A new movie called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed advocates "intelligent design" and promotes itself as a film that uncovers the persecution of educators and scientists for challenging evolution. Starring Ben Stein as questioner - Michael Moore-style, except conservative - the movie banked $3.2 million on its opening weekend.
It has garnered plenty of criticism, and even a lawsuit from Yoko Ono who isn't happy about the movie's use of John Lennon's song "Imagine."
Associate producer Mark Mathis says "this is a movie about freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry and the way that academic elites are trying to muzzle those that dare to question the Darwinian orthodoxy."
Mathis spoke to Spectrum a week after the movie came out on April 18 about the ideas behind the movie and the controversy surrounding its release.
Question: What kind of reaction are you getting so far to Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed?
Answer: It depends on who you are taking about. The mainstream press – like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times-type media – are absolutely over-the-top scathing in their reviews, calling it things like “the worst film ever made.” But this was fully expected. They are secularists from the left side of the political spectrum. They are atheists or agnostics, and they are hostile toward anyone who would offend their non-religious sensibilities. We know who they are. It’s no surprise.
But the wonderful thing is that our audiences are having the exact opposite reaction: they are over-the-top in their praise, and just loving it. We did some market research, and we did polls in six states as people left the movie. Ninety-seven percent of the people we asked said they liked the movie, and 96 percent said they were going to recommend it to a friend.
Q: But surely this is because only certain people chose to go and see the movie in the first place? The kind of people who would like such a movie?
A: Absolutely. But that exposes what is going on in this debate. People who say they are religious – Christian, Jewish, whatever – are tired of the elitist academic establishment standing shoulder to shoulder with the elitist media and telling them there is no God. This is what our film exposes. It is about much more than science – it is about a world-view battle.
What matters is the people who have the power. The majority of people in academic establishments are of a single persuasion: atheists or agnostics. That impacts the way science is taught. Intelligent design is completely excluded. Anyone who challenges [the academics] is persecuted and expelled from the system.
So everything we are seeing with the reaction to the film validates exactly what we are doing.
Q: There have been various criticisms made of the film. Some critics have said you are one-sided. What is your answer to that?
A: We give extensive amounts of time to people who are passionate about their Darwinian views. What about Al Gore’s award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth? Al Gore gave not a single second to anyone who was against his beliefs. We have given major portions of our film to the people who are Darwin’s big supporters. People like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education. I don’t even know how to answer that allegation that it’s one–sided. We give them lots of time to speak their mind, and they do.
Q: Have you been involved in any similar project before?
A: I have never done anything related to this topic.
Q: How has making this movie impacted you?
A: I used to believe, (the way I think most people believe who haven’t had the opportunity to look at this up close), that science was more empirical, more experimental, and there was more protection built into the system to protect scientists against their own biases. Now that I have seen what is really going on underneath the surface, my automatic reaction to anything I am told that is validated by science is that I am much slower to accept it. I have seen what’s going on, and scientists are human beings. As such they are influenced by philosophical and political baggage. That affects way they look at the world.
Q: Do you mean that they make conclusions before they experiment? They find evidence to support a hypothesis?
A: That happens more than people realize. But what happens most often is that scientists don’t fully appreciate the degree to which their biases affect how they interpret the evidence. Thoughtful self-examination is greatly lacking in science today. And it is lacking among almost everyone – not just people who believe in Darwinism. We must always check our own personal biases. Q: Have you had any negative feedback on the film from conservative Christians?
A: Certainly I would think some liberal religious organizations or groups (liberal in their world view, endorsing ideas that the conservative wing of church doesn’t, like gay marriage, or pro-choice, or certain theological positions), could take exception to the movie, but I have not heard anything specific.
Q: There is a lot made in the film of a connection between science, or Darwinism as you say, with the Nazis and the Holocaust. Why have you given so much play to this in the film?
A: I was the associate producer. My function was to go out and arrange interviews, and assist Mr. Stein. I did not play a role in deciding the amount of play a specific topic got.
But in general, yes, there is a connection between Darwinian ideas and Nazi ideas. But we were very careful in the film to note that Darwinian ideas do not necessarily lead to Nazi ideas. But a materialist philosophy, the idea that there is no God, can take you into an arena where a secularist society embraces extermination of entire groups of people. It gets easy when you have devalued human life. If human beings are no more valued than a frog or a fly, then the people who might have handicaps, for example, then these people are seen as useless eaters and there is a need to do away with them. People who don’t have good genetic background, and don’t fit the template, they are sterilized. Then of course there are the political enemies, the Jews.
So when you look at big secular societies of the 1920s, that is where the big massacres happened. Not just in Nazi Germany, but in the Soviet Union under Stalin where 20 million people lost their lives, or what happened under Pol Pot or Chairman Mao. These are secular societies.
Q: But certainly there has been lots of killing under the guise of religion. Going back, what about the Crusades? A: People can find all sorts of reasons to attack and kill other human beings. Yes, religion has been used to justify mass murder. But the number of people killed in the Crusades pales in comparison to massive massacres in the 20th century.
Q: What inspired the movie?
A: Any time intelligent design, Darwinism, science, education, any of these things are brought up, they are all thrown into a pot, and the pot boils very quickly. It is clear that these issues need investigation.
Q: How long did it take to make the film?
A: Pre-production took close to a year, while production and post-production took about another 20 months.
Q: What kind of marketing strategies have you used to get out word about the movie?
A: We haven’t spent much on advertising. We have mostly organized grassroots screenings. We are taking the movie around the country, and showing it to different groups.
Read a review of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed by biology teacher Dr. Aimee Wyrick from Pacific Union College here.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/550