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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, by Ben Stein

Review of Ben Stein’s controversial documentary, €œExpelled: No Intelligence Allowed. But is it the right controversy?

DVD review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008), a documentary by Ben Stein

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed has been the center of controversy, as though the movie was trying to disprove Darwinian evolution, or to prove Intelligent Design.   In truth, it frankly doesn’t attempt to do either.   Instead, it attempts to deal with one fundamental question: why is any criticism of current scientific thought unacceptable?

In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed Ben Stein uses the controversy over questioning Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to ask the question, “Why is this a sacred cow?”  Ben interviews several academic people who have been penalized for questioning any tenet of evolution.   Along the way, he introduces Intelligent Design (the theory that an intelligent force or forces is partially or totally responsible for life on Earth) as an alternative to evolution.   This isn’t to say that he’s championing Intelligent Design; he’s using it as an example of something that cannot be mentioned in Academia, without repercussions.

In all, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a good documentary dealing with the subject of academic freedom.   It’s a pity that it’s been overshadowed by the larger controversy.

I’ve watched Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with my wife, 17-year-old and 14-year-old daughters, and all of us enjoyed it.   I wouldn’t bother watching it with anyone younger, but Ben Stein does his normal job of being educational and entertaining at the same time.   I rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Editorial review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, by Ben Stein, courtesy of

Big science has expelled smart new ideas from the classroom — €What they forgot is that every generation has its Rebel! That rebel, Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) travels the world on his quest, and learns an awe-inspiring truth — €that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired — €“ for the crime of merely believing that there might be evidence of design in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance. To which Ben Says: Enough! And then gets busy. NOBODY messes with Ben.

Quotes from Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed by Ben Stein

Ben Stein: We are losing our freedom in one of the most important sectors of society: science. I have always assumed that scientists were free to ask any question, to pursue any line of inquiry, without fear of reprisal. But recently I’ve been alarmed to discover that this is not the case.

Ben Stein: What other societies have used Darwinism to trump all other authorities, including religion? As a Jew, my mind left to one regime in particular.

Ben Stein: But will eradicating religion really lead to a modern utopia? Let me try to imagine that and let’s let history be our guide.

Religious war

Jeffrey Schwartz: This conflict over the principles of evolution has become a religious war. It really is no longer about scientific investigation.

David Berlinski: And I think it’s just a catastrophic mistake to have somebody like Dawkins address himself to profound issues of theology, the existence of God, the nature of life. He hasn’t committed himself to disciplined study in any relevant area of inquiry. He’s a crummy philosopher. He doesn’t have the rudimentary skills to meticulously assess his own arguments.

Richard Dawkins: — €¦if you look at the um, at the detail — €¦ details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.

Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit?

Ben Stein: What do think is the possibility that there then, intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics — or in evolution?
Richard Dawkins: Well — it could come about in the following way: it could be that uh, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization e-evolved — by probably by some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto — perhaps this — this planet. Um, now that is a possibility. And uh, an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the um, at the detail — details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.
Ben Stein: [voice over] Wait a second. Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit?
Richard Dawkins: Um, and that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that higher intelligence would itself would have to come about by some explicable or ultimately explicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously. That’s the point.
Ben Stein: [voice over] So professor Dawkins was not against intelligent design, just certain types of designers. Such as God.

How did life begin

Richard Dawkins: We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
Ben Stein: And what was that?
Richard Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self replicating molecule.
Ben Stein: Right, and how did that happen?
Richard Dawkins: I’ve told you, we don’t know.
Ben Stein: So you have no idea how it started.
Richard Dawkins: No, no. Nor has anyone.

Stephen C. Meyer: We don’t know what caused life to arise. Did it arise by purely undirected process? Or did it arise by some kind of intelligent guidance or design? And the rules of science are being applied to actually foreclose one of the two possible answers that very basic, and fundamental, and important question.

Michael Egnor: There’s nothing to be learned in neurosurgery by assuming an accidental origin for the parts of the brain we work on.

David Berlinski: Before you can ask if Darwinian Theory correct or not, you have to ask the preliminary question, is it clear enough so that it could be correct. That’s a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian Theory is: man that thing is just a mess. It’s like looking into a room full of smoke. Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined and delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from Mathematical Physics. And Mathematical Physics lacks all of the rigor one expects from Mathematics. So we’re talking about a gradual decent down the level of intelligibility, until we reach Evolutionary Biology. We don’t even know what a species is, for heaven sakes!

David Berlinski: Suppose we find, simply as a matter of fact, that our scientific inquiries point in one direction: a creator. Why should we eliminate that from discussion? — ‘Strang verboten’? How come? Why?


Ben Stein: What if after you died you ran into God, and he says, what have you been doing, Richard? I mean what have you been doing? I’ve been trying to be nice to you. I gave you a multi-million dollar paycheck, over and over again with your book, and look what you did.
Richard Dawkins: Bertrand Russell had that point put to him, and he said something like: sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?
Ben Stein: But, if the Intelligent Design people are right, he isn’t hidden. We may even be able to encounter God through science, if we have the freedom to go there. What could be more intriguing than that?

Science or metaphysics

John Polkinghorne: People who tell you, for example, that science tells all you need to know about the world, or what science tells you is all wrong, or science tells us there is no God, those people aren’t telling you scientific things. They are saying metaphysical things, and they have to defend their positions for metaphysical reasons.

Ben Stein: Hasn’t this all been resolved? I mean, aren’t we all Darwinists now? Except for a few cranks like you?
Paul Nelson: Well, it’s a funny thing that questions that aren’t properly answered don’t go away. This question is loaded with all kinds of political baggage. But one on one, in a scientific meeting, after the third or fourth beer, my experience has been that many evolutionary biologists will say, yeah, this theory’s got a lot of problems.

Ben Stein: I’m finally just beginning to grasp the complexity of the cell. Are there systems within the cell that go well beyond Darwinian evolution? Some type of cellular technology that drives adaptation, replication, quality control and repair? What if these new mechanisms have massive design implications? Well I say, so be it.

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