Synopsis of the Movie "Expelled"

by Micah McDunnigan

"Expelled" continues a history of questioning Darwin's theories. Images

The actor and economist Ben Stein managed to raise a great deal of controversy when he released his documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." The documentary covers the debate that surrounds the theory of evolution, its place in academia and the possibility of alternative theories. In it, Stein stakes out his view opposing evolution's predominance in science and academia.


"Expelled" begins with Ben Stein about to address a filled auditorium. In a voice-over, Stein expresses the premise for the movie. He has seen a bias in the media and academia toward the theory of evolution. He has perceived this bias through the little credence granted to or coverage of dissenting views in the mainstream media and academic publications. He views this as an unhealthy situation and says his purpose in making what would become "Expelled" was to investigate why this was.


In the course of the documentary, he begins with a basic treatment of evolution through the theories of Charles Darwin: a process of natural selection also known as descent with modification. The theory holds that all life on earth evolved from single-celled organisms through an entirely self-governing process that was not guided by any force but itself. Stein interviews a few professors to establish that this is the predominant view of professors at universities and other members of the scientific establishment.

Intelligent Design

Stein then shifts to what he sees as an alternative theory: intelligent design. Stein interviews a number of individuals who hold advanced degrees and who have taught at universities, such as mathematician and philosopher Dr. David Berlinski, who question the predominance of the theory of evolution. Stein emphasizes their academic credentials to establish that many individuals who question this predominance are classically trained academics. Through these interviews, Stein and those he interview present intelligent design as an empirical study of signs of intelligence in the structure of the physical world.


Stein uses these interviews to construct a narrative that fits his premise that the academic community is unfairly holding to the theory of evolution and not giving theories such as intelligent design the consideration they deserve. Stein sees this effort in both the articles that scientific journals choose to publish and in institutions not hiring or retaining faculty that take theories such as intelligent design into account in their research and work. Stein's conclusion from the material he presents in the documentary is that the scientific community needs to accept challenges to the classical theory of evolution and allow contributions from researchers who work with intelligent design.

Photo Credits

  • Images