For all Expelled’s asinine tautologies, one must concede a few things to its creator and smothering presence, anti-Darwinist Ben Stein. First, Stein is right to imply that scientists are not philosophers; to look to science for existential solace is, for most, a cold comfort. This is the primary oversight of Stein’s bête noire, Richard Dawkins, who, with his intellectual sanguinity, wants everyone to be capable of abandoning the irrational fear and hope that ties them to religion in favour of science’s perpetually unfolding world of facts. Second, Stein is not completely off in pointing to an ideological lineage connecting Darwin to eugenics and Nazism. The Nazis perverted the evolutionist’s ideas (they did the same to Nietzsche, Wagner and many others), but to completely divorce the two, as reactionary critics of Expelled have done, is inaccurate. It’s like saying Betty Friedan had nothing to do with Madonna.
Of course Darwin himself was not a Nazi or a race purist, and this is precisely what Expelled implies. Stein associates the man not only with the Holocaust, but also with abortion and euthanasia. The logic and value judgments surrounding this are so ludicrous as to deserve no comment. What does is Stein’s paranoia about atheism, which he reads as total ethical and moral mayhem. In his view, there’s no reason for humans to behave if a deity is not watching over them, guaranteeing an afterlife. It suits Stein’s agenda not to talk of humanism, then, or of the power of art in addition to that of science and religion. But this is precisely what people who are interested in the controversy surrounding Expelled need to be reminded of. If only a film featuring contemporary philosophers speaking on the ramifications of Darwin’s ideas—on the meaning and purpose of human consciousness in a secular society—were as popularly debated as Stein’s idiotic thesis.
Expelled is now playing at The Cumberland (159 Cumberland St.), Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond St. W.) and The Queensway (1025 The Queensway).