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Peter T Chattaway

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

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the Expelled team haven't been very good about providing links to the stuff that they quote or respond to

I wonder how I missed that... Wow. That's stinky.

Just got off the phone with Myers, btw, and will be running the transcript interview with him Monday at HJ (or thereabouts). He was as pleasant and civil as any interviewee I've talked to, for those who are curious, and explained very well the primary reason behind his ire. HJ plans to do a follow-up interview with him after he's had a chance to see the movie. Darrel will probably do that one.

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Correction: They didn't post my *entire* blog entry, as I originally thought. They only posted the Stuart Blessman review part.

But still, that doesn't change my objection.

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UPDATE: I've received an apology, and a link has been added to the Expelled site. I'm fine with that.

Edited by Overstreet

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Just got off the phone with Myers, btw, and will be running the transcript interview with him Monday at HJ (or thereabouts). He was as pleasant and civil as any interviewee I've talked to, for those who are curious, and explained very well the primary reason behind his ire. HJ plans to do a follow-up interview with him after he's had a chance to see the movie. Darrel will probably do that one.

Thanks for forwarding that comment, Greg. It may sound odd, but a week ago I did not know who PZ Myers was. I had run across the occasional reference, but never had a reason (or time) to look him up. I've been struggling trying to determine the reality of the guy between the commentary within both camps, which are certainly disparate. I will comment that I tend to find the atheist reporting a bit closer to the truth when the facts finally wash out, but I tend to reserve judgment until an independent party weighs in. Your description jibes with my tentative conclusions, however. PZ feels that he was wronged in a very fundamental way by Myers and Stein and their (alleged) misrepresentations. Based on the way they have conducted themselves, and the similar comments made by others who were interviewed for the film, I'm inclined to take him at his word on this point. Apparently, he is the type that will take the time to make you regret the error of your wys, especially when it is something he feels strongly about.

Hmm. I had read a writeup by someone (Myers?) who reported in some detail about how bizarre the experience was to be interviewed by Stein and Mathis, but I can't seem to find the link now. Nuts. I was a rather curious read, too.

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Thanks for forwarding that comment, Greg.

Sure thing. Like you, I didn't have my radar attuned to him until a few weeks ago either... and as I told him (and as will appear in the interview), it wasn't because I don't think this debate is culturally important; it's just that my professional interests dictate that I invest the bulk of my "culture-war" debunking energy elsewhere.

I had read a writeup by someone (Myers?) who reported in some detail about how bizarre the experience was to be interviewed by Stein and Mathis, but I can't seem to find the link now. Nuts. I was a rather curious read, too.

I suspect you're thinking about Shermer's account. From the research I've done, I've concluded it's credible. But I don't expect (or ask) anyone to take my word for that.

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I'm looking forward to your transcript, Greg.

It's beginning to sound like Myers has good reason to be disgruntled, I'll be glad if he has changed his tone and become more civil in his discourse. At his own blog, I found him to be smug and arrogant, and he opened the door for his fans to revel in cheap put-downs and condescension.

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Setting aside the many accounts of the expelled team misleading their interview subjects, it's interesting that they chose to focus on the more fiery, outspoken critics of ID. Myers comes off as pretty mild-mannered in his interview clip on youtube, but he isn't above throwing in frustrated ad hominems about religion in his blog posts. And Dawkins is all caustic bluster and hyperbole.

Why did they not talk to, say, Robert T Pennock, author of the pre-eminent Intelligent-Design-Creationism-debunking book Tower of Babel? He is the nation's foremost expert, after all. Years ago his speech at my college was raided by angry creationists rallied by a local baptist church. He let them share their comments and did not respond with an ounce of mockery, even stressing to the mostly unchurched audience the importance of not denigrating religion while arguing for science. Could it be that his complete lack of hostility to religion would undermine the film's argument about a supposed sinister alliance between "Big Science" and atheism?

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Jim S. wrote:

: It may sound odd, but a week ago I did not know who PZ Myers was.

FWIW, the first time I ever heard of Myers (to my knowledge) was when the New York Times ran its first article on this film several months ago, reporting that certain scientists were claiming to have been misled about the terms under which they had been interviewed for this film.

It's too bad Stephen Jay Gould isn't with us any more. I would have liked to have seen how an interview with him in a film like this might have turned out.

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Setting aside the many accounts of the expelled team misleading their interview subjects, it's interesting that they chose to focus on the more fiery, outspoken critics of ID. Myers comes off as pretty mild-mannered in his interview clip on youtube, but he isn't above throwing in frustrated ad hominems about religion in his blog posts. And Dawkins is all caustic bluster and hyperbole.

Why did they not talk to, say, Robert T Pennock, author of the pre-eminent Intelligent-Design-Creationism-debunking book Tower of Babel? He is the nation's foremost expert, after all.<snip> Could it be that his complete lack of hostility to religion would undermine the film's argument about a supposed sinister alliance between "Big Science" and atheism?

