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Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed


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While few things are absolute, I give this source a very high reliability quotient

Why, exactly? That post hasn't been updated since 2004, and I'd sure think it would have if the FOI Act request had yielded corroboration.

A story that inflammatory would surely have been carried by CNN or MSNBC if there were corroboration or confidence in the source, wouldn't it? I can't even find a site carrying a denial of it, or a right-wing site quoting it.

Greg,

Only because the guy quoted - Rob Sherman - says it was so and he was there. First party, not third party. I freely acknowledge that it may still be a false statement by yet another person with an agenda, but it seems a more reliable a source than most, being the actual source. Is there any way to veryify the Library info given in that Sherman post? As for the rest - old news, maybe? I'm not certain that the Right Wing would want to deny it, or necessary advertise it either.

FWIW, I regret using the quote as it deflected attention from my question. I did not anticipate that some would view it as inflamatory (other than atheists, of course!) and that was not my intent. At least recognize that attempts were made at verifying the quote.

I do look forward to the response that you get from your inquiry.

You do not realize enough that your attention is your only chance. Without it you can do nothing. -
Jeanne de Salzmann

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NewScientist.com wrote:

: 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?"

: "Well," Mathis said, "I guess it makes them a little uncomfortable."

I probably shouldn't post anything substantial from my as-yet-unpublished interview with Ben Stein yet ... but suffice it to say that Stein's strongest statement about scientists (i.e., "I couldn't give a goddam whether a person calls himself a scientist," etc.; I have no idea if, or how, that word will make it through the editing process) came at the end of a long-ish response to a question that I asked PRECISELY along these lines. I'm not saying he was directing that statement at IDers -- he wasn't, or at least I don't think he was. But the question I asked was basically whether his film had "blown their cover", with "they" being the ID scientists, by putting religion so front-and-centre, and after a bit of an answer to the effect that he wasn't "speaking for them" and that he was speaking only for himself, he went on a digression about his attitude towards science and scientists in general. And it was my question about the efforts of ID scientists to emphasize science rather than religion that got him going that way.

"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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Only because the guy quoted - Rob Sherman - says it was so and he was there. First party, not third party. I freely acknowledge that it may still be a false statement by yet another person with an agenda, but it seems a more reliable a source than most, being the actual source.

I'd suggest that Rob Sherman is the definition of a person with an agenda, given that the page you pointed to is specifically titled "Rob Sherman Advocacy." It's more the fact that it was quoted here as fact, when its reliability is quite obviously under question, that seemed ironic to me, given the nature of the conversations about manipulation and out-of-context remarks in Expelled. (Note also, that the FoIA documents referred to - even though he refers to them as "'Atheists are not citizens' documents," don't appear to even be actual evidence from what I can tell of anything other than the fact that Sherman or one of his peeps wrote to the White House to complain about what they say they heard. At least from the way he describes them.) Anyway...

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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Great.

Who can you trust to clear things up? Ted Baehr!

You may have realized this already, but that blog appears to be from our very own newcomer Bad Idea.

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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FWIW, I regret using the quote as it deflected attention from my question. I did not anticipate that some would view it as inflamatory (other than atheists, of course!) and that was not my intent. At least recognize that attempts were made at verifying the quote.

I recall that "exchange" being "de-verified" some time ago, which is why it doesn't have pride of place on every non-conservative political website ever invented. No one other than Sherman has actually treated the "quote" very seriously, despite the fact that so many would have loved for it to be true. And in 84, as Vice-President, he basically told the Philadelphia Inquirer the opposite when responding to Mondale having played the Republicans = Christians card:

"I'd say that isn't true," Bush said of Mondale's accusation, "and I'd say it sounds a little desperate. I didn't hear a word of that charge when Jesse Jackson was getting his message out from the pulpits. . . . I believe it's a smoke screen. We believe in separation of church and state." Bush said that the United States was "one nation under God, and we always have been. But that doesn't mean there's not room for diversity. The American people are with the President on this."

