Whose head would you like to see on video?

John Horgan actually defended Ben Stein on Bloggingheads. Now I can understand being a little contrarian, but that’s going too far.

More importantly, I’ve been asked to do another bloggingheads session — it could be with John Horgan, and an opportunity to chastise him for that (as well as talk about something more substantive) or it could be with someone else — so I thought I’d throw it out here. Who do you think would be a good person for me to team up with for a diavlog? Maybe there’s someone out there who hasn’t been on bloggingheads you’d like to see.


  1. trimtab says

    Horgan defending Stein. Ugly as hell!

    It seems to me that the “arrogance” Horgan sees in biologists vigourously defending evolution stems from his own ignorance. Could this be? I just don’t get it.

    A lay person might not know the breadth and depth of the evidence supporting evolution, but what about Horgan? Doesn’t he know better? Or does he know something I don’t?

  2. says


    A change in the law could mean mediums, psychics and healers face prosecution if they cannot justify their claims. Spiritualists are delivering a mass petition to Downing Street and complaining that a genuine religion is being discriminated against.

    Please do come, psychics and tarot card readers (and homeopaths) will soon have to answer to ‘trading standards’ if they can’t demonstrate that they took measures to avoid exploiting vulnerable people (children, the elderly etc) or if they sell a service or product that makes claims that cannot be substantiated.

  3. Screechy Monkey says

    Horgan is ok when he’s talking to an actual scientist, because he takes on the role of interviewer. It’s when he’s paired with George Johnson (who I like) that Horgan starts pontificating about things he doesn’t fully understand. Like most journalists, he loves the story of a maverick taking on the establishment, so he’s naturally a sucker for Stein and others of his ilk.

    Which is my long way of saying that I’d be ok with a Myers-Horgan segment. I’d suggest you make science journalism one of the topics.

    Of course, I’m still holding out hope for a Myers-Mooney or Myers-Nisbitt video throwdown, but I take it you’re done with that subject.

  4. ivanm says

    @10 I’ve only seen fakes so far on bittorrent in the last few days, so I’m skeptical.

  5. says


    What with the ‘screechy monkey’ id showing up now, and the Nisbett flinging that term too, …, have you ever explained to folks about your earlier incarnation as one of the Howler Monkeys?

    fellow original howler

  6. says

    If anyone’s interested, I uploaded a few bits of Expelled onto youtube.

    Here is a <3 minute section featuring evil scientific atheists in dark lighting and ominous music.

  7. says

    For those taking #10’s option, make sure your Peer Guardian or some other protective P2P software is running, don’t trust those fuckers.

  8. says

    Horgan’s blowing smoke. Stein isn’t challenging anything, he’s suiting up in his shiny armor and bravely attacking his strawmen, and avoiding all of the questions that have been asked of him.

    Likewise with Berlinski. I brought up physics issues in a letter to Commentary (Berlinski likes to pretend respect for physics), and he just fobbed it all off with “…But if the mind and the brain prove in the end to be hopelessly distinct, then plainly thermodynamic considerations will play less of a role than he [Davidson] conjectures.”

    Uh, yeah, if it’s all Platonic magic, then it’s not physics.

    How does Horgan suppose that something like this, or Stein’s shrill attacks and strawmen, constitute a “clash of ideas”? The trouble is, we fight intellectually, they ignore everything meaningful and bring up magic, and Horgan wonders why we act offended at the “challenge”. It’s not because we’re defending dogma, it’s that we’re defending intellectual discussion altogether against the attacks of those who have nothing except flim-flam.

    I wish he’d care to listen to our objections before he simply agrees with the charlatans.

    Glen Davidson

  9. says

    @11, ivanm

    I’ve only seen fakes so far on bittorrent in the last few days, so I’m skeptical.

    Me too. However, there are three reasons to think this is not a fake (and thus, why I’m hopeful): 1) The positive to negative rating is 188/109, which is unusual for a fake, 2) There are tons of seeders (55 currently seeding), which would be strange if it was fake (why would you keep uploading something that didn’t work for you?), and 3) there’s an actual synopsis of the movie. This last point is unusual because the fake torrents aren’t usually so detailed (they are mindlessly computer generated).

  10. Colugo says

    Possible discussion partners with PZ. These individuals and PZ will find plenty to argue about.

