Then the premise of this documentary film erupts. Members of the scientific community are being denied tenure. Co-writer and star Ben Stein (Nixon speech writer, game-show host, teacher in Ferris Bueller) confronts what he calls an affront to freedom of speech by peregrinating around the world and examining the expulsion of scientists and scholars in and around America.
What was their crime? Discussing the creation of living cells in their scientific papers and mentioning Intelligent Design.
It's here that Stein makes his one and only solid point in the entire film. Intelligent Design wears a stigma of association with creationism -- unfairly, as Stein points out -- when in fact ID theory a) posits that the Earth was created by an intelligent designer and b) denies that Darwinian natural selection provides any useful explanation of our existence.
So Stein's right: Intelligent Design isn't evangelical propaganda, as he claims the media has portrayed. It's a concept that many members of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths -- and even agnostics and atheists -- share, although most won't back the theory or even acknowledge it.
The rest of Stein's film, however, represents one giant backslide after another. He wages all-out war on Darwinism, blaming it for the erosion of morality, the legalizing of abortion, the spread of euthanasia and eugenics, even the Nazi death camps. Stein calls on atheists like Richard Dawkins to make Darwinism appear to be what Stein thinks it is: a means of wiping away all religious belief. As for the droves of people, however, who have murdered multitudes in the name of an intelligent creator -- well, they're not mentioned in Stein's film.
Director Nathan Frankowski adds in a lot of Moore-esque cartoons and film clips that are more distracting than helpful. The scene in which Charlton Heston is overpowered by an ape-held water hose in Planet of the Apes, while a quirky way to tie suppression to Darwin, holds no water. Sort of like Stein's hypothesis. (Rated PG)