So, this is one of those odd situations where there isn't any actual verification, and I would rather go with actual published comments in response to similar questions. And I say this as not the biggest Bush Sr. fan.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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You may have realized this already, but that blog appears to be from our very own newcomer Bad Idea.

Yeah, and he keeps referring to Baehr as an "ultra-extreme evangelical," which isn't correct. He is actually a neo-fundamentalist, and has little to do with the "evangelical movement" as defined by Henry and Schaeffer and others. This happens a lot when "Christian" documentaries or movies come out, people using the word "evangelical" as an epithet in descriptions of their experience. I suppose it is a minor quibble, because the far right of evangelicalism begins to converge with whoever it is out there that is still a fundamentalist. But evangelicalism itself is far more vibrant, engaging, and educable than its predecessors. The "evangelical = unfliching creationist" thing is equivalent to Christians saying "atheists = immoral people."

/offsoapbox

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Only because the guy quoted - Rob Sherman - says it was so and he was there. First party, not third party. I freely acknowledge that it may still be a false statement by yet another person with an agenda, but it seems a more reliable a source than most, being the actual source.

I'd suggest that Rob Sherman is the definition of a person with an agenda, given that the page you pointed to is specifically titled "Rob Sherman Advocacy." It's more the fact that it was quoted here as fact, when its reliability is quite obviously under question, that seemed ironic to me, given the nature of the conversations about manipulation and out-of-context remarks in Expelled. (Note also, that the FoIA documents referred to - even though he refers to them as "'Atheists are not citizens' documents," don't appear to even be actual evidence from what I can tell of anything other than the fact that Sherman or one of his peeps wrote to the White House to complain about what they say they heard. At least from the way he describes them.) Anyway...

Popechild,

Fair enough. By way of a gesture of peace, I offer Archies apology from the film "A Fish Called Wanda":

"Archie's Apology :

I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact and was in no way fair comment and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future."

As I noted in my post to Greg, if I had properly anticipated the response, I would not have used the quote to open my post. It was never intended to be the primary point and, in fact, seems to have distracted from the primary point. My bad.

Do you have any comments on the balance of the post?

You do not realize enough that your attention is your only chance. Without it you can do nothing. -
Jeanne de Salzmann

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Here is the question: Given that the 'quiet atheist' simply goes unnoticed and the bias continues unchanged, have the new outspoken atheists provided a valuable social function by protesting against that bias? I say yes. I'll be the first to admit that it isn't always pretty, but I think it is also necessary.

I've re-quoted the original question, simply because I had to go back to even remember exactly what it was. I've largely stayed out of this discussion simply because I haven't seen nor heard all that much about the film, and have no real exposure to ID (or evolution, for that matter, since college a decade ago). As to your question though, I'd probably disagree on purely theoretical grounds, since I don't really know much personally about whether it's helped or not. I say no because it's my experience, among any number of subjects in life, that the more outspoken, often antagonistic voices tend to rarely do much more than cause backlash. I certainly don't want to let Ted Baehr run around and spew whatever venom he wants in the name of defending Christianity just because I'm a "silent Christian." If I were a silent atheist, I imagine I'd want the same thing I want now - well-reasoned, kind-hearted defenders of my faith. "A drop of honey..." and all that.

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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I recall that "exchange" being "de-verified" some time ago, which is why it doesn't have pride of place on every non-conservative political website ever invented. No one other than Sherman has actually treated the "quote" very seriously, despite the fact that so many would have loved for it to be true.

The only development on Sherman's claim I'm aware of is that he got a FOIA to showed that the conversation had taken place, which is better than nothing, but still just his word. There hasn't been any deverification I'm aware of, but it really does just come down to Sherman's word, and the fact that Bush and his people didn't deny him saying it at the time when asked.

Not particularly important in the long run though: the attitudes of that quote are clearly common and widespread, as shown in countless polls. This is one reason why the quote, since it can't be conclusively verified by anyone else, hasn't gotten much attention as demonstration of the point. The point is pretty well established by other means. What Bush Sr. really thinks, personally, we may never know. And I'm not sure it matters much.

