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.

F*ck Expelled. I’m done with it.

Okay, here’s my ‘tude at the moment. I figure I’ve done my bit, said all I had to say, voiced my opinion in several forums: here, in the comments of other blogs, even at the movie’s IMDb page. As far as I can tell there’s nothing more needs be said. Those of us on the pro-science side know full well by now that the movie is a pack of disgraceful, meretricious lies. And any criticism of it whatsoever simply gives the producers another opportunity go into Monty Python mode all over again and wail, “Help, help, we’re being repressed!” (Another irony-meter breaker, since one of the movie’s major false claims is that science will tolerate no criticisms of its theories.) The movie is selling a persecution fantasy and a conspiracy theory, nothing more. It whines about scientific “thought police” while never once bothering to argue a scientific case for ID. Thus its dishonesty ought to be laid bare for anyone who isn’t already an ignorant, uneducated ideologue or deluded fundamentalist tool.

So I’m done talking about it. I will, of course, leave the link to Expelled Exposed up in the sidebar, pretty much in perpetuity. The NCSE’s fact-checking site has, thanks to the efforts the pro-science blogosphere, finally bounced onto the first page of Google search results for “expelled.” The site’s a first rate takedown of all the movie’s lies, and right now it’s gotten so much traffic its server has been overwhelmed, a problem I’m sure they’ll remedy ASAP. If you encounter any creationist nitwits who seem to think the movie is something to gloat over, forward them on to Expelled Exposed. And if they refuse to read it, just taunt them with, “Now who’s scared to have their beliefs challenged?”

I suspect that, Monday night, I’ll go have a look at the weekend actuals over at Box Office Mojo to see how the thing did, and write one more post as a result at that time. The producers are still claiming they’re rolling out on over 1000 screens, which I still doubt.*

But whatever their release pattern, I predict that Friday/Saturday could be pretty decent for them (as The Choir will all go see it then), after which point it will peter out. Amusingly, Mark Mathis has been quoted as saying he anticipates an opening in the $12-15 million range, a laughably unrealistic boast, as such A-list superstars as George Clooney and Keanu Reeves have recently struggled to squeak out $12 million opening weekends for their recent releases. And Expelled is only one of many releases this Friday, all of which are going up against the new Judd Apatow comedy. That’s going to annihilate everything else at the box office in its path.

But then, when has Expelled ever been anything other than laughably unrealistic? Okay, so the movie will resonate with a built-in core audience of scientifically illiterate fundies who respond easily when their emotional hot buttons are pushed. It may even spark some testy debate for a while. But whether it succeeds or fails, remember, Expelled will not change two things. 1) Intelligent design is still not science, and 2) all life evolved and continues to evolve, and will go on evolving long after Christianity, and even homo sapiens ourselves, have gone extinct.

As far as my own posting about Expelled on this blog is concerned, well, that’s a wrap.


*Box Office Mojo in fact reports 1052 screens, which is insanely ambitious for any independent film. They could very well take a huge bath on this, but at this point I suspect they don’t care, as they’ve already stirred up enough hostile and mocking reaction to crank their persecution complexes into overdrive.

Another chance to push back against the New Dark Age in Austin

Remember how the nutbags at the Institute for Creation Research (second cousins to the Institute for Hobgoblinology, one presumes) have been trying to gain legitimacy in Texas by being allowed to offer degrees in science education? Well, the meeting is coming up, and I hope a zillion people from the pro-science side turn up and tell the board just what a ridiculous proposal this is. Or, at the very least, ask that the creos show their peer reviewed research proving that the Earth was created after the domestication of the dog.

Heads up to George Innis, who posted the following to the CFI-Austin Yahoogroup mailing list:

It appears that The Coordinating Board, TheCB, will take up the Institute for Creation Research, ICR, request for a Certificate of Authority at their meeting on 25 April. This Certificate is the next step in ICR’s effort to offer a fundamentalist oriented advanced degree in science education. TheCB was scheduled to consider this matter earlier this year but ICR requested a delay when TheCB indicated that additional documentation would be required. TheCB’s Committee on Academic Excellence and Research will consider the proposal from 10AM until noon on the 24th in the Board Room. At this meeting the public may make statements of up to 3 minutes each. I am told that following this meeting the commissioner will finalize his recommendation. A decision is expected at the Board meeting the next day where discussion will probably be brief.

TheCB’s offices are at 1200 East Anderson Lane and the Board Room is Room 2.140.

Got that? April 25. If you want Texas to have 21st century — as opposed to 14th century — educational standards, take off work and be there.