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.