As an aside, I've always given credit to Bush Jr. for almost always, in his speeches, finding a way to mention the non-religious, and in a positive context, when generalizing about Americans on moral issues. I'm certainly not a political fan of his, but that's sort of the point: he has little to gain by such mentions, and perhaps things to lose with religious conservatives, by including these mentions. So it's too his credit. Maybe it's because his friend and ally Rove is, as rumored, an atheist.

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Greg,

Just a note to let you know I read your transcript of your interview with PZ Myers regardign the Expelled movie. I thought it was nicely done. Good questions and good discussion.

You do not realize enough that your attention is your only chance. Without it you can do nothing. -
Jeanne de Salzmann

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The only development on Sherman's claim I'm aware of is that he got a FOIA to showed that the conversation had taken place, which is better than nothing, but still just his word. There hasn't been any deverification I'm aware of, but it really does just come down to Sherman's word, and the fact that Bush and his people didn't deny him saying it at the time when asked.

Yeah, that is all I can come up with also. Strange. Seems so much like a Doonsbury moment.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I have to say I don't find the "well, that seems sensible in the industry" discussion of Mathis excuses for "Crossroads/Expelled" very compelling.

Yes: working titles are used all the time. Lots of titles are considered. But in this case, the ONLY title they seem to have pursued with any interest was Expelled, and this pursuit happened long before they went out and promoted Crossroads. They never registered any other domain names that we know of, and very specifically, they did not register anything related to Crossroads, despite that being the only title mentioned to interviewees over the course of several months AFTER the registration of properties related to the Expelled name.

Furthermore, "Expelled!" is not just any random title, but one that is based on a pretty conclusive and extreme position on the subject the film was covering. For this to be even a title under consideration surely makes it far less likely that the face they showed in promoting "Crossroads" was an honest representation of the nature of the production. The Expelled! name and theme are all a pretty conclusive position taken in an off themselves.

The other important part of this story is Rampant Films: why use a shell company to approach people, completely hiding the film's real production company, Premise Media, and the other two major players? The only reason I can think of is that both of them were on record as advocates of creationism and Intelligent Design, and in fact were the ones who originally got together with the explicit idea that they would combat 'materialist science.' Mathis, on the other hand, didn't have much of a public record for people to look up and get clued in to what this was all about. Only after people caught on did Ruloff declare that Rampant was a subsidiary of Premise. It's not clear, on the other hand, why a company that has yet to release its one and only announced major project (and in fact the project the company was basically founded explicitly to create) needs a "subsidiary." As far as I can tell, Rampant is a legal fiction. Their website-listed physical address apparently even pointed to an abandoned building before it was removed (coincidentally a day or so after someone noted this online).

Finally, the sheer sneering, ha ha nastiness of the Expelled producers on their blog, Stein, and the specific true-believer, classic creationist arguments/accusations they made when the film was first announced, and their entire attitude makes it simply impossible to believe that they, as they have claimed, came into this project with an open mind and were then shocked, shocked to find how evil and oppressive evolution was.

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All fine arguments, Bad -- but all based on sheer conjecture. Nothing wrong with that; but I find it better to simply ask good questions, and leave the jury out until real answers are obtained. And I take the trouble to ask those questions of real people who can answer them -- whether or not I get answers.

And knowledge about the industry and how it works does help you come up with better conjectures, if that's your thing; but I thought critics of Expelled weren't big on conjecture and speculative accusations.

And before anyone starts crying "double standard!", I'm on record asking about the other "forty or fifty" possible titles; I'm on record pointing out that the reasons behind the Crocker, et al affairs are almost all sheer conjecture. I may not always be right (who is?), but I play no favorites. Fair is fair.