    Jon Marks, anthropologist, geneticist, UNC-Charlotte. discussion: historical misuse of Darwinism, the various science wars

    Henry Harpending, anthropologist, University of Utah. discussion: human evolution, evolutionary psychology, race, selection, adaptationism

    Joan Roughgarden, Stanford: discuss theism and evolution, New Atheism, sexual selection and alternative theories, sexism and gender in science

    and, come to think of it:

    Terrence Deacon, Berkeley. This pairing might not be as argumentative as the above three, but Deacon is really on the ball.

  11. Lago says

    I would like to say ditto to what Glen said above…

    John Horgan is a moron and is not stating the facts. Strawmen and pure ignorance of the facts is not the same as, “laying it all out.”

    Expelled is pure sophistry, and nothing else.

  12. says

    Posted by: wazza | April 20, 2008 8:18 PM:

    Na, that’s definitely a fake…

    the URL describes it as “high quality”

    Haha, if it was referring to the content of the movie… but I think it’s referring to the pixel resolution and sound fidelity. I mean, it’s freakin’ 1.2 GB. ‘Sgotta be hi-res.

  13. says

    I can’t get the video to work. Does anybody want to transcribe/summarize what Horgan said? In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note that Horgan always manages to rub me the wrong way, but I’d rather not judge him without knowing what he said.

  14. says

    You might want to look for someone in one of the masturbation camps or masturbation fundraisers. I hear they are doing well collecting public money for these charitable events. Most of them participate here but some of them go masturbation hiking during spring time.

  15. eric says

    @ #10

    You couldn’t pay me to see Expelled.

    I am interested in this film though:


    Constantine’s Sword is the story of James Carroll; a former Catholic priest on a journey to confront his past and uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence and war. His search also reveals a growing scandal involving religious infiltration of the U.S. military and the terrible consequences of religion’s influence on America’s foreign policy.

    Carroll focuses on Christian antisemitism as the model for all religious hatred, exposing the cross as a symbol of a long history of violence against Jews (and, most recently, Moslems). The film brings the history of religious intolerance to life, tracing it as a source of the fanaticism that threatens the world today. At its core, Constantine’s Sword is a compelling personal narrative — a kind of detective story — as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own past, searching for a better future.

  16. Reyalswoc says

    I wrote an essay responding to Horgan’s “The Death of Proof” in an undergrad writing class. I knew at the time that I was going to grad school, and I could also tell that Horgan’s reasoning skills were suspect to see the least. This book review of “The End of Science” mentions the article. (Warning: .pdf file)

    It was clear to me at that time that Horgan was full of hubris, and didn’t seem to appreciate the underlying goal of mathematics as a search for truth. It doesn’t surprise me that he would defend Stein, because his writing has always taken a postmodern approach towards science, using as an underlying premise that there really is no absolute truth – at least not in a knowable sense. It is a small step from that to defend kooks, cranks and crackpots, which definitely describes ID.

  17. says

    #23 has it right. You and BA are the perfect match. I change my mind, I said to pick me just because I am a whore. I am willing to give up being the whore to see you and THEE BA go back and forth.

  18. Steve LaBonne says

    I’ve always thought Horgan was a horse’s ass, and I’m grimly satisfied to know that I was right all along.

  19. SteveC says

    John Horgan… onetime editor of Scientific American, right?

    I have his book, “Rational Mysticism”, … it’s ok, but… not nearly hard-headed enough for my tastes.

    As for being “arrogant,” for fuck’s sake, the anti-evolutionists are so fucking retarded in their blitherings, it is impoosible not to appear arrogant in opoosing them. Screw them. Hell yes I’m arrogant in this area. Justifiably so. Of course I’m arrogant. Bring the dipshits on and let us slice the heads off their arguments by the thousands for the sheer fun of it.

  20. says

    I’d like to second a vote for Roughgarden, because she is such an interesting figure and I’ve never actually heard her speak publicly on anything.

    What I’d really like to see, though, would be you and Michael Ruse. Ruse goes his own way in dealing with creationists, and I’m sure the sparks would fly.

    And speaking of philosophers, why not Wilkins? He’s always hinting that he needs a new gig, and frankly, is there anybody in the philosophy of biology more deserving of greater attention? I can’t believe that one of our UC’s hasn’t made it their business to get a fella who has an entire book on species concepts. Besides, I want to see how that snowy-white hair looks on video.

