Thanks, Eugenie!

Following up my post about the Facebook group “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled”, I got this blush-inducing celebrity endorsement from no less than Eugenie Scott!

Martin Wagner, you have your head on very, very straight.

If we raise a fuss for Expelled, we increase the publicity and the gate. We play directly into their frame.

Why would we want to do that?

Okay, take a minute to chuckle at the visual of me putting on my “aw shucks” face. Anyway, Eugenie goes on to point out that while Expelled is sure to be a huge hit in “church basements,” — har! — the general public isn’t exactly awaiting it with bated breath the way they are, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Launching some massive protest campaign against the movie will simply play into their hands by validating their false message that “Big Science” wants to shut down open debate. She goes on to recommend the NCSE’s newly launched site Expelled Exposed. It’s new and fairly spartan at the moment, but it’s been launched both as a one-stop shop for all of the news surrounding the movie’s release and publicity (such as the PZ fiasco), and will go on to be a resource for refuting the false claims in the movie itself. Go on over and bookmark it.

Incidentally, if you’re a member of the Facebook group, you’ll see that one guy who’s responded, one Barrett Cune, is doing a great job making my case for me, by presenting himself as exactly the kind of histrionic assclown we don’t want responding to the movie. In a couple of ALL CAPS harangues, he wails about the need to “hit the streets” and attacks imaginary people who “just want to whine about the Earth and her problems.. you dont actually want to do anything to help.. you want your fucking parents to do it for you.” If old Barrett can’t tell the difference between coming up with ways to counter the movie effectively and productively, and thinking no one wants to do anything simply because we think parading the streets like some kind of I.R.A. rally would backfire, he clearly needs to grow the fuck up. I can understand and sympathize with his passion, but not his immaturity. The idea is that we’re smarter and more rational than the IDiots who do things like make movies comparing scientists to Hitler as a way of concealing the fact they have no science backing up their own position. Acting even stupider than they do is not how to turn the generally indifferent public off to their message.

Picket Expelled? No no no no no!

I just got an invitation in my email to join a Facebook group called “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled,” which lists PZ Myers as one of two admins. The thrust here is to organize protests in front of theaters wherever it’s playing. I joined right away, mainly so I could stop these folks — whose motivations I am, of course, 200% in sympathy with — from what could be a foolish mistake. I promptly posted a bulletin to the group, which I will reproduce in full below. There’s a right way and a wrong way to oppose a folly like Expelled, and picketing theaters is the wrong way.

I think picketing theaters is a bad idea. Why? Because it will only serve to draw attention to the movie and might make people curious where they were indifferent before. Nothing sells tickets like controversy, and by organizing theater protests, we who oppose this pack of lies may unwittingly help give it more business.

Remember what happened with Passion of the Christ? This was Mel Gibson’s small independent movie, until the Anti-Defamation League began making a big stink in the media about the possibility it might be anti-Semitic, and complaining Gibson would not screen the film for them. The media ran with that, with the result that so many people became fascinated and curious that the movie ended up taking in over $375 million in its theatrical run.

I don’t think we want to make the same mistake in dealing with Expelled.

Instead, how about contacting your local media (newspapers, TV, radio) if the movie’s coming to your town, and offer to either write a guest editorial detailing the specific lies in the movie, as well as the long campaign of dishonesty being used to promote it? Or ask to talk to their staff movie critic, and provide him with correct information to counter the film’s falsehoods that he can then include in his review.

Picketing theaters may even feed into the movie’s false message that “Big Science” and its supporters merely want to shut down dissenting views. When in fact, that’s what the producers of Expelled are doing!

