The best thing one can say about Expelled is that it’s generated any sort of controversy at all. The worst thing any film can be is ignored, especially one that is trying to start a war of ignorance (for the record, though, if they truly believe in intelligent design, surely they would have to then conclude that intelligence itself is at the top of the pile of happening traits, which would then mean that by thwarting intelligence, they are thwarting the will of God). Richard Dawkins who, along with a few other scientists, were conned into participating in Expelled. Dawkins has written up a review of the film:
The whole tone of the film is whiny, paranoid — pathetic really. The narrator is somebody called Ben Stein. I had not heard of him, but apparently he is well known to Americans, for it is hard to see why else he would have been chosen to front the film. He certainly can’t have been chosen for his knowledge of science, nor his powers of logical reasoning, nor his box office appeal (heavens, no), and his speaking voice is an irritating, nasal drawl, innocent of charm and of consonants. I suppose that makes it a good voice for conveying the whingeing paranoia that I referred to, so maybe that was qualification enough.
Funnily enough, Ben Stein is almost always cast as a parody of exactly the kind of person he portrays here only this time he’s playing it straight: for once, he believes the joke is not on him.
The alleged association between Darwinism and Nazism is harped on for what seems like hours, and it is quite simply an outrage. We are supposed to believe that Hitler was influenced by Darwin. Hitler was ignorant and bonkers enough for his hideous mind to have imbibed some sort of garbled misunderstanding of Darwin (along with his very ungarbled understanding of the anti-semitism of Martin Luther, and of his own never-renounced Roman Catholic religion) but it is hardly Darwin’s fault if he did. My own view, frequently expressed (for example in the The Selfish Gene and especially in the title chapter of A Devil’s Chaplain) is that there are two reasons why we need to take Darwinian natural selection seriously. Firstly, it is the most important element in the explanation for our own existence and that of all life. Secondly, natural selection is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-Darwinian as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-Darwinian). I approve of universal medical care (very un-Darwinian). It is one of the classic philosophical fallacies to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Stein (or whoever wrote his script for him) is implying that Hitler committed that fallacy with respect to Darwinism. If we look at more recent history, the closest representatives you’ll find to Darwinian politics are uncompassionate conservatives like Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, or Ben Stein’s own hero, Richard Nixon. Maybe all these people, along with the Social Darwinists from Herbert Spencer to John D Rockefeller, committed the is/ought fallacy and justified their unpleasant social views by invoking garbled Darwinism. Anyone who thinks that has any bearing whatsoever on the truth or falsity of Darwin’s theory of evolution is either an unreasoning fool or a cynical manipulator of unreasoning fools. I will not speculate as to which category includes Ben Stein and Mark Mathis.
How cool is Richard Dawkins? Darwin can’t catch a break. I suspect this is why there haven’t been the appropriate number of biopics about him (I’m still trying to write one) put to the big screen: he was controversial then and he’s controversial now, though I never thought this debate would not only continue (in Kansas and in homeschools across the country) but would make people passionate enough to make them actually consider creationism worthy of debate against evolution.
It is beyond irresponsible, though, to assume that Darwin had anything to do with the Nazis, except to say that if we evolved to follow a God that made it all the more easy for the Germans to worship and obey Hitler in the first place.¬† Sadly, the God folks are the ones who have some splainin’ to do where the Nazis were concerned because, as I see it, that event alone is proof that there can be no God.
The full review is here.