I've meant to write a little blog entry about this subject for a while. A week or two ago my wife and I watched the "Expelled" documentary starring Ben Stein. While I started from a very sympathetic viewpoint (I subscribe to the concept of Creation and I have truckloads of cynicism towards the commonly held scientific pronouncements on the origin of species, ie. primordial soup + lightning), by the end of the movie I had the peculiar feeling of fratricide, or friendly fire. As if I was positioned in opposition or conflict to something (the subject of the documentary, the institutional bias against those who question party line on Darwin, is something I've witnessed personally, albeit on small levels), and then someone yells from over my shoulder, "don't worry, I got your back buddy!" And then shoots me in the back. It is better to leave an argument uncontested than to challenge it with dishonest or exaggerated propoganda, thus undermining valid points!
It feels like Focus on the Family hired Michael Moore as a mercenary. As a Christian, it is a somewhat uncomfortable thing when the illogic emanating from one section of my side forces me to take sides with Richard Dawkins and other atheists!
For instance, this review, which I noted was from an atheist blog, is sadly full of valid criticisms.
The filmmakers also plant a very interesting quote from Darwin's "The Descent of Man". However, it is explicitly edited to imply support for the later horrors of eugenics and genocide, which Darwin clearly distances himself from in the immediate context...conveniently edited out. Why do this?! Is Darwinian theory not full enough of holes that it can't be criticised without taking things out of context and misrepresenting them? Evolution is more than just Darwin; the documentary oversimplified the entire question by distilling a huge debate containing multiple schools of evolutionary theory into the seminal work of one man, which has evolved over time by the work of his successors. Again, if we are going to engage the rabid proponents of evolution-as-gospel, let us do so intelligently, calmly, and without sensationalism or misinformation.
I think Dawkins is a bit of a prat, who probably thinks much too highly of his own intellect, and I disagree with him on, well, a great lot of things, but there I was, sitting on his side, agreeing with him, or at least sympathizing with him. Stein's questions were repetitive and typically meaningless. When he was slowly asked if he believes in the Hebrew God, the Trinity, the Hindu gods, Allah, etc., I felt his exasperation at the pointless, rhetorical, stupid questions. Yes, we know he is an atheist! Who doesn't? Do we go to Billy Graham and slowly ask if he believes the words in the Gospel of Matthew? Mark? Luke? John? The Book of Acts? The letter to the Romans? First Corinthians? Second Corinthians? It was a cheap and useless gimmick because his beliefs regarding the existence or inexistence of God mean a bowl of warm spit in regards to the evolution debate. Dawkins is an atheist. Fine! We really do understand what that word means, and most of us know Dawkins is probably the preeminent popular atheist author, with the notable exception of Oolon Colluphid. His personal beliefs in that respect have no clear logical bearing to the scientific merits of evolution. Besides, why would Dawkins' atheism be more important to examine than the religious beliefs of Darwin, the theory's founder? Not that it would be, anyway.
The film gets very, very close to making valid points, but ends up vastly overreaching and shooting itself in the foot, every time. When Dawkins admits the possibility of the "seed theory" but denies "intelligent design" the potential contradiction ought to have been seized upon, not in a "gotcha" way, but in a careful, methodical, and courteous way. Likewise, the influence of evolutionary theory on many of the great blunders of the early 20th century could have been explored in a more logical way, with more actual information, and less touring of prison camps with Ben Stein looking reproachfully morose. Simply saying "Hitler was a Darwinist" and then touring emotionally impactful sites is insufficient, and no argument at all. They could have actually made good and valid points on this, but they glossed over details and went straight for what appears to be only reductio ad hitlerum, nullifying some very good points in that regard.
All of the other criticisms have been put forth much more thoroughly in other places on the web. Some of them I feel are valid, some of them I disagree with, and of course a lot of the reaction to this film is extremely hostile and motivated by partisan evolution-is-infallible rancor (which this film was intended to explore and expose).
To summarize, I think (I hope, I pray) we can do better than this. It has some strong points, not least of which was its effect of getting me to do some more research and reading on evolution and Darwin.
Speaking of Dawkins and Darwinism, this episode of South Park is quite funny. "I'm a MONKEY!"