NEW YORK – You may have seen him on commercials for Visine eye drops but in his new documentary, television personality Ben Stein aims to help his audience clear their viewpoints on the debate between Intelligent Design and Darwinism.
In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Stein – who has also worked as a lawyer, an economist, an author and social commentator – embarks on a journey across the globe to answer the long disputed question "Were we designed or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning?"
The film, slated for a February 2008 release, highlights the long-standing controversial debate between supporters of Darwinism, which suggests the universe was created by chance, and Intelligent Design, which argues that the creation of life and the universe are results of an intelligent "designer."
Through interviews with representatives from both sides of the debate, Stein found out that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired in some cases for the fact that they believe there is evidence of "design" in nature, challenging the idea that life is a result of random chance, according to a news release.
"There are people out there who want to keep science in a little box where it can't possibly touch God," said Stein in the film's trailer. "Scientists are not even allowed to think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator."
For example, one biologist who allowed a peer-reviewed research paper describing the evidence for intelligence in the universe to be published in a scientific journal was the target of a smear and intimidation campaign by National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution, where he was a fellow, to get him expelled from his position. Flagged as egregious, the attack prompted a congressional investigation.
In another case, Caroline Crocker, a biology teacher at George Mason University who was forced out of the university for briefly discussing problems with Darwinian Theory and for telling the students that some scientists believe there is evidence of intelligent design in the universe.
"If you just stand up and question Darwinism – that's it – your career is over," Crocker said the film's trailer.
According to Stein, the suppression and silencing of those who reference evidence of intelligent design is where "Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way."
"Scientists are supposed to be allowed to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, no matter what the implications are. Freedom of inquiry has been greatly compromised, and this is not only anti-American, it's anti-science. Its anti-the whole concept of learning" said Stein in a news release.
In an effort to present both sides, the film also confronts those against Intelligent Design, including Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion; influential biologist and atheist blogger P.Z. Myers; and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education.
"People will be stunned to actually find out what elitist scientists proclaim, which is that a large majority of Americans are simpletons who believe in a fairy tale," said Walt Ruloff, co-executive producer and co-founder of Premise Media, which is producing the film.
He continued to say that his company agreed to take up the film's production because they "believe the greatest asset of humanity is our freedom to explore and discover truth."
The film's original title was Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion, according to U.K.-based The Guardian. The film company said the movie's title was changed, on the advice of marketing experts.
However, some scientists interviewed in the film told the New York Times that they felt misled into taking part in the film.
"At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front," said Dawkins.
But Stein denies misleading anyone. "I don't remember a single person asking me what the movie was about," he told the Times.
Ruloff also backed the film's integrity, saying, "The incredible thing about Expelled is that we don't resort to manipulating our interviews for the purpose of achieving the 'shock effect,' something that has become common in documentary film these days."
The public reaction to the new film has been mixed. As of Friday, over 1,600 comments have been posted on Stein's introductory blog. Many of the comments were long and detailed rebuttals to the viewpoint Stein presented in the film.
Some posted comments applauding Stein for his participation in the film and for presenting a long-awaited side of the debate.
"I am elated that someone, especially an icon like Ben Stein, is standing up for what's right. It is highly unlikely to see celebrities standing up for religion or to try to radically change what has been embedded in us for years as students," wrote Kyle Miller. "As a college student I am geared and ready to go to fight for as long as I have to get people to at least acknowledge the fact that another possibility besides Darwinism exists."
Expelled is being marketed by Motive Entertainment, which has spearheaded major previous Hollywood blockbusters, including The Passion of the Christ, Polar Express and The Chronicles of Narnia. It will be distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures.
On the Web: More information on Expelled and the online trailer at www.expelledthemovie.com.