  21. says

    Posted by: Blake Stacey | April 20, 2008 8:36 PM:

    I can’t get the video to work. Does anybody want to transcribe/summarize what Horgan said? In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note that Horgan always manages to rub me the wrong way, but I’d rather not judge him without knowing what he said.

    Try using Internet Explorer. I couldn’t get it to work with Firefox either.

  22. ShemAndShaun says

    Only 1600 years have passed since Augustine of Hippo wrote these words:

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

    – The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19-20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]

    No comment.

  23. says

    Oops — browser crash. Sorry for the double post.

    Anyway, the book review linked by Reyalswoc (#29) reminded me of one reason Horgan consistently manages to irritate me: his antipathy to string theory. His caricature of that subject seems to mesh perfectly with his caricature of the scientific process, making it his prototypical example of science creaking to a halt.

    I suppose he must have found the recent books of Smolin and Woit to be godsends for his cause. But Smolin has a version of 1990s physics history which, to put it mildly, doesn’t match with anybody else’s recollections, and Woit (besides indulging in irrelevant asides and cheap shots) asserts that not only is string theory unpredictive now, it will necessarily be unpredictive forevermore. This, again putting it mildly, is not an established theorem. It’s a gut reaction. Remarkably enough, neither spends their valuable book-time explaining the AdS/CFT correspondence, an area in which the mathematical tools developed in quantum gravity research are currently being applied to nuclear physics, a regime we can test via particle accelerators like the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). No, this isn’t figuring out what happens inside black holes or at the first moments of the Universe, but it’s still good, honest work. Incidentally, string theory began with nuclear physics, so it’s something a case of returning to one’s roots, with the rewards of the journey taken to one’s benefit.

    I could rant at much greater length, but I gotta go — friend’s watching Firefly.

  24. ivanm says

    @18: I haven’t downloaded the fakes, but they sound like they’re seeded by the expelled folks. (according to comments, the file is a repeating loop of one of the trailers) So all those seeders might be “malicious”.

    Btw, on a point of geekitude: it’s not too hard to modify a bittorrent client to prioritize the first pieces of a file, so that you can check fakes without downloading the whole thing. (hooray for open source!) I don’t think anyone distributes a client with this capability, though, because it’s not as efficient when the swarm size is small.

  25. says

    Re., Expelled Torrent: Several torrent public review websites state that it is fake, so I stopped the D/L. Good points too, ivanm.

  26. says

    PZ, Horse’s Ass Horgan here. I’m delighted to see I have so many fans among your readers. I’d be happy to chat about Ben Stein (guess this means I have to watch his stupid movie), the pros of “teaching the controversy,” the geekiness of ScienceDebate2008, the dismal state of science journalism (or at least my style thereof), and anything else you like, as long as we disagree. Do you think string theory is cool, by any chance? The last time we spoke, as I recall, we had a hard time finding things to argue about. We need more internecine warfare among science-loving Godless geeks! That’s entertainment!

  27. Sastra says

    You know, I’m going to defend John Horgan a bit here by pointing out that he doesn’t seem to be defending creationism as such. I did a quick transcript of his beginning point (which rapidly gets lost as soon as Johnson gets a chance to lay into Berlinski):

    John Horgan:
    “I don’t like it when scientists sort of harrumph and say “how dare you” to people who are challenging some kind of sacred tenet (and that’s what they’re beginning to sound like) of modern science. I mean, the way I deal with it as a teacher — I know there are some teachers who say, you know, teach evolution and science in the classroom and leave all the religious crap outside, those are two different things. I actually like the phrase “teach the controversy” (even though I think George Bush has used it). I want my students to, you know – let’s bring it all out into the open and have the scientific theories compete with religious theories or alternative explanations for life or whatever and, you know, may the best explanation win.”

    Science vs. religion head to head, — and “May the best explanation win?” Gee, I wonder what that would be, in science class.

    If anything, Horgan seems to be arguing here against NOMA. He’s willing to take religious claims seriously, and let them compete. Later on, he says he thinks the best way to refute creationism is with “ridicule.” Laugh at it. If that’s a defense of Stein, it’s an odd defense.