This movie isn’t poised to become some big megahit, people. With the possible exception of an opening-weekend “Church Bus Bubble,” I think theatrical attendance will be minute, and the movie will end up doing the bulk of its business with DVD sales marketed directly to churches. Right now, Expelled is having a PR nightmare surrounding the screening they kicked PZ out of. Let’s keep working that angle, to help the public understand what liars and hypocrites are responsible for this shit. The best thing that could happen would be for the movie to peter out after a week in theaters due to massive public indifference. That won’t happen if we raise a big ruckus and make everyone eager to see it out of curiosity over what the fuss is about.

Addendum: Ames Grawert, who’s listed as the group’s other admin, replied to my bulletin with the following, which gives me a sense of relief.

I think you’re probably right. I’ve heard this critique from a lot of people. I’ll change the description of the group a bit. I like the editorial/education angle a little better.

Very nice. This is a time when cooler heads will prevail. Still, I think this post is relevant, in case there may be any other folks out there considering some kind of overt protest activity on their own.

Last night turning into PR Waterloo for Expelled

Now the whole hilarious story of PZ Myers being thrown out of a screening for Expelled has hit at least one mainstream media outlet. The dishonesty of the people behind this propagandist rubbish is being spread far and wide for the world to see. I laugh. I giggle. I even chortle. Meanwhile, PZ’s daughter-of-darkness Skatje has reviewed the movie, and the short version of her take is: Bring a pillow. It sounds like it’s a very slapdash affair, and most tellingly, it never does what the promoters are claiming it does: make the case for “intelligent design.” They seem to think that intercutting stock footage of Nazis with interviews of scientists constitutes some kind of withering refutation of evolutionary biology. Amateurs.

Addendum: Now the New York Times has picked the story up, and allows associate producer Mark Mathis to lie at great length, only to be rebutted at the end in full. He really sounds like a blustering little nobody with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, while Dawkins and PZ and Genie Scott sound mostly bewildered at the staggering foolishness of these people.

But you know, if they weren’t fools, they wouldn’t be IDiots either.

More embarrassing press for Expelled

The more these clowns responsible for Expelled get any press outside the protected confines of the fundamentalist anti-science subculture, the more desperate and dishonest they look. Now the New York Times has published an article about the whole fracas involving Orlando Sentinel reviewer Roger Moore, the absurd press conference and screening he attended where people were required to sign nondisclosure agreements, and the total harshing of the movie he eventually wrote for the paper.

Hilariously enough, the Times doesn’t have to do anything other than let Ben Stein and publicist Paul Lauer speak for themselves to make them look foolish. For instance, the hilarious excuse Lauer gives for disinviting Moore to the screening is that “the film was not polished enough for professional scrutiny,” ironically implying that to pass muster amongst the fundamentalist Christian audience they’d hand-picked for their screening, professional polish wasn’t necessary. Hey guys, never let it be said you don’t respect your audience!

The article makes it abundantly clear just what a hypocritical exercise Expelled is. While on the one hand it assaults its imaginary villain, “Big Science” (led, no doubt, by Michael Myers in full Dr. Evil getup), for disallowing “academic freedom” in “suppressing” ID, on the other hand it clearly only intends to preach to the converted, gearing its marketing solely towards a fundamentalist audience already sufficiently scientifically illiterate to lack the knowledge to know how badly they’re being lied to. Keeping out critics from the mainstream media, or anyone who isn’t already part of the fundamentalist camp, is something they’re dead set on.

As has been remarked upon, if Stein and Lauer and the liars-for-God behind this movie really wanted a free and open exchange of conflicting ideas, they’d host numerous press screenings, not require nondisclosure agreements to be signed (talk about wanting to “control the message”!), and in fact enthusiastically encourage scientists and academics to come to those screenings and debate the film’s claims. That they don’t is clear indication they don’t want knowledgeable people exposing Expelled‘s campaign of deceit, at least not before that campaign has gained a foothold and spread even more anti-science poison among a populace who’s already been crippled by too much of it already.