Edited by Greg Wright

Greg Wright

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I was skimming some new (for me) blogs today and found this site with a recorded dual interview on Expelled the movie. The first half is with Richard Dawkins and is pretty standard fair for him. The second half is much more interesting: Michael Shermer reporting on his interview experience and then he expands at some length on the movie itself. He seems to have a pretty fair minded take on the whole affair - at least he comes across that way. Unfortunately, he echoes my concerns about the likely reaction of the general public to the movie exactly.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/

Scroll down a bit and you will find the download link. I've listened to all but the final 10 minutes so far. Its a fair chunk at almost 45 minutes long.

Aside to Greg - Yes, Shermer was the interview report I was trying to recall. I had previously found a transcript, possibly of the opening part of this interview, as the wording is very close to what I recall from the written version.

You do not realize enough that your attention is your only chance. Without it you can do nothing. -
Jeanne de Salzmann

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Shermer is the guy in that C.S.-Lewis-and-Dr.-Freud documentary who admitted that one of the reasons he became an atheist was that he liked the people he was hanging out with better there, right? He seemed like a reasonably candid and level-headed kind of guy.

"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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Is it really industry practice to plant people in the audience for Q&A sessions? I am asking sincerely; I really don't know.

I don't have any direct experience in the film industry, but working at an advertising agency with clients in other fields, and seeing how the PR machine works, I'd say it wouldn't surprise me.

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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And don't forget that scene in Matinee, Joe Dante's delightful little movie about 1950s horror films, in which the publicists pose as protestors outside a movie theatre, knowing that controversy will generate interest in the film.

"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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Actually, I was responding to the logic of your sheer conjecture about how you felt Mathis' version of event was plausible based on what you knew of the inudstry. :)

No, you're beating a dead, biased horse.

Dawkins posed a reasonable challenge. Mathis responded with an explanation that can't be independently verified. Those are the facts.

From there, it all becomes conjecture. The absence of corroboration cannot be legitimately used to discredit Mathis' assertion; only facts can.

I was offering an opinion about the plausibility of the explanation in response to an opinion which has, as its heart, the presumption that Mathis is a liar. My opinion offers educational value; the other simply seeks to discredit. What's that technique of argumentation called? I'm sure there's a technical name for it.

Given Mathis' assertion, the only salient question becomes: Was Expelled the only domain purchased? Because without the answer to that question, everything is speculation.

Given how you've framed the debate, you've got to hope that corroboration for Mathis' claims never surfaces; all that would do is make you look silly and biased.

On the other hand, if actual research proves that no other domains than Expelled were purchased, then we have some facts -- and Mathis has some serious backpedaling to do; and I've misled no one.

See how that works?

The squabble amongst the partisans over these issues is a silly battle between pots and the kettles that leaves most of us just heading for the microwave. Stick to the facts. (And, yes, one of those facts is that Expelled is chock full of speculation; but two stupidities don't make a Bright.)

As an addendum, I will note: I really could be dead wrong about forums and such, and that they are really all about entertainment, much like the movies themselves, and not at all about a search for truth. If that's the case, then I should really just shut up, because this is all very entertaining, if not the least bit enlightening.

Is it really industry practice to plant people in the audience for Q&A sessions? I am asking sincerely; I really don't know.

I don't have any direct experience in the film industry, but working at an advertising agency with clients in other fields, and seeing how the PR machine works, I'd say it wouldn't surprise me.

We know politicians do it.

We don't actually know, though, that those people were strategically planted. Again, that's speculation.

And now I'll shut up.

Really.

Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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There does seem to be a pattern emerging, though. There is speculation that the new strategy to keep out the unfriendlies is to lie and tell them that the screening has been canceled. I suppose this is conjecture too, but I can see no alternate explanation.

That is indeed an odd one; but the rundown on that proves it to be an isolated incident and not a pattern. So while the incident itself is hard to explain, extrapolating to "strategy" is pretty wilfull spin. (I was pretty impressed by the diligence of the one site that actually tracked all the scheduled screenings to see if there indeed had been a pattern developing. Very worthwhile and illuminating.)

