I may be the last Atheist blogger in the world to see Ben Stein's Expelled, but I think I have something new to say: This movie is so bad, we should have ignored it completely.
Expelled was embarrassing to watch, nothing more than a glaring piece of hack propaganda. I used to really admire Stein, and when I heard about Expelled, I was genuinely worried. A man of his intelligence and wit could, in theory, deal a real blow to science and to the rational view of the universe.
Instead, I was shocked at the amateurish propaganda techniques, the laughable conspiracy theories, and the discredited "scientists" he picked as his "victims." I thought Ben was better than that. I thought he'd present a well-reasoned, articulate, balanced documentary, one that really challenged the scientific community.
Instead, he wrote and narrated a piece of trash. The only people who will be influenced by this garbage are creationists, people who are already in his camp.
In fact, the most embarrassing part is that Ben Stein insults the very people he is trying to defend. Ben Stein counts on his audience's ignorance of science and the scientific method. For example, he has a long sequence showing the incredible complexity of cellular biology, which is mostly intended to baffle an uneducated audience, and then basically says, You're too dumb to understand this, so God must have created it.
Next he tries to bamboozle everyone with the tired old information-theory (aka entropy) approach, another subject that requires an advanced college degree and years of study to fully appreciate. He presents just enough to fool an uneducated audience, then repeats the argument that because we're too dumb to understand this, God must have designed it.
This appeal to the ignorance of his audience is insulting, even to creationists who agree with Stein. To real scientists, it's nothing short of fraud.
When he got to the picture of Joseph Stalin, and started associating Atheism with Communism and the Holocaust, I couldn't stand it any more. That sort of guilt-by-association is beneath the dignity of a well-educated man like Ben Stein. The Nazis got the trains to run on time; should we persecute Amtrak's management and call them Nazis if they manage to get Amtrak trains on schedule? The Nazis believed in Einstein's Theory of Relativity and were using it to design nuclear bombs; should we put all of our Los Alamos and Berkeley nuclear physicists and engineers in prison as Nazi sympathizers? The Nazis believed that fresh air and exercise are healthy, should we incarcerate Jack LaLane?
Ben Stein claims to be in favor of science, yet he ignores its most important lesson: Science searches for the truth, no matter how unpleasant! If the Theory of Evolution was responsible for Nazism and Communism, that doesn't make it false. It just means that as moral humans, we have to learn to rise above our natural, animal instincts.
I think the Atheist community made far too big of a stink about Expelled. It is an unimportant movie. By raising such a furor over it, we've given it far more credibility than it deserves. Dawkins refuses to debate creationists for this very reason – it's a stupid debate, you won't win any converts, but by debating them you imply that they are in the same league as real science.
They're not. And neither is Ben Stein. With Expelled, he reduced himself from the ranks of important intellectuals, down to the rank of amateur propagandist.