|Christians in Cinema: Expelled
Posted: Tuesday 15 April, 2008
|Ben Stein has a diversified career that has included hosting a game show (Win Ben Stein’s Money, for which he won an Emmy), authoring several books, writing speeches for Presidents Nixon and Ford, writing columns for “The New York Times,” and commenting on the news for CNN.
Christians in Cinema: Expelled
However, he may be best recognized by pop culture aficionados as the teacher with the monotone in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (“Bueller, Bueller, anyone…”)
His current project opens nationwide in theaters this weekend (April 18th). “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is the odyssey to discover why there is so much opposition to teaching Intelligent Design, in some cases leading to persecution of those wanting to teach it.
The following was excerpted from group telephone interviews with Ben Stein, Walt Ruloff, Logan Craft, and Mark Mathis, producers of the film.
Interviewer: Why are you doing this film?
Ben: I never thought Darwin gave a particularly coherent answer to the question of how life originated and developed. It seemed to me that a lot of it hung on rather flimsy thought. I’m also extremely concerned about the social implications of Darwinism, and the moral, ethical and human cause of it. I knew that Darwinism was one of the big props under the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler, and that the Holocaust was caused in large part by social Darwinism aims of killing off the so-called “inferior races.”
That was my starting point. As I got interested in the project through the producers, they began sending me books about the subject, and I realized there was a big free speech issue as well. Extremely serious infractions of the rights of free speech and extreme instances of suppression against academics who wanted to teach creationism bore study.
I think I’m engaged in a struggle that’s very much uphill, and the establishment is very much against me. I’m a rebel to my core, and I’m happy to be in an uphill struggle when the cause is right.
Interviewer: You’re known to be an intelligent person. How can you possibly question the intelligentsia who have decided that Darwinism is no longer a theory, but it’s a law?
Ben: The intelligentsia at a certain point also said that Adolf Hitler is the wave of the future, and that Communism in Russia was the wave of the future. They’ve said a great many things that didn’t turn out to be true. They said human freedom doesn’t have much of a future on this planet. They’re wrong at least as often as they’re right. We aim to show them that they’re wrong again.
We’re sick of being pushed around by the intelligentsia. Even though I am a member of the intelligentsia, I don’t enjoy being pushed around myself.
Interviewer: Is the premise of the movie that Darwinism is absolutely wrong?
Ben: Not at all. My feeling is that Darwinism is at best an extremely dangerous partial solution. I would say, based on the little that I know, that Darwinism explains micro-evolution within species quite well. As to its broader consequences and applications, I don’t think it explains individual species evolution well at all. In fact, I would challenge them to show me clear evidence of a mammalian species that has evolved by Darwinian means.
Interviewer: Question to Walt Ruloff and Logan Craft (producers). Can you tell us what the genesis of this film was?
Walt Ruloff: The film started with myself. I initiated the concept. My background is software engineering. I’ve been involved with a lot of software companies and developed very advanced optimization algorithms with a group at MIT and so forth. When I got out I started looking into bio-tech.
I was immediately amazed and disturbed that there was a whole series of questions that could not be asked around certain mechanisms that may contradict the Darwinist mechanisms, mainly random mutation and natural selection.
I come from an environment in the technology arena where you question everything. If you’re not doing that, you’re falling behind the competitor. So I got involved in the areas of healthcare and genomic research. I was just horrified to find out that these questions were not allowed to be asked.
In talking with these researches, they were very open about why. We have this one great story where we interviewed a head of a large genomics research company who basically said that, “Look, here’s how the game is played. We get tens of millions of dollars and we do our research. (the combined total from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Health (NIH)) We find a large percentage, sometimes as high as 30-35% of evidence that suggests other mechanisms going on here in the cell. We have to shelf that evidence, we have to retro-fit our findings back into a Darwinian Paradigm, to be able to publish. If we fall outside these basic mechanisms, we will not receive funding any more.”
Coming from the environment where technology moves very quickly, that was shocking to me. And healthcare is extremely vital to our society. So you could say that was the inciting incident.
The next step was that Logan, John (Sullivan) and I got together as executive producers and said “What’s the best way to take this on?” and we figured the best way was a documentary film. We formed Premise Media in 2006 and started building a team.
Interviewer: The goal was a film, not necessarily to prove or disprove a scientific theory?
Logan: It is more a question of free speech. We’re not validating one particular position; Intelligent Design or the Design Hypothesis or Creationism. It’s more that we’re observing a lock-down, and that lock-down is not for the sake of science, but for the sake of politics.
Walt: What we hope to do with this movie is to create a unified group of people in the academia – either students or researchers – to finally have the courage to speak up and question the current orthodoxy. It really is like the civil rights movement of our day. We should have an opportunity, under a unified voice, to give free speech rights to scientists, researchers, teachers, people who dissent from Darwinism. That legislation can be done, and it needs to be done.
Ben: My theory has always been that science is neutral, but Darwinism is politics masquerading as science.