The Expelled farce gets even funnier

Check the latest post by PZ, concerning a desperate press release by the Expelled team, who are huffing and puffing and doing their best “well I never!” posturing over Robert Moore’s blistering review of the movie in the Orlando Sentinel. They claim — you’ll love this — that Moore created a “security breech [sic]” (at a press conference?) by sneaking in (to a screening for which his paper was sent an invitation?) disguised as a minister (huh?), and that he refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement (and what kind of “press conference” requires its attendees to sign an NDA?).

The usual “waah waah, the evil atheist conspiracy meanies are picking on us” self-pity you get from these losers, in other words. And they say “Big Science,” Ben’s imaginary villain, are the ones who want to “control the message”? Project much? Of course they do: they’re IDiots, which means they’re pathological liars and meretricious scumbags.

Note that on the Expelled blog, the whiny tard patrol respond by deriding PZ as an “atheist blogger and fabulist,” while somehow forgetting to note that he’s the same “fabulist” from whom they requested and got an interview for their movie under false pretenses.

How tragic it must be to be the sort of people who flail through life, literally psychologically incapable of being truthful, ever.

Another day, another load of creationist lies and hypocrisy

These people just can’t not lie.

From the Expelled blog:

Big Science doesn’t like it when they can’t control the message: it’s why we made EXPELLED.

From a report on an Expelled press conference [emphasis added]:

Now if Expelled can be said to have a theme, it is that all sorts of ideas should be batted around the ballfield of science and theology, that there should be freedom of expression… This makes it ironic, at least, that they expected the Orlando Sentinel to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Freedom of expression is unseemly at an Expelled press conference. There was no give-and-take, no open marketplace of ideas, in fact, scarcely any questions at all. Ruloff and Stein batted one softball after another out of the park from those posed by Paul Lauer, a representative of the film’s public relations firm. Questions from non-employees had to be submitted by email. Lauer (or somebody at his firm) screened them.

I’ve participated in a lot of press conferences in my thirty years as a journalist. I once bumped into President Gerald Ford on the front lawn of the White House. I had a question for him, which he politely answered. I went to a press conference by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who took all of our questions and hung around afterward to talk with me. I’ve had press conference questions answered by physicists Hans Bethe and Edward Teller, “father of the hydrogen bomb”; by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson; by John Wayne; by U.S, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney; by U.S. Sens. Alan Simpson, Craig Thomas, John Kerry, Malcolm Wallop and Gary Hart, and by lots and lots of other public figures whose time I’ve wasted. Some of my questions were argumentative, but all were thoroughly — if sometimes equally argumentatively — answered.

Until I got to Ben Stein. Though calling for the rough-and-tumble of openness and debate, Stein didn’t have time for questions.

Hmmm. Who’s “controlling the message” here again? “Big Science,” or Big Fat Fscking Lying Asshats for The Magic Sky Fairy?

Go viral on this stuff, people, and let’s expose to all the world just what two-faced dishonest scumbags are marketing this deceitful propaganda masquerading as a brave blow for freedom of inquiry. Sure, it’d be one thing if ID were all about an honest scientific pursuit into facts about biodiversity, and had actual research to show for it and an actual theory out there making predictions in the real world. But they have none of those things, and must resort to despicable conspiracy theories about the evil ninja Big Science baddies suppressing their brilliant work at every turn. Evidence? Pshaw.

This quote from the Colorado Confidential article sums things up with admirable bluntness.

…not only is Expelled and the intellectual movement behind it hypocritical in its supposed defense of “freedom of expression,” it’s an attack on the entire superstructure of science and technology that has created the modern world. Expelled is anti-rational.

And disgraceful.

Typical, typical, typical

The dishonest morons who produced Ben Stein’s comedy masterpiece Expelled posted a ridiculously deluded rant against Darwin Day to their blog, in which they lie so copiously and egregiously about the positions of Darwin and Dawkins that PZ Myers couldn’t resist laying down the pwnage, which he did with his usual masterful command of all those doggone facts IDiots find so inconvenient.