Still, I'm pretty hesitant to call anyone a liar in the absence of intent to deceive. Let us know when an actual, known lie surfaces there instead of just a really bizarre, inexplicable occurrence, and I'll pop in with that if I find one, too.

Cuz ya know, the appearance of intent is not proof of intent, right? Otherwise the I.D. guys might be on to something. "What other explanation could there be??!?!?!"

Greg Wright

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:lol:

That's just great. To borrow a phrase from MLeary... You win the thread.

Interesting, how so many events now are being "read" by the film's protesters, as they seek some hint of design behind the deeds. Not to suggest that their suspicions are unfounded, but still...

Edited by Overstreet

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Cuz ya know, the appearance of intent is not proof of intent, right? Otherwise the I.D. guys might be on to something. "What other explanation could there be??!?!?!"

From the comments on that article:

I'm almost certain the change to 6pm was a filter mechanism after the PZ/Dawkins debacle. When the attendant couldn't find my name on the list I mentioned that I had RSVP'd online, at which point he asked me "6 or 7?" I said that I received an email about the time change last week which seemed to satisfy him. I however didn't mention that I got the screening has been canceled email.

I'm not sure why you'd insist on definitive proof. We rarely get proof for anything we believe to be true, only enough evidence to make a convincing conclusion one way or the other. It definitely appears that they're being very sketchy about this whole thing. And while restricting preview screenings to certain people isn't strictly unethical, their methods here raise some pretty serious questions about their integrity.

Also in the comments, some interesting info:

The director was not there; the host was a PR flak who identified himself as Steve Schmidt, a personal friend of the producer (who was also Schmidt's former pastor, he said). He was a fount of interesting information. He still claims the movie is opening on 1000 screens on April 18. They picked Ben Stein because he has a 54% recognizability rating in the US. Stein was their first choice and he accepted, but they had two other people on the list. Someone asked who they were, but he would only say that one of them was Dennis Miller. He said they would consider the opening weekend successful if the movie sold 2 million tickets (earning $12-15 million). Their next projects are an 8 hour TV mini-series on this same topic and another theatrical release on the subject of "sanctity of life." What came through clearly in the Q & A afterward was that their two main objectives were attempting to influence the state legislatures concerning school curriculum (Schmidt mentioned that Expelled had already been screened with great effect for several state legislatures), as well as to reach high school science teachers directly to teach ID without permission.

And at this point I'm about 99% sure that this is not the film I was hoping it was going to be. That is, it doesn't contribute positively to the debate, just widens the gap between intelligent design as a theory and intelligent design as a movement. And their goal is to dupe gullible Christians. We should probably be nearly as offended by it as PZ Meyers.

That's just great. To borrow a phrase from MLeary... You win the thread.

I dunno about him winning the thread. It's clear that some of the opposition to the producers' actions with respect to this film is speculative but not unfounded, while some is pretty well established.

At least we don't have to worry about anyone Godwinning the thread. Expelled did that for us after all.

Edited by theoddone33
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I'm not sure why you'd insist on definitive proof.

Oh, geez, I'm not. That's a fishy one, and the marketing campaign for the film has been scattershot at the very best, incompetent and bungled at the very least. There was undoubtedly something funky there... but there could be a whole bunch of reasons for that, and it's a big leap to get to "systematic conspiracy to deny specific people entry." And even if that much WERE the case, it's entirely within their prerogative, and normal for the industry.

And maybe it's just me, but even when I actually THINK someone is lying to me, I'm very reluctant to throw that accusation around; I've had that charge thrown at me pretty freely over the years when it hasn't been the case, and it's not very pleasant to be on the receiving end of that. So it's one of those "do unto others" moments.

their methods here raise some pretty serious questions about their integrity.

Well, the whole movie gets them into enough trouble on that score, doesn't it? What could a bungled screening in Arizona possibly add to the equation?

That's just great. To borrow a phrase from MLeary... You win the thread.

Well, that's not my intent. I just think there's enough real stink to the whole thing without ladling on imagined stink.

Edited by Greg Wright

Greg Wright

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Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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