Ben Stein Documentary: Intelligent Design Scholars Muzzled By Scientific Establishment

January 28th, 2008 10:05 AM

American freedom is under assault within the scientific establishment and the academic community where the proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory are being silenced and marginalized at the expense of research that could potentially expand human knowledge and boost medical research, according to a new documentary that raises questions about Darwinian assumptions.

A growing number of scientists with expertise in biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy have encountered a level of complexity in the observable universe that in their estimation cannot be sufficiently explained by a random, directionless process. For this reason, they are compelled to offer up alternative theories for biological and astronomical objects that appear to be carefully calibrated and finely tuned by way of an intelligent agent.

Unfortunately, scientists in the United States who offer up Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin’s 150 year old theories about the origins of life and the evolutionary process often find they cannot speak out without jeopardizing their careers and professional reputations.

“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed researchers and scholars who have been forced out of prestigious positions. Instead of entertaining a free, unrestrained open debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has instead moved to suppress the Intelligent Design movement in a “systematic and ruthless” fashion at odds with America’s founding principles, the film asserts.

Although America was founded with a distinctive worldview that acknowledged a creator, today’s government agencies and publicly funded institutions are very much weighted in favor of methodological naturalism that presupposes life on earth is the by product of undirected, purposeless evolutionary forces. Moreover, the film strongly suggests the scientific establishment has very little appetite and patience for fully engaging in a debate with ID proponents.

There is a paradox at work here that is not lost on Ben Stein, a former presidential speechwriter who serves as the film’s narrator. On the surface Darwinian scientists appear supremely confident in their position. Nevertheless, they are reticent to allow for unfettered research and inquiry that takes ID into account. Stein, who is now an actor and political commentator, sees sociological, psychological and ethical factors at work.

“If they are Darwinists and they owe their jobs to being Darwinists, they are not going to challenge the orthodoxy because that would challenge the whole basis of their jobs and their lives,” he said in an interview.

“So they are not going to challenge the ideology that has given them lush positions in real life. That's one thing. Second thing, once people are locked into a way of thinking, they are unlikely to change. Third is, if they acknowledge the possibility of intelligent design and that intelligent design is God, then they may think God has moral expectations of them and they may be falling short of those moral expectations, and they may be worried about some sort of judgment upon them.”

Toward the end the film Stein interviews a Polish official who tells him there is more freedom and latitude in his former communist country to pursue certain avenues of scientific inquiry than there is now in the United States.

“Censorship is stronger in the U.S. than in Poland because you have political correctness,” he observes.

Stein has his own take on the erosion of American freedom that seems to be occurring while Eastern European countries move in the opposite direction.

“I think there is this kind of Marxist establishment in this country that has been overthrown in other countries, but not overthrown here,” he said. “There is a very powerful Marxist establishment within the intelligentsia that does not allow questioning of its premises.

“Expelled” is set for release this coming Spring though Premise Media Corporation, a company that finances and produces independent films. The documentary begins and ends with a plea for greater freedom in academia from Stein. The ability to question conventional wisdom and to raise new ideas that run counter to the consensus is in great peril in his view.

“Freedom of inquiry is basic to human advancement,” Stein wrote in a his own blog introducing the film.

“There would be no modern medicine, no antibiotics, no brain surgery, no Internet, no air conditioning, no modern travel, no highways, no knowledge of the human body without freedom of inquiry. This includes the ability to inquire whether a higher power, a being greater than man, is involved with how the universe operates. This has always been basic to science, always.”