Thinking Christian

Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community

Expelled: My Not-Really-A-Review

Posted on Apr 19, 2008 by Tom Gilson

Well, finally I’ve seen it. I loved it. It was entertaining, it was motivating, it was interesting, at times it was moving. That’s my short reaction.

From there, though, I’m going to say what I wish many others writing about this movie would say: I’m too engaged in it to try to write an objective review, so I’m not going to try. I have something to say, but we all know it’s coming from my acknowledged position as someone who supports Expelled’s general thesis. (This is not the time for me to support my position, by the way. I’ve done that before, I’ll do it again, but not now.)

First, I can easily tell why some people didn’t like it. If you disagree strongly with its thesis, you’re going to hate the film. Nothing else could be expected. Reviews by anti-ID writers claiming to be objective, and especially on the anti-ID blogs, need to be taken with a large grain of salt. (Reviews by anti-ID writers who haven’t even even seen the film will have to be swallowed with an entire salt-lick–or better yet, not ingested at all.)

Second, the Darwin-to-Nazism connection was not over-stated. Historical facts are historical facts.

Third, I appreciate the way some evolutionary scientists are recorded on film speaking the truth. Michael Ruse and Richard Dawkins said they don’t have a clue (well, Ruse has a clue, but not a very good one) how life originated. Will Provine said evolution means life is meaningless and free will does not exist. P.Z. Myers said one of his purposes as a scientist is to eliminate religion. This is not news to anyone who has been participating in this debate, but it will be to a lot of other viewers.

Fourth, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more noise raised about how religion is dwelt on in the film. There’s been some mention of it at Panda’s Thumb, and especially by Larry Arnhart, but I would have thought they would have been all over this. The relation between ID and religion keeps being over-simplified, and Expelled offers a ripe target for taunters who tend to do that: “See, it’s all about religion after all! Told you so!” I’ve encountered some of that, but having seen the film now I’m surprised there hasn’t been more.

But then, that’s the aspect of this debate I’m most interested in. Our church’s youth group is going to see the film tomorrow, and since I’ll be leading them later on through some reflections on it, I’ll be going with them. I’ll have more to say about this religion connection after that.

The other burning question is, what will this movie contribute to the evolution-ID debate? From the evolutionist side, anger. For others, it’s the kind of thing that ought to whet an appetite for more information. It touched on the science just enough to show that ID has something going for it–mostly in terms of the origin of life, and in the massive complexity of the cell. To believe ID is valid just on the basis of the film, having done no other study, would be jumping to an unwarranted conclusion. (Their conclusion might be right, but their way of coming to it is inadequate.)

If on the other hand the film opens the door for more research–through increased academic freedom, and increasing interest in the topic–it will have a slow but very significant effect on the debate.

In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to see Expelled.

9 Responses to “ Expelled: My Not-Really-A-Review ”

  1. Jordan says:

    Tom, you should read DaveScot’s latest UD post. He makes some excellent points (read the comment thread as well). It’s actually quite refreshing to see an ID proponent (especially one as, shall we say, “enthusiastic” as DaveScot) who’s able to remain somewhat objective about Expelled.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Jordan, I agree with you that it’s refreshing to see that there doesn’t have to be a “party line” here.

    Based on what Darwin wrote here, I think he made a manful attempt to hold on to a human ethic. I do not think he succeeded, however. It was the rest of his theory that proved his undoing. Succeeding thinkers took his fundamental theory, saw where it led, and followed it there: to the erasure of distinctions between humans and other organisms. Others took his theory and co-opted it for racist purposes. Darwin’s theory does not entail such eugenic racism, to be sure, but it doesn’t contain any decent corrective to it, either.

    I don’t accuse Darwin of any of the ethical failures that followed upon him–only of opening the door for them.

  3. Jordan says:

    Darwin’s theory does not entail such eugenic racism, to be sure, but it doesn’t contain any decent corrective to it, either.

    Ballistics does not entail shooting children & puppies, to be sure, but it doesn’t contain any decent corrective to it, either. Therefore… what?

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Ballistics doesn’t claim to be an all-encompassing view of origins, defining the nature of life and humanity.

    The question, “if materialistic evolution is true, then where do ethics come from?” is a live issue. You might think there’s an answer, but you must at least acknowledge there’s a question.

    The question, “if ballistics is true, then where do ethics come from” hasn’t really made much of a splash. I think you can see the reason the two are different.

  5. Jordan says:

    Ballistics doesn’t claim to be an all-encompassing view of origins, defining the nature of life and humanity.

    Exactly, and neither does the theory of evolution (per se)! It is true that Darwinism has been incorporated into some nasty worldviews (as has ballistics, I’m sure), but it is not a worldview in and of itself, and it tells us nothing about morality or metaphysics. It’s just a scientific theory–nothing more, nothing less. Is that the picture painted by “Expelled”? I haven’t seen the film yet, but somehow I doubt it.

    The question, “if materialistic evolution is true, then where do ethics come from?” is a live issue. You might think there’s an answer, but you must at least acknowledge there’s a question.

    Even if I were to concede your conflation of “materialistic evolution” and the scientific theory of evolution, the question you pose is open regardless of whether or not materialistic evolution is true, and theism does no better than materialistic evolution in answering it (unless waving your hands and saying, “Well, God brought ethics into being via magic”, is a valid answer). People are simply less critical when it comes to the sorts of answers theism can get away with.

    The question, “if ballistics is true, then where do ethics come from” hasn’t really made much of a splash. I think you can see the reason the two are different.

    The difference is superficial and political, and it stems from serious philosophical naivete. Darwinism, per se, is every bit as irrelevant to ethics as ballistics.

  6. Process says:

    Well said, Jordan.

  7. The Deuce says:

    Exactly, and neither does the theory of evolution (per se)! It is true that Darwinism has been incorporated into some nasty worldviews (as has ballistics, I’m sure), but it is not a worldview in and of itself, and it tells us nothing about morality or metaphysics.

    I take it that you consider evolutionary psychology / sociobiology to be a nasty worldview rather than part of Darwinism? Because that field most definitely focuses on morality/religion type issues. Are you saying that every journal article E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, etc have published on the topic is metaphysics and not science? Also, it hardly started with them. Darwin himself tried to use his theory as an explanation for morality.

  8. The Deuce says:

    unless waving your hands and saying, “Well, God brought ethics into being via magic”, is a valid answer

    You’re complaining about other peoples’ philosophical naivete, and you turn around and present that as an accurate characterization of the best theistic moral philosophy?

  9.    
Comments RSS Feed
Real Time Analytics