NYT: Ben Stein's 'Sleazy' Evolution Documentary an 'Unprincipled Propaganda Piece'

April 18th, 2008 3:09 PM

So much for camaraderie. New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis found fellow Times writer Ben Stein's "Expelled," his new documentary on evolution and how the concept of Intelligent Design is being stifled in academic circles, "an unprincipled propaganda piece."

(Catsoulis's politics are pretty easy to peg; witness her simplistic left-wing raves over the 2005 documentary "Waging a Living," based on a book by socialist writer Barbara Ehrenreich.)

Catsoulis not only doesn't buy "Expelled"'s premise that scientific debate is being squelched in academia in favor of Darwin-worship, she calls the movie names:

One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

Positing the theory of intelligent design as a valid scientific hypothesis, the film frames the refusal of "big science" to agree as nothing less than an assault on free speech. Interviewees, including the scientist Richard Sternberg, claim that questioning Darwinism led to their expulsion from the scientific fold (the film relies extensively on the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy -- after this, therefore because of this), while our genial audience surrogate, the actor and multihyphenate Ben Stein, nods sympathetically. (Mr. Stein is also a freelance columnist who writes Everybody's Business for The New York Times.)

Prominent evolutionary biologists, like the author and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins -- accurately identified on screen as an "atheist" -- are provided solely to construct, in cleverly edited slices, an inevitable connection between Darwinism and godlessness. Blithely ignoring the vital distinction between social and scientific Darwinism, the film links evolution theory to fascism (as well as abortion, euthanasia and eugenics), shamelessly invoking the Holocaust with black-and-white film of Nazi gas chambers and mass graves.

Can someone point out the Times's lambasting of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore for making those kind of leaps in his own widely praised documentaries?

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn "Expelled" is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

Catsoulis concluded with a mock rating:

"Expelled" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has smoking guns and drunken logic.