/I], but the man has also been a speechwriter for Nixon, a game show host, and popular figure of deadpanned irony. [I]Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed[/I] follows Stein as he travels across the world interviewing scientists, authors, professors, and others about what he sees as a disservice to science and America. "Big Science," as he refers, is so heavily entrenched in the theory of evolution and the teachings of Charles Darwin that they are unwilling to even broach alternative approaches. Intelligent Design believes that life is far too complicated to occur randomly, and thus must have been created by some powerful supernatural designer. The teaching of evolution is still seen as a controversial subject and I.D. proponents want their theory to be given equal time.
Stein tries to skew his argument into one about freedom. The Constitution calls for the freedom of speech and our nation is built upon the bedrock of being a marketplace of ideas. Stein compares the resistance in the scientific community to Intelligence Design to the Berlin Wall, and he argues that I.D. proponents just want to open up the dialogue. Detractors warn that I.D. is just Creationism in sheep's clothing, and indeed the U.S. courts have ruled the same way. The problem with Intelligent Design is that it can't really apply to science. Science can only test what exists in the natural world, and religion by definition deals with the supernatural and thus can't be tested. It's one thing to say, "The sky is blue because God made it so," but what else do you do with that as a scientist? Where do you go from there as a teacher? Science textbooks would be awfully thin, since you would just need one sentence to sum up all of existence. Evolution begins with the start of life and no one has a strong feel for how life began, but I.D. runs into the same wall if you think about it. Saying, "God created life" leads to the question, "How was God created?" and now we're back where we started. Personally, I don't see why evolution and religion have to be seen as forces that cancel each other out.
Ignoring the subject matter, [I]Expelled[/I] just doesn't even work effectively as an expose documentary. The movie continuously jumps to old newsreel footage as a visual resource even for mundane conversations. It happens again and again. Either the filmmakers thought their audience had ADD or was too stupid to sit through an interview without several jump cuts to visual reference points. Some of the clips are fun in a goofy retro way but the whole decision comes across like a narrative crutch and it makes [I]Expelled[/I] feel erratic. Stein doesn't try very hard to disguise his interview style, which includes him leading his interview subjects and lobbing softball questions like, "Intelligent Design is just Creationism, right," and the audacious, "What was the purpose of the concentration camps?" I think it is telling that the interview subjects are not given lengthy reactions and are not pressed into actually presenting what Intelligent Design proof that exists. In contrast, the evolutionary scientists interviewed are intercut with clips of Nazis and Communists soldiers. I don't even think Michael Moore would have chosen to go that obvious, manipulative route.
While I'm on the subject of Moore, Stein follows some similar ambush tactics and they are obvious and obnoxious. Stein tries to walk into the Smithsonian Center to get a statement as to why a prominent scientist was released and ends up getting kicked out. Did he expect anything different? Portions of [I]Expelled[/I] come across as transparently staged, and upon some research I have learned that some were indeed staged. The film opens and closes with Stein addressing a full crowd of college students. They erupt in rapturous applause by the end of his speech and give the man a standing ovation. That crowd was nothing more than paid extras and Stein has never traveled the college circuit to speak on Intelligent Design. The scientists that were interviewed were also misinformed and told that they were being filmed for a documentary called [I]Crossroads [/I]about the "intersection of science and religion." The evolution scientists interviewed were then barred from free public screenings. That should tell you something.
Scientists being blacklisted by their peers seems rather unfair, but the movie takes their subjects strictly at face value. I am convinced there is more to the story than [I]Expelled[/I] lets on. One woman off-handedly mentioned the phrase, and that was all, and was let go. I want to know more, but the film apparently doesn't. Stein even cuts her interview off and dubs his own voice over as she continues her story. I would have appreciated some interviews with scientists who believe in evolution and God. Given that approximately 99.97 percent of life scientists believe in the theory of evolution, so statistically there must be a healthy slew of scientists who happen to be Christians that believe in the existence of evolution.