    I also suspect that PZ would agree with him in that discussing the merits –or lack thereof — of ID makes for a valuable discussion in class. PZ does not go “harrumph” and say “how dare you” if his students bring up creationism.

    Or do you? ;)

  28. Screechy Monkey says

    Sastra, for me it’s the “and that’s what they’re beginning to sound like” part that annoyed me. It reeks of straw. I haven’t come across any biologists harumphing and treating the ToE as a “sacred tenet.” Perhaps some of them are getting a little frustrated and annoyed at having to deal with the same tired canards over and over again, but that’s not the same thing.

    But since John’s here, maybe he can point out some examples I’ve missed.

  29. says

    PZ, I’d be happy to take you on, except that I suspect we’d be agreeing on too much. Except about whether or not biology is just stamp collecting. And squishy. But otherwise, it would just be boring old agreement.

    How about John Allen Paulos? You’d probably agree with him, too, but it’d be great to get him in the loop.

  30. Greg N. says

    Will Wilkinson.

    You two could discuss the implications, if any, of Darwinism on the social sciences. You can see Will (a veteran of bloggingheads) on that very subject here:


    Presumably you disagree, and I think it would make for an interesting and enlightening discussion. Will had a bloggingheads with Robert Wright a while back, but I think you and he could have an even better discussion.

    Will’s blog can be found at http://www.willwilkinson.net/flybottle (there’s a link a couple of posts down to a roundtable in which Wilkinson trashes ID; you might find that interesting).

    Let’s make it happen!

  31. Ichthyic says

    You know, I’m going to defend John Horgan a bit here by pointing out that he doesn’t seem to be defending creationism as such.

    I don’t recall anyone saying he was. The problem arise when he creates horrendous strawmen like this:

    “I don’t like it when scientists sort of harrumph and say “how dare you” to people who are challenging some kind of sacred tenet (and that’s what they’re beginning to sound like) of modern science.

    which is utter bullshit, frankly, and deserves round chastising.

  32. Lago says

    Yo Horgon, explain the controversy? What new data has Ben Steins and friends brought about that is not being considered by science? Show us the evidence they have presented that merits a “controversy?” I watched your little interview and was wondering, do you know the difference between actual data and, “The God of the gaps?”

    You think there should be a debate? Then debate us…

  33. says

    Regarding that Expelled torrent mentioned @ #10, someone at Pirate Bay posted:

    I would guess fake, no one would encode ben stein to that high resolution


  34. Sastra says

    Yes, I agree that the Harrumphing Scientists do sound like strawmen.

    Do people still go “harrumph?” Or even “How dare you?”

    What about “Harrumph! How DARE you, sirrah!” — while popping out their monocle or clutching their pearls?

  35. Ichthyic says

    I would guess fake, no one would encode ben stein to that high resolution



  36. Ichthyic says

    What about “Harrumph! How DARE you, sirrah!” — while popping out their monocle or clutching their pearls?

    Heavens to Betsy, I do believe you dun give me the vapors, child!

    (harumph! harumph! HEY! I didn’t get a harumph out of that guy!)

  37. says

    If I were a scientist, I would so be taking up harrumphing right now. Actually, I guess I sorta kinda am a scientist, ish, in that I work in science research. (Doing the IT, not as an academic.)

    Harrumph. Sirrah, fetch me my student whacking stick; those whippersnappers need a jolly good sorting out. But first, another chota peg.

  38. ShemAndShaun says

    Science vs. religion head to head, — and “May the best explanation win?” Gee, I wonder what that would be, in science class.

    I wonder too, but you are assuming that the teacher has absolute say on how far the argument goes. Once it is in, the complaints of balance start, and you have to spend as much time explaining both “theories”.

    It sounds very fair, but in practice it would be a disaster.

  39. says

    Everyone is being a little too vicious to Horgan — I disagree with his position. That doesn’t mean I want his head on a chopping block.

    Yeah, the trick with getting a good diavlog, I think, is finding someone different enough that we have stuff to argue about, but not so different that the other person is a tedious loon (so no creationists, and no Nisbet).

    Wilkins would be a good choice; I was thinking Randy Olson would make for a good sparring partner, too. Paulos would be fun, but we do agree on a lot of things…but then, maybe two people who largely agree but try to explore an issue in greater depth could be nifty.

