The Report Of Ben Stein's Evolution Has Been Somewhat Exaggerated
Move over, An Inconvenient Truth. To paraphrase its American Spectator review by Tom Bethell, "The real question about" Ben Stein's gonzo opus Expelled " is not whether it is brutish or cruel or chilling or helpful to conservatism or harmful to it, but whether " the anti-Darwinian tract will roll the eyeballs of voters with IQ's above body temperature heavenward faster than reruns of Teletubbies or out-takes from Gigli
Having labored a lifetime in science journalism's vinyards without squeezing a sour grapes worth of intellectual nourishment into his flock,the venerable Bethell reports
" it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I have written about this controversy for over 30 years and by the movie's end I felt that those of us who have insisted that Darwinism is a sorry mess and that life surely was designed are going to prevail.
It would be uncharitable to suggest Ben has been putting Visine in the popcorn again, for Bethell recovered his clarity of vision to observe :
"I had not expected was that the film would take the war to the enemy...Oxford's Richard Dawkins... P.Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota... evolutionists who unflinchingly accept the logic of their own position and reject... the Rodney King mantra: "Can't we all just get along?"
WHAT DOES THE science show? The vast majority of species that once lived are now extinct. ..The real action today is within the microscopic study of living organisms..we are only beginning to discover the amazing complexity found at the molecular level.
... Now the cell is seen to resemble a high-tech factory.The growing allusions in the scientific literature to "molecular machines" have inspired one biologist..., to publish The Design Matrix. I don't know his real identity, which he conceals for obvious reasons...new research ... carried out under the auspices of the Discovery Institute ...is uncovering a miracle of complexity.
...Expelled makes use of Cold War imagery, and we are now in the Samizdat period ... when the most interesting Soviet authors used pen names to avoid being "expelled" -- to the Gulag...My only complaint about Expelled... is that its ending came all too soon. "
Those who can't wait for the final cut-- the pseudocumentary's directors are still weaving illusory interviews from out- of- context sound bites and shots of Stein talking at empty chairs-- can save $8 by watching this free and equally edifying ecumenical prequel.
I'm scripting a sequel, in which Ben Stein journeys to the Red Planet by cab, eschewing rocket science in solidarity with Tom's agnostic view of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Once there, he'll interview an old friend of Tom and ID maven Michael Behe, the Face On Mars. Besides figuring in their inspirational writings, the face has authored as many papers on molecular and synthetic biology as all the Discovery Institute fellows combined. I hope Ben gets his autograph. And Bethell's too, on a copy of his classic article on the shape of scientific history to come :
" Darwin's theory, I believe, is on the verge of collapse...natural selection was quietly abandoned, even by his most ardent supporters, some years ago. Darwin, I suggest, is in the process of being discarded, but... it is being done as discreetly and gently as possible, with a minimum of publicity."
Discreetly to be sure. Some who knew Darwin were yet alive when Bethell's report of evolution's immanent extinction appeared in Harper's in 1976. With luck, Stein's comic reputation will be resuscitated next year, as gales of laughter greet clips of this cult classic in the making at Darwin bicentennial celebrations around the world.
Illustration by the author, Copyright 2008