Editor's Note: In this article Ed Vitagliano combined two separate interviews, one which aired on American Family Radio's Today's Issues, the other from a conference call interview with the media, including AFA Journal.
March 2008 – As an economist, presidential speechwriter, author, columnist and actor (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Mask), Ben Stein has already had a full life.
So why host a controversial documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which challenges the assumptions of Darwinian evolution and asks why scientists who believe in intelligent design are being persecuted? Why invite the backlash that has already occurred, before the film has even aired?
After AFA staff members reviewed the film, we asked Stein, a conservative Jew, why he thinks this film is needed.
AFA: What is this film about?
Ben Stein: Well, it asks the question, Does Darwinism answer everything, does Darwinism give you all the answers about where life came from, how life evolved? And there are a lot of very smart people who say no, there had to be intelligent design or that life couldn’t have started by itself, that you can’t design organic life out of lightning striking a mud puddle the way some Darwinists say. But there had to be a first cause, a cause or Creator who was always there.
AFA: You’re saying there are mechanisms which show some kind of evidence of order or design that seem to be at odds with Darwin?
Stein: Let’s use the scientists’ science on them. If [the mechanism which created all life] is in fact random mutation, the idea of many, many elements needed to create life, they would have organized themselves perfectly to do it. The odds are so large against that happening by random mutation, they’re almost incalculable. So we’ve said to the scientists, well, tell us how on earth, when the odds are trillions to one against it happening, how did that happen?
AFA: Can you give an example?
Stein: Darwinism holds that life began by something like lightning striking a puddle and inorganic matter was converted into living matter. And from that, after four-and-a-half-billion years came the foundation of life as we now know it, the organic living cell. Now I had thought that a cell was just a mass of Jell-O. … I was just floored that supposedly from that [process] came the living cell, which has hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of small tiny intricate parts that have to work together to maintain, repair, reproduce and adapt the cell. And the idea that lightning striking a mud puddle creates something as complex as a cell struck me as so far fetched that it deserved to be questioned.
AFA: But scientists say the question of God isn’t a scientific one, and that to talk about God isn’t helpful.
Stein: [W]e’re just asking why a professor in a university dedicated to free thought and free inquiry can be expelled if he even suggests that there might be a God who had a hand in this. Why is it illegal to talk about God? When Darwin was writing, it was perfectly allowable to talk about God in the classroom. When Newton was doing his experiments it was perfectly … allowable to talk about God in the classroom. When Einstein wrote about physics, he said it was the hand of God at work. Why do we now say that all of a sudden God is not allowed to even be mentioned in the classroom in connection with a scientific theory?
AFA: But maybe those are issues that are best left to the philosophy class or the religion class.
Stein: I’m saying that maybe all these classes should not be so clearly separated from one another. Maybe all of them belong, to a certain extent, together. When Issac Newton was doing his study of the laws of physics and motion, he said he was trying to understand how God had ordered the universe and what the work of God had been. He was showing God’s handiwork. Maybe when people say they are working on intelligent design, they are just expressing God’s handiwork. Maybe when the Darwinists are explaining evolution, they’re explaining God’s handiwork. I’m a little suspicious of putting everything into neat pigeon holes.
AFA: Is this movie suggesting that intelligent design or creationism be the only thing that is taught in schools?
Stein: Absolutely not! And not only that, we’re not by any means certain, at least I’m not, that intelligent design is the answer. It’s a subject – this origins of life and the development and evolution of life – those are such complex subjects. … [So] we don’t think that we have all the answers. We don’t think that anyone has all the answers. We just want free speech. It’s interesting in one of his famous letters, Darwin said, “It’s all so complicated, I just want to have free speech and have people able to talk about what they want to talk about.”
AFA: This film makes the argument that Darwinism can, in fact, lead to something like Nazi Germany. Isn’t that a serious charge?
Stein: Darwinism said, and it was very, very quickly picked up enthusiastically in Germany, that there were certain species that were superior to other species; and even within those species there were certain smaller groups that were superior to other groups; and all were competing for a scarce supply of food and resources and that if you let the inferior race have a big share of the food and other resources, there was less left for the superior race and therefore the superior race would not evolve to be as powerful as quickly as it should. You owe it to the master race to kill the inferior races. This was explicitly a part of Nazi ideology. … It is explicitly the basis of Nazi ideas of killing races and species and parts of the human race that they considered inferior – Jews, Gypsies, Eastern Europeans, all different kinds of people they considered inferior [that were always] competing with them for the basics of life.
AFA: It seems like what you’re asking for in this film – namely freedom of speech – is something that most Americans believe in. Why would there be an establishment that would be opposed to an open discussion or even an exposure of flaws in a current scientific theory like Darwinism. What’s driving this opposition to an open inquiry?
Stein: It is just self-interest, I think, partly. The people in Big Science, at least in the evolutionary end of it, owe their jobs to their prominence in Darwinian thinking and Darwinian ideology. If their Darwinian ideology is overthrown or even questioned seriously, then they lose some of their power and prestige and nobody wants to lose power and prestige. That’s part of it. If it’s revealed that their theory is a house of cards or even if it has very large flaws … then they lose a lot of their status and status is a big part of life. And then also there is a giant metaphysical implication, which is if there is an intelligent designer, if His name is God, if He keeps us endowed by a spark of the divine by virtue of being children of God, then there are consequences to killing us. There are consequences to murdering us before we’re born. … There are consequences to all kinds of behavior, which are lacking if we’re all descendents of a mud puddle.
AFA: How have many of the Darwinists responded?
Stein: Oh, they’re very angry people, they’re very angry. … [Y]ou know what I wonder – if they’re so sure that they’re right, why do they have to be so angry and defensive about it? If their position is unassailably correct, if there’s no doubt whatsoever that they’re right, why do they have to be so angry and attack anyone who even questions [Darwinism]? … We’re just asking a question, could it be [that] Darwinism doesn’t have all the answers? People are acting as if we are coming in and burning down their universities. They’re going crazy. …
AFA: Despite the angry responses, what is going to keep you going on this campaign?
Stein: I think I’m going to keep going on with this because we’re missing something extremely basic in our understanding of the world and how God created it, and I’d like us to return to that, and I think by returning to those bigger subjects of how the world got created and what our place in the world is, we will find a new moral fence which is very much lacking. I mean, this country is a country that is a terribly rich country. … We’re a great technologically advanced country, but we’re a country that’s lost its way morally, and we may be able to make a tiny little contribution toward helping it find its way back, morally improving the lives of people as they have a bigger morality – bigger and clearer and more sure moral compass in their lives.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed will be in theaters across the country in April. Caution: At press time producers assured AFA that objectionable language had been removed from the film.