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Written by Matthew Pejkovic

Roger Ebert Thumbs Up

Esteemed American film critic Roger Ebert, responded to accusations by the producers of pro-Intelligent Design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that he has not reviewed the film due to his belief in evolution, with a scathing “review” on his blog at the Chicago Sun Times.

Titled Win Ben Stein’s Mind, which is a mock of narrator Ben Stein’s game show, the blog is a well detailed, humorous, yet rather hypocritical denouncement of Expelled and the Intelligent Design movement.

Of particular impression that me was Ebert’s often referral to those he calls “the middle” i.e., people of religious faith who believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution,  who were ignored in Stein’s good religious conservative creationists V evil atheist liberal evolutionist’s documentary.

To name but a few of those found in the middle, there is famed geneticist Francis S. Collins; biologist and practising Roman Catholic Kenneth R. Miller; and biologist Joan Roughgarden, author of Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist.


Unfortunately, while Ebert was busy slamming Stein and co., he seemed to have missed the point that many scientists also play by the same rules that Stein does in the film. Popular atheist biologists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins constantly refer to people of religious faith – no matter their scientific standing and stance on evolution – in a less than flattering light.

Take, for example, Myers on Collins: "(Geneticist Francis) Collins is in the pseudo-rationalist branch of liberal Christianity. That's fine, he's welcome to dither about in there…but seriously, it has no credibility and no greater rational foundation than the raving mad branches of fundamentalism. I oppose it. I think the only purpose of this kind of crap is to provide a smiling mask of benign ineffectuality to insanity, a sympathetic cover to allow the religious to excuse any inspection of their premises."

Also of note in Ebert’s blog, was the “unfair” treatment given to Dawkins.

Ebert: “Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins' face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.”

Yet, had Ebert viewed Dawkins’ BBC anti-religion documentary seriesThe Root of All Evil?– about as provocative a title as you can get – then he would have seen Dawkins admit similar tactics to make his interview subjects come off as foolish as possible.  

As quoted by the UK’S The Register: "We can't really see that Dawkins has much to complain about" because "we suspect Dawkins and his mates are upset because their participation in the film makes them look a little foolish. Dawkins, of course, has made programmes himself in which his 'opponents' don't come off looking quite so hot, so perhaps this is an object of karma, eh?"

So maybe in this instance Ebert’s anger towards Stein had little to do with the strategies implemented to make Dawkins a bad guy, and more to do with how documentaries are shot and edited these days?


But that did not stop Ebert from giving anti-religious documentaryReligulousa fair shake, which is a shame since if Ebert had presented the same critically analysis of Religulous, as he did with Expelled, than he would have seen that both films evoke the same tools of propaganda to get there “message” across. 

Instead, Ebert begins his Religulous review with: “I'm going to try to review Bill Maher's "Religulous" without getting into religion.”

Gee whiz, how about that! Reviewing a documentary, without referring to the subject documented. Quite an approach. Let’s call it “cop put criticism”.

“This review is going to depend on one of my own deeply held beliefs: It's not what the movie is about, it's how it's about it.”

Well this is strange, since in his blog, Ebert wrote: "Expelled" is not a bad film from the technical point of view. It is well photographed and edited, sometimes amusing, has well-chosen talking heads, gives an airing to evolutionists however truncated and interrupted with belittling images, and incorporates entertainingly unfair historical footage, as when it compares academia's rejection of Creationism to the erection of the Berlin Wall.”

So according to Ebert’s creed of film criticism, Expelled may not be such a bust after all. Yet he hardly holds up to his “deeply held belief”, since his whole blog on Expelled had everything to do with what the movie was about, and how much that pissed him off.

To reiterate my point, Ebert cheers on Maher’s unfair treatment of his interview subjects:

“He interrupts, talks over, slaps on subtitles, edits in movie and TV clips, and doesn't play fair. Reader, I took a guilty pleasure in his misbehavior.”

So now it starts to become clear. Stein treats his evolutionist subjects like crap, he gets a spanking. Maher does the same to religious figure heads, and he is rewarded 3 ½ stars. Seems like Ebert has been drinking from the same pond of self righteous hypocrisy that Stein and Maher guzzle from.




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