Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Review of "Expelled"

I went to see Ben Stein's film "Expelled" this past Friday night. I was surprised by the production quality and rhetorical power of the movie. I learned a bit, but came away a little disappointed and a little confused.

I was confused because I just don't know what to make of "he said, she said" blabber that so typically permeates these debates. For instance, Richard Von Sternberg claims he lost his position at the Smithsonian (as editor of a journal) and had his reputation smeared because he published a paper by Stephen Meyer (ID advocate). I read the reviews and the "other side" claims that this is false, and that he had planned to step down as editor of the journal well before Meyer's article was published. Other claims made by the movie have been contested by opponents. Who do I beleive? Both parties have a vested interest in being right. Neither is objective.

I was disappointed, because the film, while powerful, was ultimately misguided. The only effect I think the film could have is to generate public outrage at these alleged academic persecutions. And then what? Should we have the public demanding that journals publish articles by ID scientists? Should we have university presidents pressured by alumni into hiring pro-ID professors? Academia may not be a democracy, but it sure ain't supposed to work that way.

I wish I could say "Leave it to the journals to decide!" but I'm afraid ID proponents sometimes aren't getting a fair shot. Is everything they submit for publication really that bad? That's hard to believe, given the credentials these men and women possess.

In the end, I think the film did exactly what it was supposed to do -- provide a "Farenheit 911"-style propoganda piece for the ID movement. But in the end, I'm afraid it will generate more heat than light.

Here's the New York Times review, and a response.


Anonymous patrick said...

Ben Stein's goal in making Expelled (i gather) is to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

4:33 PM  

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