Expelled performed below original estimate

The weekend actuals are in, and the $3.1 million estimate for Expelled that was holding as of Sunday afternoon has been downgraded to $2.97 million, with the movie coming in 10th rather than 9th place.

Anticipating an average second weekend dropoff of 50%-65% (which is what you see with most movies), I don’t think this has been the shot fired across the bow of “Big Science” that Mark Mathis and Walt Ruloff were anticipating. But as Eugenie Scott has pointed out, the movie will have a long DVD lifespan, playing the church-basement circuit.

Summation: well, that was over with pretty quick, eh? So, let’s all get back to doing science again, shall we.


Addendum: IMDb is declaring the movie a flop in their weekend box office roundup, and I like the honest way they describe it.

…the Ben Stein documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which argued on behalf of “intelligent design” — that is, the biblical view of creation — failed to bring out church groups in big numbers and settled for just $3.1 million to wind up in ninth place.

Good call, IMDb, for seeing through the pseudoscientific window dressing and recognizing that, yes, “intelligent design” is nothing more than old school Biblical creationism tricked out in jargon designed to wow the uninformed and illiterate. “Ooo, ‘complex specified information,’ sure sounds like summa that thar science type stuff ta me!”

(In other movie news, some dumbass working on the new Bond film ran the movie’s quarter-million-dollar Aston Martin off the road and into a lake. I think he’ll be a long time paying that off. Fail!)

Another Expelled victim: Could Ben Stein’s lies launch a wave of religious hate?

Over at Richard Dawkins’ site, Dawkins posts a crazed, histrionic letter from a Jewish man to Michael Shermer. This fellow evidently saw Expelled over the weekend, swallowed the movie’s foul calumnies about evolutionary theory being responsible for the Holocaust with complete credulity, and went berserk. Dawkins publishes his own calm and even-tempered response to the man (who wails that Shermer ought to be run out of the country, a point which Dawkins admonishes the man is shamefully just like the views the Nazis held towards the Jews), in which he makes the facts abundantly clear and assures the man he has been most callously and cold-heartedly lied to by evil, mendacious people with an agenda. It will be interesting to hear if the man replies, or tucks his tail between his legs and runs off.

This is something that has, perhaps, not been fully addressed in the runup to Expelled‘s mild opening weekend, but which perhaps should be addressed now: the possibility that certain individuals will take the movie’s lies to heart and a wave of flat-out religious hatred towards the sciences and academia may begin. We already know that religious extremists don’t need a whole lot of motivation to go completely unglued. Fundamentalists are, by definition, fearful and irrational. It hasn’t taken much to inspire the God-soaked to pick up a rifle and gun down an abortion provider, or to beat gay men to death, or to dress up in white robes and lynch black people, or crash jetliners into buildings. Those, of course, are the very worst examples. Right now we have scientists getting hate mail. Is there a chance we might see a Molotov cocktail or two lobbed through the window of a university classroom somewhere?

Hopefully that’s just slippery slope thinking. But then, as history teaches us, the more fanatical the belief in the divine, the more dangerous a person is apt to be. And remember, those Wehrmacht belt buckles didn’t have Darwin fish on them; they read, very clearly, “Gott Mit Uns.” I hope it doesn’t turn out that Ben Stein ends up having far more to answer for than just stolen animations and music. Shame on you, Ben. What you’ve done is deeply immoral and unforgivable.

Talking to a victim of Expelled

Some of our Christian commenters are just idiots or mean-spirited trolls, but occasionally we get someone who’s sincere and easily duped by the lies spewed by Ben Stein’s little movie. One of these, a young woman (I assume) calling herself Verity, has commented here, and my comment, straightening out a number of the falsehoods and misconceptions she holds as a result of taking Stein at his word, follows right away.

While I have no sympathy for the fundie fanatics of the world, for the people who concoct the lies Expelled is selling to begin with, I do have sympathy for the victims of their deception, and how their view of the world is thus impoverished by trusting in ignorant ideologues like Stein, rather than in reality. Go have a look see, and comment yourself if you see any details I might have missed.

Meanwhile, the weekend estimate for Expelled is shaping up to place the movie at 9th overall, with earnings of around $3,153,000. Its per-screen average of $2,997 means that it was getting about 111 viewers a day on each of its 1,052 screens. Of course, distribution will not be even, so that means some showings each day were nearly empty while others would have been fuller. But mostly this means that Expelled had a thoroughly average opening weekend, actually a bit above average due to its being a propaganda film “documentary.” But a far cry, I’d have to say, from the projected $12-15 million that Mark Mathis said was the opening he’d consider “successful.” I suspect that on Monday, however, he’ll have downgraded his expectations accordingly and be raving about what a blowout success the movie was.

Mostly, though, I think we can consider Expelled pretty much a blip on the “culture war” radar at this point. Hopefully now that they’re done being vilified as Nazis, all of America’s hard-working and underpaid scientists can get back to work now. You’ve earned it, gang.

