Expelled: liars

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2008 8:49 am

Note: a version of this blog entry was posted right before I moved to the new server, and was lost in the ether.

I have been getting quite a bit of email about the movie "Expelled", a propaganda piece sponsored by the Disco ‘tute and, from all accounts, full of the usual lies about evolution, science, and creationism. The host is Ben Stein, who has been particularly egregious about his promotion of the movie, sidling up to the likes of Ken Ham, for example.

I need not go into any details here, since Jon Voisey at The Angry Astronomer has many, many grim details on how the producers of this movie have been really slimy about it, including lying outrageously to scientists to get interviews with them. As usual, it seems that for most fundamentalists the Ninth Commandment is optional.

Comments (24)

Links to this Post

  1. expelled | March 18, 2008
  1. Delivis

    I think their favorite logical fallacy seems to be the outright lie.

  2. FREQFORCE

    Evidently, the promoters of this movie can’t even fill the seats by paying people to see it. Now they’re issuing “media alerts” from a mailing list every time anyone publishes a critical review.

    These guys started out as being the Micheal Moore’s of the creationist camp, but they’ve quickly taken a nose dive into becoming the creationist version of Uwe Boll.

  3. Aaron

    I tried to enter an honest dialogue at http://www.uncommondescent.com, the blog of William Dembski and other cdesign proponentsists. I figured since the Expelled movie was all about intellictual freedom and freedom of speech my inquiries would be well received. I made a few posts which I thought were courteous and logical…and then I was banned. I guess one could say I was EXPELLED!

    I logged the interchange I had with DaveScot, one of uncommon descent’s regular bloggers. You can find it at the link below.

    http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=36293&p=697818#p679469

  4. Carey

    Aaron – I love the use of “cdesign proponentsists”. How many people get the reference, I wonder? :)

  5. Justin

    “Every year you hear about a few bad apples in one profession or another: law, religion, business, anything. But the percentage of bad apples is tiny, probably about the same as it’s always been. The percentage of good apples is large. We just don’t hear about them.”
    -John Wooden

  6. Michelle

    Good ol’ PZ has been writing a lot about that pile of smelly expelled food.

    I hope it flops. It deserves to flop.

  7. I wondered what had happened to this blog entry.

    If it’s the movie I’m thinking of (and how many movies like this with Ben Stein in it can there be?), then when I first saw the trailers several months ago, I assumed it was a comedy/spoof/mockumentary. Imagine my surprise when BA posted his entry here and I discovered that it was meant to be taken seriously.

  8. Yeah, PZ has written a whole bunch of posts on Expelled – not just his own personal experience with it (he was interviewed for the movie), but practically any news report dealing with it. Some of his posts (and the subsequent comments) are pretty hilarious.

  9. When I first came across the Expelled website I was very surprised by Ben Stein. He seemed to approach his criticism of Darwin’s theory not on scientific grounds but on political/rhetorical grounds. No matter how articulate he was about his positions, his logic was shockingly irrational. It seems like he is quite ignorant of science and also ignorant of his own ignorance.

    I don’t say that just to call him names. He just seems to me to be completely unaware of his shortcomings. Given my previous regard for him, I am now duly horrified.

    But it is perhaps yet another example of an othewise learned person venturing out into arenas that they are not learned in and erroneously thinking their other expertise is applicable and transferable.

  10. There is of course, an entire forum dedicated to mockery of anti-evolutionary efforts by the cdesign proponentsists, with a special, 874 page thread dedicated just to Uncommonly Dense, and another thread just for documenting all the times when someone gets “Expelled” from Dembski’s blog via use of the “Nixplanatory Filter”.

    Aaron, be sure to stop by and say hello.

    There’s also a thread just for this piece of propaganda by Stein (19 pages and counting).

    The forum is an adjunct to The Panda’s Thumb (highly recommended blog, btw).

    Full disclosure: The Boy is the moderator at the forum, so this comment may fall under the heading of “Forum-peddling by Proxy”.