  40. Ichthyic says

    but not so different that the other person is a tedious loon (so no creationists, and no Nisbet).

    speaking of vicious…


  41. J. D. Mack says

    I think you should team up with with Ringo Starr, just because it would be so bizarrely random.

    J. D.

  42. Lago says

    How could we be too vicious to Horgon? He is defending Ben Stein’s position which has no defense. He claims a controversy which I would love to see defined.

    The only thing out of his mouth that sounded like a position was a simple “God of the gap” defense where if one does not understand something yet, it is blamed on God. That is not a controversy, or a position. It is no different than, “Big sound in sky must mean the Gods are mad at us ugh!”

    So, how is Horgon not in need of a good verbal slap upside the head?

  43. Greg N. says

    “…the trick with getting a good diavlog, I think, is finding someone different enough that we have stuff to argue about, but not so different that the other person is a tedious loon…”

    Wilkinson! He even has his own show over there (“Free Will”).

    Let’s make it happen!

  44. Sigmund says

    On the subject of Expelled – not so good news.
    The weekend box office is just in.
    That they could get into the top ten for a ‘documentary’ is shocking for a supposedly educated country like the US. I guess they must have got the God Squad out in force.

    1. “The Forbidden Kingdom,” $20.9 million.
    2. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” $17.3 million.
    3. “Prom Night,” $9.1 million.
    4. “88 Minutes,” $6.8 million.
    5. “Nim’s Island,” $5.7 million.
    6. “21,” $5.5 million.
    7. “Street Kings,” $4 million.
    8. “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” $3.5 million.
    9. “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” $3.1 million.
    10. “Leatherheads,” $3 million.

  45. says

    And speaking of philosophers, why not Wilkins?

    I would second that. Although it would have to come with a public health warning – Philosopher At Work.

  46. Polyester Mather D.D. says

    MeamwhilebackatWired , there’s this explanation of why john should cut Stein some slack:

    God has a place for those who choose to not believe He exist and reject Him, a terrible place of perpetual suffering, mainly due to a great continuous desire and need for water. Unfortunately, most scientist will end up there because of Wired blogs peer pressure. Once there, there is nothing that can be done for them. And it gets even worse later, when the devil, the fallen angles, and people, including scientist, are placed into the lake of fire that burns forever and ever. It would be to much greater purpose for scientist to look into the things of God rather than continuously going about to deny Him and His existence.

    No one continuously argues as to weather leprechaun exist, so if God didn’t actually exist, there would likewise be no arguments. But because there is a God, as well as a devil and demons, some scientist possibly are being used to argue the devil’s lies.

    Posted by: John | Feb 11, 2008 4:52:54 PM

  47. Tim_G says

    Sigmund beat me to it, but here’s the link to the box-office numbers:


    Looks like Expelled is a bit of a flop box-office-wise, no?

    Of course it is allegedly a “documentary,” a category of film that traditionally has modest box-office results.

  48. Ichthyic says

    On the subject of Expelled – not so good news.

    meh. If you look at the day-by-day revenues, they are actually decreasing since friday (18% on Sat., another 4% on Sunday).

    Which suggests this thing will be forgotten at the box office in just a few more days.

  49. Sigmund says

    I don’t think we can directly compare ‘Expelled’ with your average movie in terms of takings. To get into the overall top ten is at least some sort of temporary propaganda victory for them – and lets face it, thats all that concerns them. I don’t think the takings were positively (!) affected by publicity from the PZ expulsion story or the numerous bad reviews its received. On the contrary that has probably discouraged many non creationists in the public from seeing the film. What the takings do reveal however, is that there remains a sizable number of the US public who are prepared to buy this crap (I’m presuming that the 3.1 million came almost exclusively from creationists – its not exactly a date movie). Still, if we are in a culture war and this is their best shot the whole thing is somewhat akin to the battle of wits against an unarmed man. Nobody expects this movie to have any box office legs. It will be long gone off the box office radar by next weekend. I’d still prefer them to have failed to get into the top ten, though.

  50. semi says

    Actually, I found another list comparing only documentaries, and among documentaries only, Expelled is doing pretty well.
    It would appear to be the 3rd best opening weekend for a documentary, and is already 26th on the all-time gross list.
    Does anyone have a clue how much this movie might have cost to make?