Logan: It would be preposterous for a film to say, “Look, we’ve got this scientific evidence pro or con.” It’s really a freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry issue that both Walt and Ben raised.
The freedom of inquiry issue is related to this educational and scientific controversy. It is absolutely loaded with political and anti-religious baggage and bias.
Interviewer: Why would there be an establishment that would be opposed to an open discussion, or even the exposure of flaws in a current scientific theory like Darwinism?
Ben: I think it’s just self-interest. The people in Big Science, at least in the evolutionary end of it, owe their jobs to their prominence in Darwinian thinking and ideology. If the Darwinian ideology is overthrown or even questioned seriously, then they lose some of their power and their prestige. Nobody wants to lose that, so that’s part of it.
There’s also a metaphysical implication which is, if there’s an intelligent designer and his name is God, then we have a spark of the divine by virtue of being created by him. If that’s true, then there are consequences to killing us. There are consequences to murdering us as a fetus before we’re born. There are consequences to all kinds of behavior. They would be lacking if we’re just descendants of a mud puddle.
Interviewer: You’ve made the argument that Darwinism can, in fact, lead to something like Nazi Germany. Please elaborate on that.
Ben: Darwinism said, and it was very quickly picked up enthusiastically in Germany, that there were certain species that were superior to other species. It also said within species there were certain groups that were superior to others, and that all were competing for a scarce supply of food and resources. If you let the inferior beings have a big share of the food and other resources, there was less left for the superior. Therefore, the superior races would not evolve as quickly, or be as powerful, as quickly as they should, and therefore, you owe it to the master race to kill the inferior races.
This is explicitly a part of Nazi ideology, and it’s explicitly the base of Nazi ideas of killing parts of the human race they considered inferior to them: Jews, Gypsies, Eastern Europeans, all kinds of people they considered inferior and competing with them for the basics of life.
Interviewer: Do you have a personal connection to this issue and, in particular, how it relates to Nazism?
Ben: As a Jew, I am horrified, fascinated and compelled by the idea that people thought Jews were so inferior they simply didn’t deserve to live. I am compelled by the idea that if I had been living in Europe during the era of Hitler, I would have been deprived of life by virtue of a Darwinist thought, that I was inferior and competing for valuable resources with people who were my biological superior. Therefore, my life would have to be snuffed out. Yes, I have a very powerful and emotional connection with that.
Interviewer: Is anyone in the film saying that Darwinism necessarily leads to this type of abuse?
Ben: I think the idea is that Darwinism is a necessary condition for the Holocaust, but not a sufficient one.
Walt: It gives a scientific justification, at least to those people during that time.
Ben: Yes, that’s right. I think there’s always been severe anti-Semitism and murder of Jews. But this gives it a scientific sheen and a respectability to it which it otherwise lacked.
Walt: I think the key thing we’re exposing in this film is a lot of people, specifically in this generation, would like to look at that era as a bunch of wackos, people that really lost their mind. But Germans were leaders in science, and they applied all the tenets of Materialism or Naturalism to a very strict code, to kind of permeate it throughout the entire culture. And so it was a rational extension to take it to a place of something called “eugenics.” That was the first step to remove the weak, or remove the people that were basically a virus within our current species, the human species. So it was very rational for the Germans to do this.
Ben: Hitler said that Jews, Poles and Ukrainians were basically the equivalent of human tuberculosis and had to be wiped out. And by the way, there are plenty of people that agree, from other places besides Germany.
Interviewer: Who else will attempt to reject this film and become vocal in their desire to discredit what this film is doing?
Ben: I would say it could be anybody who is threatened by the idea that there could be a creator who could expect a certain kind of behavior from us human beings, and that could be just about anyone. I know I have two close friends already, and the movie isn’t even out yet, that are angry over my being associated with anything that questioned Darwinism. They’re thinking of me as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal Creationist now. So, I think it’s going to be anybody who considers themselves a thoroughly modern, up-to-the-minute, ideological thinker. That could be anybody.
Walt: The media has done a great job of discrediting any variance or dissension from the Darwinist position. So they’re doing a great job of labeling anything that dissents from it as “irrational.” We really want to be able to say, “No, you can enter this area, you can be very rational. In fact, there are many rational and some very smart people – intellectuals – who would like to openly start questioning this paradigm.”
Interviewer: What implications does the movie and its subject matter have for Christians and Jews who are supportive of the Intelligent Design theory?
Ben: I would say the implication is to continue asking people to ask and to query. I’ve gotten questions from students saying, “What can we as students do about this?” I always say to them, “When your teacher says Darwinism is the only scientific hypothesis that explains the development of human life or any kind of life, say, ‘Well, could you tell me any species that has been observed being originated in the way Darwin predicted. Can you just even tell me one species that has been observed doing that?’”
If they can’t tell you any, you might want to ask, “Why is it that you’re so strong on it?” You might also say, “Well, if it’s the only scientifically acceptable hypothesis, where are all these scientists coming out of, these distinguished scientists from famous universities saying that they do question it?”
