Making the Grades
Science and religion have long had an uneasy and adversarial relationship. But the animosity between the two appears more obvious than ever in the universities and scientific realms of today. At least that's what host Ben Stein purports in his documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
In the film, he pits the theories of Intelligent Design, and as an appendage Creationism, against those of the Evolutionists. He details the experiences of several academics that have reportedly lost their jobs for merely mentioning the concept of Intelligent Design in their classes or writings. Relieved from their posts at several prestigious universities, forced to give up grants or ostracized by educational establishments, these academics, along with others who refused to be shown on camera, believe it is the result of suppression by scientific establishments and academies.
But who is behind this silencing campaign? Isn't scientific exploration supposed to be about putting all the possible options on the table?
Not according to Stein, who also interviews a number of researchers that oppose the concept of any intelligent design as the source of existence. They allege that evolution, based on the 1859 writings of Charles Darwin, accounts for the diversity of life forms on the planet. However, even they shy away from giving any concrete evidence for the inception of the first organic cell. Hinting at theories which include crystal formations or alien intervention, they suggest that man's ascent to the top of the food chain is the result of natural selection which left lesser life forms still wandering around on all fours.
Using footage of the Berlin Wall as a metaphor for stifling free thought, Stein goes so far as to imply that Darwinism may have fueled the rise of the Nazi regime. Whether or not viewers side with Stein's position, the film exposes what appears to be some gaping leaps of logic as well as differing definitions for the same terms. With both sides doing a fair amount of finger-pointing and postulating, the message, at times, feels heavy-handed, even for those who may agree with the movie's position.
Stein sells his film as an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech. Considering the questions that continue to surface about the genesis of life, it's evident that the matter has not been adequately addressed and won't be as long as dogmatic proponents on either side of an argument attempt to squelch it.
Although Expelled is unlikely to change anyone's hardcore beliefs--one way or the other--it is apparent that robust discussion, irrefutable scientific evidence and truth can be elusive especially when science, religion, politics and academia get mixed up in a muddy quagmire of debate.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
What is the meaning of the warning “beware of one hand clapping?” Is it important to at least acknowledge the possibility of another perspective on a problem?
What advances in knowledge and understanding have been made since Darwin’s time? What ideas or scientific discoveries would we refuse to accept if we still held to beliefs from 1859?
What role does robust discussion and inquiry play in discovering truth? What responsibility do individuals have in ensuring freedom of speech or inquiry?