Thursday, April 24, 2008


Not me, at least not yet.

Rather the movie "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed". It opened last weekend to a modest response (just under $3 million in it's opening weekend. In comparison 3 other movies that opened that same weekend rang up $21.4 million - "The Forbidden Kingdom", $17.7 million - "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", and $6.9 million - "88 Minutes". Expelled ended it's opening weekend as the #9 movie nationwide for the weekend).

I have to admit that I had hopes for this movie. Since his role in Ferris Beuller I've had a soft spot for Ben Stein who "stars" in this "documentary". I thought it could present a great chance to discuss with our young people how we see the intersection between faith and science. Is it one of conflict, agreement, mutual avoidance?

(Just for the sake of transparency, and without trying to push my understanding on anyone let me say that I don't see much conflict between faith and science. To me they are two ways of trying to describe/understand the world. They are not mutually exclusive but use very different methods to describe what they "see". Consequently faith relies on belief in things unseen while science requires that things be testable by experiment. My personal belief in the truth revealed by science doesn't destroy my belief in the truth revealed by faith. My understanding of the Divine allows for a God subtle enough to create the world through the device of evolution. What appears "random" to us may have a deeper complexity than we are capable of understanding. Science, for me, is our explanation of how God did and does it.)

So my hope was that "Expelled" could provide a way to discuss what we as individuals and the larger church have come to understand about faith and science. History shows that we've taken some very firm and very wrong stands in these debates in the past (Galileo as an example). How do we find the balance between scientific knowledge (limited as it is) and faith filled belief (limited as it is)?

Sadly the more I read about the movie and the point of view it presents the more disappointed I become. For a movie that touts the legitimacy of Intelligent Design it appears that it never clearly defines just what it means by that. It claims that communism was the result of Darwin's theory of evolution (Karl Marx "Communist Manifesto" published 1848. Darwin's "Origin of Species" published 1859!). The list goes on from there of facts that are distorted, quotations that are edited in a manner that changes their meaning without notification that they're edited. And apparently the camera angles and lighting for the scenes with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins fall just short of Darth Vader-esque.

Do we need to have discussions about what we as people of faith believe in relation to the creation of the world? Of course we do. A knee jerk dismissal of intelligent design/creationism is as intellectually dishonest as a knee jerk dismissal of evolution. On one side is "Everyone knows that" and on the other is "The Bible tells me so". In fact, at least in this case, neither is true. Our youth have fairly refined B.S. monitors and we lose credibility when we can do no better than this. We must be able to discuss these kinds of issues intelligently with each other and most especially with our young people. Otherwise we support the point of view that religion is for the unthinking, that it is the opiate of the masses.

It's sad that so much attention will be paid to this movie. It's sad that in all likelihood the shortcomings of "Expelled" will result in a very short run. Not that I want a badly made movie to continue to be screened but because in contrast a well made argument could begun much better conversations. If you want to see it or take your youth with you I recommend you do it soon. I doubt it will be easy to find even a month from now.

Better yet sit down with your youth and start the discussion about science and faith. The conversation is likely to be surprising.


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