Free Science

In 2008, threats to academic freedom in the sciences made a splash on the big screen in Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The documentary was wildly successful and made the need to free science known to a whole generation.

The stories Stein recounts remain a powerful introduction to the issues. Below you can find a study guide and also information to sort through the PR battle that ensued in its wake.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

LOS ANGELES, Calif. | August 14, 2007 — It’s a movie that Ferris Bueller would take the day off to go see. What freedom-loving student wouldn’t be outraged to discover that his high school science teacher is teaching a theory as indisputable fact, and that university professors unmercifully crush any fellow scientists who dare question the prevailing system of belief? This isn’t the latest Hollywood comedy; it’s a disturbing new documentary that will shock anyone who thinks all scientists are free to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

Ben Stein, the lovable, monotone teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Wonder Years is on a journey to answer one of the biggest questions ever asked: Were we designed or are we simply the end result of an ancient mud puddle struck by lightning? Stein, who is also a lawyer, an economist, a former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator, is stunned by what he finds on his journey. He discovers an elitist scientific establishment that has traded in its skepticism for dogma. But even worse, along the way, Stein uncovers a long line of biologists, astronomers, chemists and philosophers who have had their reputations destroyed and their careers ruined by a scientific establishment that allows absolutely no dissent from Charles Darwin’s theory of random mutation and natural selection.

“Big Science in this area of biology has lost its way,” says Stein. “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. It’s anti-the whole concept of learning.”

Expelled uncovers 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. For example, Stein meets Richard Sternberg, a double PhD biologist who allowed a peer-reviewed research paper describing the evidence for intelligence in the universe to be published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Not long after publication, officials from the National Center for Science Education and the Smithsonian Institution where Sternberg was a research fellow began a coordinated smear and intimidation campaign to get the promising young scientist expelled from his position. This attack on scientific freedom was so egregious that it prompted a congressional investigation.

On his journey, Stein meets other scientists such as astrobiologist Guillermo Gonzalez, who was denied tenure at Iowa State University in spite of his extraordinary record of achievement. Gonzalez made the mistake of documenting the design he has observed in the universe. There are others, such as Caroline Crocker, a brilliant 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 design in the universe. The list goes on and on.

Unlike some other documentary films, Expelled doesn’t just talk to people representing one side of the story. The film confronts scientists such as 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. The creators of Expelled crossed the globe over a two-year period, interviewing scores of scientists, doctors, philosophers and public leaders. The result is a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools, universities and research institutions.

“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,” said Walt Ruloff, co-founder of Premise Media and Co-Executive Producer. “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. Premise Media took on this difficult mission because we believe the greatest asset of humanity is our freedom to explore and discover truth.”

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed was released in February 2008.


Adapted from Premise Media’s press release
Director: Nathan Frankowski
Writers: Kevin Miller, Ben Stein