In response, it now appears that anyone clicking over to the Expelled blog from the link provided in PZ’s rebuttal gets a 404 error. The stupid Expelled post is still up, you just can’t get to it from Pharyngula. Presumably the link provided here will be good for a little while, anyway.

So let’s see what we have here. A movie that claims ID has been “expelled” from academia due to some sort of hostility towards free speech and academic freedom on the part of “Big Science”* has expelled criticism by a legitimate scientist who happens to be one of the scientists they got to agree to an interview in their movie through false pretenses. Hmm. Sounds about typical, all right.

Welcome to the world of ID creationism. Where we tell more lies before breakfast than most people do all day year.

* I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and submit that “Big Religion” is far bigger than “Big Science” ever dreamed of being.

Expelled: even lamer than we all thought

The Orlando Sentinel has the first mainstream media review I’ve seen of Ben Stein’s ID propaganda film Expelled, and it ain’t pretty. The film’s egregious dishonesty is evident from the outset, as it attempts to confuse the issue in the minds of an uninformed public and present the ID-vs.-evolution argument as an academic freedom issue, rather than a simple matter of which of those two things is science and which one isn’t.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed [is] a rabble-rouser of a doc that uses all manner of loaded images, loaded rhetoric, few if any facts and mockery of hand-picked “weirdo” scientists to attack the those who, Stein claims, are stifling the Religious Right’s efforts to inject intelligent design into science courses, science curricula and the national debate….

[Stein] uses anecdotes from a few Fox-over-publicized cases of people who claim to have lost tenure/their jobs/their position in the scientific world for daring to suggest the hand of a supernatural being in the creation of life. He hasn’t a scintilla of proof of, well, anything. Then he has the audacity to whine, “Where’s the data” when questioning cellular biologists and other real scientists who build their lives around doubt, and finding testable, legitimate answers to those doubts. Where’s YOUR data, Ben?

I imagine this writer’s experience with the levels of irony, meretriciousness and hypocrisy one confronts routinely when one deals with creationists is fairly limited. Otherwise it wouldn’t surprise him at all that the movie demands all kinds of data from scientists (which actually exists in heaps, but which the IDiots ignore), while not feeling any great urgency to back up its own claims.

One of the movie’s most repugnant lies is its repetition of the “Darwin = Hitler + Stalin” mantra. As anyone with three brain cells to rub together (which would be four more than Stein has) and has actually studied the history knows, both the Third Reich and Stalin were deeply opposed to Darwin, with Stalin supporting Lysenkoism.

But this is all par for the course for the intellectual wasteland that is creationism. They’re scared of evolution because they believe that if it’s true, then God can’t be true, and thus their lives are meaningless because they have no shot at the promised afterlife. But scientifically, creationism cannot be supported by any facts. So all that can be done is to discredit it by associating it with all that is evil and bad. For all the movie’s whining about “academic freedom,” the truth is that supporters of ID have never been about achieving a stronger scientific understanding of our world and have always been about protecting their religion, their “scientific” posturing towards that end merely the cheapest of dog-and-pony shows. And isn’t it funny how, for all their claims that they are the ones whose ideas are being “censored,” every prominent creationist blog on the web (like Uncommon Descent) actively censors pro-evolution arguments out of their comments or deletes entire posts if creationism cannot be made to look superior even through the most extreme rhetorical sleight of hand.

I’m actually looking forward to this movie’s release now, limited as it will be, because I think it will be the greatest gift to real scientists the IDiot crowd has ever offered. The tidal wave of articles, editorials, interviews and discussions that will follow in its wake, correcting and attacking all of its easily refuted falsehoods with just-as-easily verified facts will lay bare just what shoddy scholarship and sleazy emotional button mashing the IDiots have to resort to instead of, you know, actual scientific research to develop a workable theory of intelligent design. ID was essentially killed in Dover, but this “documentary” is like the movement’s lurching zombie corpse, shuffling along unaware that it’s dead. It’s a last-ditch act of desperation, and we can only hope that the reaction it’s sure to receive will prove the final bullet to the head needed to put ID down for good.

