Richard Dawkins Reviews Ben Stein’s Evolutionarily Ignorant “Expelled!”

The review pulls no punches, and all sound well deserved.

He does entirely too much of the “expulsion” of PZ Myers from the showing. He’s right on every point of course, but it’s too much of a trivial event rehashed when the film itself is the issue, and it seems to come at the expense of getting the sort of detailed summary of the film’s claims. Still, what is there does not disappoint:

Stein has no talent for comedy, as he demonstrates in a weird joke about scratching his back, which falls completely flat. But his attempt to do tragedy is even worse. He visits Dachau and, when informed by the guide that lots of Jews had been killed there, he buries his face in his hands as though this is the first time he has heard of it. Obviously it was not his intention, but I thought his rotten acting was an insult to the memory of the victims.

Indeed. I seriously can’t think of anything more sickening about this film than the flogging of Holocaust victims just to help beat the drum of Stein’s historically inept ideology. Real historians all snort in derision, at best, at the ludicrously simplistic and grossly selective connections Stein and Co. draw between Darwin and the Nazi gas chambers. But because Expelled! cannot seriously debate scientists on the evolutionary evidence for any length of time, little is left to do but to grab Godwin and run with it.

Dawkins explanation of the way the film mangles his discussion of alien designers (a hypothetical that Stein apparently asked him to speculate on in the first place) is also an excellent illustration of the sort of intellectual vacuity that pervades everything we’ve yet seen or heard from this production:

My concern here is that my science fiction thought experiment — however implausible — was designed to illustrate intelligent design’s closest approach to being plausible. I was most emphatically NOT saying that I believed the thought experiment. Quite the contrary. I do not believe it (and I don’t think Francis Crick believed it either). I was bending over backwards to make the best case I could for a form of intelligent design. And my clear implication was that the best case I could make was a very implausible case indeed. In other words, I was using the thought experiment as a way of demonstrating strong opposition to all theories of intelligent design.

Well, you will have guessed how Mathis/Stein handled this. I won’t get the exact words right (we were forbidden to bring in recording devices on pain of a $250,000 fine, chillingly announced by some unnamed Gauleiter before the film began), but Stein said something like this. “What? Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN INTELLIGENT DESIGN.” “Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE.”

This, along with Stein’s sarcastic shock over “mud crystals” as one of the abiogenetic theories proposed for the formation of self-reproducing molecules, really doesn’t speak well of the film’s intellectual depth. Ideas, even if hypothetical or speculative, are simply declared ludicrous without getting more than a few seconds summary of the issues involved.

One could very easily make a film about quantum mechanics that would have audiences rolling in the aisles with how ridiculous it all is. It wouldn’t be an honest film, though.

13 Responses to Richard Dawkins Reviews Ben Stein’s Evolutionarily Ignorant “Expelled!”

  1. Lone Wolf says:

    Who is this movie for? The more I read about it the more it seams like nothing more than a creationist preaching to the choir propaganda film. Do they think any one will be convinced of there claims by watching this movie or is it to keep people believing the lies in it? I think so.

  2. Stephen says:

    If I could put on my tin foil hat for just a moment…

    What if Mathis is a genius? He got the New York Times and a bunch of other newspapers (not to mention the entire atheist blogosphere) talking about Expelled. The same major media outlets that vowed not to cover its release (being a pathetic piece of propaganda) are creating the illusion of controversy – the controversy Expelled tries to invent in academia.

    Maybe they’re trying to follow suit of The Passion… get a minority up in arms then watch the pious run to the theaters.

    But then again, I don’t think I’d give him nearly that much credit.

  3. Peter Vaht says:


  4. Bad says:

    Their game is, of course, all about getting as much promotion as they can. But by and large, they can play their little game, and make money off of playing it well in ticket sales. But the fact that they are so obsessed about promoting their ideas instead of seriously defending them is the takeaway point that will eventually sink in with the public, if we do our job right in debunking their circus act.

  5. Lone Wolf says:

    Sure its been getting allot of free publicity but, it all been bad. All this publicity has shown how hypocritical they are and how illogical and wrong there arguments are.
    But I don’t think they care how hypocritical they look or how bad there arguments are. I don’t think its meant for us or the general public. Its a creationist preaching to the choir propaganda film.

  6. William Pinn says:


    You totally misquoted Stein. He said, “Wait a second! Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit?”

    If you are going to believe in falsehoods, you may as well believe in the tooth fairy. Apparently atheists delude themselves.

  7. William Pinn says:

    Here is the youtube link for your convenience. It clearly shows how you misquoted Stein.

  8. Darn it
    I just typed a whole long message, and when I hit the submit button my Internet Explorer freaked out.
    Did you get it or should I retype it all again?

  9. tanna says:

    All should watch this documentary before disregarding it based on the fact that one person said steins acting was bad. Stein went to Dachu, and being jew that touched him deeply, we can all hear of a holocaust, but to physically go and experience the site where it all took place would be life changing for anybody. Very presumptuous I think, also this draws the focus away from all of the data these intelligent scientist put forward in this documentary ben stein is hardly the center of this film. The complexity of the cell, and darwin’s theory are cracked wide open as far as I’m concerned. just hear them out that’s all I’m asking, the argument above is lacking compared to the intelligent and over whelming information presented in this film.

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