The new film Expelled which highlights the intelligent design controversy, opened in the USA last weekend, in 1000 cinemas. The actor, game-show host and former presidential speech writer Ben Stein interviews scientists and journalists across the world to understand how the ID debate is being played out and explore its wider implications.
Stein meets various scientists whose careers were damaged after they published in favour of ID. He then interviews leading Darwinists and other more neutral academic onlookers, to gain their perspective on what happened and the general background of the events. The main emphasis of the film is a lack of freedom of speech in the scientific community. On the way, scientists explain current theories for the origin of life, discuss the difficulties of rigorously testing evolutionary theory, and describe the amazing complexity of living cells, visualised with realistic and beautiful animations.
Stein also investigates some of the possible moral, social, cultural and spiritual implications of Darwinism. The particular focus is on eugenics in the USA and Germany in the early twentieth century. The leading Darwinists whom Stein interviews are very forthcoming about their own religious views.
The film culminates with an interview with Richard Dawkins, held at the Natural History Museum in London. Dawkins says little that he has not already published, but those who have not read his latest book may be surprised at some of his admissions.
Ben Stein’s deadpan style and the range of interviewees and locations hold attention throughout the film. The current day interviews are interspersed with black and white footage from the 1950s which is used variously to provide humour, recount history, and draw startling parallels.
The film is aimed at an American audience, with references to the Declaration of Independence and investigation of cases of discrimination in the USA. But it is very relevant to the UK and Europe. Many of the interviewees (on both sides of the controversy) are British, or based in the UK: Sir John Polkinghorne, Prof. Alister McGrath, Dr John Lennox, Prof. Steve Fuller, Prof. Richard Dawkins and Prof. Peter Atkins.
Opposition to ID is perhaps stronger in British universities than in the USA, and many scientists have been intimidated or discriminated against for this reason. The cases covered in this film are the tip of an international iceberg.
DVDs of this film, with much additional material, are due for release this winter.