It’s quite clear what the purpose of Ben Stein’s Expelled movie is — notice what they’ve been doing with it. They’ve been shopping it around at screenings that are filtered to keep knowledgeable people out; they’re planning to pay students to attend; they’re relying on the Big Lie to promote the movie; and of course, they had to misrepresent themselves to get interviews.
But now they’ve really done it: they are going to give Florida legislators, sponsored by a representative who has filed one of those bogus “academic freedom” bills, a special, private screening of the movie. None of the critics know what is in it, so this amounts to presenting a slick, prepackaged collection of lies to legislators while denying anyone any opportunity to rebut. Ben Stein should be ashamed of himself; can you think of any similar plan to generate public and political action against a group by spreading blatant lies that they were conspiring to commit horrible acts? Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anyone?
If the producers of Expelled are so confident that they can make a strong case of conspiracy against scientists, then before they start showing this to uninformed politicians, they ought to screen it before scientists and historians and philosophers of science, who will be able to judge it on its merits. Let’s see them show it to a group picked by NCSE, for instance, who would then be able to fairly argue against it. As it is, the cowards of Expelled are doing their best to keep critics in the dark about its content.
There’s another revelation in this sordid Florida affair. Who else is sponsoring this screening of the movie? An organization called the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee. The place looks wonderful on the web: it’s a hands-on science museum with children’s programs, an IMAX theater, a planetarium, etc., with a focus on engineering and aerospace, and it’s an arm of Florida State University and Florida A&M. Here’s their mission statement:
The Center is the K-12 outreach facility of the Florida A&M University – Florida State University College of Engineering and uses aerospace as a theme to foster long-term interest in math, science and technology; create positive learning experiences; and motivate students to pursue careers in these fields.
Sounds nice…but Mike O’Risal dug deeper. After all, why is an overtly pro-physical science organization like this assisting in an attack on the life sciences? It seems that none of the staff at the Challenger Center actually has any kind of degree in the sciences — the head of the planetarium has a P.E. degree, which brings to mind that common public school tactic of letting the football coach teach the science classes. These are people who are grossly unqualified to assess the merits of the movie, and at the very least they have allowed venal interests to override their mission of providing quality science education to the public.
Mike has a collection of email addresses associated with this debacle, including people at FSU, who are going to get tarred with this mess. Write to them! Let them know that an institution that is supposed to represent the university and is supposed to encourage more citizens to get a science education is being misused to do the opposite.
I’ve sent off email. One compromise I’ve suggested: if the screening goes ahead, they should insist that a group of university faculty be allowed to attend, and that those faculty should then be given equal time in a hearing with those same legislators to discuss any misrepresentations in the movie. They have to understand that Expelled is being used as a dishonest propaganda tool to foist a mislabeled “academic freedom” bill on them, one which will attempt to dictate the allowed views of university faculty on politics and evolution.