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Expelled and ID: Part II section B, Expelled

March 30, 2008

Our last look at Expelled showed the early stages of development and the first reviews. In this part, I will discuss more recent misbehavior of these no-accounts and the explosion of coverage shedding light on Expelled crew in both the blogosphere and national news.

Some of the most humorous news with Expelled happened earlier this month at a screening in the Mall of America in Minnesota. Those not familiar with how the screening work, here’s a breakdown: potential viewers go to the Expelled RSVP site, sign up using your full name and also reserve room for guests. You name is put on a list to see the film, and there are no tickets issued for the event. Also of note is the fact that you do not have to name your guests.

On the list for the Mall of America showing was noted biologist and blogger, Dr. PZ Meyers, author of the science blog, Pharyngula. As Dr. Meyers waited in line, he was spotted by producer Mark Mathis, who summoned a security guard, who barred PZ from entering the film. When PZ paused to explain the situation to his family and why he would not be seeing the film with them, the guard came again and told PZ that he must leave the premises immediately. Dr. Meyers complied, and went straight to the Mall’s Apple store to make a post about the incident. In classic PZ fashion, the post expresses his amusement at the irony of being expelled from Expelled especially since he was featured in the film. The incident has since been covered nationally in the NY Times, Salon, Colorado Confidential, and Pioneer Press.

The real punchline is that only PZ was asked to leave. Allowed to enter was his guest, none other than Dr. Richard Dawkins! The incompetence of these idiots is astounding. After the film, there was a brief Q&A, where Dr. Dawkins asked Mathis why Dr. Meyers was asked to leave. Mathis responded by saying that PZ was excluded because he had not been invited to the screening. Interesting, since no-one had been invited.Dr. Dawkins then released his own devastating review of the film with a detailed account of the incident at the Mall of America screening. Excerpts, you ask? Certainly!

Now, to the film itself. What a shoddy, second-rate piece of work.

Stein has no talent for comedy, as he demonstrates in a weird joke about scratching his back, which falls completely flat. But his attempt to do tragedy is even worse. He visits Dachau and, when informed by the guide that lots of Jews had been killed there, he buries his face in his hands as though this is the first time he has heard of it. Obviously it was not his intention, but I thought his rotten acting was an insult to the memory of the victims.

Quite apart from anything else, it is drearily boring, the tedium exacerbated by the grating monotony of Stein’s voice.

The rest is certainly worth a read. So, Mathis said after the screening that Meyers wasn’t invited? He also gave the following conflicting accounts…

To pro-ID journalist Denyse O’Leary:

“You should know that I invited Michael shermer[sic] to a screening at NRB in Nashville. He came and is writing a review for scientific American. I banned pz[sic] because I want him to pay to see it. Nothing more. ” (link)

In an email to Inside Higher Ed:

“Yes, I turned Mr. Myers away. He was not an invited guest of Premise Media. This was a private screening of an unfinished film. I could have let him in, just as I invited Michael Shermer to a screening in Nashville. Shermer is in the film as well. But, in light of Myers’ untruthful blogging about ‘Expelled’ I decided it was better to have him wait until April 18 and pay to see the film. Others, notable others, were permitted to see the film. At a private screening it’s my call.

“Unlike the Darwinist establishment, we expell no one.” (link)

In a Premise Media press release:

“It is amazing to see the reaction of PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and their cohorts when one of them is simply expelled from a movie. Yet these men applaud when professors throughout the nation are fired from their jobs and permanently excluded from their profession for mentioning Intelligent Design,” said producer Mark Mathis. Mathis was at the event that has raised this controversy.

Mathis continued, “I hope PZ’s experience has helped him see the light. He is distraught because he could not see a movie. What if he wasn’t allowed to teach on a college campus or was denied tenure? Maybe he will think twice before he starts demanding more professors be blacklisted and expelled simply because they question the adequacy of Darwin’s theory.”

So, was PZ causing a ruckus, or whas he excluded on a whim, or was he excluded because of his blog entries critical of the movie? Does the Expelled crew expel no-one or should PZ learn from his expulsion? The only easy to answer question here: “Is this a PR nightmare for Premise? Yes.”

To me, one of the most interesting snafus by the Expelled crew is the religious content of the movie. As I said in Part I, ID is trying to forward itself as a scientific theory, not a religious one, in order to get ID in the science classroom. Maggie, who writes New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science Blog attended a screening of Expelled and asked the following question at the post-screening Q&A:

I shot my hand up to ask a question. “The intelligent design movement has gone to great lengths to argue that intelligent design is not religion, that it’s science. And you made a whole film arguing that it is religious. How do they react to that?”

Mathis’ response?

“Well,” Mathis said, “I guess it makes them a little uncomfortable.”

So, not only does the movie not showcase any real science being done in support of ID, not only does it absurdly blame Darwinism for the Nazis, not only does it misrepresent the cases of “expelled” scientists, not only does the expelled crew alienate the real scientists that they interview, *pant pant* but they also can’t even get straight that ID is not supposed to be based in religion! Is there anything these Keystone Cops of pseudoscience can do right? They must be drowning in their own flopsweat!

So, the question now is, “What’s the harm? Yes, they’re idiots that made a boring, inaccurate film. It will probably fail like that Left Behind video game!” The problem with that kind of laissez-faire attitude is that, despite all the links I’ve provided, despite all the new stories and reviews, there are people that are going to see the movie and take the drivel that it spouts as gospel. They will see the lies that the Expelled crew want them to see: that science is a monster that brooks no contest, that evolution is a frail theory, that ID is a valid alternative, and most egregiously that the Theory of Evolution is responsible for the Holocaust.

The Atheist Ethicist says it best, as he so often does. This movie is propaganda, not meant to give valid information, but to plant certain ideas in the heads of the uninformed:

This practice of associating the terms ‘evolution’ and ‘atheist’ with images of gas chambers and concentration camps is not pointless. It’s the whole point. Its purpose is to create a society in which mentioning evolution or atheism in a political speech, television show, classroom, or casual conversation brings up images of gas chambers and concentration camps in a sufficiently large portion of the population that people substantially give up using these terms.

We already have an environment in this country where high school teachers do not teach evolution because they do not want to deal with the hostility. After April 18th (and beyond) they will have to deal with students brought to associate any talk of evolution with images and ideas of gas chambers and concentration camps.

Do we really need to make the state of science education in this country worse? Isn’t it a little scary that Expelled, a mishmash of duplicity, misrepresentation, and incompetence has a shot in doing so? More importantly, doesn’t every single person need to know the story behind Expelled before they see it?

If you plan on seeing this movie, please take into account these articles. I didn’t write them better than any other blogger did, but I may reach a few that won’t see the other blogs. Keep this information in mind when and if you decide to see Expelled. More importantly, direct people to some of the coverage that I linked here.

Be educated.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot this one. On March 28th, the Expelled crew had another phone conference and invited members of the orthodox and unorthodox media. Once again, in this teleconference, questions were not allowed, but for ones that were screened. In fact, all of the media lines were muted. Dr. PZ Meyers was able to obtain the two-way code and used it to ask the crew some hard questions, mainly about the lies contained in the movie and those propagated by the Expelled crew regarding the Mall of America incident. Skepchick Rebecca Watson taped it. It is, how you say, glorious!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2008 4:43 am

    C. David Parsons,

    Spammers are not welcome in my comments sections.

  2. Josh Caleb permalink
    March 31, 2008 2:10 pm

    A few honest questions:
    What predictions does Darwinism make that ID can’t make? If we start with the real observations of: 1) Descent with modification, 2) Random Mutation, 3) Natural Selection, 4) Homology of Morphological Features and Genetic material (DNA) between species… What does “common descent” (i.e. Darwinism) predict that ID does not?

    If ID is not falsifiable, why did Ken Miller spend all that time attempting to show how the flagellum is not irreducibly complex? Doesn’t Miller’s attempt at falsification prove that it IS falsifiable (even if Miller didn’t quite get it right and failed in the attempt as Behe has gone on to demonstrate…) ?
    Thanks.

  3. March 31, 2008 2:40 pm

    Those are good questions, Josh.

    What predictions does Darwinism make that ID can’t make?

    First, science makes prediction based on the natural world, so it always strives to find natural causes for any hypothesis. ID can make natural-world predictions, but as soon as it goes into it’s main premise, that some species came to be as they are now, that is unless every other possibility is falsified. The Theory of Evolution makes all of it’s hypotheses, both correct and incorrect, as natural explanations for observed phenomena. ID does not. What ID cannot provide is a completely natural explanation for life.

    Also, I need to point out that it is not only predictions that make something science. It is also testability, ability to be falsified, and research. Anything that goes outside of that method cannot be described as science. If I hypothesize that my glasses will fall if I drop them because undetectable elves are pulling them towards earth, it’s not science, even though the prediction of the shoe falling is the same prediction that the Theory of Gravitation supplies.

    If ID is not falsifiable, why did Ken Miller spend all that time attempting to show how the flagellum is not irreducibly complex?