    Actually, the problem with its box office receipts is that it opened on a huge number of screens, but generated relatively little revenue. It’s average revenue per screening is under $3K. They won’t be able to hang on to those screens as the film will be dumped to make room for better revenue generators.

    All in all, a dismal performance, and it’s only going to get worse.

    Figure a production budget of about $6M and a P&A cost (print and advertising) of $7M.

    Then when you factor in the box office splits (50/50?) you can see that they are not living up to their projections.

  51. says

    Perhaps during your talk you could spend a section on current evolutionary biology theories. I still can’t find anything of interest in David Sloan Wilson’s ideas on group selection that can’t already be explained by extended phenotypes, kin selection, inclusive fitness, neutral theory, gene selection, sexual selection, handicap principle, etc.

    I understand the evo-devo stuff about gene regulation, makes perfect sense that regulatory agents affect evolution. But Group selection just seems so hmmmm how can I say, I need some mathematical models or something.

    Teach me peoples…

  52. Jams says

    “[ID is] challenging some kind of sacred tenet […]” – Hogan

    I think this goes beyond the problem of the harrumphing strawmen. “Challenge”, in the way that Hogan seems to be using it, implies that there is an argument behind the challenge. ID has presented its arguments, and they’ve been soundly defeated. To respond with conspiracies rather than counter-arguments isn’t a challenge. At worst it’s mental illness – at best a tantrum. A challenge isn’t really a challenge when it has already been risen to, and won.

    I think Hogan’s point is fine in principal, just not applicable in this particular instance.

  53. Tim_A says

    [/lurk mode]


    About historic grosses for documentaries (or anything else that deals in dollars, for that matter), one would have to adjust the grosses to account for changes in the price of tickets. Likewise you would also probably have to net out dvd or vcr sales if every documentary is not available in one or the other of those formats.

    My guess is that once inflation is accounted for Expelled probably wouldn’t still be in the top 30.

    [lurk mode]

  54. says

    How about PZ vs. Chuck Freakin’ Norris? He just weighed in on Expelled. (Oh, joy!)


    I had a lot of fun writing about him — and I’m just a layman — so I bet you could make him cry like a little girl. (That’s what these debates are all about, right?) I imagine his only rebuttal would be to say, “But can you do this?” And then roundhouse kicking like Star Wars Kid on Geritol.

  55. says

    God. Come on God, do a vlog PA* with PZ if you’re so ruddy great. You haven’t done any of those since cameras turned up, have you? Your trolls are such dull fare, come on down and up the average Theist IQ above room temperature.

    *Personal Appearance.

  56. CR Stamey says

    This is somewhat off topic, but… I wondered if this “Expelled” parody had been seen by many Pharyngula readers.

    Quaint, pointed, and a special appearance by Richard “boff-him-for-his-brains” Dawkins. (Sorry, PZ, I’ll award you an equally flattering moniker when you do that nude spread in Scientific American.

  57. says

    No one should forget that probably a lot of the tickets sold this weekend are due to the Expelled Challenge promotion, where schools pressure the children to go in order that the schools receive reimbursement for this. These tickets have to be purshased in the first 10 days, IIRC, and if there is a very good chance that theaters won’t have it next weekend they’ll need to have bought them this weekend.

    The sales have been boosted with these heavy “kickbacks” to the schools. So unless something comes along to make it far more controversial and/or popular than it is, look for a substantial drop in sales in the future, especially after the 10 days or so window for the Expelled Challenge.

    The fact is that there has been little exposure of this movie, outside of promotions to church groups. Sure, they ran commercials on Comedy channel (which never seemed to me to be a very likely source of audience members) and the History channel, and got a lot of bad reviews. But few know about it, and rather fewer care.

    I don’t know what might happen among church groups and the like, so conceivably that audience might keep the movie going longer than I’d have guessed. But I doubt it, since reportedly it’s a directionless mess, above the heads of most of the dolts they want to impress (as sad as anything, I suppose), and it doesn’t even provide much in the way of new lies to their sheep. D. James Kennedy told most of those lies, and he did it for free.

    Glen D

  58. Adam says

    I vote you pair with a scientist or skeptic, NOT an IDiot. Debating those people is a boring waste of time.