Walt: Another really exciting thing we would obviously like to see is where we really have a healthy triad of different disciplines. What I mean by that is, right now, science is the arbiter of truth. But to allow science to have metaphysical implications for people to explore where they need to go, then you can have the great discipline of philosophy to interpret those implications.
Then theology has a place at the table, too, to interpret those implications. Right now, there is this massive wall that does not allow any of these implications to be discussed, and so again, everything outside of that fortress is deemed irrational and subjective.
So I think the great hope and implication here is that, by opening this dialogue up, we’ll have a much freer society that will be able to openly discuss this, rather than the highly polarized and confrontational environment that we’re having right now.
Interviewer: Some of the people interviewed said they were interviewed under false pretenses, and have received quite a bit of media coverage about that. What do you all say to that?
Mark Mathis (producer): First I contacted all these scientists by email and by phone. We exchanged correspondence and I told them that we’re doing a film that involves this cultural flashpoint. Religion, evolution, intelligent design, all these and other factors come together to create something that has caused a lot of passion to be unleashed on both sides.
You, Mr. or Ms. Scientist, being an outspoken person on this topic, would you like to do an interview with us on this film? And you’ll be paid. They do this sort of thing all the time.
In some cases, not all, I’m almost sure that I sent questions in advance to them. And in several cases, we went over questions prior to the interviews. They then had the opportunity to either sign or not sign a release and then they were paid. I believe we were very above-board with it.
More importantly, why would someone be concerned about an interview that was obtained under false pretenses, as has been alleged? That would be the case if their interview was taken and twisted and turned to create a situation where that person was saying something on film that they did not say. In this case, that is certainly not what happened.
We have given them a lot of time to express the same views that they expressed in articles, books, and other films. They were all treated very fairly and nothing was taken out of context or twisted.
Ben: In fact, it could hardly be twisted like a quote in a magazine or newspaper article, because they are talking themselves.
Mark: That’s right; they’re answering questions. And the release that they all signed is very specific in that it allows us to do what we want with the footage in any variety of different formats; not just in the film itself. Some of those who have become antagonistic to the film (most without seeing it), have raised the issue that we used a holding company called Crossroads (which still exists). We do use that as a holding company for all sorts of footage we’ve taken all around the world for various projects, not just this one.
They’ve also taken issue with the fact that we didn’t inform them what the name of the film was. Well, we didn’t know what the name of the film was. We entertained as many as 50 – 60 different names for this film. They’ve also accused that we had a very precise agenda with this film, which is also untrue. We had discussions and disagreements at times within the producer group that became very strong about which direction this film should take.
Who would be the audience? What would be the core message? All of this was undetermined throughout the length of the process, and yet many of these antagonists have bordered on slandering and libeling the film and producers very unjustly. They’ve accused us of being up to all kinds of mischief that quite frankly we never were.
Interviewer: What was it like to work outside the Hollywood system to get this film made?
Walt: We did a lot of research to see how we could do all of this outside the Hollywood machine, because it would be virtually impossible to create this type of content within that circle. So we did our homework up front to figure out practical things like the theatrical release and DVD distribution.
We (at Premise) will continue to make these types of films. Our long-term objective is to take on a wide variety of these types of issues that people want to talk about, but Hollywood and the media in general tend to avoid.
Interviewer: Ben, what impact has this project had on you?
Ben: First, I’ve made some very good friends. Second, I’ve been stunned at the holes in Darwinism and the fact that it seems to miss so much of what’s going on. And third, I’ve been amazed at the rancor and anger that this whole subject generates. I’ve already gotten a lot of angry hate emails and I’m expecting a lot more.
Fourthly, I’m astonished at the intelligence of the Intelligent Design thinkers who are doing such great work. I’ve been amazed at Stephen Meyer and many others of his ilk, so it’s been an impressive journey, and one that I think has just begun. We’ve just begun to cover the areas in society where morality has been banished and God has been expelled from the dialogue. We want to see if we can open up those areas to the kind of dialogue that Thomas Jefferson or John Adams or James Monroe would have felt comfortable having.
Interviewer: Despite the hate mail you’ve received, Ben, what is going to keep you going on this campaign?
Ben: I think you could say I’m going to keep going on it because I think we’re missing something extremely basic in our understanding the world and how it got created, and I’d like us to return to that. And I think that by returning to those bigger subjects of how the world got created and what our place in the world is, we will find a new moral fence which is very much lacking.
This country is a country which is a terribly rich country, despite what may be a recession. We’re a terribly rich country, we’re a very technologically advanced country, but we’re a country that’s lost its way morally. We may be able to take a tiny little contribution toward helping it find its way back morally, improving the lives of people as they have a bigger morality, a bigger, clearer and more sure moral compass in their lives.
|Quote For The Day
|"Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see-kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together."
- Colossians 1:15-17