  11. KC

    Actually, the details are important. Without them we have insufficient information to make a determination of this film. A quick check brought up the trailer for “Expelled,” which, while it looks interesting, still presents insufficient data to make a determination either way. Maybe the charges against it are true; maybe not. But I’m very uncomfortable taking another person’s word for it. Especially since the case of Dr. Richard Sternberg was reported in “The Wall Street Journal” and at least in that one instance, if in no other covered in the movie, there appears to be something there.

    I don’t know how it is in astronomy, but in some other branches of the sciences there is the phenomenon of “factions.” I’ve heard archaeologists on one occasion, when discussing human migration to North America, half-way jokingly refer to “The Clovis Police.” Meaning the mind-set that the Clovis Culture represented the earliest – or one of the earliest – expansion of humans through North America. You can pick up similar hints in current science and see evidence of it in the history of science. The idea that an asteroid caused the Cretaceous extinction once faced considerable opposition. So did the Theory of Evolution. Any hypothesis that goes against prevailing theory is going to be sniped at unless there’s pretty spectacular evidence to support it. Science is not a profession for the thin-skinned.

    Of course, this does not mean every theory that faces opposition is automatically right. The question of whether the evidence supports a hypothesis holds true regardless, and if it doesn’t, it will not find acceptance. Period.

    Still, the case of Sternberg filled me with a good bit of unease at the time – and still does – about the direction of science and whether there’s a break-down in the peer review journal process. And the suggestion in the trailer that ID is being suppressed hit one nails squarely on the head: whether or not there’s suppression of “unpopular” hypothesis, this is the public’s perception of what’s going on. And the public is going to think this indicates the evidence in favor of the prevailing theory is perhaps not as strong as they’re told. To be seen as credible by the public, public discussions must be on the merits or failings of the hypothesis and not what one might think of the one presenting them. Because it doesn’t take a scientist to observe that trendy theories while others get short-shift (see the previous discussion here on the search for exoplanets verses a planet beyond Neptune). And to be honest, there are some who keep one eye on their funding – which is why funding by companies with a vested interests in the outcome of a study comes under suspicion.

    I might – might – rent the DVD when it comes out and go through and check each reference one by one. I’m not making any promises. But until I do, I’m reserving comment on the movie. Maybe the criticisms of “Expelled” are valid. But I won’t know until I see it for myself.

  12. One Eyed Jack

    BA,

    When this movie is finally released publicly, it will be the ultimate “bad science” movie to review. It could be the crowning glory to your movie section. The downside is that you would have to actually watch it.

    I’m not sure the psychological scarring is worth it.

    On the other hand, you could do something like they did with the AiG fantasy park. I can’t remember the name of the blogger, but there was a gentleman that agreed to visit and write about AiG Disney if his readership raised a certain level of money and donated to an appropriate charity opposed to the AiG agenda.

    -OEJ

  13. JackC

    @Carey

    Anyone here not getting the reference of “cdesign proponentsists” can look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqNH-Hnsfgg

    This is a cut from the Nova show on the Dover, PA case. Personally, I think this is just beautiful. I cannot think of a more clear, concise, perfect indication of a transitional form.

    The ID people should be saying “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    Anyone that doesn’t get THAT reference can look up Pogo.

    JC

  14. jimmiraybob

    The Expelled blog is a hoot and doesn’t appear to discourage or disappear dissenting entries – it is moderated so I assume that some comments may not make it – if so, they must be real doozies. I’ve responded any number of times with often lengthy rebuttals including references and links. There are a number of other “Darwinist” agitators providing excellent rebuttal and information.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Maybe the charges against it are true; maybe not. But I’m very uncomfortable taking another person’s word for it.

    And which would that “person” be? There have been at least one review from an independent journalist, adding to the several descriptions of outright lying from scientists.

    Especially since the case of Dr. Richard Sternberg was reported in “The Wall Street Journal” and at least in that one instance, if in no other covered in the movie, there appears to be something there.

    And what would that “something” be? Again, according to several accounts, the IDC movement is busy creating a martyr of Sternberg based on mischaracterization.

    The idea that an asteroid caused the Cretaceous extinction once faced considerable opposition. So did the Theory of Evolution.