Holy Moly,

I think you are on the right track. First, They wanted the name recognition of the Big Atheist Players. Myers wasn't on our radar, but he certainly was on theirs (and he's on mine now). Second, I suspect they wanted an opportunity to play 'smack-down' with them. Third, yes, Myers and Dawkins clearly make fine examples of the Loud Mouthed Oppressive Atheist, or at least are very easy to portray that way (it still required misleading questions and creative editing if the reports are accurate).

In retrospect, I would bet even money that they may be regretting involving those two players right about now, particularly Myers, who has proven quite the thorn in their sides at the moment. He may single-handedly fire up enough bad pr to kill any market potential for the film outside of certain dedicated christian groups. He apparently just disrupted a controlled open conference call and blew up another marketing attempt as well as garnering more media attention for himself in the process.

As for Dawkins - I've read several of his books and found them fascinating. I backed up a bit with 'The God Delusion', as I found it a bit overdone. I disagreed with him, for the first time, regarding his understanding of the work of Julian Jaynes. He actually got part of it completely backwards. His books on genetics are quite good, though. Would I rather he stop speaking out? Not really. While I feel he is a bit 'over the top' at times and could be a bit more polite, I think he is doing much good by bringing the issues of atheists and the inherent societal problems of fundamental religion out for public airing.

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Jim S. wrote:

: In retrospect, I would bet even money that they may be regretting involving those two players right about now, particularly Myers, who has proven quite the thorn in their sides at the moment. He may single-handedly fire up enough bad pr to kill any market potential for the film outside of certain dedicated christian groups. He apparently just disrupted a controlled open conference call and blew up another marketing attempt as well as garnering more media attention for himself in the process.

Well, this movie has done wonders for Myers' publicity, sure, but Myers has also been doing wonders for the film's publicity, too. At least, that's how co-writer Kevin Miller sees it, as per his blog.

Incidentally, whatever problems there might be at the official Expelled blog, Miller's blog is always full of links and stuff. In this case, to refer his readers to an actual audio recording of the teleconference that Myers "crashed", he points people to Skepchick, and the blog over THERE states:

Yesterday, the PR company hired by

Expelled

invited me (among many other members of the press and nontraditional media) to participate in a teleconference today with Ben Stein, Mark Malkis, and the other film makers. I was pretty annoyed at the start, since they decided that instead of an open press conference with, you know, free speech, people had to e-mail the PR company with questions that would be read by the PR moderator. The journalists

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He apparently just disrupted a controlled open conference call and blew up another marketing attempt as well as garnering more media attention for himself in the process.

Two out of three right on that assessment, I think. I was in on the whole call, and he certainly disrupted it. And in my case, at least, he managed to use the disruption to make contact with media that he might not have otherwise reached. So in both those regards, it was an effective stunt. But he didn't at all "blow up" the marketing event. The primary audience for that event was a demographic for whom Myers' interruption -- and the gracefulness of the hosts -- merely confirmed Myers' bogeyman image. Lauer and company stayed completely on message, and aside from the three or four minutes spent dealing with Myers (out of sixty), they weren't at all deterred from their agenda. They didn't even sound like their blood pressures went up; Myers sounded far more tense and flustered than they did.

Of course, the incident also solidified Myers' rep with his constituency, too, as is easily evidenced by the 300+ comments on his post about it at Pharyngula, and the obviously partisan takes on the incident such as SkepChick's.

And that's the problem with this approach on either side: predominantly, it merely further entrenches people in existing beliefs and shuts down dialog and understanding rather than promotes it, when the latter is what both sides profess to want. It's like a communications course case study in how NOT to communicate, and it makes a lot of folks on both sides (and those caught in the middle) just nauseated.

On this one, I'm with Archie, who hangs out here from time to time: they all should just Grow Up.

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He apparently just disrupted a controlled open conference call and blew up another marketing attempt as well as garnering more media attention for himself in the process.

Two out of three right on that assessment, I think.

<snip>

And that's the problem with this approach on either side: predominantly, it merely further entrenches people in existing beliefs and shuts down dialog and understanding rather than promotes it, when the latter is what both sides profess to want. It's like a communications course case study in how NOT to communicate, and it makes a lot of folks on both sides (and those caught in the middle) just nauseated.

On this one, I'm with Archie, who hangs out here from time to time: they all should just Grow Up.

LOL!!!!

And there lies the problem at the heart of many of our societal issues. I really would be nice if more people would just Grow Up, wouldn't it? My attempts to understand this process are what led me deeply into the study of human cognizance. Unfortunately, while I gained a respectable understanding of the processes involved and many of the reasons that we are what we are, it also pretty much destroyed any hope I had of us moving past our built-in mental road blocks before something bad on a huge scale occurs. Even then, the result will really just be a retrograde process while humans try to recover from their stupidity.

