Droning funnyman Ben Stein monkeys around with evolution with the new documentary, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they're losing the "intelligent design" debate because of academic "prejudice."
"Expelled" is a full-on, amply budgeted Michael Moore-styled mockery of evolution, a film that dresses creationist crackpottery in an "intelligent design" leisure suit and tries to make the fact that it's not given credence in schools a matter of "academic freedom."
Using loaded language and loaded imagery, Stein and Co. (Nathan Frankowski is the credited director) equate evolution with atheism, lay responsibility for the Holocaust at the feet of Charles Darwin, interview and creatively edit biologists and others (scientists "cast" for their eccentric appearance) to make them look foolish for insisting that science, not religion, can explain creation.
Stein and friends use animation (shades of "Bowling for Columbine"), amusing chunks of B-movies and even "The Wizard of Oz" and classic propaganda techniques to undercut 150 years of peer-tested research. Their goal? Create just a sliver of doubt about evolution. It's a classic Big Tobacco/"Inconvenient Truth" denial tactic.
All the loaded references to Stalin, communism et al reminded me of Khrushchev's famous challenge to the West, "We will bury you," meaning that communism would use the very precepts of Western democracy and capitalism to weaken and break us. Stein and friends use scientists' need to speak in terms of probabilities, rather than absolutes, to undercut a scientific theorem that withstands test after test, from Darwin to the Scopes Monkey Trial.
Stein, a Nixon administration functionary who re-invented himself as a movie and TV buffoon after "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," seems closer to his latter persona in this disingenuous and dishonest doc about something so silly you really wonder if he himself believes it. Or is the former host of "Win Ben Stein's Money" just trying to add to Ben Stein's money at the expense of the gullible? Perhaps that's why he's been so determined to keep his movie from anyone who might not automatically buy into its thesis, hiding it, in effect, from most members of the press.
Shockingly, the "experts" Stein hurls up against evolution are disgruntled, under-credentialed academics dismissed from lesser colleges, they say, because they wanted to teach creation rather than science. Other "experts" in the film come from anti-evolution "think tank" cranks and a Pole who invites nothing so much as a really good Polish joke.
Credentialed scientists who also describe themselves as Christian have attacked the film for suggesting they are persecuted for their beliefs. They say they aren't. Others interviewed for the film have complained of dishonest editing, misrepresentations and about not having the pleasure of having actually met Stein.
When he blurts out in one "interview" - apparently he didn't actually sit and confront some of these people himself, the film is just edited that way - "Where's the data?" you can almost hear him choke on the irony.
Where's your data, Ben? Got any? Any at all? Anyone else? Anyone? Anyone?
"Expelled" relies on the viewer's inability or unwillingness to wrestle with a complex corner of science, double-talking its way toward a "must be a miracle" solution to anything that science may not claim to have an answer for. Dismiss that for having no basis in fact, and you're infringing on "academic freedom."
That's not it at all, Ben. And really, when academia, the courts, the opinions of the educated have all weighed in on this subject on that "other side," who's the real monkey in this "debate"?
See the trailer and find local showtimes for "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times