    No, it didn’t. Evolution as a phenomena had a long history of observations that confirmed its existence. Competing theories of evolution had started to be published (Lamarck, Lyell, Wallace). Darwin’s theory, which later evolved into MET, was well received by the younger generation of professional naturalists and swept the competition away.

    AFAIU the professional debate has been confined to mechanisms more than data, such as when Mendel’s genetics resurrected the importance of Darwin’s mechanisms in the early 19th century. At the time genetic analysis become practical the modern theory was so well tested that the new results could only confirm what was already known. It was a test of a theory on a massive scale that no other theory has endured, and yet it survived triumphantly.

    Any hypothesis that goes against prevailing theory is going to be sniped at unless there’s pretty spectacular evidence to support it.

    And what would that “hypothesis” be? Make no mistake, “Expelled” will not present any competing theory on any subject, nor have any of the ideas of creationists survived any tests. The age of Earth is not 6000 year.

  16. Steve

    Disco’ ‘tute is such a cool name. They should put it on t-shirts.

    I’m not an IDer, but I’d risk supporting them for a cool shirt.

  17. Eric TF Bat

    As usual, it seems that for most fundamentalists the Ninth Commandment is optional.

    Every time you say that, I get confused – “What, Ben Stein is coveting his neighbour’s ass? Or is it his wife? What?” Turns out the reason I’m confused is because (1) I was raised Catholic, and Catholics do things differently, and (2) I never paid much attention to the commandments beyond using them as a scorecard (and frankly, Purity Tests are much more fun for that purpose).

  18. Brian

    My attitude towards Expelled is much the same as some of my friends’ attitude towards Battlefield Earth, namely that it’s seriously tempting to see the movie, out of a visceral sort of train-wreck fascination, but then one would have to live with the knowledge that you willingly gave these people some of your money.

  19. Todd

    @Brian

    “but then one would have to live with the knowledge that you willingly gave these people some of your money.”

    Of course, you could always wait for the DVD to hit the local library. Then it’s free and you don’t give any money to them at all!

  20. Joe Meils

    I wonder if this film might not have the opposite effect of the one they were hoping for… If people teaching evolution might not point to it and say, “This is an example of the propaganda the other side spews.”

    Sort of like my film making teachers using Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space” as and example of how NOT to make a movie.

  21. Nigel Depledge

    KC, you are right to be sceptical.

    I think I also might adopt your approach if it were not for one circumstance: the producers lied to PZ Myers in order to get an interview for the movie (as reported on Pharyngula nearly a year ago).

    Given this one fact (and some peripheral observations), I can make several deductions.

    (1) It is not the producers’ intention to present a fair and balanced view of the issue. Otherwise, there would have been no need to lie to get an interview with PZ.

    (2) It will be presented with a bias that favours the Discoverup Institute’s spin on the academic environment around biological reseacrh. This spin comprises mischaracterisations of the way in which scientific consensus is achieved, of the process for achieving academic tenure, and of the nature of the peer review process.

    (3) The movie contradicts its own central thesis. It claims (according to pre-release blurb) that there is no voice for dissent in science. Erm … what is the movie if not a voice of dissent?

    (4) It claims that “ID theory” has not received a fair hearing in science and is thus being expelled from the scientific forum as a result of prejudice. However, there is no such thing as ID theory. Even some of the DI fellows have admitted as much. If there is no ID theory, what is there to expel?

  22. Josh

    Documentary that dives into the science behind both Evolution and Creationism.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPKkxaZwXJ0&fmt=18

    CHECK IT OUT!

  23. John Heininger

    All the ranting and ravings against the movie Expelled will not diminish its appeal and continued viewing in the slightest. The louder and more demeaning the protests become the more people will want to view it out of sheer curiosity, and the greater its will be its impact. The sheer furiosity of the attacks by opponents only comfirms the movies central message. Having now viewed the movie and weighed it up against all the web based accusations I not only concluded that the attacks vaporised on more indepth analysis, but that I would now make every effort to widely promote this movie and bring it to the attention of a broad body of community and public official, and others.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »