The substance? It's on "Darwinist" evolutionists and how they try to suppress the views of anyone in favor of "Intelligent Design". Depending on whom you ask and how they're feeling on the day you ask, Intelligent Design is either a form of creationism or a form of evolution which nonetheless contains the tenet that certain things cannot have evolved without outside help. It also argues that "Darwinism" creates atheism and moral corruption.
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed contains examples of the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion: Ben Stein's closing lines of narration are, you guessed it, "Anyone? Anyone?"
- Arbitrary Skepticism: If you're going to argue that Intelligent Design is a real possibility and doesn't require belief in God, then panspermia should not be offensive to you, as it's pretty much the only other option.
- Big Bad: Richard Dawkins. Ben Stein thinks Dawkins is the atheist to beat if atheism is indeed correct. He treats his confrontation with Dawkins as the Final Boss of the movie. (See the Funny page for this work for an incident that's doubly amusing in light of this.)
- B-Roll Rebus: Played obliviously straight. The Lord Privy Seal effect is in full force, words and their respective pictures are constantly mixed.
- David Versus Goliath: There's a very staged scene that attempts to portray an Intelligent Design organization as a David standing against the Goliath of evolutionary science. Stein wanders around a street, supposedly having difficulty finding the huge building where he expects the organization to be housed. When he's finally pointed to the building, he announces his assumption that the organization surely takes up the entire building. Lo and behold, he's "shocked" to discover that the organization is quite small and only takes up one office!
- Evilutionary Biologist: The film argues that academic "Darwinist" biologists are willfully conspiring to suppress the evidence for Intelligent Design, for motives that are somehow connected to eugenics, Communism, and Nazism.
- Fictional Document: This film is full of new productions made in the style of 1950s educational films.
- Godwin's Law: A fair portion of the movie towards the end involves trying to directly link acceptance of evolution and the Holocaust. Naturally, people were quite outraged that Stein, who is Jewish, would try to pull this card.
- Hitler Ate Sugar: The documentary goes some ways to tie Darwin and his work to eugenics and, ultimately, to the Nazis. It becomes all the more obvious as it progresses. Note that Darwin's The Descent of Man in fact explicitly repudiated the concept of Social Darwinism (with a passage which Stein quote mined to claim the opposite).
- Panspermia: Richard Dawkins concedes it is theoretically possible that life on Earth could have originated by being seeded from life on other planets. The film treats this as a coup of some sort for Intelligent Design, but a moment's reflection would clarify that this doesn't have any bearing on the question of how life itself first developed.
- Playing the Victim Card: The main thrust of the film is portraying Intelligent Design proponents as an abused minority that is being unfairly silenced by a tyrannical "Darwinist" conspiracy.
- Quote Mine: The film is infamous for its deliberate twisting of quotes to suit the agenda of its creators. For instance, Richard Dawkins' interview is cut to grossly misrepresent what he actually said, as well as make him seem slightly insane. This is also done every time Darwin is quoted, presenting the stances he was arguing against as if they were his conclusions.
- They Called Me Mad!: The film claims that proponents of intelligent design regularly receive this treatment at the hands of the scientific community, which supports Darwinian evolution.
- Villainous Legacy: Although Charles Darwin is dead and not affiliated with the current struggle over school curriculum, he is the source of evolutionary science. The film blames him for Nazism and other atrocities.