Christian movie producer raises storm of controversy
Andrew Halloway reveals the story behind a new film, Expelled, from Hollywood producer John Sullivan. Launched in the USA this month, the film is a documentary type movie in the style of Fahrenheit 911and An inconvenient truth. It exposes the persecution experienced by scientists who don’t accept evolution.
The controversial movie, Expelled:No intelligence allowed, shows how the Darwinist hierarchy has closed ranks against anyone who opposes evolution, and against the rise of intelligent design theory (ID) in particular (ID is a research project amassing scientificevidence pointing to the existence of a Designer who is responsible for life and the universe).
Some scientists have lost their jobs for expressing such dissident views on the origins of life, and many others have been unable to find work unless they renounce their non-Darwinian convictions. The co-producer of Expelledis a Christian, John Sullivan.
An interview with John Sullivan (interviewer’s questions and comments in italics):
Asked why he made the film, John Sullivan said: ‘We believe freedom of speech is worth fighting for. But we are also fighting against materialism – the kind of reductionist thinking that says the only explanations for life must be natural explanations. So there is a need to reach out to all faiths for their support on this’.
But if the dispute between ID theory and neo-Darwinism is a scientific battle, why not leave it to play out in the halls of academia? Why make a movie?
Sullivan: ‘You have to talk to the man on the street about this, because the academic hierarchy has closed off many of the avenues for normal scientific debate to protect the existing theory of evolution.
‘A US Senator recently told Congress, “Evidence has accumulated of widespread discrimination against other qualified scientists who dissent from Darwinian theory”. I know without a shadow of a doubt that people are being “expelled”.
‘A CBS News poll recently showed that creation trumps evolution among the US public. Only 13% believed that humans evolved without God, despite decades of evolutionary domination of the media, education and politics’.
The star of the film – Ben Stein – is relatively unknown in the UK but is’a big name in America’. Ben is more than just a Hollywood actor. He is also a lawyer, an economist, a former presidential speechwriter, author and social commentator.
Sullivan: ‘It’s this wide intellectual credibility that makes him ideal for introducing the subject of ID to new audiences’.
In the film, Stein talks to 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. Is Stein a Christian too?
Sullivan: ‘Ben is not a Christian, but he is a theist. In other words, he believes in a Creator but not necessarily the God of the Bible’.
This ties in with Sullivan’s avowed aim to generate support for the movie from all faiths. But how successful will a science documentary be in cinemas?
Sullivan: ‘The popularity of Al Gore’s ‘An inconvenient truth’ suggests that there may be a mass audience for scientific controversies … A BARNA study has indicated that 20 million would definitely see a movie like ‘Expelled’ in the US’.
Andrew Halloway continues:
At the time I spoke to Sullivan ‘it wasn’t certain whether the movie would get a UK release’. But Sullivan said, ‘If it is a blockbuster in the US, it will definitely come over here, and we are making plans for a UK distribution’.
Even before its release, Expelledhas hit the headlines in the USA. High profile atheistic scientists like Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins and America’s Eugenie Scott, who are interviewed in the movie, have, says Sullivan, accused the film-makers of misrepresenting them, of covering up the fact that the film would promote ID, and of changing the title of the movie.
But Sullivan vigorously defends himself against the charge of deception: ‘We’ve been accused of many things. But we were honest with everybody. We didn’t trick anybody. We didn’t take them out of context. We told them the film was about religion and science. Dawkins was captured by his own arrogance. And as for changing the movie title – that’s just the norm in Hollywood. All movies start off with a provisional title and it’s always understood that it can change as it progresses’.
Last year, in a move that revived memories of Stalinistic censorship, the Council of Europe voted to encourage member countries to ban the teaching of creationism and ID as a scientific discipline (4 October). The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly declared: ‘If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights’.
In stark contrast, Expelledexposes the reality on academic campuses around the world – that far from creationism being the threat, it is evolutionary orthodoxy that is already riding roughshod over human rights, preventing dissenters from obtaining jobs and from being published in academic journals.
And that includes the UK. Mark Pickering, head of student ministries at the Christian Medical Fellowship, says that there is systematic bias in the scientific world against ID: ‘I have academic colleagues who do not yet have tenure who cannot own up to their professors that they have sympathy with intelligent design because that would be the end of their career. This is despite them already proving themselves as good scientists’ (Student British Medical Journal, June 07).
In December 2006, the Guardianreported that an influential group of academics were demanding a change in the law to ensure that UK scholars are given complete freedom of speech in universities. More than 60 educators from Academics for Academic Freedom called for laws to be extended to ensure that academics are free to ‘question and test received wisdom, and to put forward unpopular opinions’.
A statement on the AFAF website says: ‘In today’s political climate it is harder than ever for academics to defend open debate. Restrictive legislation, and the bureaucratic rules and regulations of government quangos and of universities themselves, have undermined academic freedom.
‘Many academics are fearful of upsetting managers and politicians by expressing controversial opinions. Afraid to challenge mainstream thought, many pursue self-censorship’.
Return to Middle Ages?
The very fact that such a campaign is necessary seems to prove that free debate and research in the UK is under threat. Richard Dawkins has publicly called for Andrew McIntosh, professor of thermodynamics at Leeds and an ID supporter, to be sacked, for claiming that evolutionary theory is wrong.
Howard Taylor, chaplain at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, says: ‘At Caltech University in Los Angeles, a lecturer has complained that the scientific hierarchy is behaving like the “mother church” of the Middle Ages and intimidating those of a different view’.
While the lecturer was talking about scientific dissent on global warming, it seems the comparison is just as applicable to evolution. Perhaps today’s scientific establishment has nullified the Royal Society’s motto: Nullius in verba- which means open, unprejudiced, uninhibited inquiry and unstifled debate.
© copyright Andrew Halloway 2007
The author is a Christian freelance writer, editor and publishing consultant. Email: [email protected]