There’s been a lot of buzz around the new shockumentry “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. Wikipedia has a fairly well referenced account of the events so far, but I’ll summarize briefly for those who may not have been following the debacle.
The movie has worn many faces in its journey so far: it claims to be a documentary about how Big Science has been expelling its members should they show any inclination towards believing Intelligent Design. It ends up being a rabid anti-evolution propagana engine whose trump card involves blaming all evolutionary biologists for the Holocaust. But once upon a time, for as long as it was convenient to fool a few big names into giving interviews, it was masquerading as a little film called “Crossroads”, which was supposedy about investigating why creationists still cling to their beliefs about evolutionary theory in the face of overwhelming evidence. Mainstream critics think it is a poorly-made, amateurish attempt at filmmaking, scientists think it’s a pack of lies, and the christians think it’s Oscar material.
Ignoring all the deviations into fantasy, the core premise is basically this: they bring forward a number of people who have recently claimed to have been ‘expelled’ by Big Science because of their beliefs. What we really have is a volunteer editor who pulled a last-day-on-the-job fast one by slipping an ID paper past his journal’s review process, a sub-par astronomy professor who failed in his tenure application because his research output was not up to scratch, a teacher whose contract was not renewed after several students lodged complaints about her, a professor whose university wanted him to make some changes to his website before they would continue to provide him with free hosting for it, a journalist who suffered apparently nothing as result of her poorly-researched articles, and a pro-ID advocate who had some people say some mean things about him on the internet.
Given that this content doesn’t exactly make for stirring stuff, it’s no wonder that the Expelled team had to jazz things up a bit. But let’s assume for just a minute that they didn’t have to lie and resort to hysterical theatrics to draw this pity party out into a feature-length film. Let’s assume for a moment that they could find even one, just one, person who had legitimately been fired from their job as a scientist or educator as a result of their pro-ID stance, and with an otherwise sterling and exemplary record. What I want to know is, even in that situation, would Big Science be wrong?
Seriously, let me put it a few different ways so that you can see what I mean. Would we be suprised at any of these headlines:
- Biology teacher fired for advocating Stork Theory
- NSF denies astronomer funding for Sun Sign Astrology research
- National Geographic editor ridiculed by colleagues after slipping pro-Flat Earth article into print
- Doctor ”shocked” by online response after blog post encouraging the medical establishment to study The Force
- Cambridge professor ordered to remove his Raelian Research Center page from the university website and return funding received from the Raelians
- Journalist’s integrity questioned after article claiming “There was no Holocaust”
Can you imagine your child coming home from school and telling you that their teacher was teaching them how to cast spells and hexes, and they needed a newt for homework? You’d be on the phone to the school in a jiffy. What would follow may be summarized by a brief animation of the becloacked hag being booted out of the school and her broomstick following swiftly after. No one would raise an eyebrow, except perhaps a few velvet-clad, Anne Rice-reading pagans protesting something about white magic. Certainly no one would make a movie about how advocates of Witchcraft are being expelled from schools across the country by Big Education, and it’s Salem all over again and the principal is personally responsible for the Inquisition (cleverly intercut with scenes from Joan of Arc, for which they are swiftly sued by Luc Besson).
The whole thing is ludicrous. Ben Stein may as well have made a movie about how second-rate hacks at the denoument of their careers are making fools of themselves in cinemas across the country, and being unjustly harrassed by Big Critics.