Ben Stein—he’s shown himself to be a pretty solid philosopher in “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” And he’s catching a lot of heat for it. Just have a look at the tone of the majority of movie reviewers: resentful, dismissive, sarcastic.

Much criticism is being levied upon Ben Stein for his use of Holocaust footage to hammer home his point about the debate over Darwinism and Intelligent Design. However, some ideas have dire consequences. Stein is justified in his choice to use these images.  It would be wrong to use the images if Darwinism and concentration camps were two unrelated realities.  However, the connection is all too real.

Darwinian philosophy, regardless of whether a direct link may be established between itself and Nazi policy, is identical with the practice and propaganda of the Nazis. If one could put Darwinism into action, what would it look like?  It would look a lot like Nazism: forced sterilization, ethnic cleansing, survival of the … policymakers. Darwinism indeed was the philosophy that Nazi scientists held. Darwin’s theory of natural selection was the foundation of policies and propaganda that helped build the menace of the Nazi regime. And Darwinism is today building the menace of academic totalitarianism and the abortion machine.

And yes, this is the problem: Atheistic scientists have squelched philosophy as a pseudoscience, and in doing so have themselves become the philosophers. Moreover, so many Christians have feared to enter into the sphere of human reason, believing that reason itself is totally untrustworthy.  This, too, has effectively separated philosophy and theology. Now, where is human reason, the middle man? There is no mediator to be found, no line of communication between science and theology.  But Darwinism and Intelligent Design are both philosophies at their core.  What is needed for an acceptable dialogue is a return to philosophy.

In fact the great tragedy here is that there is no mediator between science and religion. Preceding a modern attempt to try to kill God and destroy His memory from the earth has been the massacre of human reason: the death of metaphysics.

Metaphysics, a branch of philosophy, concerns itself with the study of being. When scientists venture into the question, Why is there existence?, they have left the field of science and entered into the field of philosophy.  The examination of existence is philosophy. It belongs to philosophy, and requires the right use of philosophical principles to master this study. Scientists have left the sphere of their expertise when they begin to treat questions on the origins of that which has existence. They are ill-equipped to answer the question. And they have sought to do so on philosophical terms.

The death of metaphysics in mainstream academia has been a bitter one, but a necessary one for irresponsible and irrational modern thought. In an academic atmosphere in which metaphysics no longer holds any sway, a few wayward scientists can do as they please, despite the pleroma of contradictions overflowing from their theories. For instance, consider the scientist in the movie who held the notion that life began on the backs of crystals. This is implicitly an assertion that matter is without beginning or end in time. How can there be an infinite regression of causes, a long chain of causes without beginning or end? This is philosophically unsound.

There is also the notion that a more intelligent species in a sense “sowed” life on this earth, which has been evolving ever since. At this point it is necessary to define philosophical terms a little bit. A contingent being is one whose existence is not strictly necessary. An absolute being is one whose existence is altogether necessary. I am contingent; you are contingent; all human beings are contingent. Philosophically speaking, it would not be absurd for a human being to have never existed. But to say that aliens caused life on earth doesn’t solve the problem of contingency. What those scientists asserted is that contingent life is responsible for contingent life. Then, it could be rightly asked, how did alien life begin? We’ve started the problem all over again. Absolute aliens?  Again, totally philosophically unsound, and in no way harmonious with common sense.  No less than arch-atheist Richard Dawkins himself transgressed this most basic philosophical principle.

Many religious people are trying to answer the question on philosophical terms as well, but without mastery of the principles of philosophy. Atheistic commentators become indignant when intelligent-design proponents assert that their struggle is not a religious one.  But those proponents realize, rightly, that this is not a question of religion.  The question of the existence of God is a question of natural theology, a branch of philosophy because it is not based on Divine Revelation, but can be known by the human intellect alone. The notions of the atheistic scientists is all so very offensive to human reason. This is a good sign: Common sense will assist those who fight this battle. But more than that, they will need philosophy.

Ètienne Gilson, a 20th-century French philosopher, expresses this far better than I do:

A religious interpretation of nature never worries about what things are—that is a problem for scientists—but it is very much concerned with the questions why things happen to be precisely what they are, and why they happen to be at all. … Whatever their ultimate value, these are existential answers to existential questions. As such, they cannot possibly be transposed into terms of science, but only into terms of an existential metaphysics. Hence these two immediate consequences: that natural theology is in bondage not to the method of positive science but to the method of metaphysics, and that it can correctly ask its own problems only in the frame of an existential metaphysics (1).

Ben Stein, in offering his career as an oblation for the sake of truth, has brought into the public eye the many miseries of the theories of overly philosophical scientists. God is not subject to scientific observation, so the debate cannot be cut off in the class room. How could science, which is concerned with observing the material world, disprove the existence of God, an immaterial Being?

That is impossible.  And unless it is serious about operating within the tenets of right philosophy, it should humbly step away from such questions. Christians, too, should recognize the reality of this threat to human reason and not fear to learn the principles of philosophy that they, too, may enter responsibly into the debate.

We must enter this debate.  As Stein showed, Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood, took up this philosophy as her own.  Natural selection is practiced still today through eugenics (Greek for good birth or well-born).  As in Nazi Germany, the strength of the genes has again been equated with human worth. Several studies within the past decade have shown that a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome results in the child’s death through abortion at least 80 percent of the time (2).  This debate has everything to do with the dignity of man, who in his immateriality is more than his chromosomes.

My review: This is the most thought-provoking documentary to come out of Hollywood in a long time. This is a must-see for our times (at the very least to thank Ben Stein for the sacrifice of his career for the sake of truth).

Philosophy comes from two Greek words: love (philo) and wisdom (sophia).  Can any human love parallel the love Mary had for her divine Son, Wisdom Incarnate?  In these times, we must look to Our Lady, the greatest philosopher, who keeps all good things, pondering them in her heart.  After all, she is the Mother of the Word Incarnate; it is she who mediates to us the very flesh of wisdom.

Kevin Clarke is a graduate student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He publishes a semi-weekly blog, The Charcoal Fire.


(1) Ètienne Gilson, God and Philosophy, second edition (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2002), 119-120.

(2) Some disturbing studies have shown figures above 90 percent for women who opt for abortion after having received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child.