    Or, a comic. I really like your sense of humor.

    How about Dr. Steve Novella? You could talk about experimental design. That would be great.

    Or how about Jhonen Vazquez? An entire hour of live-baby eating and blood painting!

  59. Screechy Monkey says

    John, if you consider the NYT review of Expelled to be “high-dudgeon harrumphing,” then we have very different notions of that phrase. (Not to mention that on BH.tv, you claimed it was scientists who were doing the harrumphing; I don’t see how a NYT movie reviewer qualifies.)

    Even Christianity Today, while giving Expelled a positive review, noted that there wasn’t any real argument there in support of ID. Why shouldn’t a movie review point out the lack of substance and the dishonest tactics of the filmmakers?

    I am heartily sick of the notion that you seem to be promoting, that all defenders of science have to be mild and polite and eternally patient in dealing with creationist drivel, or else they’re hurting the cause. No, we don’t have to “stoop to their level,” because there’s no need to engage in lies like they do. But there is value in calling bullshit what it is, in blunt language that the public will understand, especially when the facts to back up that assertion are readily available.

    As to the “teach the controversy” angle, I don’t think I have any disagreement with you. I suspect the devil is in the details. Depending on where they’re located, I suspect many biology teachers/professors have to deal with creationist-inspired questions from students anyway, so I’m not sure how often it’s even possible to teach evolution without addressing them.

  60. Screechy Monkey says

    I guess I need to rescind part of that last comment. Re-reading John’s post that he linked to, he does approve of PZ “greet[ing] Stein’s silly, mocking film with more silliness and mockery,” so I was wrong about that. Sorry, John.

    What I will say, though, is that I don’t think a little alarmism is out of line. This silly, mocking film is going to motivate the creationist hordes to push harder for their “academic freedom” bills and efforts to teach creationism in public school science classes. Worse yet, it may lead some “moderates” to sympathize with their position, which could help those efforts succeed. So I wouldn’t dismiss the film as just harmless nonsense, and I think a little anger mixed in with the mockery is appropriate.

  61. says

    First, we’re told that people don’t have the patience to hear the facts, and that they’ll judge creationism based on their emotional preferences. “Don’t deluge the masses in technical details!” we are instructed. Then, something happens in which the sleaze we can see professional creationists display every day becomes grossly apparent to everybody — a giant ball of sleaze rolling down upon us like the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Finally! We have a situation where the emotional decision-making of the fence-sitters and the uninformed works to our advantage.

    But no, we can’t capitalize upon it, because that would be “harrumphing”.

    Sometimes, I just don’t understand people.

  62. Pablo says

    I am wondering, if Expelled is so much about “listening to different viewpoints,” then would the producers of Expelled and Ben Stein support this guy?


    I mean, Gonzalez’s promotion at Iowa St couldn’t get out of the department level, and most comments were, “What have you done for us lately?” Meanwhile, Finkelstein was easily approved at the dept level, and was only denied when it hit the Trustees. Moreover, even while being denied tenure, he was described by the university as a “top scholar and teacher,” a description that Gonzalez never got. So why was he denied tenure? Because he was anti-Israel.

    Come on, Ben Stein, stand up for free speech!

    (disclaimer: I’m not claiming to support or not support Finkelstein in any way – I don’t know the case outside of what is on Wikipedia, where it is very clear that he didn’t get tenure because of his controversial position. I’m just noting that his is much more of a case of being “Expelled” for a viewpoint than any of the examples Ben Stein talks about. Personally, I don’t care, but then I’m not the one complaining about “viewpoint discrimination.”)

  63. Geoff says

    I would love to hear Phil Plait and PZ discuss science and science blogging. As for Horgan, I think I see where he’s going with the ‘teaching the controversy’ controversy. But it creates a dangerous false equivalence and it doesn’t work. Science loses every single time unless the public science literacy all of a sudden goes through the roof. That is not going to happen anytime soon.

    I think Horgan should debate me!

  64. Steve LaBonne says

    Look, people, the “teach the controversy” argument makes sense only where there is a REAL controversy (and there are plenty of those in science, including within evolutionary biology) not a bullshit manufactured one.
    This point has been made over, and over, and over in about a million different fora. That fact that a wiseass “science” “journalist” like Horgan still doesn’t get it is no excuse for anybody else to be as dim as he is.