Why yes, the bad reviews are all part of the [echo]Conspiracy-iracy-cy![/echo]

Via Expelled‘s site:

“Big Science Academy” is proud to have the support of the “Mainstream Press” in stifling the rise of freedom of speech in our science classrooms. In so many ways, “Big Science” and “Big Media” are on exactly the same page, when it comes to making sure that dissenters and troublemakers are properly expelled.

Well, what can I say? It’s been a busy week for us here at the Nazi Darwinist Conspiracy Headquarters (I could tell you our secret handshake and door-knock, but then I’d have to expel you) over at Area 51. I myself have had to wash and wax half a dozen black helicopters all by myself! That hasn’t left me much time to suppress anyone, but Obergrüppenführer Dawkins tells me he’ll let me have some overtime on Tuesday.

There Will Be Blood: The critics have at Expelled

As happens with all shitty movies, the distributor for Expelled declined to screen the movie in advance for critics. Indeed, we know they kept their advance screenings a tightly controlled series of fundie lovefests, expelling any knowledgeable, scientifically literate viewer if they were able. After all, in a movie that beats the “free speech” and “academic freedom” drums long and loud, it’s certainly very important to keep opposing views silent, eh?

But now real movie reviewers are getting a chance to eyeball the film, and the results aren’t pretty. It will be interesting to hear how Stein and Mathis and their usual gang of idiots try to spin this as the expected reaction from a liberal Darwinist cabal hostile to competing ideas, considering that these are just movie reviewers who are going to see the film as part of their weekly roster along with everything else. They really can’t be said to have a horse in the creation-vs-evolution race. Which is also true about most people who don’t make the atheist/science/Christian/creationist blogosphere part of their daily routine. And the movie’s emotional caterwauling is unlikely to sway or even interest them. There’s such a thing as overkill, and even unsophisticated audiences will recoil if they think they’re being beaten over the head.

Expelled is currently tracking at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. By comparison, here is the critical scorecard for the works of self-proclaimed genius auteur Uwe Boll: House of the Dead: 4%. Alone in the Dark: 1%. Bloodrayne: 4%. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: 5%.

Thus I’d like to offer Nathan Frankowski my congratulations on being able to boast that he is a more critically acclaimed director than Uwe Boll.

I’ve posted some choice reviewers’ quotations in the sidebar. Now it will be entertaining to see how the opening weekend pans out. Since Premise Media actually managed to get the thing on over 1000 screens, the heat is on far more crucially than if they’d opened in limited release and then done a regional release pattern throughout the rest of the summer. If they don’t score huge numbers this weekend, they’re losing their shirts in a way they would not have if they’d just hit smaller markets in 50-100 screen rollouts in succession. Executive producer Walt Roloff perhaps got overly excited at the prospect of being able to boast the widest release ever for a “documentary.” But I think he’s just a teensy bit optimistic when he goes on to cheer that he thinks Expelled‘s numbers could exceed the $23.9 million opening weekend of Fahrenheit 9/11. After all, that movie had colossal pre-release hype going for it. Plus Michael Moore was feeding off a zeitgeist. And despite Roloff’s apparent beliefs to the contrary, there isn’t this groundswell of public outrage over some conspiracy theory about “Big Science” and its suppression of ID as there was in 2004 over the depredations of the Bush administration.

I must say, it will be interesting to sift through the rubble on Monday.


Amusingly, RT has logged a second positive review for the movie (against 20 pans), and this one is from Christianity Today, which you’d expect to be receptive. Yet even they admit the movie is scientifically empty: “…if you’re looking for ammo to argue your Darwinist friends under the table, look elsewhere.”

Home of the Cuttlefish Fan Club

PZ’s regular readers may be acquainted with the poetry of commenter “Cuttlefish, OM”, whose own blog is chock full of his witty, satirical rhymes. As prose, and not poetry, is my own literary background, I can’t tell you why I love his stuff in a way that will earn me an A+ and a smileyface sticker from my Analyzing Poetry professor. I’ll just say, the man has flow. Here’s his latest masterpiece, about a certain ex-Nixon-speechwriter turned conspiracy theorist.

I am the very model of a devious creationist
I’ve made a film that’s best described as stolen-animationist
I know the use of rhetoric when facts are unavailable
To render the impossible into the unassailable

I’m very well acquainted, too, with data manufacturing
I’ll claim I stand on solid granite even as it’s fracturing
I document complexity, like when it’s irreducible…
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible

And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible
And think my movie’s in the league of Arthur Miller’s Crucible

I’m very good at lying, both the verbal and statistical—
Like Darwin in his later years, I’m openly theistical
In short, you might describe me as a mental masturbationist
I am the very model of a devious creationist

I believe we need to assign Cuttlefish his very own heroic theme song. Possibly that old R.E.M. tune. “Iamb, iamb, iamb Superman…” (Of course, unlike the Expelled producers, we better make sure we secure the proper music rights first.)