    Well, what happened there was that Ken Miller proved that a very specific example that was raised as irreducibly complex was, in fact, not. This in no way proved that no other system may be irreducibly complex. The problem with irreducible complexity is that it posits a designer than no one can scientifically prove exists, unless another explanation other than irreducible complexity is found for a system. Michael Behe himself used that reasoning to say that ID couldn’t be proven scientifically.

    Also, can you provide a link or citation of Behe’ work proving Miller wrong? I haven’t read it, but would like to.

  4. Josh Caleb permalink
    March 31, 2008 5:00 pm

    Joe,
    First, you incorrectly defined science according to metaphysical position (metaphysical naturalism). Science is the process of finding the best causes or explanations to natural phenomena, not merely natural causes.
    For example: an archeologist would be tying himself in knots to find a natural explanation for clay pots he unearthed at a dig site; but because he is not limited to merely natural explanations he would correctly infer an intelligent agent is the best explanation for the clay pot rather than a natural process.)
    I would posit that Darwinism “cannot provide a completely natural explanation for life” either…

    I would also agree that testability and falsifiability of empirical data is an important part of science too. That’s why I brought up the flagellum example and Miller’s attempt to falsify it.
    Here’s the link to Behe and Dembski’s response to Miller:
    http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm

    “The problem with irreducible complexity is that it posits a designer than no one can scientifically prove exists”
    This isn’t really a problem because science doesn’t require an explanation of the explanation of a phenomena. The inference to the best explanation, period, is sufficient. In fact if you follow this logic of the necessity of “explaining the explanation” then an infinite regress of “explanations of explanations” would ensue thus defeating the progress of science. We address one line of causation at a time.

    “Michael Behe himself used that reasoning to say that ID couldn’t be proven scientifically.” Can you provide a reference for this?

  5. March 31, 2008 5:39 pm

    First, you incorrectly defined science according to metaphysical position (metaphysical naturalism). Science is the process of finding the best causes or explanations to natural phenomena, not merely natural causes.

    Well, no. What I was trying to imply was methodological naturalism, used to refer to the long standing convention in science of the scientific method, which makes the methodological assumption that observable effects in nature are best explainable only by natural causes.

    For example: an archeologist would be tying himself in knots to find a natural explanation for clay pots he unearthed at a dig site; but because he is not limited to merely natural explanations he would correctly infer an intelligent agent is the best explanation for the clay pot rather than a natural process.)

    The explanation that a past human made the pot is a perfectly naturalistic and scientific explanation for the pot. Man is part of nature, and therefore subject to study and definition by science. If he were to infer that undetectable fairies made the pot appear in the ground seconds before he started digging, that would not be naturalistic, nor scientific.

    “Michael Behe himself used that reasoning to say that ID couldn’t be proven scientifically.” Can you provide a reference for this?

    Indeed, Behe concedes, “You can’t prove intelligent design by an experiment.”

    It’s about halfway down under the “Biologists Ask, What Holes?” section.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll read it after work and probably be doomed to spending my night looking up genetic terms!

  6. Josh Caleb permalink
    April 1, 2008 8:05 am

    Joe M,
    However you want to call it, any a priori limitation on causation is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Its begging the question to limit causation to only natural phenomena out of hand. This is the ironic thing about this definition switch-a-roo (metaphysical vs. methodological naturalism) because the concession being made in the switch is that supernatural entities do (or might) exist in the world… but then in the same breath they deny those supernatual entities any access or causation in the physical world.
    What a concession (/sarcasm).

    However, I am glad to see you recognize and distinguish causation by intelligent agents and mindless events, an important distinction to be sure.

    Re: Behe quote, the only source I find via Google is the TIME article which doesn’t provide context or citations, so its difficult to know how to assess that quote.
    Cheers.

  7. April 13, 2008 11:05 am

    “However you want to call it, any a priori limitation on causation is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Its begging the question to limit causation to only natural phenomena out of hand.”

    You are absolutely incorrect. The reason that this “limitation” exists is because supernatural events/entities, i.e. things that exist outside of nature, cannot be studied within natural laws. Everything that science has given us has come through investigation through natural means: medicine, astronomy, light, electricity, engines, trains, airplanes, radio, television, botany, climatology, meteorology. Every single advance made in technology was done by ignoring whether or not god (or unicorns, or fairies, or Santa Claus, or canadians, or leprechauns) could have had some hand in it.

    If metorology had stopped investigating storms with “the gods are angry”, if medicine had ended at “god heals who he/she/it will”, or if biology had ended with “god put us here” we would not see the great advances in quality of life that we have.

    On the other hand, if some scientist says “god made the natural rules, let’s find out how they work”, and continue to advance the science, no one can fault his philosophical views as long as the science doesn’t falter because of them.

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