Saturday, April 26, 2008

Talk About Movies: “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Matthew Lickona and Ernie Grimm discuss current and classic films from a Catholic perspective
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Directed By Nathan Frankowski
Starring Ben Stein
USA, 90 minutes, Color, English, 2008
Bishops' rating: Not yet rated

Matthew: I didn't object to Ben's visiting Hadamar and Dachau. It didn't play like exploitation to me, because he made his case -- Darwin noting that humanity worked against natural selection by caring for its weakest members and allowing them to propagate, and then implying that such a practice was absurd, since no farmer would ever allow his weakest animals to breed. Such a notion dovetailed nicely with the extermination of the disabled at Hadamar, which in turn dovetailed with the idea of eliminating inferior races at Dachau. And Ben even got the Cornell prof to lay it out in explicit fashion: Considered in a certain light, evolution eliminates the foundations of morality, and even human free will. But what made it jarring, and possibly problematic to a hostile viewer, was the sudden shift in tone, from an almost flippant tour of academic hijinks to a solemn meditation on humanity's capacity to embrace evil on intellectual grounds. Granted, Ben is trying to make the case that the academic hijinks are linked to the embrace of evil, but the shift still feels extreme.

Ernie: The shift is abrupt, but I had no problem with it. Neo-Darwinists, and those who blindly follow them, need to be confronted with the reality that, as mathematician David Berlinski told Stein, Darwinism, though not a sufficient cause of Naziism, is a necessary cause. The leap from Darwinism to eugenicism is very short, and Stein quotes Darwin making that very leap himself. ("No farmer would ever allow...") And Bringing Nazis (and the Berlin Wall stuff) into the film serves another purpose -- to illustrate the absolutism and ruthlessness that exists in academia surrounding the theory of evolution. Now that Darwinists rule academia, they will brook no contradiction, and they will happily commit employment assassination even against tenured professors who dare even to mention intelligent design. The Darwinists even have their own Gestapo in the National Center for Science Education led by a modern day Heinrich Himmler named Eugenie Scott.

Matthew: But that's my point. The tenured professor didn't lose tenure; he had a web site shut down. Granted, it was a web site set up to fish for grants, and grants are important. But he didn't lose his job, and that was the only time he'd ever had that happen. Was it lame? Yes. Was he really "Expelled"? Not quite. One guy did get denied tenure, and others really did suffer. But I can see how some people would argue that Ben was stretching things with the analogy. Still, let's not quibble. Let's talk about Dawkins and seeded life on earth...

Ernie: You and "some people" are quibbling over semantics. One lady did lose her job. The astronomist lost his job. The journalist lost her job. And the guy from Baylor had his funding web site taken away and presumably would have lost his job were he not tenured. I think Stein was well within the bounds of artistic license to call it “Expelled.”

Richard Dawkins showed utter disdain for anybody with any religious faith. You have to be pretty sure of yourself to call 97% of the world's people delusional because they believe in a deity. I love that Stein got him to talk about "the very interesting possibility" that aliens much more intelligent than ourselves had planted the seeds of life on earth. Belief in God: delusional. The idea of aliens of higher intelligence seeding the earth with all future life: intriguing theory. The smug grin on Stein's face during that exchange was priceless.

Matthew: And kudos to Ben for not pressing Dawkins on the point. He could have pointed out that Dawkins' alien intelligence theory was a big fancy dodge, because the natural next question is, "Where did that super-intelligent alien life come from?" Perhaps an even more ancient super-intelligent race of aliens. But if you keep working back like that, you start sidling up to the Uncaused Cause, don't you? But instead of asking about this, he lets the viewer think this up on his own, and it's to his credit. Instead, he asks Dawkins if he's sure he doesn't believe in some form of deity -- since that's what he's basically just described with his super-intelligent being capable of bringing forth life from what is lifeless. CaliforniaCatholicDaily

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