Monday, April 21, 2008

Why "Expelled"?

I didn't see An Inconvenient Truth. It's not that I don't care about the environment; I'm even impressed with Al Gore's passion and presentation skills (had he honed these a few years earlier, he may have won the electoral vote!). I just don't care too much about sitting through a movie-length propaganda film from a point of view that I don't completely agree with.

Likewise, I've never seen any of
Michael Moore's documentaries-- although I confess I've always wanted to see Roger and Me, his film about how General Motors abandoned their factory in Flint, Michigan. Moore's political worldview, so I understand, is so in-your-face that those who disagree can feel the blood pressure rising.

The bottom line is: why go see such films? While some are cleverly disguised as documentaries (which, by definition, has a somewhat raw and unedited approach to presenting reality-- thereby calling into question whether the films mentioned here are true documentaries), they are actually long propaganda pieces.

Here's my question: who goes to see these that don't already hold to the positions presented? Can Moore claim to have swayed thousands to his political perspective through
Fahrenheit 9/11? Has Al Gore really turned toward global warming the attention of those who were skeptical before?

I ask because I'm curious about the kerfuffle and spin surrounding the recently-released
Expelled. Apparently Ben Stein (you remember him: the monotone teacher constantly calling for Ferris Bueller) has positioned himself as the Al Gore of Intelligent Design, making an exposé-like film that reveals how scientists everywhere, who are sympathetic to an Intelligent Design (ID) position, are being fired or run out of their positions in academia and scientific research because of their belief in the possibility of ID.

From the trailers, Stein's movie looks snarky and humorous (at least to those of us who lean toward his view on the matter). Apparently Stein interviewed a few prominent Evolutionists for the film as well as ID proponents, and his use of their perspectives has cast question on the reliability of he presentation, for me at least. At least one of these prominent scientists (who viewed the film in a pre-screening) claims that the editing and cut-and-paste job done to his interview completely misrepresents his point of view. What is worse, apparently one of the dominant thrusts that Stein attempts to make in the film is that Darwinism was a prime motivating factor in Hitler's Nazi regime, and therefore Darwinism ought to be inherently suspect. (Good thing folks haven't drawn the same mistaken conclusion about Christianity because of the Crusades and the Inquisition... oh, wait-- they have.)

So I wonder: what is the goal here? Do we (Christians, sympathizers to ID, those concerned with the lack of "objectivity" that comes with worldview-- take your pick) honestly believe and hope that secular, atheist scientists who doubt ID or zealously affirm a Macro-Evolutionary position will come to this movie and have their worlds turned upside-down? Do we expect that thoughtful secularists who are NOT scientists will be persuaded by such a film?

And if so, do we expect that it will happen through sarcasm, misrepresentation, and a handful of arguments wrought with poor logic (hasty generalizations, slippery slopes, ad hominems, etc.)? And that actions like
kicking out those who disagree from early screenings will advance the cause? I don't really follow what the point is, unless it is some sort of retribution for Christians and other conservative thinkers being mischaracterized in the past. Otherwise everyone sees it for what it is: a propaganda piece (as my friend Jon said, "Obviously it is propaganda, but it is *my* kind of propaganda :)").

One more thing: I want to take this opportunity to call on
World magazine, and especially Marvin Olasky, to step up and do the right thing with regard to this movie. Over the last three weeks, I have been appalled by World's coverage of this film. The same magazine that called Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, "disgusting, pathetic propaganda without the slightest shred of integrity" (July 17, 2004 issue) and accused Gore's An Inconvenient Truth of employing "stage tricks, straw men, and well-rehearsed rhetoric" (June 17, 2006 issue) lauds Expelled as, "reasonable, radical, risible, and right" (April 5, 2008 issue). Ironically, Olasky himself (who reviewed Expelled) said that biblically-directed reviews should "emphasize specific detail, not abstract theorizing" and "should present a biblical perspective, not individual bias" (Olasky, Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1996, p. 173). Marvin, your team of reviewers has been waffling back and forth between "Inconsistent Christians" and "Traditionalists" instead of pursuing true biblical objectivity (see ch.1, esp. p.20, of Telling the Truth).

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