More faux-intellectualism: the appeal to other ways of knowing

In this comments thread, we’ve been visited once again by Rhology, who says:

I don’t agree that God is unprovable or unproven. Not provable by naturalistic means, of course, but there’s no reason to restrict ourselves to solely naturalistic means.

What, exactly, are the “non-naturalistic” means that Rho proposes? How do they work? What are their methodologies? Can one use them to test a falsifiable hypothesis and formulate a theory which has predictive power? Rho seems to imply this, since his statement suggests God’s existence can thereby be (and actually has been) proven. But if you’re looking for a real explanation of how to go about seeking knowledge using “non-naturalistic means,” then Rho will disappoint you.

This is the appeal to other ways of knowing, a common bit of hand-waving employed not just by religionists, but practitioners of all manner of woo. Skeptico has also written about this. And I hate to say it, but it seems to be a view that not only has traction amongst the anti-science clods you’d expect, but among people in the scientific community who should know better, usually in a misguided attempt at offering a sop to the ignorant in the belief that those people would simply be too scared of the threat science poses to their precious belief of choice unless the olive branch of appeasement is offered.

Case in point: the National Academy of Sciences has just released a booklet for the lay reader (you can download the whole thing as a free PDF) spelling out the case for evolution and against ID in a very clear, accessible, and commendable way. But the book makes the concessions to religion that has caused guys like PZ Myers and Larry Moran to roll their eyes. “Science and Religion Offer Different Ways of Understanding the World,” trumpets one chapter heading. But they don’t. Not even remotely. Science offers ways of understanding the world, religion offers supernatural beliefs in place of understanding, which actively impede many people’s ability to achieve understanding. It really is a big blemish in an otherwise scientifically sound book. Then again, if the way in which this “different way of understanding” actually works, and how its conclusions can be determined to be just as epistemologically valid as those of science, were actually explained in detail, then I’d happily sing a different tune. But no, we just get the assertion that a “different,” “non-naturalistic” means of examining truth claims exists, and that it’s better, and that anyone who tries to rebut this is simply “making excuses” for science’s own presumed failings. That’s religion for you. No evidence is ever needed, only that whose existence conveniently resides in some “non-naturalistic” realm only discernible to those who have thrown off materialism’s presumptions.

Some corrections to this week’s TV show

This week when I did a show on pseudoscience, I was complaining about a reality show called “Phenomenon”, featuring Uri Geller and Criss Angel as the judges. I mistakenly claimed that this show was about contestants trying to prove that they have psychic powers.

In addition to the person who called at the beginning of the show, numerous people have sent email to inform me that the show does not claim to promote the idea of real magic powers; they are judging people on their abilities as stage magicians. I regret the mistake, and it turns out that I was thinking of a different show: “America’s Psychic Challenge” on Lifetime. Please direct your mockery towards this other show, and not Phenomenon.

In addition, I said I didn’t have an opinion on Criss Angel as a magician, but I had heard him bad-mouthed by Penn Jillette. I used to listen to Penn’s radio show, but it turns out I was wrong about that too. Searching for Penn and Criss Angel together, I found this audio clip of Penn doing a friendly interview with Criss on his own show.

I heard this interview, but I must have misremembered the characters in it. It turns out that Penn really likes Angel, and together they were badmouthing David Blaine, whom they both consider an untalented hack whose whole act is basically about selling himself. So, in Penn’s opinion: Criss Angel smart smart smart, David Blaine dum dum dum.

Now I don’t agree with Penn Jillette’s opinions on everything, but I really dig him as a performer, a magician, and a loudmouthed skeptic. So if Penn likes Criss Angel as a magician then that’s good enough for me. I guess you can watch Phenomenon now.