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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


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There are two animations, both of which support the film's argument. Not sure which you mean. One of them is under attack as quasi-plagiarized. Whatever the legal ramifications, it doesn't go to Greg's initial comments, which at this time still seem defensible:

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“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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The two animations both argue that life is complex at the cellular level -- one through cheeky metaphor ('The Casino of Life', complete with a caricature of a frustrated Richard Dawkins kicking the slot machines), the other through a semi-realistic recreation of cellular activity. The basic idea is that life is so complex it couldn't have come together without a Designer -- which is basically the argument that Michael Behe made over a decade ago in Darwin's Black Box (speaking of whom, why isn't Behe in this film?), and which at least one critic said was refuted some 60 years before Behe had even made it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There are two animations, both of which support the film's argument. Not sure which you mean. One of them is under attack as quasi-plagiarized. Whatever the legal ramifications, it doesn't go to Greg's initial comments, which at this time still seem defensible:

Frankowski and primary screenwriter Kevin Miller don
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There are two animations, both of which support the film's argument.

So we agree that Greg's assertion was false.

Not sure which you mean. One of them is under attack as quasi-plagiarized.

That's the animation to which I refer. Whether it was plagiarized or not is irrelevant to Greg's assertion.

Whatever the legal ramifications, it doesn't go to Greg's initial comments, which at this time still seem defensible:

Frankowski and primary screenwriter Kevin Miller don
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So we agree that Greg's assertion was false.

Sorry, I'm not following the argument that closely. If I didn't know which animation you meant, I sure don't know which assertion you mean or when I agreed it was false.

That's precisely what they've done. They have staged a "recreation" and tried to pass it off as real documentary footage. The animation that they show, as with the one they plagiarized, involved massive elisions so that it could illustrate what a tiny subset of cellular components do at a very macro level, relative to what we actually know. If those elisions hadn't been made in an effort to approximate realism, the result would be indecipherable and would never suggest intelligent design.

:blink:

This sounds like kooky talk to me. There is no sustainable critical sense in which it can be maintained of the CGI sequence that the film "trie to pass it off as real documentary footage." (I mean, unless I'm forgetting some major relevant detail, like a voiceover saying "This is real documentary footage of the innards of a cell.")

While it's not impossible that very unsophisticated viewers might mistake the CGI for real documentary footage (or possibly think that they were meant to), nothing in the film that I am aware of indicates an effort to perpetuate such a misunderstanding. To claim otherwise might be less kooky than claiming that the film means to pass off the casino sequence as an actual event, but, well. Kooky is kooky.

In addition to their unethical plagiarism, the filmmakers are being completely dishonest in pretending that this animation somehow illuminates the origin of those components.

Once again, I don't think that is the intention of the sequence. The intention is simply "Look how complicated all this is. Darwin had no clue. A single cell doesn't just happen by accident."

In reality, the motors never move steadily forward as they are portrayed in the animation. Again, a more accurate animation would definitely not suggest intelligent design.

Yes, as PZ Myers pointed out, the smooth motion is a simplification originating in the original Harvard animation and apparently copied by the Expelled filmmakers. Is it your contention that Harvard intended to promote ID in its original animation?

SDG, here's an empirical test of the hypothesis that the animation deceived the target audience as to the nature and evolutionary origin of these functions. We know that energy, in the form of hydrolyzing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is required for motility of kinesin. Based on the animation, would you presume that the energy drives each step in the forward direction?

Based on the animation, I wouldn't have a clue. Sorry.

P.S. Hey Smokey, since you seem to have a clue about evolution and all, any thoughts on my questions here regarding the recent claims of lizard animation by PZ Myers and others? I am trying to become better informed.

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“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Smokey, my memory of the cell animation in the film is pretty fuzzy, as I've only seen the film once (the basis of my review); but are you saying that the cell animation in the film bears a close resemblance to the XVIVO-produced Harvard piece? I've seen that also, and I don't recall the two being at all similar, or producing the same effect in my mind. As a layperson I didn't find the clip in the film to be at all suggestive of design; but the Harvard piece most definitely did.

Like SDG, I have no idea how to even evaluate your question about "motility of kinesin." Way beyond my range of experience.