  65. says

    That fact that a wiseass “science” “journalist” like Horgan still doesn’t get it is no excuse for anybody else to be as dim as he is.

    But just because it’s been well demonstrated that it is nothing but sleaze and lies doesn’t mean that you can call it that. Heaven forbid that we tell the truth.

    After all, Horgan is quite able to state that this just bolsters Stein’s claim, and he doesn’t even need evidence to do so. In fact, he seems to be quite capable of making any number of claims not based on any facts or meaningful experience, so I guess it makes perfect sense that he’d be saying the same thing that the IDiots do about calling a spade a spade.

    He gets no further than doing a bit of sniping. Perhaps he needn’t be attacked quite as strongly as some have, but I see nothing of value in his repetition of the same baseless points in his latest attack (by the way, why do these hypocrites never follow their own advice when they are unhappy with, say, the NYT? No, there direct attack is just fine, never mind that Horgan has nothing to back up his claims).

    Understand what he’s really doing, which is positioning himself for his own need to appeal to an audience. Basically, I don’t think there’s much point in trying to get at any sort of evidence or meaningful rationale for his claims, he’s just trying to sound like the nice trustworthy guy, while the truth regarding these issues may just be hanged.

    Glen D

  66. semi says

    Why doesn’t anybody teach the obvious controversy and difference of scientific opinion on the following subjects:

    Germ and disease theory vs. demonic possession and the miasma theory of disease

    Chemical and atomic theory vs. alchemy and “philostogenic” theory

    Climate and weather theory vs. Anger of the god(s)

    Modern geologic theory vs. flat earth and hollow earth theories

    Biology, genetics, and evolution vs. spontaneous generation theory, Larmarckism, etc.

    and of course

    Astronomy and Cosmology vs. Astrology, celestial spheres, Ptolemaic theory etc.

    We better get right on that “teaching the controversy.” We have a lot of ground to cover!

  67. Ichthyic says

    I still can’t find anything of interest in David Sloan Wilson’s ideas on group selection that can’t already be explained by extended phenotypes, kin selection, inclusive fitness, neutral theory, gene selection, sexual selection, handicap principle, etc.

    there’s a good reason it’s difficult to find in situ examples of group selection models.

    I think there’s only one or two that *might* fit, and while I have the papers somewhere, I’m sure someone else will beat me to the links.

    most of the “controversy” surrounding the level of selection issue is among the modelers and science philosophers at this point.

    I think you’ll have to wait a while longer to see if there are any practical applications.

  68. says

    #87, Richard Dawkins actually showed that video to us at the American Atheists Conference last month. If I remember correctly it was just completed a couple days beforehand so we were the first audience to see it I presume.

    It’s too bad most readers here were not able to attend, but I hope one day they will have a conference near you all in the future. Actually, I take that back, I wish for them to have it here every year so I can attend every year. Screw the rest of you, I want it nice and convenient for me.

  69. Kerry Maxwell says

    Yeah, the trick with getting a good diavlog, I think, is finding someone different enough that we have stuff to argue about.

    The only Bloggingheads I’ve seen is the Horgan/ Sean Carroll episode, and I enjoyed it because they weren’t *arguing* per se. PZ being interviewed by Horgan might be interesting. But please FSM, no string theory talk! PZ and Sean Carroll could also be interesting.

    And continuing the point made by #99, what is it with those harumphing mathematicians who arrogantly disregard those who believe 2 + 2 = 6? Surely we should compromise, and teach children that 2 + 2 = 5!

  70. Gustaf says

    I would like to see PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott discuss different forms of atheism and strategies for how to fight creationism. How does it help being anti-religious rather than just non-religious? Is it possible to be non-religious without in some sense being anti-religious? Is it necessary to understand the other side first in order to make them understand us?

  71. Longtime Lurker says

    The obvious choice for a PZ matchup on Bloggingheads is Yellow Thunder Woman from the Bastard Fairies, though they would have to change the camera angle to focus on her spectacular decotellage (bloggingboobs?). The combination of brains, beard, and boobs would form an unstoppable syergy to stymie Stein.

    Jonathan Marks would also be a good choice, his erudition, sense of humor, and humanity would complement PZ’s nicely.