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Ad Hoc Review #3

Posted By Joe Carter On April 23, 2008 @ 12:14 am In Culture,Film,In Review,Intelligent Design | 45 Comments

Expelled Expelled [1] {Documentary} – Ben Stein’s new documentary Expelled is a Rorschach test for revealing people’s true feelings about intellectual freedom. Not surprising, many people–especially academic and media elites–loathe the film. While these groups often claim to value freedom of expression and thinking that challenges the status quo, they are often rigidly doctrinaire. Most blog readers will find this point obvious, for the blogosphere is crowded with young academics that use pseudonyms for fear that they will never get tenure if they speak their minds.
But there are many Americans that are surprised by the McCarthyite tactics that are used to quell dissenting views. It is this group that Stein and company are aiming to shock in this amusing, intriguing polemic.
The film doesn’t attempt to present the scientific case for ID (though Stein promises this will be included on the DVD version) nor does it attempt to undermine the credibility of neo-Darwinism (though the Darwinists in the film do a masterful job of that, albeit unintenionally). Stein’s primary focus is on the freedom of academics to merely consider an idea that is deemed verboten in the Ivory Towers. He uses a series of interviews, interspersed with Cold War imagery, in a way that that is both entertaining and enlightening. It is only when it veers off into the historical connection between Darwinism and Nazism that the film stumbles. The conjunction between the two is indisputable, though ultimately as irrelevant as the connection between religion and ID. Scientific theories must be judged on their merit, not on unfortunate outcomes that may result.
Another caution is that Expelled isn’t a fair movie. When Stein interviews advocates of ID he selects scientists and philosophers that are thoughtful and sober while the Darwinists tend to be either a bit nutty (Bill Provine) or unable to keep from damaging their own cause (PZ Myers). Likewise, he stacks the decks in ID’s favor by interviewing intellectual heavyweights like David Berlinski while allowing neo-Darwinism to be defended by Richard Dawkins, a man who is highly educated but of only modest intellect. The result is a film that isn’t balanced and isn’t fair. But it is both funny and infuriating. At least it is, as Stein would no doubt say, if you value freedom. Rating: B+


SalvoSalvo [2] {Quarterly Journal} — Salvo has been described as “Adbusters for Church Kids” (by a detractor) and “like Richard Weaver back in the flesh with cyberpunk clothes” (by a fan). Both the praise and the criticism are apt; Salvo is both snarky and sincere, ultra-hip and uber-conservative. But it’s also one of the few journals for people who can appreciate Adbusters, cyberpunk, and Richard Weaver.
A publication of The Crux Project, Salvo is “dedicated to the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence.” Such an anachronistic mission statement seems more fitting for dusty church bulletins than for a journal filled with satiric faux ads [3] and articles on cutting-edge topics [4]. Yet the quarterly manages to fill a void for its target audience (which ranges from sharp young Christians to oldheads like me who miss re:generation Quarterly [5]). Not everyone will “get it” and not everyone will like it. But for those who are looking a quirky, culturally relevant, and intellectually stimulating read, Salvo may be just what you’re looking for. Rating: A-

World War ZWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War [6] {Audiobook} — Zombies have become the monster metaphor of choice for our post-9/11 culture. Whereas vampires and werewolves once fulfilled the role as Threatening Other, zombies show us the Threatening Us. The attack from within–from our own friends, family, and neighbors–is what makes the threat of zombies so poignant. But while most zombie tales focus on the geographically local (New York City in I Am Legend, England in 28 Days Later), Max Brooks offers a global scale apocalypse in World War Z.
Brooks frames the story as an oral history, a series of post-war interviews with notable survivors of the “Zombie World War.” Each interview provides an intriguing personal perspective while revealing the larger events that transform a world plagued by the “living dead.” This structure lends itself well to the audiobook format. The abridged version, which won an the 2007 Audie Award for best Multi-Voiced Performance, is read by a host of actors, including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Rob Reiner, and John Turturro. (Here’s a sentence I never imagined I’d write: Alan Alda’s performance is absolutely riveting.)
Brooks’ has a superb eye for the intriguing how-did-he-ever-think-of-that detail. He also manages to keep the focus on humanity, even when fighting an enemy that has lost theirs. Even those who aren’t fans of the horror genre will find themselves hooked by this gripping alternative history. Rating: A+

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URLs in this post:

[1] Expelled: http://www.expelledthemovie.com/home.php

[2] Salvo: http://www.salvomag.com/

[3] satiric faux ads: http://www.salvomag.com/new/ads/onepill.html

[4] articles on cutting-edge topics: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo4/4cook.php

[5] re:generation Quarterly: http://www.ctlibrary.com/rq/

[6] World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0739340131/?tag=evangeoutpos-20

[7] Share on Tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/share/link/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fevangelicaloutpost.com%2Farchives%2F2008%2F04%2Fad-hoc-review-3.html&name=Ad%20Hoc%20Review%20%233

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