As 2008 drew to a close, the good news for the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was that their creationist propaganda movie was getting a bit of press again. The bad news is that it was in the lists of the worst movies of 2008, as well as in a fierce, detailed, and incisive review by the popular film critic Roger Ebert.
EXPELLED IN "WORST-OF" LISTS
The Onion's AV Club (2008 Dec 16), was quickest out of the gate, commenting:
There are terrible movies, and then there are terrible movies that cause harm to society by feeding into its ignorance. Nathan Frankowski's odious antievolution documentary belongs in the latter category. ... Few moments in cinema in 2008 were as shameless and disgusting as the Expelled sequence where Stein solemnly visits a Nazi death camp and unsubtly links "survival of the fittest" theory to the Holocaust.
John Serba of the Grand Rapids Press (2008 Dec 26) wrote, "Ben Stein hosts this pro-Intelligent Design documentary that forgets to include a compelling argument for this viewpoint, and instead chooses to equate Darwinism and its legions of rational scientist followers with Nazis and the Holocaust. Facts rooted in reality are at a premium in this insidious, crassly manipulative dreck." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel (2008 Dec 26) commented, "Ben Stein's documentary was a cynical attempt to sucker Christian conservatives into thinking they're losing the 'intelligent design' debate because of academic 'prejudice.'"
Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger (2008 Dec 27) described Expelled as lifting "its nonsensical knowledge of early man from an Alley Oop comic and its sense of honest inquiry from a snake-handling preacher." In the LA City Beat (2008 Dec 30), Andy Klein wrote:
Stein's "intelligent design" documentary has all the red flags — inadequate or misleading identification of interviewees, aggressively manipulative editing, extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence, and extreme leaps of logic ... particularly suggesting guilt by association, even to he point of laying blame for the Holocaust on Darwin.
And Ken Hanke of the Ashville, North Carolina, Mountain Xpress (2008 Dec 31) said that Expelled was "as corrupt a piece of work as you'll ever encounter."
Expelled fared no better north of the border. Jay Stone of the Canwest News Service (2008 Dec 26) described Expelled as "a masterwork of intellectual dishonesty." And Richard Crouse of Canada AM (2008 Dec 30) commented:
Wrapping his thesis in good old American jingoistic rhetoric — remember this guy used to write speeches for Nixon — Stein repeatedly compares Darwinist scientists to communists ... and even makes the outrageous connection between Darwin's theory and Nazism.
Crouse added, "Perhaps it isn't just a coincidence that the host's initials are BS."
ROGER EBERT ON EXPELLED
Roger Ebert reviewed Expelled in a December 3, 2008, post entitled "Win Ben Stein's mind" on his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times website (available on-line at http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/12/win_ben_steins_mind.html) — and he pulled no punches. "The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics," he wrote. And he added:
This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion.
"And there is worse, much worse," Ebert continued, taking special offense at Expelled's claim that the acceptance of evolution resulted in the Holocaust — "It fills me with contempt." Previously, the Anti-Defamation League said that the movie's claim "is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry." Expelled's lead, Ben Stein, responded, "It's none of their f—ing business," according to Peter McKnight, writing in the Vancouver Sun (2008 Jun 21).
For a thorough critique of Expelled, including a collection of links to reviews of the movie, visit NCSE's Expelled Exposed website. Additionally, a recent issue of Reports of the NCSE (2008 Sep–Dec; 28 [5–6]) is a special issue devoted to debunking Expelled, containing reports on its reception, a summary of the ways in which organizations with a stake in the creationism/evolution controversy reacted, a summary of the various controversies over its use of copyrighted material, and a detailed explanation of its unsuitability for the classroom.