I tried to enter the fray at the Expelled blog as a 'voice of reason' and, for the most part, was roundly ignored. Apparently you have to come in screaming over there to be noticed. I did connect with a couple of posters and had good exchanges. One poster was a pretty vitriolic ID supporter but mellowed considerably when I tried explaining things in a reasonable way without insulting her in the process. There is a real message right there. As an interesting side note, her issues with athiests seemed to stem from a bad marriage with an atheist husband. Nothing we can do about that, but it shows the importance and value of knowing something of your protagonists background and being empathetic to it. We ended the exchange on a very respectable note. That observation plays to both sides of the debate, btw, and it is not limited to just this topic either, sadly.

Greg - I found and downloaded the mp3 of Myers interruption and tend to agree with your observation that they stayed on-message pretty well in spite of it.

Peter - Thanks for mentioning the Kevin Miller blog. I'll hop over there and check it out when I have a moment.

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Apparently you have to come in screaming over there to be noticed.

Oh, yeah. You have to be either brave or insane to wade in over there, or at Pharyngula.

I did connect with a couple of posters and had good exchanges.

And that's the whole point! Seems like 90% of the folks involved in the issue are out to change the world rather than connecting with real people -- and without realizing that the only way to really change the world is to connect with real people.

You're a gem, Jim.

I found and downloaded the mp3 of Myers interruption and tend to agree with your observation that they stayed on-message pretty well in spite of it.

I think you'll find that's even more true if you get a listen to the WHOLE hour and not just that snippet. I haven't yet heard about the whole hour being available, but Motive has promised to put it up. It'll probably surface Tues. or Weds., I'd guess. They don't move all that quickly.

Edited by Greg Wright

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name='Jim S.' post='170774' date='Mar 30 2008, 09:40 AM']

I did connect with a couple of posters and had good exchanges.

And that's the whole point! Seems like 90% of the folks involved in the issue are out to change the world rather than connecting with real people -- and without realizing that the only way to really change the world is to connect with real people.

You're a gem, Jim.

Greg,

Oh, sure! Spread that around the internet, why don't you!?! So much for my tough guy manly man act! icon2.gif

In fact, you are correct , of course (about the connecting with people, that is!). This is ultimately the challenge that lies before all of us and this film is another effort to prevent that from ever happening - not that that is necessarily its conscious intent.

Just out of curiousity, did you happen to read the post of mine on the Expelled blog that I referenced in my opening post here?

To elaborate on that post a bit, and to highlight my great concerns on this film reaching a wide, undiscerning audience:

Many of the problems we deal with today between competing societies and competing groups within societies can be easily traced back to our evolutionary social development. Human are evolved to deal with small, finite social groups. The size of the 'typical' social group would approximate tribe or village size, probably not exceeding 100 individuals by much, and most likely smaller. The 'us versus them' function of prioritizing your groups interests over any external group kicks in once these numbers are exceeded. This makes for a pretty direct, linear organization until our culture and abilities progressed to the point that we could sustain much larger groups. The progression was roughly hunter/gatherer group - tribe/clan - village - city - city state - nation - empire. Culture adapted to adjust to the behavioral limit, but it is still very much in play and manifests itself constantly in our daily behavior in unconscious ways. The modern manifestation occurs in a multilayered form: Family group, work group, religious group, town/city group, state/country group, etc., but the mechanisms are there and operate in a very similar form. Anyone outside your group(s) presents a potential threat.

To further complicate the inter-related individual group relations is the varying postions, goals and agendas held by you as a member of your group(s) and the leaders of each distict group. All too often, the leaders of select groups operate to further their own interests over that of the members of the group. This can corrupt that groups relations with other groups and even compromise the groups viability. Politicians are very often model examples of this common betrayal of the social promise. History illustrates that religious leaders follow this self serving line just as often. This behavior can occur at all levels of the social structure, but becomes most pronounced at the political and religious levels as these defectives (to use the behavioral term) come at a much, much higher cost.

Different problems apply in different modern societies, but the two primary ones facing this country are the divisive politics that have been growing in this country for the last couple of decades - and polished to a devasting perfection by the current administration (I am a long registered republican for the record) - and the current effort to replace science with religious doctrine in our schools (ironically, a process strengthened in a very big way by the current administration). Their are certainly other important issues on the table, but these two pose an immediate threat to our very democracy. Both of these processes are motivated by groups whose intent is to establish their control to further their particular interests. They are experts at using our behavioral tendencies against us as a population. I view Expelled as a part of this accelerating breakdown.

I know that communication is the answer, but I don't know if it isn't already too late to stop the breakdown.

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I view Expelled as a part of this accelerating breakdown.