But like SDG, I do have a very wide experience with the medium of film, and I agree with him that it's impossible to conceive of that sequence in Expelled passing itself off as

"real documentary footage" -- much less an accurate representation of reality. I've never even run across any comment or review on the film that read it that way, and I've read hundreds of thousands of words of commentary on the film (and that's not an exaggeration).

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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So we agree that Greg's assertion was false.

Sorry, I'm not following the argument that closely. If I didn't know which animation you meant, I sure don't know which assertion you mean or when I agreed it was false.

That's precisely what they've done. They have staged a "recreation" and tried to pass it off as real documentary footage. The animation that they show, as with the one they plagiarized, involved massive elisions so that it could illustrate what a tiny subset of cellular components do at a very macro level, relative to what we actually know. If those elisions hadn't been made in an effort to approximate realism, the result would be indecipherable and would never suggest intelligent design.

:blink:

This sounds like kooky talk to me. There is no sustainable critical sense in which it can be maintained of the CGI sequence that the film "trie to pass it off as real documentary footage." (I mean, unless I'm forgetting some major relevant detail, like a voiceover saying "This is real documentary footage of the innards of a cell.")

The film's target audience clearly treats such animations as documentary:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/molecular-a...l-full-version/

"What are the bets that the motor protein that

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Smokey, my memory of the cell animation in the film is pretty fuzzy, as I've only seen the film once (the basis of my review); but are you saying that the cell animation in the film bears a close resemblance to the XVIVO-produced Harvard piece?

I'm saying that whether it does or not is irrelevant to your assertion that "they don

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SDG wrote:

: While it's not impossible that very unsophisticated viewers might mistake the CGI for real documentary footage . . .

I'm getting a flashback to that bit in one of Errol Morris's recent blog posts where a reporter mistakenly assumed that the dramatic re-enactments in The Thin Blue Line were genuine documentary footage ("So, how is it that you managed to be on the roadway that night?"). :)

Someone at UncommonDescent.com wrote:

: The only way that XVIVO can claim that this is really a copy of their video is if they also claim that their animation is not true-to-life. As has been pointed out here in an earlier comment, if both videos represent something that is accurate and true-to-life, then inevitably they will have many things in common.

For some reason, this reminds me of the scholar who sued Biblical Archaeology Review for re-printing his reconstruction of a Dead Sea Scroll text, claiming copyright over the ancient text because it was HIS reconstruction of it and not someone else's. This raised interesting questions, like, What if someone else who had the same set of fragments had reconstructed it the same way, independently?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, someone wrote me to say that my review is wrong on one point (when I say that "the film never acknowledges that some ID theorists actually believe in evolution") because "William Dembski, Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, and Steve Meyer (all ID theorists) all acknowledge in the film that evolution happened, and that evolution is no problem for someone who believes in ID."

Could someone with a better memory of these interview clips than mine help me out here? Because somehow the only clear allowance for evolution (as opposed to a sort of accepting it for the sake of argument) that I can remember anyone making is in the scene with the Biola guy, where as I recall it he points in a direction that is not all that different from the old-school creationists' distinction between micro-evolution (people growing taller with each generation) and macro-evolution (horses evolving from squids, or whatever).

Sweet vindication! I have now seen transcripts of the quotes from all four guys, and basically:

  • Nelson, the young-earther, affirms nothing more than "change over time", which tells us nothing.
  • Wells affirms nothing more than "minor changes within species" and explicitly belittles Darwin's efforts "to show how this same process leads to new species, in fact, to every species."
  • Meyer never mentions "evolution" at all, at least not in the quote that was offered by my reader. Instead, he simply states: "Did [life] arise by purely undirected processes or did it arise by some sort of intelligent guidance or design?" Even the phrase "purely undirected processes" is so vague it wouldn't necessarily have to refer to evolution; it could also refer to spontaneous generation of the sort that Aristotle supposedly believed in.
  • Dembski comes closest to affirming evolution as most people use the term, except he pours on lots of qualifiers and never mentions any of the particulars of evolutionary theory except to marginalize them. Here's the full quote: "Evolution is, from an Intelligent Design perspective, is perfectly acceptable if the sense is that, how did the design get implemented. The issue is, is there real design there and are these material mechanisms, like natural selection, are these adequate to account for everything we see in biology. And our argument is no, it is not. If you look at the history of science, people often have a good idea, and then they decide just to run with it. They say, 'We're going to apply this everywhere.' And so Darwin takes his idea of natural selection and says, 'I'm going to explain all of life with it. I mean, physics used to be Newtonian physics. Newton was physics. And then we got to move to Einstein, general relativity, Newton's not enough. Well, I think likewise, what we're finding with Darwin is that he had some valid insights, but it's not the whole picture." Suffice it to say that this is not the sort of quote that would make young-earthers nervous. There is no affirmation of, say, common descent here, for example.
FWIW, if memory serves, the only clear voice in favour of the COMPATIBILITY of evolution and religion in this film that I can recall right now is Eugenie Scott's, but her comment is undermined by Larry Witham (who divides religions into "liberal" and "conservative" camps, and then says that "liberals" will side with anyone against the "fundamentalists"), and then later on again by the way her smiling face is overlaid with one of Richard Dawkins's voice-overs (about him being "bad news" for the American evolutionists who want to appear friendly to religion, etc.). These are only a few of the points that I made in an earlier, longer version of my review, but had to leave out for word-count reasons. I might add something along these lines to my blog post, though.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, and just for the record, the ID theorist I had in mind primarily when I wrote that "some ID theorists actually believe in evolution" was Michael Behe, who does accept common descent and presumably other elements of mainstream evolutionary theory as well; I remember him making this point in Flock of Dodos, and I wonder why he wasn't featured in THIS film, but that's another tangent for another time. As I understand it, Behe has never particularly quibbled with the evolution of life on the macro- scale, only with the notion that Darwinian theory can account for the formation of the cell. But, as always, I could be wrong about that.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The film's target audience clearly treats such animations as documentary:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/molecular-a...l-full-version/

"What are the bets that the motor protein that

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Took me forever to get to it, but I finally put down some thoughts on the film, it's claims, and my responses after seeing it in the theater.

Short overview on some of the things I discuss that relate to stuff I've missed out on here.

The film does "define" ID (the usual "minimal" definition, so minimal, in fact that it is basically a clever rephrasing of "I don't know hot X happened"), but it never explains beyond that to make a case as to how it, as a positive theory, constitutes science, which is a fairly fatal flaw to its argument.

I think the claim that the film didn't advocate ID in classrooms didn't hold up, at least in my viewing. Likewise the claim that it was not pushing or defending ID. As I explain in my article though, there may be some reason why opinions differ on this: people have different ideas of what ID is. by and large, and what they mean by pushing/defending ID.

I think the cell video in the film included some things very clearly modeled directly after the XVIVIO video, but was also pretty clearly not a simply frame or even model copied work, and thus probably legally in the clear. As always, the most obvious example is the "walking" protein: same protein, same idea, same flyby, etc. Seems to me like the makers though the cell video really helped their case, really wanted it, couldn't get the rights (or didn't ask for them) and so had someone come up with something similar with XVIVO as the model. Fair enough. I don't get the comparison to Moore here: seems like a real stretch to compare it to a macro-human level recreation.

It is significant both videos get extremely key things wrong (and just coincidentally use the same basic means of simplification out of countless possible), most relevant being the smooth, seemingly exact and deliberate motion of everything (in fact, a lot of things on the cellular level are getting down to sizes where pretty much nothing in our macro experience allows us to relate or analogize down to what its actually like). The difference is that generally the people using and showing the Havard video, which was, I believe, made in the context of larger education into cell biology, explain this explicitly as a necessary evil of the representation, while the movie does not even hint at this as it describes the cell as a whiz-bang city of fine-tuned machines.

As for your discussion, Greg, of how can ID possibly get ahead if journals refuse to publish ID papers...

I think one fair point on this, already made, is that the reality is that ID folks really haven't tried. The Meyer paper was basically a stunt, not a matter of course, and it really WASN'T a very good paper in any respect at all. Nor was it research: it was basically a literature review. As many scientists have pointed out, there are a lot of CRAP journals out there, even in the accepted mainstream. People have gotten some truly ridiculous things published that don't even pass the laugh test. The problem is that you can't come up with real research and papers on something just because you really, really want to, let alone determine what the results will be. Reality dictates lots of the logistics.

But the larger issue is that if many of the main claims ID people make were true, then there's really no reason they couldn't get them published

even if the academy was ultra biased against conclusions it didn't like as they claim. They can just leave off the grand sweeping conclusions that would give them away. In many ways, in science, those conclusions don't much matter: it's the data and the argument that do.

Take Dembski for instance. He's made all sorts of claims about mathematics and information theory that, if he were correct, would be groundbreaking. But they would be so on their own right, utterly without any connection at all needing to be made in the paper to ID, design, or anything else. If he has a mathematical proof of his special "Law of Conservation of Information" as he claims, no references to ID would be necessary to make that an interesting paper that would get published. And yet somehow, not only has he not tried that avenue, he doesn't even formally explain these things in his own published books, where he can say anything he wants. Why not? He doesn't even have to put his supposedly blacklisted name on the paper if he wants to see it published and accepted.

Or consider the issue of attacking evolutionary mechanisms. The thing is, mainstream scientists are doing this all the time to each other's explanations for this or that. In the case of ID, they could just publish individual papers that cut apart evolution bit by bit. No need to alter "the man" by referencing the idea that they think this all supports ID. Who cares about that anyway? Even journals of evolutionary biology don't end articles with "and thus this shows that evolution is ever more true." They lay out the specifics. I don't see any reason why the ID folks couldn't do the same except 1) they have no real specifics to work with and 2) the specifics of their challenges to evolution never really seem to work out the way they want, and thus don't help their cause: in nearly every case, when some evolutionary explanation is blown out of the water, it only ends up leading to an even better evolutionary mechanism that even more comprehensively and exactly explains things.

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Took me forever to get to it, but I finally put down some thoughts on the film, it's claims, and my responses after seeing it in the theater.

Good stuff. And very helpful in its level of detail. Very advantageous to know what to be looking for, specifically, going in. Yields much better notes!

As for your discussion, Greg, of how can ID possibly get ahead if journals refuse to publish ID papers...

I think one fair point on this, already made, is that the reality is that ID folks really haven't tried.

I certainly couldn't disagree with that (because I know nothing about what's going on the field) and I'm probably even inclined to agree. The film certainly didn't present any evidence that there's a stockpile of rejected research looking for a home.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Never thought of the box-office for this film being among the best ever for a documentary, but according to one blog:

The conservative documentary EXPELLED, which purports to take on the debate over "intelligent design", had another big weekend at the box office, garnering more than 1.3 million dollars and bringing its total box office to more than 5 million in just 10 days.

That total makes EXPELLED the 2nd biggest nonfiction title of the year (behind the concert film U23D) and moves the film into the top 25 documentaries of all time.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Perhaps we need to clarify the meaning of "real documentary footage." If by that phrase you mean to denote something other than actual photographic images recording the actual events or processes being depicted, as opposed to a dramatization or reconstruction such as a CGI animation, I think you are misusing terminology.

To me, the adjective "documentary" is basically synonymous with "evidentiary," and the target audience clearly views that animation as evidence.

"Think of how dumb the average guy is, then realize that half of them are dumber than that." - George Carlin

The evidence you provide seems to support the conclusion that the film's target audience thinks the animation meets a particular threshold of accuracy.

Not just that, but that it literally is evidence and they need to look no further.

That is not the same thing as being real documentary footage.

Only for those of us who understand the distinction between evidence and its interpretation.

I see no evidence that anyone has been misled into interpreting the CGI as actual photographic images recording the actual events or processes being depicted.

They view it as direct evidence as to how these mechanisms work. Do you think that the CGI inspired any of the quoted UD commenters to read the biophysics literature? I'd bet no and offer odds of 1000:1.

Oh, well, evidence is a completely separate question.

I don't understand the distinction. What does one document in this context other than evidence?

Non-experts can reasonably regard an animation as a form of evidence of what the experts have established, to the extent that the animation is accurate.

