Is There More to Expelled Than Just Evolution Denial?
On Wednesday June 11, MPs and the press in Ottawa were invited to the Chateau Laurier for a pre-screening of Expelled starring Ben Stein. The pre-screening was hosted by Canadian Walt Ruloff, self-made multimillionaire, financier and executive producer of the film. Thankfully, there were only 22 people in attendance and none were either press or MPs as far as I could tell. The audience was mostly made up of conservative party staffers, interns, and civil servants who were sympathetic to the film’s agenda. It also contained one conspicuous skeptic who was interested not only in the film but the motivations behind it.
If you have read this far, you have shown sufficient interest in this movie that I must insist that you visit Expelled Exposed, if you haven’t already. In this article I am going to avoid doing a traditional critique or a break down of the movie, claim by claim, because there are already a sufficient number of resources at Expelled Exposed that do that exhaustively.
What I want to address is the motivation behind the film. The film is often dismissed as a propaganda piece pushing the intelligent design agenda of the Fundamentalist Christian Right aka the Religious Right. But there is something wrong with this pigeon holing. Ben Stein is not a fundamental Christian, he is a Jewish economist and former Nixon stooge, who attained some celebrity as a game show host and for a minor supporting part in a movie during those periods of time when his politics were unpopular in Washington. And Walt Ruloff is a bit of a nut but more about business than Christianity. There is some motivation for this attack on science beyond the superficial religious one. And at the screening it became obvious to me that the motivations for this film are more about economic ideology then religious ideology, politics than spirituality.
This film may be masquerading as just being anti-Darwin when it is really anti-science and anti-reality. Intelligent Design supporters and detractors alike have berated this film for championing intelligent design without actually telling the audience what it is and there is a reason for this. It may be that intelligent design is just the vehicle of the true purpose of the film which is to undermine the authority of science. The film wants to cast scientists as denying the facts, and only projecting their version of reality. It seeks to politicize scientific fact by painting all scientists as having a unified agenda and make science dismissible as mere opinion or worldview. In the wake of this movie across the United States there are bills afoot in various States to make the admonishment of students unfounded beliefs in the science classroom a crime. In addition, educational administrators would also be prohibited from disciplining teachers who teach personal opinion as fact in the science classroom.
Why this assault on science, why now? Because unbounded economists like Stein and big business men like Ruloff dislike the direction scientific evidence (i.e. the facts) are pointing these days. During the film Stein tips his hand by describing the Nazi’s systematic mass murder of the disabled as Malthusian referring to Thomas Malthus with the same disdain he shows for Darwin. Thomas Malthus was a economist who linked poverty, famine and war to over-population and scarcity of resources. He speculated that overpopulation would one day occur on a global scale resulting in cataclysmic collapse. This view is largely dismissed by modern economists like Stein who see the successful exponential growth of the twentieth century as empirical evidence that Malthus was wrong.
Enter the inconvenient truths of climate change and peak oil (the rapid and uncontrollable increase of oil prices as oil extraction and refinement rates reach their physical limit while demand continues to increase.) The idea of a limited and perishable global environment directly challenges the unbounded economic growth to which Stein and Ruloff hold fealty.
Since the material world is no longer big enough to hold their worldview they appeal to the supernatural. All their talk about the divine providence of man is to justify their philosophy of consumption and growth without restraint. And Expelled is the wedge of their strategy to discredit the growing body of scientific evidence that says otherwise.
At the end of the screening Ruloff, believing himself to be in front of a friendly audience, said that the cause of social and economic degradation of civilization were the myths of global warming and Darwinism. He also cited an alleged incident in Texas where a scientist gave a lecture where he supposedly call ed for the eradication of 90% of the world’s population by the Ebola virus, as proof that academia was out to reduce the global population by any means necessary.
As many Christians see humanity’s divine appointment to be stewards of the Earth, not pillagers, defenders of science should not be the only ones offended by Ruloff’s anti-environmentalism. It is often claimed that religion has highjacked the political Right in the United States. Expelled is demonstrable proof that the politics of unrestrained capitalism on the Right are equally capable of highjacking religion.