Don't get too discouraged or pessimistic. Times have been a lot tougher than this in the last 100 years. Even in the era of color talkies, there have been more controversial films than this, and more vitriol. It's just that the vitriol moves so much faster and visibly in cyberspace!

Seriously, though, every time something like this comes along, it's important that saner voices speak up as peacemakers. And this one is a little more complicated than usual, because it not only involves faith vs. science but science vs. art and religion vs. art. So this is just a huge morass of people with agendas not speaking each other's language. Ouch!

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And that's the problem with this approach on either side: predominantly, it merely further entrenches people in existing beliefs and shuts down dialog and understanding rather than promotes it, when the latter is what both sides profess to want.

To be fair, it's hard to get much of a dialogue going with people that paint you as Hitler's best friend right from the start. :)

At this point, it's pretty clear that the movie's producers do not want any sort of dialogue to disrupt their core allegations. So the strategy of the science side of things has basically been to try and make sure that their protective message bubble gets punctured from time to time, and at least hints come out that maybe the producers aren't quite telling the whole story. Myers's gonzo conference call appearance is sort of part of that: here's these people who have done nothing but run as fast and as far away from any sort of substantive rebuttal of their claims, claiming to journalists that no one has responded to the substance of their arguments. Nonsense! At that point, it's gotten so ridiculous that I'm glad that [em]someone[/em] was able to call them on it, even if it wasn't precisely polite.

Myers is caustic and harsh and often goofy and childish: that's his blogsthick, and being provacative is part of why he's so popular online. But he also doesn't neglect the substance of the debate, and his actual policy positions are, I think really quite reasonable when you hear them, instead of being told about his opinions (most of which are not policies and threaten no one).

Edited by BadIdea

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To [be] fair, it's hard to get much of a dialogue going with people that paint you as Hitler's best friend right from the start.

Certainly.

And for the record, there are a lot of writers and editors out there who, like me, are ready and willing to sit down and talk about this stuff rather than swallow press releases whole. We're not hard to find, and usually all it takes is an email or a phone call... Though, in my case, it took crashing Motive's gig.

I'm sure I could have talked with Myers for hours instead of the 20 minutes of his time that I took up. And I think we had a good and productive discussion, though clearly we don't see eye to eye on the whole religion thing.

But you know, I do see eye to eye on the religion thing with a whole bunch of folks here at A&F, and we manage to find other things to disagree about! Do I don't find disagreement of one kind any more upsetting than another.

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Looking through the leader resource dvd I got at the screening, I was struck by the way (on the dvd - it never happens in the film) they show the Expelled logo with the red x spray painted in, and they do the spraying in of the x. It certainly looks as they do it like a cross. They've obviously picked their marketing target.

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Of course it's not peripheral. The climax of the film features Stein visiting gas chambers and weeping over what that Darwinism stuff has cost us all for goodness sakes. Stein wanted to TITLE the film "From Darwin to Hitler" but there was already a film of that name made (panned by historians, of course).

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using young Mr Blessman as a test subject, might we reasonably conclude that Myers is quite correct that audiences may indeed end up leaving the theater thinking the argument about the holocaust is much more than "peripheral"?

I go into this in a lot more detail in the comments on that post, so I won't repeat all that here.

But using Blessman (or any number of others) as a test subject, yes. Myers would be correct to say that "audiences may indeed end up leaving the theater" thinking that. But that's not the same thing as saying that it actually is the "central premise" of the film. It's certainly true, also, that I'm not a very valid test case because my training helps me suss these things out more clear-headedly than, say, Blessman.

I guess you'll have to draw your own conclusions on that score. I don't see any need for anyone to consider my assessment any more weightily than anyone else's. I'm just offering my perspective as an experienced critic of the artform -- not as a polemicist or partisan.

For that to be the "central premise" of the film, it would need to start there and end there, not just be employed for emotional manipulation in the climactic sequence of the film. An extended look at eugenics in the State of Virginia in the third quarter of the 20th Century would have been just as effective a manipulation, for instance, though Stein wouldn't have gone for that, obviously; but that wouldn't have made an attack on the State of Virginia the "central premise" of the film.

(BadIdea is certainly correct, though, that the film would have been quite different if Stein were the sole author, director, and producer. But he wasn't.)

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I agree with Greg here that the Holocaust stuff is peripheral, but it is used later in the film to serve as the weight of the argument. It never comes out and says that the Shoah would not have happened without Darwinism, but it does make a case that Social Darwinism had a significant role in it happening. Social Darwinism is, btw, an abuse of the concept of evolution and I find it specious to use an abuse to discredit something.

Having recently watched Constantine's Sword, it is obvious there that the seeds of the Shoah were sown by and within the church for centuries. The anti-Judaism of church history is, I think, also an abuse, but a long running one. And it thrived for centuries before Darwin (and those who abused this idea) came along.

(Link to thread on Constantine's Sword)

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