The film is heavy-handed propaganda, sure, but man oh man does it just take an ugly turn in its last third. Ben Stein eventually makes the leap from evolution to … wait for it … Nazism and the extermination of those less desirable. Stein and some of his interview subjects are making the case that Hitler was directly influenced by the tenets of evolution and that he used Darwin's template to snuff out Jews, Gypsies, gays, the handicapped, and all those holding back the human race with their inferior genetics. There are many steps removed from Darwin to Hitler, but Stein is laying the blame of the Holocaust at the feet of Darwin's ideas. Arguably, exterminating an inferior race could be applied to the idea of natural selection (though forcibly killing millions doesn't seem very natural to me) but people were killing each other long before Darwin was ever born. Before Darwin, there was still genocide in the name of eliminating those deemed inferior, and mostly it was performed with the justification of religion. Surely historically religion has been the motivator for more death than Darwin (count the Crusades and the Inquisition). Even specifically Jews have been persecuted and put to mass death centuries before Darwin. And what about all the countries in the world that have embraced evolution as science and not gassed millions of people? But Stein persists in trying to attach the Holocaust and Nazism to evolution. To me, this is like blaming [I]The Catcher in the Rye[/I] for shooting John Lennon in the head. Darwin posited ideas and cannot be blamed for others perverting those ideas for their own gain. The film also glosses over the fact that it was Herbert Spencer who introduced the phrase "survival of the fittest,"
And yet after spending a good deal of time linking Darwin and the Holocaust, Stein throws out this caveat: "But I know that Darwinism doesn't automatically lead to Nazism." Expelled is filled with other such contradictions. It argues that science and, specifically, evolution does not disqualify the existence of God, and to this I agree whole-heartedly. Science provides the "how" in life and religion can provide the "why" for people. Science does not disqualify God and vice versa; however, [I]Expelled[/I] then trumps interview after interview of scientists that explain how evolution turned them into atheists. Huh? The film presses the irritating and confusing point that evolution will turn everyone into a bunch of atheists, but this conflicts with one of the film's central points on the roles of religion and science. Stein never goes into great detail in this area and ignores the fact that a majority of the American public is both religious and believes in evolution.
[I]Expelled[/I] starts to become an ideological dartboard by the end of its experience. Stein says evolution is responsible for eugenics, which lead to the idea of population control, which lead to Margaret Sanger founding Planned Parenthood. My reaction is: so? Planned Parenthood promotes safe sex and performs legal abortions, yes, but they have nothing to do with eugenics and religion. Henry Ford and Walt Disney were also believers in eugenics. But the interview subjects all seem to repeat the phrase "euthanasia and abortion" like it was a talking point they were handed. The exact phrasing is so precise for several interview subjects that it seems deceptive. Why does this matter at all in a movie reportedly about Intelligence Design?
I cannot honestly see anyone being converted by [I]Expelled[/I]. Skeptics and believers in evolution will fail to be swayed, and for the large Christian community the film is courting, well it will be preaching to the choir. I just discovered that there's a website called expelledexposed.com intent to hold Stein's film to review. I'm a firm believer in evolution and that Intelligent Design is religion; yeah they don't specify "who," but how many I.D. proponents were the same ones pushing Creationism in schools earlier? If they stick to the tenets of Intelligent Design then I'd like them to accept the Raelians in their camp (Raelians believe that aliens seeded our planet). [I]Expelled[/I] never makes the case for why Intelligent Design should be taught, merely that it is unfair to exclude it from the classroom. The movie presents contradictions, logic fallacies, and some disconcerting guilt-by-association arguments that border on exploitation. Even though I disagree with its ideology, from a filmmaking standpoint it falls apart. The topic of evolution's relationship to religion deserves a thoughtful and intelligent movie. This is not it.
Nate's Grade: D[/FONT][/COLOR]
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