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.