(Okay, start the flames over my lousy pun in the comments whenever you’re ready…)

Pedophilia enabler warns against “America’s brand of secularism”

Pope Ratzo is touring the U.S., about which some people with nothing better to do apparently give a shit. Amazingly, there are still those who actually think the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church still have some kind of moral authority as an institution that deserves to be leading the world, rather than what it is, a bunch of dirty old men playing dressup in expensive robes. Naturally, even Bush is kissing his ass. “In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded,” said the president responsible for launching an illegal invasion of a sovereign mideast nation under false pretenses, that has since taken the lives of over 4000 American soldiers and nearly a million civilians, “we need your message that all human life is sacred.”

Now, Ratzo has been paying lip service to those people whose lives are still shattered by the pedophilia scandal that rocked the Church but, disappointingly, did not bring it down. As Bill Maher pointed out recently on his TV show (to a muted, wary reaction from an audience that obviously can’t bring themselves to purge the virus of religion from their lives no matter how bad these people are revealed to be), if the Pope had been merely the CEO of a national chain of day care centers, and had been found to be covering up massive pedophilia within his company, he’d be doing 25-to-life right this very minute. Fortunately for the Catholics, they can get away with crimes that not even the FLDS can get away with. It isn’t just that if you cloak your child-rape in religion, people in America will give you a pass. Americans would simply prefer it to be a humongous, obscenely rich religion.

Now, Ratzo’s role in covering up the kiddie-diddlers in the priesthood is well documented. He infamously stonewalled any investigation against accused abuser Marcial Maciel, on the grounds that Maciel was too close a friend to then-Pope John Paul II. Ratzo’s past shows an unfortunate pattern of putting the protection of the Church before that of its people.

But here, touring the U.S., where the scandal is still very much an open wound, he knows, for political reasons, he must address it. So he goes around stating the obvious — that the abuse was “evil,” yada yada, without coming out unequivocally and assuring grieving survivors and their families that some heads will roll for it — while, in classically priestly fashion, saving his most dire warnings for, that’s right, the “threat” of secularism.

“Perhaps America’s brand of secularism poses a particular problem,” the pope said, according to the prepared text of his speech. “It allows for professing belief in God, and respects the public role of religion and the churches, but at the same time it can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator.”

I would suggest that what reduces religious belief to a lowest common denominator is the absurd nature of that sort of belief itself, and the fact that even the most uneducated twit, who wouldn’t know a molecule from a motorcycle, can still gleefully accept and embrace the notion of an invisible sky-daddy who will grant you your fondest wishes as long as you’re all good little girls and boys.

I honestly don’t see the point of the Pope’s visit, or why it would be of any interest to anyone who isn’t a devout Catholic. Yet he is feted by politicians as if he is some sort of head of state, with valuable and worthwhile proclamations to make about the human condition. Seriously, what has this church done for humanity in the last five centuries that merits the kind of respect the Pope is accorded on these photo-op tours? Did they cure polio and smallpox? Put men on the moon? Come up with a solution for global warming? Why give a man who systematically covered up a series of crimes so heinous that even the SCOTUS is weighing putting people to death for it such a celebrity welcome, while research programs on the cutting edge of science designed to actually improve the standard of living for humanity have to scrape through loose change in the bottom drawer for funding?

God likes you better if you’re a white missionary

That old selective God is at work again, doling out random miracles to some while flipping the divine bird at others. Story at CNN about a plane crash in the Congo, which some members of a missionary family survived by crawling through a hole torn through the fuselage by another survivor desperate to escape the wreckage. Naturally, they credit the Invisible Space Fairy for their survival.

Marybeth Mosier, 51, suffered a black eye and bruised ribs, said her husband, who added that he was unhurt.

“We couldn’t believe that our family of four could all escape a plane that was crashed and on fire, but by God’s mercy, we did,” he said.

Mosier said he believes the family made it for a reason.

“I think the Lord has a plan for us, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived,” he said. “He still has work for us to do.”

Regarding the 36 people who died in the crash, Mosier had no opinion. Obviously God had no plan for them nor any work for them to do, so they were no great loss. Probably black too.


Okay. I admit it. That last sentence was a cheap shot. As stupid and offensive as I think it is for people to think they’re privileged by their deity of choice over others, obviously, there’s no basis to think there’s anything racist about these missionaries, since they are, after all, over in Africa doing something they think is a good thing for the locals. Living in America surrounded by the racist ravings of right-wing sleazebags, it’s easy to slip into the unfair “these bad apples over here spoil the entire batch” view. One set of absurd beliefs does not imply the person subscribes to another set as well.

More vintage AE from Joe Zamecki

Joe Zamecki has been going through his tapes of the fledgling Atheist Experience TV show and posting them to YouTube. As you may recall, the first one of these he posted was pretty dire in terms of video and audio quality. This latest episode, from August 1998, looks and sounds a lot better. It features an early guest appearance by ever-popular firebrand Jeff Dee. As usual, Joe is splitting the episodes into several parts. Here’s the first. Again, kudos to Joe for these restoration efforts.