By Tim Schmoyer I have a love-hate relationship with Ben Stein's new movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. On one hand, the subject of academic freedom and Intelligent Design desperately needs to be publicly addressed and someone like Ben Stein is the perfect candidate to do so. On the other hand, if it's communicated poorly it actually discredits the message, doing more harm than good.
The first half of the film was dreadfully boring. Walking into the theater I already knew that Stein's quest was to expose the “behind the scenes” censorship of Intelligent Design in the academic world, but in the beginning I seriously had a difficult time trying to figure out what his point was and where he was going with it. The arguments were less than compelling, Stein was not funny, and the constant little TV clips from the '40s started to get on my nerves. Although I'm sure the scientists interviewed were truthfully expelled from academic institutions for mentioning Intelligent Design, I wasn't quite convinced that it was as common as they suggested. Could they honestly not find a single professor who mentioned Intelligent Design and still retained their job?
It wasn't until half-way through the film when Stein started making the connection between Darwinism and German Nazis that I started paying attention. This was mostly because some emotion was finally pricked as Stein, a Jew, toured the concentration camps. From that point on the movie seemed to flow with a sense of direction and the interviews actually became intriguing. Richard Dawkins' perspective was fascinating as he clearly tied religion and world view to the position one takes on science, specifically human origin. His passion for atheism is overwhelming and almost convicting, and his point is clear: religion and science cannot be two different categories.
For your purposes in youth ministry, don't expect the movie to eliminate the theory of evolution in the minds of your students, nor to even turn them off to evolution as a science. The film is not intended to convert, but rather to promote the debate about Darwinian Evolution and Intelligent Design, possibly adding some credibility to the latter. Use it to facilitate discussion and challenge your students' perspective of faith, science and academics.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, PG, 90 minute documentary. Leader and student resources, extended trailer and more available at expelledthemovie.com .
Tim Schmoyer is the Youth Pastor at Alexandria Evangelical Covenant Church in Alexandria, MN, and blogs about Life in Student Ministry at timschmoyer.com.