But if I were presenting this in class, I would provide the necessary context to explain that an accurate animation would convey nothing of value to students who were being taught mechanisms, as it would be an unintelligible mishmash. Do you realize that vesicles typically have dozens of motors attached that use different tracks in both directions? And that there are a lot more tracks than were shown? What would a vesicle do then?

I don't understand. You seem to feel that the smooth motion in the Expelled animation misleadingly supports intelligent design.

Only when taken out of its proper context.

Yet you feel that the Harvard animation doesn't promote ID? Can you clarify?

The animation was not designed to illustrate an evolutionary explanation of the mechanisms.

Although that conclusion would seem to be a complete non sequitur from my earlier admission of cluelessness, I would agree that the argument as stated is obviously not compelling. However, it is also not the case that appearance of design is never an indication of design. So we need to go a bit deeper than sloganeering.

But is there anything deeper than that in the film or in the ID and creationist camps?

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Creating controversy

"I'm definitely not a creationist. I'm the furthest thing from a creationist," says Mr. Ruloff, who produced the film through his company, Premise Media. Just a mild-mannered West Coast Anglican venture capitalist, he maintains, who was trying to do a bit of biotech investing one day when he stumbled upon what he believes are the taboos of biology.

"The first thing I discovered in talking to these biotech engineers was they weren't allowed to ask a whole bunch of questions; they weren't allowed to collaborate under these new paradigms that were being discovered," he says.

"They were all kind of talking in code. I realized that the issue was that what they were discovering has massive metaphysical implications and so they were trying to retrofit their findings back into a Darwinist position."

Coming from the software business, Mr. Ruloff explains, he was used to tossing commonly accepted thinking out the window every few months. "People in the biology field and biotech and microbiology are kind of on the threshold of some massive breakthroughs, and they need to be able to collaborate. And if what they find has metaphysical implications who cares? If Darwinism is going to collapse, well, who cares? Let's move on."

National Post, April 26

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I don't often agree with professed atheist John Derbyshire, but put him up against Paul Crouch and I find myself warming to the guy.

In an interview with the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Ben Stein said the following amazing thing in an interview with Paul Crouch, Jr.

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Never thought of the box-office for this film being among the best ever for a documentary, but according to one blog:

The conservative documentary EXPELLED, which purports to take on the debate over "intelligent design", had another big weekend at the box office, garnering more than 1.3 million dollars and bringing its total box office to more than 5 million in just 10 days.

That total makes EXPELLED the 2nd biggest nonfiction title of the year (behind the concert film U23D) and moves the film into the top 25 documentaries of all time.

Sure, but the relevant comparison is not just what they got out, but what they put in. Not many documentaries have the cash on hand to open on 1000 screens, reimburse religious schools for tickets sold on the opening weeks, and market themselves so much on expensive ad buy markets like the Daily Show and other such venues.

Not that it matters much. Some people are calling it a huge success, some a bomb, and it all sort of depends on what the expectations set for it were/are. I think the best take, that doesn't get into that argument, is that it underperformed the producers expectations (but then, plenty of films do: talking big is basically the name of the game in promotion) but has done decent box office. Doesn't look like its lit a huge fire, and it doesn't look like people are shying away either. And it's way too soon to know if it'll be a big sleeper hit in the end.

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Creating controversy

"I'm definitely not a creationist. I'm the furthest thing from a creationist," says Mr. Ruloff, who produced the film through his company, Premise Media. Just a mild-mannered West Coast Anglican venture capitalist, he maintains, who was trying to do a bit of biotech investing one day when he stumbled upon what he believes are the taboos of biology.

"The first thing I discovered in talking to these biotech engineers was they weren't allowed to ask a whole bunch of questions; they weren't allowed to collaborate under these new paradigms that were being discovered," he says.

"They were all kind of talking in code.

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...which raises obvious questions: since Ruloff was trying to do a bit of biotech investing, why didn't Ruloff start a creationist or intelligent design biotech company and hire those alleged biotech engineers who weren't allowed to collaborate under these alleged new paradigms?

Well, now, that's an excellent question indeed -- maybe the best I've heard I've heard in connection to Expelled for weeks.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Smokey wrote:

: Why make a movie, especially one that doesn't even lift a finger to present these alleged new paradigms, instead?

EXACTLY.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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